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The Futile Boycott of BP

It’s true. Boycotting BP may feel good, but it’s pointless.

Recent events have curious. First, this talk of the company going under seems entirely premature to me. BP’s annual profit for 2009 was 12.5 billion. That was down from 25.5 billion in 2008. This is a trillion dollar company. Why would anyone be talking about bankruptcy this early in the game? This is especially perplexing to me when you consider the fact that Exxon ended up paying a total of 4.3 to 7 billion (I’ve seen figures in this range – can’t get an exact number) dollars in cleanup, fines, remediation, compensation, and other fees. How can anyone be talking about bankruptcy when recent precedent suggests that the total cost to BP won’t equal one years’ profit?

Another fact that most people aren’t aware of, is how big of a piece if the British economy BP represents. It’s the third largest British company. BP is such an integral part of the UK’s economy that it is responsible for one out of every seven pounds paid out in retirement funds. I am positive that President Obama has had daily phone calls with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. BP is simply too big to fail for the UK, which is why we’ll never see our president put them in receivership.

I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I smell an acquisition in the air and I think that the white house it brokering a deal to make it happen. Exxon or Conocophillips would be the two companies most likely to acquire BP.

Another curious fact to that end is that President Obama appointed William Reilly to sit on a commission to investigate how this disaster happened. William Reilly currently sits on the board of directors for Conocophillips. Coincidence?

Maybe, but it smells funny when you put the whole picture together.

We know that Obama can’t actively do anything to help precipitate the demise of BP. He would be seriously jeopardizing our relationship with the UK, whose economy is already in a precarious position.

We know that BP can’t possibly be hanging by a financial thread at this stage of the disaster. To date, they’ve spent pennies of their first quarter earnings on this disaster. They have no real reason to believe that they won’t get the same disaster blue light special that Exxon got for the Valdez and yet, the press is inexplicably painting a picture of a financially crippled company. Are they priming the pump in order to sell the public on the idea that there’s a need for an acquisition?

Is it a coincidence that one of Obama’s appointees to investigate the spill sits on the board of one of the two companies that could acquire BP?

Brokering an deal a la the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank Of America would seem to be the most logical move for Obama. It would help to salvage the British economy while limiting the amount of money that the new entity would have to pay out to cover BP’s liability in this catastrophe. This would satiate the public’s thirst for BP’s blood by “putting them out of business”. But don’t worry about the executives at BP. They will all no doubt, receive high paying board positions with their new “owners”.

Am I crazy or does this seem like the only possible end to this horrific tale?

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Corporate Dumbitude

I use the word dumbitude because corporations today are dumb. And to rub salt in the wound, they’re dumb with a really smug attitude.

Since America is essentially a corporate owned entity at this point, we have been dragged down to a level of unspeakably dumb.

Look at how BP is dealing with the oil volcano in the gulf. Dumb. They have no fucking idea how to stop the geyser from spewing millions of barrels of oil into the gulf. Six weeks into this nightmare, and they’re using the same ineffective techniques that failed forty years ago in this situation. Rachel Maddow did a great segment highlighting this a couple of nights ago. It’s not just BP. It’s the oil industry at large. It’s obvious that in the past fifty years, these assholes haven’t invested a single dime in developing ways to deal with potential disasters. Their R&D investment has been limited to figuring out innovative ways to get to oil that they were unable to get to in the past. So now we have a situation where the world is watching massive amounts of oil filling up the gulf of Mexico. We’re all watching in disgust and horror. And as our disgust brews, our appetite for offshore oil drilling is evaporating.

Dumb move, oil industry. BP isn’t the only oil company working on this in the gulf right now. They’ve all got engineers working with BP to try and plug this thing up because they know that every day that this continues, our disdain for the industry grows. Thank you Congressman Ed Markey for making sure that the public has access to a live video stream of what’s happening in the gulf. Having access to that video ensures that our vitriol won’t dissipate anytime soon.

Not spending money on safety measures or R&D to figure out effective ways to deal with oil spills is dumb because it will cut into long term profits. It’s dumb because each time one of these oil disasters happens, our appetite for alternative energy grows. We may forget this incident and keep going the way we were, but maybe the next one will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I don’t know how many more of these need to happen before we get there, but we WILL get there.

