Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’
Ken Feinberg has been getting a lot of flack from people in the Gulf Coast regarding his claims process. The accusations are flying a mile a minute, some of them coming from various members of Congress, the Justice Department and the Attorneys General of Alabama and Mississippi. Apparently having had enough of this, Feinberg wrote an editorial in last Sunday’s Press Register, where he took to task his critics and specifically the various Alabama politicians, and their claims regarding his handling of the claims process…
“Both public officials have every right to their opinions but no right to distort the facts…”
Whereupon Ken begins to do precisely that.
Shall we review?
He reports the GCCF has distributed some $4 billion dollars to 200,000 individuals and businesses in the Gulf region.
He doesn’t report $16 billion dollars is remaining in the fund, nor that he has estimated he will be giving half of it back to British Petroleum when this is all said and done. He doesn’t mention getting to this point has taken over eight months…while needy families and business wait, struggling, nor does he mention that a District Court Judge has ruled he is not independent of British Petroleum, but is more of a “hybrid” entity, thus making all of his claims handling suspect…or, would you be inclined, after a doctor hits you with his car, to have that same doctor do your medical evaluation and determine if you were healthy or needed compensation and if so, how much you should get?
He reports the GCCF has not been “tight-fisted” when it comes to paying claims and cites as proof the fact that 660 people have appealed his offers to the Coast Guard who has agreed with the GCCF’s decision every time.
He doesn’t report that he wrote the rules, or methodology to determine payment of these claims, which bases the payment scheme on the Gulf being back to normal by 2013, despite the fact that Prince William Sound still isn’t back to normal as a result of the much smaller Exxon Valdez spill, even 20 years later. He doesn’t report that of the 3000 comments received during the public comment period regarding this methodology, about ten thought the methodology was good, made sense, was fair…and who knows how many of those ten were written by executives of British Petroleum. He also doesn’t report that in those appeals to the Coast Guard, they are all for claim offers under $250,000 dollars, which means the people doing the appealing maybe aren’t the most wealthy of the people involved in this process who again, are fighting against the stacked deck that is the GCCF methodology.
He continues to report the many individuals who have taken quick payments did not do so under coercion, but because they have decided the already received an adequate EAP payment or cannot document anymore damage from the spill, citing as proof there has been no groundswell of complaint from the people who have taken said payments heard by the GCCF.
He doesn’t report that, again, these people have been waiting since last August when he took over and really needed the money. Now agreed, some people go for the quick pay because they have no way to document more damage, but I would argue more people have taken the quick pay out of financial desperation, trying to pay rent one more month or clear some bills because the GCCF process is taking so damned long…intentionally? Depends on who you ask. As far as a groundswell of complaint about the quick payments…apparently Feinberg never read the public comments on his methodology because the complaints are there. He must also never read the Times Picayune, the Press Register, the New York Times or any of the comments sections on ProPublica, or this and many other blogs.
Ken, if you go out of your way to ignore the groundswell and it would appear you have, you ain’t gonna find it…
And Ken also reports on the charge of GCCF delays in making payments by saying his critics fail to mention that more than 80 percent of the 283,000 claims filed for final, interim and quick payments — including 35,753 from Alabama — have already been processed.
Processed, yes, but beyond the quick payments…
Not many at all.
Ken reports the $20 billion fund would be exhausted in a week if the GCCF paid claimants with no documentation solely because the claimant asked the GCCF: “Trust me.”
What Ken doesn’t report is due to the lack of transparency regarding these claims, “Trust me,” is precisely what Ken is asking the Gulf Coast to do, while he is being paid by British Petroleum.
Finally, Ken decides to kiss a little ass: “I join Congressman Bonner in wholeheartedly praising “Alabama’s sugar-white sandy beaches” and “world-famous seafood.”
Whereupon he decides to quickly concede the standard: “…the GCCF must be more transparent and consistent in rendering its decisions. The GCCF has been far from perfect — the inevitable result of receiving almost 1 million claims from all 50 states in less than one year of operation!”
