Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

Archive for the ‘Control the Information’ Category

Independence Day…

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The 4th of July…

Tis’ a holiday of conflict.

Maybe it’s twenty plus years of social work that has done this to me. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of giving a damn about people I’ve never met in towns I’ve never been to, concerns about whether they have enough to eat, a place to live, a sense of safety and hoping these random strangers don’t have to wake up to fear, or massive oil spills, or exploding factories or unemployment. Maybe it’s all simply a matter of wanting this country to yes, encourage entrepreneurs and people who pull up their flags by the bootstraps, but at the same time take care of those who haven’t yet, perhaps as a result of being lost, sick, mired in obsessions or failures and yes, even the ones who are just plain lazy.

Some believe there’s a place for everyone at the table, even if the food’s been purchased by food stamps…and I would be one, believing that as a country of citizens we need to care for one another, especially for those who don’t seem to care for themselves at all right now. Either that, or soon enough when we try to look away from those desperate scenes that cause us such discomfort, we’re only going to find more scenes, even more desperate staring right back at us.

So yeah, tonight I’ll be up in North Beach, standing on Broadway looking to the fireworks over San Francisco Bay and I’ll be thinking about this country’s future, same as everyone else looking up nationwide, with a lot on my mind and a lot in my heart and I’ll be thinking about all of you…all of us, caring and doing better.

Ani Difranco – Coming Up

 

Independence…from bias, from fear, from ignorance, from a lack of common care, from hate, crass judgement, superiority, misplaced nationalism and American exceptionalism, consumer lifestyles and politics, from the distractions we create and those created for us while the futures are looted by those who left their compassion on the wrong side of that boardroom door, or political office or bank vault or dust from a limousine lobbyist as he or she sped away to the next gig that divided all of us just a little bit more.

Yeah, it’s the fourth.

Let’s go get a beer and think about how we can improve these scenarios. I, for one, have more mistakes than fingers and toes and I think I might like to change that some…

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

July 4, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Fines vs. Penalties

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Off to work they go...

Off to work they go…

So, today’s the day.

The big civil trial in New Orleans: BP vs. the world with all the lawyers, guns and money…all that kinda shit.

Course, both the government and British Petroleum been working hard, meeting and organizing and negotiating to try to find a settlement, a way out of this whole trial mess, come up with the exact amount of money BP will have to pay…a figure low enough that BP will finally just write a check but also high enough so the Feds can claim justice has been served.

Word is that amount is right around $16 billion dollars to cover the Clean Water Act fines and environmental penalties related to the spill.

Fines vs. penalties…

There’s a big difference between fines and penalties, such as the following: British Petroleum has to pay the fines assessed, but the environmental penalties? Well, those are tax deductible which essentially means they are paid by the taxpayers. Yes, as those negotiations commence, and will more than likely continue even as the trial begins, BP is pushing to have lower fines and higher environmental damage penalties. And if this were to be the case, this would mean BP essentially puts the money out there to pay the penalty, but then reduces their taxes by that same amount so BP again breaks even, leaving the people, the taxpayers to pick up the slack in the economy.

Well now, isn’t that just like an oil company?

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

February 25, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Reality is what you pay for…

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Not BP's reality.

Not BP’s reality.

Making things right.

Let me just tell you how much I hate every possible phrasing of this sentiment.

Previous to the Deepwater Horizon, whenever I head this phrase used, it carried a certain ring of sincerity, of concern, of really trying to make amends for a wrong, but my how things have changed.

Now, “Making things right” is just a punchline, a big joke or at best a legal argument on whose version of “right” wins out. British Petroleum would contend they are doing everything they can and the Gulf is pretty much back to normal, but the people who do not live in British Petroleum’s commercials…well, they often have a different reality to discuss.

Recently, BP added up all the claims made by states and local governments on the Gulf Coast and came up with a total of $34 billion dollars.