The part that really incenses me in this whole thing, is listening to the smug CEO. He honestly still believes in his own brilliance. He thinks he’s brilliant because his accounts payable department is at this very moment, cutting giant contribution checks to every single United States congressman and senator. Mary Landrieu has had to hire several new staff members, just to carry bags of cash from BP’s offices to hers. He thinks he’s brilliant because he will contribute a weeks worth of BP’s profits to politicians, who will then in turn, limit BP’s liability from hundreds of billions of dollars to hundreds of millions. It will be a smart investment on his part. He will literally be paying pennies on the dollar on what this should cost BP. That doesn’t make him brilliant. It makes him a bully. And this strategy may work this time. It may even work for the next couple of times, but the public eventually will put its foot down. And even if we never do, we will get to the point where we’ve run out of oil.

The dumbest thing about the oil industry is that they’re not putting any money into developing renewable energy. There’s no reason why their livelihoods have to depend on a finite substance. If IBM operated the way the oil industry does, they would have spent millions of dollars to convince the public that computers were dangerous, and that we need to stick with our typewriters. The oil industry is unbelievable dumb in it’s short term thinking.

They’re dumb in the same way that the financial industry is dumb. It’s all about squeezing out every nickle this quarter, with no thought whatsoever toward next year. The financial industry is going to bury this country in the next couple of years. When I say bury, I mean that 2008 will look like the good old days compared to what’s coming. They’re dumb because this pyramid scheme of funneling all of the money to a handful of people at the top has been played out over and over again by various societies. It’s always ended in a crumbling of that society. You can’t have a culture with no middle class. It’s never, ever worked and it never will. Plus, ours is a culture of self entitlement. I believe than when pushed far enough, Americans will revolt before accepting a fate of becoming wage slaves to a corporate master.

Here’s an interesting assessment by a non-partisan group, of the American Power Act that was recently proposed by Kerry and (gag) Lieberman. They basically conclude that if passed, this bill would create an average of 203,000 jobs per year. They estimate that the oil industry would lose 72,000 jobs per year, but that the US would pick up 165,000 jobs in nuclear energy, 19,000 in renewable energy jobs, 28,000 jobs in biofuels, and 96,000 jobs in clean coal.

The oil industry are fucking idiots for not taking the lead in developing new energy sources. I believe that silicon valley will eventually innovate the oil industry out of business. By the time the oil industry shifts from their bullying tactics to jumping on the bandwagon, it will be too late for them.

The corporate dumbitude that we’re experiencing may well bring the US off its superpower perch. It’s too bad, because the founding fathers actually did a pretty damned good job of creating viable democracy.

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Bitchy’s Energy Policy

This is obviously something that we’re all thinking about, given the BP disaster in the gulf.

Let me share a few thoughts on this catastrophe before I move into my energy policy.

First off, BP is obviously reprehensible for their part in this. That well should have been packed in mud (as they’re finally in the process of doing now), right from the beginning. They ignored safety measures in order to cut costs.

We saw a preview of how BP plans to fend off the law suits, during the congressional hearings a couple of weeks ago. BP, Transocean, and Haliburton all formed a circle jerk in which, they each pointed the finger at one of the other two companies and denied their own accountability. Personally, I believe that this was BP’s operation which makes them primarily liable for damages. I sincerely hope (although I have no faith it will go down this way), that a court makes that decision early on in the process. I have no issue with BP turning around and suing Transocean or Haliburton for any liability they feel may rest with the other companies due to negligence, but I believe that everyone that has been damaged by this disaster should be able to collect damages from BP.

Exxon fended off paying out a single dime for twenty years. Many of the fishermen that lost their livelihoods died during those twenty years. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Let me add that I am disgusted by how the Obama administration has handled this so far. They have relied entirely on BP to assess, inform, and remedy the situation. Are they stupid? It’s obvious to anyone watching this unfold, that there is no government agency that has the knowledge to deal with this. That part isn’t Obama’s fault. But as it has become increasingly more obvious that BP also lacks the knowledge on what to do here, government inspectors should have gone in to gather information and start working with BP on formulating a cleanup plan. The fact that BP has been the only entity gathering data during the crucial first thirty days, makes it even more difficult for those seeking damages to make their case. I find it reprehensible that the Obama administration’s complacency is adding misfortune of a lot of people whose lives have been destroyed over this.

On to my energy policy.

