Archive for profit motive

Charles Koch is a "greedy jerk": La Cucaracha

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citizens united check republic billionaires Koch brothers dark money

A major advantage of having a Twitter pal like the wonderful Lalo Alcaraz (@LaloAlcaraz) is that he generously shares his work with us. In his comic strip today, Lalo zeroed in on one of the Koch brothers, Charles Koch. Only one, Lalo?

But Charles Koch is well worth a snarky strip devoted only to him, not to mention to his corporate billions dedicated to ultra-conservative causes. Thanks to the Supreme Court and their two disastrous decisions-- Citizens United and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission-- the door has opened wider to billionaires influencing (and by that I mean buying) elections, candidates, and votes. By increasing the role money plays in American politics, SCOTUS has once again chipped away at what's left of our democracy, allowing the wealthiest Americans the potential to determine election outcomes.

Despite those legal victories, the Koch brothers insolently play the victims, all the while pumping unlimited cash into the veins of anti-women's rights, anti-civil rights, anti-voting rights, anti-gay rights, and anti- workers' rights Republicans.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can't beat them. We did in 2012. Say it with me now: Get Out The Vote.

And with that, here's Lalo's latest:

la cucaracha Charles Koch

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"Only intensive push in next 15 years can stave off climate change disaster"

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tar sands keystone xl protest climate change disaster

The New York Times has an unnerving article about a United Nations report that "only an intensive worldwide push over the next 15 years can stave off" a potential climate change disaster later this century:

The report did find some reasons for cautious optimism. The costs of renewable energy like wind and solar power are now falling so fast that their deployment on a large scale is becoming practical, the report said. In fact, extensive use of renewable energy is already starting in countries such as Denmark and Germany, and to a lesser degree in some American states, including California, Iowa and Texas. [...]

Yet the report found that the emissions problem is still outrunning the will to tackle it, with global emissions rising almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century than in the last decades of the 20th century.

That was posted today. Yesterday, MSNBC's Alex Witt interviewed  John Fiege, the director and producer of "Above All Else," a documentary about lives affected by the Keystone XL tar sands Pipeline project. Juxtaposing these two reports in one post-- one on impending climate change disaster and the other on a short-sighted, corporate disaster-in waiting-- should be a wake-up call. But will it be?

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Witt: If completed, the [Keystone XL] pipeline could stretch 2,000 miles from the oil fields of Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. Deep in the heart of Texas, a group of rural land owners and student activists came together in an unlikely union to protest the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. The property owners claim they were manipulated into signing over their land to TransCanada. The energy company for its part is saying the pipeline is a job creator that will ensure North America's energy independence. What happened next is chronicled in a new documentary titled "Above All Else."...

Fiege: The companies building the pipeline were surprised to see such strong opposition from people who lived there. The thing in east Texas, they don't like a foreign company coming in and taking their property and they know how to fight back so it is an interesting conflict...

The folks who signed, as they learned more about what the Keystone XL pipeline is, and that its whole purpose is to transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, they didn't know that when they signed the agreement. They also didn't know that the company did not have the permits it needed to build the pipeline. So they felt like they were manipulated and lied to...

You know, another example of an oil project touted as being "state of the art, cutting edge" was the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf Coast that BP ran that exploded. We've heard this over and over again, where oil companies claim they're using state of the art technology-- they probably are-- but we see this over and over again that this infrastructure is not safe. ...

That's one of the main stories the film tells. If you're an individual, if you're an American and you want to fight back against this and you object to a foreign corporation taking your land and you want to do something about climate change, you are putting yourself at great peril and you're going to be crushed by these enormous corporate powers that have emerged and really taken an outsized, you know, section of power and wealth in our society. I think one thing this film chronicles is really a wake-up call for folks in the middle of the country and the reddest parts of red states who don't think this is a good system to have and feel completely disempowered.

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Expert on cultural production of ignorance "watches Fox News all the time"

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ignorance via Armando Lioss smallerPhoto via Armando Lioss

One of my favorite columnists, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), along with most sane people (read: not right wing extremists), does not think ignorance is bliss. In fact, he points out how the commercialization of ignorance has not only dumbed down America, it has endangered it. Hiltzik describes how industries thrive on disseminating public misinformation while they profit off of selling harmful concepts and products, exploit a willing media, all at the expense of increasingly oblivious consumers.