Garret Graves, senior coastal adviser to the worst Governor in all human history, Bobby Jindal, was quoted as saying this about that figure, “Perhaps this helps BP to realize the size and scope of the problems they have caused the citizens of the Gulf…they have continued to try to downplay the significance the oil spill has had on us. BP hasn’t done itself any favors in gaining goodwill with anyone in the Gulf. With a few exceptions early on, they have been incredibly difficult to deal with and their credibility is subsurface.”

British Petroleum, however, strongly disagrees with Graves and especially that $34 billion dollar figure, calling it “substantially” overstated and the methods used to calculate it as, “seriously flawed.”

Sigh…

It’s no secret that British Petroleum has had a spin machine in such overdrive these past couple of years they’ve had to replace the ball bearings seven times, but what BP doesn’t seem to understand is that no matter how much money they spend on corporate image and down home folksy commercials to give their side of things, the facts keep trickling in…

Oil is still coming ashore on the barrier islands. Wildlife and habitat are still threatened. The erosion that occurred as a result of this spill ain’t coming back. There is far more not known about the effects of that oil than is currently known…oh, and remember that $1 billion dollar promise British Petroleum made, meant to fund early restoration efforts over a two year period?

Well, the Gulf Restoration Network recently reported that the two year timeline is coming to a close and BP has only programed $70 million dollars, less than 10% of what they promised.

From the GRN:

“Stop stalling and fully fund all projects necessary to repair the damage from your oil and dispersant, including marine restoration. Specifically, Cat Island, a critical coastal habitat for the Louisiana brown pelican, is vanishing while you sit on the $1 billion you promised to spend.  Allocate these early restoration dollars faster without demanding huge credits towards your ultimate liability. “

BP is not fulfilling their promises.

And this fact, like many others, has been left out of BP’s commercials. It does not fit the reality BP is paying for and the above is just one example.

Making things right…my stomach turns at the sound of “making things right.” And upon hearing this phrase for the umpteenth time one must ask…

Right, for who?

Go to the Gulf Restoration Network and send BP an e-mail:

Click Here

Have a nice day.

The Deal: what BP/Feds know that you don’t…

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We'll send you a Christmas Card...

Well, we know this bird’s dead…

“No one can bring those fathers, husbands and sons back, but I am here to express our apologies…We — and by that I mean the men and the women of the management of BP, its Board of Directors, and its many employees — are deeply sorry for the tragic loss of the 11 men who died and the others who were injured that day…our guilty plea makes clear, BP understands and acknowledges its role in that tragedy, and we apologize — BP apologizes — to all those injured and especially to the families of the lost loved ones. BP is also sorry for the harm to the environment that resulted from the spill, and we apologize to the individuals and communities who were injured.”

- Albert Keller, VP of BP America

These were the words, read in the court of US District Judge Sarah Vance, just before she accepted the agreement negotiated between the Feds and British Petroleum requiring the company to pay $4 billion dollars in fines to settle criminal charges from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.

$4 billion dollars is a lot of money…but is it enough?

Well, I suppose that would depend on who you are and what you know.

And what does BP know?

They know they will be paying $1 billion dollars a year for four years to settle this fine, just as they know they made $25 billion in profit last year. They know they’ve long since resumed paying dividends to stockholders. They know they continue to drill for oil in United States waters. They know their continued advertisements celebrating their version of renewed health in the Gulf reach far more people than the scientific studies indicating otherwise. They know how much money they will have to pay out, and how to plan for it, even with the coming clean water act fines and they know that when all is said and done, they’re going to be okay. They will be making money to replace the money they’ve had to pay, and then the following year, they will make more, then more…and on it goes, with none of the CEO’s seeing any jail time. Ultimately, BP knows they’ve weathered this storm.

Okay, and what do the people of the Gulf Coast not know?

The families of the dead do not know when their personal grieving will stop. They don’t know when life, if life can get back to normal. They don’t know if the marshes will completely recover. They don’t know how badly the environment’s been damaged, what the long term effects of all this will be. They don’t know what it means ultimately that the smallest organisms have been decimated by this spill, the organisms small fish feed on, which are in turn fed upon by birds and they don’t know where on this food chain the damage stops, or if it does. They don’t know what the long term health implications of oil and corexit exposure will mean to their families. They don’t know how many marriages have failed, how many businesses have been lost, how many people have died as a result of this spill. Ultimately, they don’t know if this storm will ever stop.