I wish we were in the position to stop all offshore drilling immediately, but we’re not so that’s not my short term position. If we had followed the trajectory set by Jimmy Carter on energy policy forty years ago, we may be there today. But Ronald Reagan (can we please refer to him as the fuck up that he was now?)took the solar panels off the roof of the white house and every president that has followed him has done little or nothing to move us out of oil dependency, so here we are. Since Jimmy Carter left office we’ve had seventeen oil spills where over 50,000 (or more) barrels were spilled, totaling well over 50 million barrels of oil spilled in the past thirty years.

My point is that we’re not getting better at this, and anyone that tells you we are is full of shit. Our seafood already has alarming levels of mercury and other scary shit in it. Fish in Alaska are still coming up with weird tumors on them, from a twenty one year old spill. We need to set a goal for getting off oil. This simply isn’t working anymore.

Plus, we have 2% of the world’s oil reserves. We consume 25% of the world’s total oil consumption. Does this sound like a situation we can drill baby drill out of?

So here’s my plan.

-We must allow offshore drilling to continue, but we need to impose and enforce stronger regulations on both drilling and transporting.

-We need to force oil companies to drill on the leases they currently hold. Here’s what most people don’t realize about “drill baby drill”; oil companies are exploring on the leases they have, and then they’re capping those wells until oil is worth more. That’s what they were doing with the Deepwater Horizon well. They were capping it. I understand that the rig in the gulf is an exploration rig, which is different than a drilling rig. But what the oil companies have been doing, is capping oil that they find indefinitely. Think about it, why would you sell oil at $100 a barrel if you knew that waiting ten years would increase the value of that oil by 300%? We need to give the oil companies a limited window of opportunity to drill on the leases they currently hold. We could also limit the number of offshore oil leases that a company can hold. This would force them to drill baby drill, instead of hoard baby hoard.

-We need to end all subsidies and tax breaks to oil companies. They don’t need it. When you’re making 45 billion dollars every twelve weeks, there’s no reason to panhandle the American people for help.

-We should take all of that money and channel it into developing green technologies like The Bloom Box. Can you imagine where we would be today if we had started 40 years ago? If we can start manufacturing green technology, we would get the added bonus of possibly reviving Detroit. We have manufacturing facilities that are going to crumble if we don’t start manufacturing something in them soon. I say, let’s incentivize R&D firms to manufacture in Detroit.

-We need to significantly raise cafe standards on automobiles every ten years. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be driving cars that get a minimum of 60 mpg, especially when you consider the fact that a 1973 Honda Civic got 40 mpg.

That’s it, Bitchy’s plan to energy independence. We need to do what we do; innovate.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention nuclear energy. There’s a reason for that. First off, we can’t build a nuclear power plant without the government guaranteeing the loan. Banks won’t lend to nuclear power plant developers. They’ve proven to be a bad risk, so the American people would be on the hook for paying to build a nuclear power plant. Once we get one built, insurance companies won’t insure them. So American taxpayers would be on the hook for any and all damages if something went wrong. And lastly, no one has come up with a permanent solution on what to do with the waste. France has made some progress on this. They’re reusing most of the waste. But it’s what they’re doing with what’s still left that concerns me. They’re basically encasing it in concrete and burying it. That concrete will break down over time, even if there were no nuclear materials in it. I’m going to go ahead and say that with nuclear waste in it, you’re going to have to dig up those concrete caskets to make sure they’re still sealed fairly often. So 100 years from now, France is going to be dealing with the nuclear waste they’re producing and the nuclear waste they’ve produced over the past 130 years.

I’d be willing to have a conversation about building and insuring a nuclear power plant after someone has worked out the waste issue, but not before then.

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STOP Blaming BP

Yes, you read that correctly. I do not subscribe to the idea that BP is to blame for the oil spill. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that BP is responsible for the spill, but I do not blame them for it. And no, I’m not a shill for Exxon!

Blaming BP means buying into that whole, “corporations are people” nonsense that republicans like to spew. You see, in order to blame BP for this disaster, you must believe that BP should have a moral compass. You would have to buy into the idea that BP should have imposed stronger safety measures on itself because that would be the right thing to do. Can you see how that doesn’t work?

BP, like any corporation, has one and ONLY one objective; to make as much money as they possibly can. They have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. They do not have a moral responsibility to the planet (or anyone else). They don’t have a conscience and they don’t have feelings that can be hurt, nor should they.

You’re naive if you expect them to. As a shareholder, I need for the company that I invest in to have the sole objective of increasing the value of my shares in the company. Corporations should be nothing more than money (and job) creating machines.

It is the government’s job to protect the health and well being of its citizens.

