30 June 2010

Why 2010 Elections Are So Important for Texas Democrats


In seven short months we will have worked our way through an election and have seated and convened the 2011 Texas legislature.  That January 2011 session will begin to deal with many issues affecting Texas for decades to come:

Redistricting:  The 2010 National Census presents an opportunity to redraw state and congressional electoral districts to reflect population changes.  It could present Democrats an opportunity to undo the Tom Delay "gerrymandering" or the Republicans the chance to continue and entrench the process. And, it is likely that Texas will pick up one or more House seats.  It will, without any doubt, be the most rancorous issue facing the new legislature and will very likely spawn its own set of legal challenges and lawsuits regardless which party is in control of the process.  You can expect this to be one of the, if not the most, dominant issue before this legislature.

State Budget Shortfall & New Taxes:  The 2011 legislature will be presented with a budget shortfall now estimated to be in the range of $18 billion.  Putting aside all else, common sense (I know, I know) dictates that there are only a few options available; amend the state constitution to permit a continued budget deficit, reduce spending through budget and service cuts, austerity programs, accounting tricks and devices, tap the so-called "Rainy Day Fund", find new sources of state revenue i.e. casino gambling, or raise taxes.  Even if we were to see some or all of these measures except "raise taxes", there still would be a shortfall.

One area with a big "bull's-eye" are the goods and services that currently benefit from $30 billion in tax exemptions, exclusions and credits.  The way politicians think is that eliminating such is not the same as creating new taxes..."We balanced the budget without creating new taxes!"

Sunset Review/Environmental Issues:  Twenty-eight state agencies are to come under "sunset reviews" this coming session.  The process will determine which agencies will continue and how and if they should be "reformed".  Businesses and and established interests will be ready to fight any attempts to increase or impose new regulations.  If the Democrats are in control they will target many of those agencies, which under Republican control, have all but given businesses and special interest veritable wave throughs in the regulatory and review processes.

In addition to the big, well-known agencies like the Department of Insurance and the Department of Transportation, energy and environmental agencies such as The Public Utilities Commission, Commission on Environmental Quality, Water Development Board, and the Soil and Water Conservation Board will be closely scrutinized.

It is very important for us to note that this review process will take place as Texas is receiving more and more pressure to effect stronger regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and non-government environmental groups.

Voter ID/Immigration:  We do not expect these hot-button, emotion laden issues to even come forth in a serious manner this session.  Frankly, this legislature is going to be so busy with the issues itemized above that there will no doubt be one, or even several, special sessions next summer.  There will be some posturing and blustering, but no significant action.

Health Care Reform:  Most of the noise on this will simply be Republicans and Democrats getting "on the record" for the folks back home.  However, look to decisions on how Texas is to implement new federal requirements to generate a lot of spleen as the legislature confronts whether to join the federal high-risk pool, and at what level to set Medicaid reimbursements. 

As always with the Texas Legislature, we can expect several to make utter jackasses of themselves, and at least a number of invitations to the "parking lot" to settle differences.  All that side, this is coming up to be as important a session as there ever has been..  Stay tuned, we will!

29 June 2010

Bill White Will Win Texas Governorship---If!


As it stands right now, the upcoming Texas Governor's race is the Democrat's to lose!  Here's why, and why it will not necessarily be a victory for all Democrats.

Consider our current dunce-cap wearing Governor, Rick Perry, who won his party's nod in a blistering and costly primary (alley-fight) with Senator Kay Bailey-Hutchison that deeply damaged his well-coiffed persona and left him open for some big questions about his high-on-the-hog personal lifestyle, honesty, and general inability to deal with problems greater than sleeping coyotes.  I'm not going to rag on the guy (I've already done that a time or two) but, I can tell you this: You can't trust a man who's hair doesn't move in a gale force wind!

Running against him this time is the most viable candidate the Democrats have put forth in recent memory, Mayor Bill White of Houston.  He will win!  Now don't get me wrong, this is not going to be a wave-through, but as mentioned earlier, Perry has lost whatever gravitas he once had through his reckless mismanagement of  state fiances and his absurd and adolescent boasting of shooting a coyote while out jogging....most of us don't have time for jogging governor, we're busy going to two or three jobs that are needed to to keep afloat in your misshapen economy that favors wealthy outside corporations and Wall Street financiers over hard-working everyday Texans.