What Ken doesn’t report while kissing a little ass is that he has been promising transparency for months to every elected official he can find, but doing very little about it. He has also promised to be more consistent for months, and isn’t, and like always, he stresses how big this job has been, huge, enormous…I mean holy shit! Who could have ever foreseen how absolutely gigantic this would be?
Which is a nice, attempted distraction from a more accurate representation:
Hey, I kind of screwed up a lot of people on this one because I didn’t accurately gauge the size of the project I decided to undertake, and rather than admit my lack of foresight, preparedness, and the fallacy of all those promises I made early on to the people of the Gulf Coast, you remember…about how fast and generous I was going to be, well I’ve just decided to keep throwing claim statistics at you while I duck out the side door, just in time for British Petroleum to give me a raise.
Now, let’s take a look at the current statistics from the GCCF website:
Total Quick Payments:
113,763 total quick pay claims filed. 109,955 claims paid. Percentage of claim paid: 96%
Total Interim Payments:
75,471 total interim claims filed. 9,112 interim claims paid. Percentage of claims paid: 12%
Total Final Claims:
105,709 total final claims filed. 21,261 final claims paid or indicated they would accept. Percentage of claims paid: 20%
So what can a reasonable person deduce from these numbers?
1. Of all the claims filed, the percentage of interim claims paid is lowest. Seeing as how the interim claims are the only claims one can accept while retaining the right to sue British Petroleum, Feinberg’s employer, this can lead a reasonable person to believe that perhaps these claims are being stalled. After all it is in British Petroleum’s interest to have those rights waived, and to get claimants into one of the categories where they don;t have to continue to pay out money.
2. Of all the claims filed, the percentage of quick pay claims paid is far, far higher than the other two types. This could certainly be because they are the easiest claims to audit, because there is no further documentation needed (although in the fine print could be a call from Guidepost Solutions, the investigative arm of the GCCF, checking you out for fraud despite the fact these claims were supposed to be paid out with no questions asked for people who previously received EAP’s). Nonetheless, at $5,000 dollars for individuals and $25,000 dollars for businesses, these claims are also the cheapest to resolve, and with a signature on a waiver, releasing your right to sue British Petroleum, resolving these claims is by far in the best interest of British Petroleum and therefore, the GCCF and Ken Feinberg.
3. When it comes to the final claims, which also requires one to waive the right to sue British Petroleum, the GCCF website states that of the 105,709 final claims filed, the GCCF has reviewed 84,767 of them, already paid 17,000 and have made offers on an additional 15,000, of which 4,000 have indicated they would accept. If only 21.000 have accepted a final payment out of over a hundred thousand claims filed, these are also moving extraordinarily slow and if they are so generous, what is the hold up for the 11,000 claimants who have received final offers and not as yet accepted?
4. It is this writer’s opinion that claimants are being stalled into filing quick payments as they are the only ones being paid with any sense of urgency. As people grow increasingly desperate, financially in the Gulf, the quick payment becomes increasingly attractive, like buying the rent-a-wreck because its your only way to work, and your running late. In the end, these payments have a far higher chance of leaving a claimant financially screwed.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the statistics from the GCCF website regarding the amounts of the claims paid out.
Everybody knows the quick payment, which is $5,000 dollars for individuals and $25,000 dollars for businesses. The interim payments made average out to $6700 dollars for an individual and $28,000 for businesses. The final payments accepted average out to $9200 dollars for individuals and $55,000 for businesses.
Keeping in mind that for the vast majority of these claims, this is meant to cover all damages from the spill in their entirety.
A year after the oil spilled, some industries are beginning their recovery, yet there is a deep skepticism on the safety of the seafood across the country and many, many people remain out of work or have been forced to leave the Gulf Coast to look for work elsewhere…all the while there are increasing sicknesses occurring that many are blaming on the toxicity of the oil and dispersants. The health of the Gulf is still very much in doubt, as is the sustainability of the sea life living there.
So, in a nutshell, what Feinberg calls generous…I call getting screwed. It would appear to me the only person British Petroleum is being generous to in the Gulf Coast is Ken Feinberg.