And finally, despite the statement by the VP of BP America, the people of the Gulf Coast don’t know how, or if this tragedy has personally affected the CEO’s and the board members of British Petroleum. They don’t know this because their apology has come in the form of television commercial, press releases and court statements. BP’s never had to look directly into the eyes of eleven families who lost their loved ones.

So, is $4 billion dollars enough?

I don’t know, what happened to British Petroleum stock when this deal was announced?

It went up.

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

January 30, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Not their fault, again…

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What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

How many years later?

Want to know how much oil remains in the Gulf, buried off the coast in Louisiana, how much that oil might still tarnish the sea life, how much oil, still remaining from the Deepwater Horizon could potentially come ashore as a result of the next hurricane?

Tough.

Ed Overton, speaking at the three day “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference” said, “NRDA has collected those samples but you can’t get folks to talk about it.”

Odd.

Would seem this would be good information for the public to have. It would seem that British Petroleum, with all their commitments to, and commercials for, the people of the Gulf Coast and this nation could call for this information to be released, quickly, to the public who could be so impacted and therefore would benefit from having that information, you know, because BP ain’t leaving until they’ve fixed each and every one of you.

Okay, so then what’s the problem?

Well, according to Ed Overton it’s simply because the National Resource Damage Assessment is meant to help determine how much British Petroleum will have to pay. And British Petroleum is trying to pay as little as possible and that would only make sense. They are a corporation after all and what corporation wants to just give anybody free money, especially when that corporation has a long history of fucking up environments and having accidents that kill people, meaning they’re used to these court cases and they know how it all works and yes, that’s what it all comes down to…courts.

Courts and money and the paying of as little of it as they possibly can. Still, so want to know how much oil still exists in the sediment in the Gulf?

Fine, stop trying to get money with your penalties and your suits from the oil company whose disaster put it there. Then, maybe the government won’t feel the need to protect that information in anticipation of going to court with British Petroleum who will try to contest each and every piece of that information.

Really people, BP’s just trying to be ready for their next appearance in court.

BP’s just trying to protect their own interests.

Not yours.

Again.

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

January 24, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Well, that explains a lot…

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The original horse whisperer…

Much like Sarah Palin or Ann Coulter, whenever Michael Brown pops up in the news, on a radio or television station, my first response is typically “Umm, why the fuck are we supposed to care what you think about, well, anything?”

I mean, Sarah was a shit governor nominated on a lark in a losing presidential campaign, who became even more famous for being an idiot. Ann Coulter is like the kid who raises her hand in class and says “Fag” or “Retard” and then looks quickly around at the attention she receives, taking her classmates giggles as an affirmation of what she consider her amazing wit. Ann’s essential argument for ten years can be basically summed up as “Liberals suck,” same as Sarah just throws out “Maverick” for the thousandth time and then off camera, listens enraptured as her handlers compliment her for her amazing insight, again.

And then there is Michael Brown.

The man who, in tandem with Bush, proceeded to oversee one of the most inept disaster responses in human history which left untold numbers to suffer while he focused on his hairstyle and clothing choices.

So, why the hell is this guy being asked about Hurricane Sandy at all?

Michael Brown: Obama could have “gotten more mileage” by delaying disaster relief

Oh.

Yeah, that might explain it.

Perhaps we should let the man tell it himself:

“Politically, he went out too soon…He could have just made a comment while he was in Florida that says, ‘You know my FEMA director is on top of this and we’re gonna do everything we can when the states ask us to come in and help.’ Boom.” He then added further, “He would have been better served politically to let everybody else—Bloomberg, Christie, Cuomo, O’Donnell [sic] – all of them make whatever statements they were going to make. Call for their evacuations…and then he could have stepped up, very presidentially, and said, ‘And by the way, I have instructed my FEMA director to give the states whatever they need as the storm approaches.’ I think he would have gotten more mileage out of it. In other words, he peaked too soon.”