He cites the work of Robert Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford and "one of the world's leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance."

Hiltzik's piece in the Los Angeles Times is one that should be read in its entirety, but the highlights alone will make your hair stand on end. Alcoholic beverages and/or sedatives strongly recommended prior to reading:

Robert Proctor doesn't think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don't know can hurt you. And that there's more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense. [...]

The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson's files, "Doubt is our product." Big Tobacco's method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo's author wrote, but to establish a "controversy."

Yes, infuriatingly, they peddle doubt and go out of their way to create controversy in order to implant big question marks in the minds of an unsuspecting, undereducated public. By inducing the media to "present both sides" when, in fact, there may not be two legitimate sides (science, anyone?), they divert focus and evade facts. For example, we've seen how they "sow doubts about the safety of childhood immunizations" (coughBachmann!cough) and deny climate change. And don't get me started on the lies about the Affordable Care Act:

When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society. [...]

And all those fabricated Obamacare horror stories wholesaled by Republican and conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act and their aiders and abetters in the right-wing press? Their purpose is to sow doubt about the entire project of healthcare reform; if the aim were to identify specific shortcomings of the act, they'd have to accompany every story with a proposal about how to fix it.

My head couldn't stop nodding in agreement when I caught this part:

"Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship." As part of his scholarship, Proctor says he "watches Fox News all the time."... Citing the results of a 2012 Gallup poll, Proctor asks, "If half the country thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old, how can you really develop an effective environmental policy? This sort of traditional or inertial ignorance bars us from being able to act responsibly on large social issues."

He goes on to explain how Big Tobacco exploited the tea party's obsession with what they love to call "freedom" and "choice," which of course plays into their anti-government meme, a position that consequently benefits the cigarette industry. Hiltzik emphasizes the importance of educating Americans in order to renew their trust in science. Competent journalism wouldn't hurt in that regard, now would it? He ends with this quote:

The effort needs to begin at a young age, [Proctor] says. "You really need to be teaching third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-graders that some people lie. And why do they lie? Because some people are greedy."

in greed we trust

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Pres. Obama, just say no to addiction to (tar sands) oil. Please.

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tar sands keystone xl oil pipeline emissions

Excuse me, Official Environmental Review, but the dirtiest oil on earth ("a mixture of clay, sand, rock, and tarry fossil fuel called bitumen, which can be hard as a hockey puck") is brought to you by the Keystone XL "tar sands" pipeline. Then again, tar sands “isn’t oil. This is a pipe-eating, planet-cooking, water-fouling goo. You can’t clean up tar.” Did I mention that, per said report, only 50 permanent jobs would be created?

Get real, State Department. The Arkansas pipeline rupture foreshadows devastating environmental impact. Nevertheless, it looks like the State is leaning toward approving Keystone, even though it would bring the dirtiest oil on earth through America.

Here is some of what the Los Angeles Times had to say:

Environmentalists said the study neglected research that shows the pipeline would play a central role in the planned expansion of oil sands extraction, including a report by the Canadian Assn. of Petroleum Producers. [...] About one-fifth of Alberta's bitumen deposits can be strip-mined. The rest is deeper and would be tapped by injecting superheated steam. Both methods require burning fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide. [...]

[T]he current analysis conceded that mining Alberta's bitumen would generate an average of 17% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil refined in the U.S. It also said that, under certain scenarios, the pipeline could add as much as 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually, or the equivalent of putting 5.7 million additional cars on the road. [...]

By [2020], nearly all of Canada's emissions increase will be due to oil sands extraction, the report says.

Environmentalists also point out that the State Department's inspector general is conducting an inquiry into whether the contractor that produced the final impact statement, Environmental Resources Management, failed to disclose recent work it did for TransCanada, resulting in a conflict of interest.

Here is what Chris Hayes had to say:

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Hayes's astute Special Comment on breaking our, and President Obama's, addiction to fossil fuels included this:

Trillions of dollars of crude oil, of tar sands oil, of coal and natural gas, we have to leave it in the ground. Abandon it there. In other words, we have to stop...