Nonetheless, Feinberg writes:
At the end of the day, neither Jo Bonner, Luther Strange nor Kenneth Feinberg will determine the ultimate “legacy” of the GCCF. That is a decision that will be made by the citizens of Alabama and those residing throughout the Gulf.
Ken can write whatever he likes in his editorial, glossing over certain facts and figures available on his website, but It would appear to me BP and Ken Feinberg are doing their best to write this legacy.
And from what I can tell, that legacy is awful.
Have a nice day.
BP says this, the government says that…and then, David Vitter says what?
According to two British newspapers, the Financial Times and the Sunday Times, British Petroleum could be coming back to the Gulf this July…or will they? A government spokeswoman said the government had reached no agreement and no permits are in the offing, but the New York Times reports negotiations are underway with BP exchanging stricter government oversight for rights to again bore holes into the Gulf of Mexico’s sea floor.
Course, that new oversight could be only so much spilled milk as David Vitter this past week released the GOP’s alternative to Barack Obama’s energy plan which among other things would…
“Include some new provisions, including one designed to, in Vitter’s words, “properly limit” the time frame for environmental and judicial review of drilling permits. It would require any party wanting to challenge a federal drilling permit to do so within 60 days, with no chance to later add another legal challenge. It would limit court review to six months, and force litigants appealing a District Court ruling to go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejects the vast majority of appeal filings.”
The GOP plan is fittingly called the “3-D act: Domestic jobs, Domestic energy and Deficit reduction act of 2011.” 3-D, as in what an illusion.
So, to sum up:
BP may be drilling again in the gulf this summer, depending on an agreement that has not been reached which would allow greater oversight that Louisiana Senator David Vitter proposes to end, you know, to save jobs that were lost when poor governmental oversight helped result in BP fucking up the entire Gulf of Mexico.
Okay, well…in the world of Gulf Coast predators and their enablers, that sounds about right.
Have a nice day.
So, when you saw footage of the Deepwater Horizon explosion or the oil blasting out of the Macondo Well, what did you think about it?
The New York Times described it this way:
“Dazed and battered survivors, half-naked and dripping in highly combustible gas, crawled inch by inch in pitch darkness, willing themselves to the lifeboat deck. . . . Crew members, certain they were about to be cooked alive, scrambled into enclosed lifeboats for shelter, only to find them like smoke-filled ovens.”
Well, that would be one perspective (from those alarmists on the liberal left), however Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Tx) saw things differently. He described it kinda like…no, he described it exactly like this:
As we saw that thing bubbling out, blossoming out – all that energy, every minute of every hour of every day of every week – that was tremendous to me. That we could deliver that kind of energy out there – even on an explosion.
Yeah, I’m too cynical in my beliefs and opinions…how about if I mentioned that Mr. Hall is about to become the chair of the House Science and Technology committee.
Have a nice day.
For anyone not following the story, Wikileaks has begun to publish more than 250,000 secret State Department documents on its website, in one of the largest leaks of classified information in history. Previous to their release, the documents were shown to the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel and several weeks ago, they were also shown to the US government who were given opportunity to help edit and comment. The US government declined, and the White House responded, “To be clear — such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.”
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, commented on this refusal in a letter to the State Department “I understand that the United States government would prefer not to have the information that will be published in the public domain and is not in favor of openness…that said, either there is a risk or there is not…you have chosen to respond in a manner which leads me to conclude that the supposed risks are entirely fanciful and you are instead concerned to suppress evidence of human rights abuse and other criminal behavior.”
In publishing the documents, The New York Times wrote, “The question of dealing with classified information is rarely easy, and never to be taken lightly. Editors try to balance the value of the material to public understanding against potential dangers to the national interest…The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.”
So, what do the documents say?
A number of things, but to explore this would not be what is most on my mind this morning, so feel free to check it out yourself:
What is on my mind this morning is the US governments desire to have things both ways, oftentimes at the expense of its citizens in the name of “National Security,” and how Wikileaks release of the cables effectively does what an American citizen is unable to do, shine a light on a government that seems to no longer feel it is accountable for its actions.