Boom.

More mileage.

Obama peaked too soon.

The long and short: Rather than Barack Obama getting things up and running in an attempt to ensure as much was in place as possible, to alleviate as much suffering as possible, he should have waited because politically it would have made him look more presidential? Not only do I not even get the logic of this argument, I’m hard pressed to explain the morality of anyone who might delay relief efforts for a better(?) political appearance.

Moral, like GW Bush, Cheney and Mr. Brown.

So okay, maybe I do get the value of letting Brown continue to speak. Every time he does, I come to a better understanding of what the hell happened during Katrina and how much of a shame it is these people still walk free while others still wonder if they will ever get home.

Asshole.

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

November 1, 2012 at 5:00 AM

In no way an attack on science…

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BP’s version…

Most who have followed the story of the BP Catastraphuk are familiar with the company’s enlisting of scientists and university research departments to silence them with non-disclosure requirements explore what has happened to the Gulf environment, to do the research so all the Gulf States can be made whole, well, complete, fixed like a motherfucker while Dudley sails off to the shareholders meeting, to Texas, into the sunset whilst nodding humbly to the throngs of his adoring fans beach-side…

However, Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli will not be standing on them sands.

In an op-ed for the Boston Globe, these two Massachusetts scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute had some sharp words for British Petroleum…the same company they came to help at said oil company’s request, volunteering their time for the good of the Gulf:

“We responded by leading on-site operations using robotic submersibles equipped with advanced technologies that we had developed for marine science. We applied them to measure the rate of fluid release from the well and to sample fluids from within the well. We then volunteered our professional time to scrutinize this data and published two peer-reviewed studies in a respected scientific journal. We determined an average flow rate of 57,000 barrels of oil per day and calculated a total release of approximately 4.9 million barrels. BP claimed that it needed to better understand our findings because billions of dollars in fines are potentially at stake. So we produced more than 50,000 pages of documents, raw data, reports, and algorithms used in our research — everything BP would need to analyze and confirm our findings. But BP still demanded access to our private communications.

Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process.”

And so British Petroleum goes to the judge, seeking the writings that contain much of the deliberative process, one where scientists question and challenge each other, push their colleagues to go deeper, be even more accurate, playing devil’s advocate against their colleagues and their own conclusions…you know, communications ripe with fragmented ideas.

And…BP wants…

“BP was able to use the federal courts to gain access to our private information. Although the presiding judge magistrate recognized the need to protect confidential e-mails to avoid deterring future research, she granted BP’s request.”

BP gets.

And now that they’ve gotten, what do you think might happen to those e-mails in court, as the topic turns to that magic flow-rate number of 57,000 barrels of oil per day? Or the total of 4.9 million barrels released into the Gulf, when that little fact comes up?

One might think a BP lawyer could obscure conclusive facts by reading off fragments from these e-mails…taking the smallest part to impugn the conclusions of the whole.

One might…

Yes, those more realistic about the sham that is the court of law cynical could certainly think this, but personally, I hardly think it possible, what with BP’s long history of integrity, sound science, culture of openness, safety and responsibility to not only their shareholders, but to the environment both land and sea, and all the people of this earth and beyond…

However, Reddy and Camilli have a different opinion:

“Our experience highlights that virtually all of scientists’ deliberative communications, including e-mails and attached documents, can be subject to legal proceedings without limitation. Incomplete thoughts and half-finished documents attached to e-mails can be taken out of context and impugned by people who have a motive for discrediting the findings. In addition to obscuring true scientific findings, this situation casts a chill over the scientific process. In future crises, scientists may censor or avoid deliberations, and more importantly, be reluctant to volunteer valuable expertise and technology that emergency responders don’t possess.”

No way. BP overreaching on information control, gearing up to discredit the science, the very people they turned to for help, all in order to serve their own interests? Utter insanity…and to prove this point, up to the microphone marched another BP spokesperson who said the company’s subpoena was, “in no way an attack on science.”

Well of course not, that would be ridiculous…and entirely irresponsible.

Have a nice day.

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