The [Keystone XL] Pipeline is the line in the sand... It is quitting time if we are serious... We have to say no...

No single project is going to be the project that does us in, just like no single drink is what does the drunk in...

If we say we're going to quit today and then push it off to tomorrow, we are not quitting, so let us not fool ourselves. If we spend billions of dollars to tap an entire new keg, a dirty keg at that, we are not quitting. We are sinking further into our dependence and self-destruction...

This fight is far from over. ... The president will have the ultimate say. And he has set the standard very recently in his own State of the Union...

The miracle of those who break addiction is the incredible resolve they somehow manage to find within themselves to counter the inner addict logic... and anyone who breaks free of any addiction digs down and finds some inner strength to say, "No." To stop. To say, "This is the day I start to turn my life around."

And the question is whether we as citizens and Barack Obama as a president, as a human being, can find that strength within himself.

tar sands keystone xl oil pipeline map

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Score one for oil drilling opponents!

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that's oil folks smaller

I rail all the time about Big Oil drilling into every pristine and not-so pristine corner of the world, fracking, and the usual gluttons' utter disdain for keeping our precious earth and its inhabitants safe, healthy, and beautiful.

Writing about it for years on end is exhausting and is taking a toll. That is one of the main reasons I have outrage overload (and have been ordered to cut back for health reasons). It's not easy to rant endlessly, yet feel as if you're having no impact.

Thankfully, there are people with big, effective voices who are being heard:

environment erin brockovich tweet CA, West VirginiaLink

But today is different. Today I am the bearer of good news, or rather, the Los Angeles Times is:

The U.S. government violated the law when it opened millions of acres of the Arctic Ocean to offshore oil drilling, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, possibly delaying plans by companies such as Royal Dutch Shell to drill off the northwest coast of Alaska in the near future.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the Interior Department did not properly evaluate the impact of oil development in the Chukchi Sea when it sold more than $2.6 billion in development leases in the environmentally sensitive area in 2008.

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups and Alaska Native organizations sued the federal government, arguing that the U.S. had offered an estimated 30 million acres of oil leases for sale without sufficient scientific information or analysis of potential effects on the region.

bam

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California billionaire may be liberals' answer to the Koch brothers

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austinpowersw393h222

 

There is a lot of good info to read in this article in the Los Angeles Times, but I'll try to concisely sum it all up for you. In as nut shelly a recap as I can muster up, the story goes a little something like this:

There's this evil French Kenyan Marxist liberal tree-hugging progressive California billionaire who also happens to believe there's such a thing as climate change. He's doing what he can to block that infamous disaster-in-waiting project, the dirtiest oil on earth brought to you by the Keystone XL "tar sands" pipeline, because he's no dummy, and he's a no-dummy with a whole lot of money.

And thanks to our ludicrous campaign finance laws, part of that stash o' cash is being used to influence national elections on behalf of environmentalists and the Democratic party. Or as I like to call them, people with foresight. Take that, Koch brothers. The Times calls him the "liberals' counterpoint" to the Kochs. Hey, it's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

[I]n [Tom] Steyer, liberals have a billionaire on their side. Like the Kochs, he is building a vast political network and seizing opportunities provided by loose campaign finance rules to insert himself into elections nationwide. In direct contrast to them, he has made opposition to fossil fuels and the campaign against global warming the center of his activism.

The former financier is an unlikely green icon. Steyer built his fortune with a San Francisco-based hedge fund of the sort that drove protesters to occupy Wall Street. Some of the investments that landed him on the Forbes list of America's wealthiest went into companies he now says are destroying the planet. Adversaries and, in private, at least some erstwhile allies call him a dilettante.

Yet, unlike many others in a parade of super-rich Californians who have made forays into politics, Steyer has proved himself skilled at bringing attention to his cause and himself.

He's racked up some impressive victories, which you can read about in the Times piece.

He may not be every die-hard liberal's cup of political tea, but for those of us who have been concerned about the lack of one percenter lefties who are willing to compete with all those filthy rich conservative donors and activists, this is welcome news.

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Huh wha? EPA wants to cut environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel.