Since 9-11, government abuse of privacy and civil rights in our country has sped up to an alarming degree. Illegal wiretapping, infiltration and monitoring of activist groups including the prior arrests of citizens in New York and Denver before national political conventions, the government monitors the internet, shuts down websites without court order…etc, all in the name of business and National Security. We have our citizens being spied on, inadvertently put on no-fly lists, intrusively screened and patted down at airports, being told they can’t get within shouting distance of politicians and in many other ways restricted, all with little to no recourse at all.
Wars are begun in Afghanistan and Iraq. People are illegally extradited. Large financial institutions are bailed out with our money while the same financial institutions illegally foreclose on our homes, in process making even more money while the government does nothing to stop it. In the Gulf of Mexico there is an alarming and growing health crisis as a result of chemical poisoning from the BP oil spill and the government simply pretends it isn’t happening. Katrina killed well over a thousand people and though everyone knew the levees had been suspect for years, the government did nothing about it and seemingly even less when they broke. We now have torture in this country, we are lied to every day and encouraged to feel afraid by politicians who dismissively speak the phrase, “It’s a new world,” and then justify all by telling us “we don’t understand the real dangers,” all while a complicit media agrees to being embedded with troops, accompanied by the National Guard in New Orleans, and in the Gulf told to get on board or get out.
And we as citizens have no recourse.
The Freedom of Information Act has been gutted, thus enabling the government to be even more secretive as to what it is doing, leaving any concerned American citizen in the dark, and time and time again we are told the same thing:
Its about our safety.
Its about National Security.
All of these arguments hold the same water these days as a parent telling a child to do or not do something, simply because the parent “told you so.” The American government has become so accustomed to manageable reaction, they now engage freely in these acts of lazy parenting where we are told our patriotic duty is not to question, but instead go shopping.
So Wikileaks comes along and does what none of us has been able to do, they shine a flashlight on the whole damn thing by exposing our unvarnished foreign policy goals, our comments about various leaders, our diplomats unfiltered opinions about the actions of our government, their successes, their failures and their embarrassments.
Already various members of Congress are calling for Wikileaks to be declared a terrorist operation as a result of this release because it is, of course, harmful to National Security.
Well, as an ignorant child, I would guess it is not my place to speculate but should I get too upset and decide to throw a tantrum in the aisles of Wal-Mart, I might so respond to these same politicians how they should hope no inside staffer gets a bug far enough up his ass that they go after their secrets and expose them to the country, because as a Guardian columnist writes about the Embassy Cable release: “Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing’s snake-oil salesmen claim. No organization can treat digitized communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.”
And I’d also like to think, like any child growing up, eventually “because I said so,” will finally stop working and the parent must at last begin to explain their reasoning to every American citizen.
Have a nice day.
British Petroleum wants new offshore drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico and if they don’t get them, the company is about to get all financial on your ass. On July 30th, the House of Representatives passed a drilling overhaul bill that barred any company from receiving new permits if more than ten deaths occurred on its facilities or if the company had been fined more than ten million dollars under the Clear Air or Clean Water act within a seven-year period. The bill, clearly aimed at BP, has not yet been approved by the Senate, nor has Barack Obama made public comment on the bill either way.
BP is leaning hard, to influence a “no” vote in the Senate.
Andrew Gowers, a BP spokesman: “We have committed to do a number of things that are not part of the formal agreement with the White House…we are not making a direct statement about anything we are committed to do. We are just expressing frustration that our commitments of good will have at least in some quarters been met with this kind of response,” and then he added, “I am not going to make a direct linkage to the $20 billion, but our ability to fund these assets and the cash coming from these assets that are securing these funds would be lost.”
Interesting…it’s not a direct statement, it’s frustration; it’s not a direct linkage, but if no leases are granted their ability to pay reparations is compromised…that seems quite direct.
Other programs mentioned in the article that have no direct linkage to the oil leases include:
- Gulf Coast restoration efforts.
- A pledge of $100 million dollars to support rig workers who’ve lost their jobs.
- A pledge of $500 million dollars for a 10 year research program to study the impacts of the spill.
- Tourism promotion in affected states.
- Any other “voluntary” funding requests such as Jindal’s seafood testing, certification and promotion program.