I blame the Bush and Obama administrations for this. They should have been the moral compass. They should have made sure that the drilling operation was safe for the workers and the ocean. They should have regulated them more thoroughly, and they certainly shouldn’t have entertained the notion of issuing waivers rather than inspections.

In a healthy society, the government and the corporations would have an adversarial relationship. Each side pushing against the other with conflicting agendas. The corporations’ profit motive should be clashing with the government’s objective to protect the health and well being of citizenry.

That’s not what we have here. We have a government that is nearly entirely bought and paid for by the corporations. They’re not adversaries, they’re allies. And they’re aligned against we, the people.

Here’s where I should go off on a tangent about publicly financed elections, but I’m going to save that for another (or several) posts.

My point in this post is that BP isn’t where our focus should be here. If you’re blaming them while at the same time insisting that corporations are not people, then you need to reexamine your philosophy to come up with something more consistent. I go on and on about conservative hypocrisy. Here’s an area where liberals need to check themselves. Blaming BP for not policing themselves is like blaming a lion for hunting deer. It’s what they do.

No the blame here lies squarely on the shoulders of our government. They failed to protect us and they failed to protect our environment.

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Idiots or Assholes?

I’ve been stunned by the circus that is the BP oil spill repair efforts. Seriously, it’s been like watching Pinky And The Brain plot to take over the world.

First we had the original accident, which was so unlikely to ever happen, that it was hardly worth doing inspections on the safety equipment designed to kick in if something does go wrong. And then when, against all odds, something did go wrong, the equipment (which went untested) shockingly failed to work. Once that happened, we watched BP’s brilliant engineers come up with a plan to stop the oil geyser on the fly, because there was no emergency plan in place. What did they come up with? They tried to slip a giant condom over the geyser. A plan which, by the way, even they didn’t think would work. When the condom failed, they decided to try a smaller condom! One that would just cover the tip. I’m not sure how one concludes that an extra small condom will get the job done when the XXL trojan didn’t work, but to no one’s surprise, this didn’t work either. The next plan is to clog the leak up with garbage. No, I’m not kidding. They have named it the “junk shot”. I wish I had the type of imagination to make this shit up.

There was a senate hearing into the matter last week, which was hilarious before it even began. We’re going to watch the lawmakers that lobbied for the loosening of regulations on the oil industry “get tough” on oil executives? Seriously? Predictably during the hearings, all three of the companies involved (BP, Transocean, and Haliburton) pointed the finger at the other companies. This, by the way, is going to be the strategy for how they’re going to stave off paying one nickle in damages for decades. The one thing that all three companies could agree on is that no one could have seen this coming.

This seems to be a common theme in America these days. One day you’re a brilliant and successful CEO of a very large company, touting your genius to every politician that you can buy. The next day, after something goes horribly wrong, you suddenly become clueless, an idiot that never saw it coming. We saw all of the bank CEOs transform themselves from genius to idiot. None of them could have seen the financial collapse coming. Angelo Mozilo (of Countrywide infamy) embraced his idiocy so vehemently, that he spun his sister (Lori Mozilo) into such an empathetic fervor, that she wrote this blog for HuffPo. She seems lovely, doesn’t she? I mean it. She seems like a lovely person that has bought her brother’s bullshit hook, line, and sinker. Congratulations Angelo, you’re an asshole that turned his sister into an idiot. Well played. I have to wonder, did these people adamantly profess their stupidity to the board of directors of their companies when they were negotiating their compensation packages? And will any of them be so wracked with guilt for being so over compensated (given the fact that they’re idiots), that they’re going to return the piles of cash that they made to the shareholders?

This tactic isn’t limited to CEOs who find themselves in trouble. This tactic of stupidity is everywhere. When people try to step in line in front of you, they always feign cluelessness for “not having seen you there”, or for not understanding why 30 people are lined up in a designated area. Oh, there’s a line? We see it when someone cuts you off on the freeway so that they can make the offramp. They didn’t cut you off because they’re assholes, they cut off because they didn’t see you there.

It’s the, “I’m not an asshole, I’m an idiot” defense. Personally, I’ve had about all I can take of this. Why does this work? Where did we get the idea that idiot is better than asshole?

Does anyone out there find an idiot less contemptible than an asshole?

I am of the opinion that an asshole that uses the idiot defense is the most loathsome kind of person on earth. But that’s just me. I own up to my assholiness when it’s deserved. Why doesn’t anyone else?

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