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now what smallerThe Environmental Protection Agency has a proposal for America: Let's cut the amount of environmentally friendly biodiesel in the nation's fuel supply. By 25%. Got that? LESS environmentally friendly biodiesel. What more could Big Oil ask for? Well, a lot more, but let's just say it's a very merry Christmas gift to the oil industry, because less biodiesel means more diesel.

Oh, come on, you say with that all too familiar skeptical look on your face. There must be another choice here. But no-o-o. There is no third option to put in diesel cars and trucks.

See, biodiesel is made from recycled cooking oil and soybean oil and doesn't compete with food (most of us don't pig out on soy sauce and soybean pie). In fact, EPA has certified biodiesel an advanced biofuel because it burns cleaner than diesel and it won’t push up food prices. Biodiesel is the "good" advanced biofuel and we should have more of it, not less. Even someone as dim as Michele Bachmann can understand that. Okay, that's a serious stretch, but you get the idea.

So why would President Obama be okay with this? One could surmise that he is going to say no to the controversial disaster-in-waiting project, the dirtiest oil on earth brought to you by the Keystone XL "tar sands" pipeline. Then again, tar sands “isn’t oil. This is a pipe-eating, planet-cooking, water-fouling goo. You can’t clean up tar.”  The Los Angeles Times:

An October report by [Environment Canada] forecast sharp, sustained growth through 2020 in carbon dioxide emissions from the exploitation of oil sands. By that year, nearly all of Canada's emissions increase will be due to oil sands extraction, the report says. [...]

Two years ago, the Obama administration's approval of a permit for the $7-billion Keystone XL project, which would carry oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, appeared all but certain. Now, after problems with environmental impact statements and relentless opposition by environmentalists and major Democratic donors, the pipeline's fate appears in doubt.

"I think at the end of the day he will say no, but there will be some twists and turns before we get there," said Carol Browner, Obama's former chief climate change advisor.

Yay

Maybe the president wants to appear fair and balanced to the Big Oil Gang Who Couldn't Leak Straight. Regardless of why it is happening, the EPA is about to do Big Oil a big favor by eliminating their competition.  By reducing the amount of biodiesel in our fuel supply next year, many small producers of this green fuel will simply go out of business.

Then again, why does Big Oil need anything? They're hardly on the brink of bankruptcy, although they are lacking proper neatness and do-unto-others skills.

Want to know more about biodiesel? Here are a few excerpts from a recent press release issued by...

bio diesel

Biodiesel Supporters to Voice RFS Concerns with EPA

Proposed Volumes Would Cause Plant Shutdowns, Layoffs

NEWS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON – Nearly two dozen representatives of the U.S. biodiesel industry are slated to testify at an EPA hearing Thursday about the threat to their businesses and surrounding communities under the EPA’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standard for biodiesel.

Biodiesel – made from a diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats – is the first EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide. Yet in its recent RFS draft, the EPA proposed reducing biodiesel production to 1.28 billion gallons, down sharply from the industry’s production rate of about 2 billion gallons since July.

Tim Keaveney, vice president for Erie, Pa.-based biodiesel producer HERO BX, plans to tell the EPA that the company is producing a record amount of biodiesel this year, reducing the cost of production as a result and helping revitalize the local economy. But the proposed EPA rule threatens jobs at the plant and its surrounding area, and has already frozen a planned expansion that would add to the company’s current work force of 43 full-time employees. [...]

Biodiesel is the first and only commercial-scale fuel produced across the U.S. to meet the EPA’s definition as an Advanced Biofuel - meaning the EPA has determined that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent when compared with petroleum diesel. Produced in nearly every state in the country, the industry has exceeded RFS requirements in every year of the program, producing more than 1 billion gallons annually since 2011. It is on pace to produce at least 1.7 billion gallons in 2013, supporting more than 62,000 jobs nationwide.

I hope progressives around the nation will demand that President Obama intervene and stop EPA from giving Big Oil the best Christmas gift they could ever hope for!  EPA is supposed to be in charge of keeping our air clean. Biodiesel produces fewer greenhouse gasses than diesel.  It seems like it should be a no-brainer for EPA to push for more biodiesel next year – not the opposite.

So what's up with that, EPA?

you got some 'splainin' to do smaller

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