Seconding Mr. Gower’s statements, David Nagle, BP’s executive vice president for BP America said, “If we are unable to keep those fields going (in the Gulf), that is going to have a substantial impact on our cash flow.” That, he added, “makes it harder for us to fund things, fund these programs.”
Harder to fund…or impossible?
The provision in the bill that targets British Petroleum was written by Representative George Miller. His spokesman, Daniel Weiss dismissed BP’s warning that it might not be able to meet its financial obligations, “BP has substantial assets, whether they develop them or sell them,” he said. “If BP needs to sell assets to meet its financial obligations, that’s a decision they have to make.”
Still, BP would seem to suggest Congress is not playing fair, company executives have said that regulators in other countries have not tried to cut back their deepwater operations since the gulf accident.
This may be true, but something else to certainly consider: the BP Gulf of Mexico Catastraphuk isn’t the first time British Petroleum’s been involved in an accident that met the criteria in Rep Miller’s ban. On March 23rd, 2005, when BP’s Texas oil refinery exploded, 15 people died, 170 workers were injured and the company paid out well over ten million dollars in fines, so while other countries may be willing to allow BP access, America’s hesitation would certainly be understandable since British Petroleum has had horrible accidents in this country not once…but twice.
Its understandable British Petroleum is worried things are getting “harder,” resulting in “frustration,” and though there certainly are no “direct linkages” between their ability to profit and their ability to fund, please don’t come round here expecting any sympathy.
Your oil spill has resulted in death, environmental catastrophe, loss of jobs, increase in mental health problems, physical sickness, drilling moratoriums, bankrupted charities, closed fishing waters, tourism, loss of confidence in the $4 billion dollar fishing industry, a loss of faith in government, business and a cultural way of life for tens of thousands.
4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has led to suffering on an enormous scale and yes, that linkage is very direct.
You broke it, you bought it, you committed to it.
Do the right thing.
Read the article:
Have a nice day.
The internet as we know it will begin a slow death on Monday, as this is the day that Google is set to announce a deal with Verizon, one that will create the first tiered system on the Internet. Right now, all is equal, all sites moving at the same speed, regardless of content where the consumers choose which sites will be successful, but this deal “could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.”
Net-neutrality has been the operating principle since the internet’s inception and the telecoms have been trying to erase it for years. They argue that since they control the wires, they should have the choice on which traffic goes at what speed, but internet advocates beg to differ, “The point of a network neutrality rule is to prevent big companies from dividing the Internet between them,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and a founder of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group. “The fate of the Internet is too large a matter to be decided by negotiations involving two companies, even companies as big as Verizon and Google.”
This will turn the internet into your cable company, pay for this tier of channels, pay for HBO, Skinemax, the cable company choosing what will be offered…and then the providers have to pay the cable companies to be part of their packages.
Right now, you click on this site and it will move just as quickly as if you clicked on Wal-Mart, all voices are heard, equally. If net-neutrality disappears, this will no longer be the case. Internet traffic will be routed faster to the websites that Verizon chooses, and if Verizon gets this deal done, the other telecoms will surely follow.
And yes, that means it’s over.
The internet will become clear channel as independent voices aren’t necessarily squashed, but they will be thrown to the margins, relegated to the long forgotten routes through long forgotten towns while those willing to pay thrive on the interstate.
How did this happen? In an article by Josh Silver, he explains:
We have a Federal Communications Commission that has been denied authority by the courts to police the activities of Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast. All because of a bad decision by the Bush-era FCC. We have a pro-industry FCC Chairman who is terrified of making a decision, conducting back room dealmaking, and willing to sit on his hands rather than reassert his agency’s authority. We have a president who promised to “take a back seat to no one on Net Neutrality” yet remains silent. We have a congress that is nearly completely captured by industry. Yes, more than half of the US congress will do pretty much whatever the phone and cable companies ask them to. Add the clout of Google, and you have near-complete control of Capitol Hill.
Google, the company that advocates internet freedom, time and time again has sold us all out for profit. If Verizon and Google are allowed to kick down this door it will never be closed again and in this day and age where independent voices have been run off the radio, television and thrown out of publishing companies, the internet is all that’s left for free discourse, and some would argue, this is a large part of the point, more consolidation, more power and profit…less trouble from those who don’t follow the company line…
Google…ever been stabbed in the back by your brother?
Please contact your elected representatives…if the outcry isn’t huge, this deal will go through…
The FCC won’t stop it and who the hell can depend on Barack Obama?
Read the article…
Don’t have a nice day…
A great article in the New York Times explores BP’s track record of disaster, safety violations, and maximum profits at high risk, all the while claiming safety is their number one priority. Much like the talking head politicians on Sunday morning talk-shows, or television and radio programs by your Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s, Tony Hayward seems to believe that just because you say something, and say it often, it will be true. In a recent memorandum to his employees that touched on BP’s improving safety record, Tony claimed, “This (Deepwater Horizon BP Catastraphuk) accident has been a terrible exception to that trend and we must learn the lessons from it, but at the same time, it does not invalidate all the hard work you have put in to improve our safety standards around the world. Safety is our first priority. It will remain so.”
First priority? Jesus, I’d hate to see what might happen if it was your second or third. Problem is Tony, a number of facts kind of get in the way of your memorandum, consider:
March 23rd, 2005, at their Texas City Refinery an explosion killed 15 and injured 170. Two months before the accident, a consulting firm named the Telos Group hired to examine conditions at the plant had this to say “We have never seen a site where the notion ‘I could die today’ was so real.” An investigation after the explosion found more than 300 safety violations and BP paid 21 million in fines. Four years later, OSHA inspected the same plant at Texas City and this time, found more than 700 safety violations; BP was ordered to pay 87 million in fines this time, a judgment currently under appeal.
2005: Another oil rig, the Thunder Horse in the Gulf of Mexico almost sank, caused by an improperly installed check valve. When the rig heated up during a hurricane, instead of water being pumped out, the rig flooded, listed dangerously and almost sank. While BP was repairing the damages, they discovered ominous cracks and breaks in the welding throughout the platform caused by bad performance and previously missed. Had the well been started, the cracks would have broken and oil would have poured into the Gulf. Yeah, that’s right: Deepwater Horizon would have been the second time BP did this to the Gulf of Mexico.
2006: In Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, 267,000 gallons oil leaked from BP’s pipelines, the worst spill on Alaska’s north slope in history. BP paid 20 million dollars in fines.
March, 2010: OSHA found 62 violations in an Ohio BP refinery.
May 25th, 2010: BP created the third largest spill on the Trans-Alaska pipeline system, caused by a power failure; it dumped 200,000 gallons of oil.
And lest we forget:
April 20th, 2010: Deepwater Horizon explodes…11 dead and on Day 84, still going strong.
There are different takes on the culture and policies of the company of course – BP’s, and everybody else’s.
In the article, BP Public Relations guru, Scott Dudley is quoted, saying it was unfair to blame cultural failings at BP for the string of accidents, “Everyone realized we had to operate safely and reliably, particularly in the U.S., to restore a reputation that was damaged by the accident at Texas City,” he said. “So I don’t accept, and have not witnessed, this cutting of corners and the sacrifice of safety to drive results.”
But as I mentioned, not everybody feels the same:
“Senior management told us they are very serious about safety, but we observed that they haven’t translated their words into safe working procedures and practices, and they have difficulty applying the lessons learned from refinery to refinery or even from within refineries,” said David Michaels, an OSHA administrator.
Congressional Representative, Henry Waxman, whose committee is investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident, also has a different view than BP. When Mr. Hayward testified a month ago, Waxman had this to say “There is a complete contradiction between BP’s words and deeds. You were brought in to make safety the top priority of BP. But under your leadership, BP has taken the most extreme risks.” “BP cut corner after corner to save a million dollars here and a few hours there,” Mr. Waxman said. “And now the whole Gulf Coast is paying the price.”
And now, British Petroleum is expanding their refinery at Whiting, Indiana which already has had hundreds of violations; they are trying to get permission to do both directional drilling under Lake Michigan and exploratory drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Bully…what me, worry?
Read the article:
And have a nice day…