Perry's blatant deficiencies are legendary and obviously haven't kept him from winning in the past.  But this time there is an opposing candidate with the credentials to give him a good old-fashioned parking lot style butt kicking.   Bill White, as mayor of the fourth largest city in the nation has proven himself with high-energy planning and exceptionally strong economic management.  Beyond that, is his singular (for Texas) ability to craft a strong coalition of Hispanics, independents and urban-based moderate Republicans along with the Democratic faithful who sense a winner and put aside their differences to effect a unified face at their recent convention in Corpus Christi.

However, all is not wonderful for all Democrats.  White is studiously putting distance between himself and President Obama (did you read what I wrote about Independents & Urban Based Moderate Republicans?) causing more than just little heartburn among the Obama faithful.  Liberals, already disenchanted with Obama, will support White simply because not to would be unthinkable given the stakes in this election.  Even a nominal Democrat is better than no Democrat!

Even with all this, there are some wild cards on the table.  The Democrats have an extraordinarily strong slate of candidates in addition to White and I have heard some backroom concerns that the unity is all on the surface but at the street level the White campaign is not offering support or "coattails" to the other statewide candidates.  And it is yet to be seen if the Democrats can mount an effective rural (E. Texas) presence and cash in with Hispanic voters through the draw of Linda Chavez-Thompson and Hector Uribe on the statewide ticket.

If the Democrats do not effectively pick up rural voters and craft a historic level of voter registration and ensuing turnout in Hispanic South Texas, they will be facing another four years of woulda, coulda, shoulda despite the strength of the ticket!

28 June 2010

SOCIAL SECURITY: A Promise To All Generations

Social Security: A Comprehensive Family Insurance Program

Social Security provides vital life insurance and disability insurance protection for millions of Americans, particularly children and their families.  For nearly 75-years now, Social Security has operated as a family insurance program that serves and benefits individuals of all ages.  In addition to its well known, and often debated, role as a retirement program, Social Security provides a safety net for more than 53-million Americans, including retirees, the disabled, children and families.  Last week, we wrote of its essential role in the lives of the orphans, and widows, and widowers, of our fallen military.

The truth is that more than 6.5-million children under age 18, or nearly 9% of all children in the United States,benefit from Social Security, as dependents of workers or military who have died or become disabled, or as dependents in households where an adult relies on Social Security.  Of those 6.5-million children, fully 1.3-million were lifted out of poverty by Social Security benefits.

Over 2.4-million American grandparents are now raising their grandchildren.  In these instances, Social Security works to ensure that America's children are kept safe and secure by providing a source of income for older Americans who are raising their grandchildren.  These children do not receive Social Security directly, BUT! they do benefit directly from the program because of the increase in income of the grandparent who is receiving Social Security.  In fact, it is estimated that 44% of older Americans, including such grandparents, would be considered poor by federal poverty standards if they did not receive these necessary and critical Social Security benefits.

Average 2010 Social Security Benefits

All Retired Workers............                                    $1,164
Aged Couple, Both Receiving Benefits............         $1,892
Disabled Worker............                                         $1,064
Disabled Worker With Spouse & Child..........  $1,803
Widow or Widower............                                    $1,123
Young Widow or Widower With Two Children.      $2,391

For more information go to Alliance for Retired Americans or call 1-888-633-4435

23 June 2010

The Lies About Social Security & How To Answer Them

You've Surely Heard These Lies -  Fight Back With The Truth!
"Social Security is burying our children in mountains of debt!"

* Social Security has not added a single cent to the federal budget deficit.  The federal government doesn't fund Social Security -- American workers do.  Think about it.  Social Security is funded directly by payroll contributions divided equally between workers and their employers.  As such it has its own dedicated sources of revenue and it is fully financed  for years to come.  Today's youths are falling behind their parent's generation due to a decline in quality American jobs and a failure to adopt policies that help young families balance their roles as workers and parents.

"Social Security is a burden to our youth!"

* While the highly privileged and wealthy may be fortunate enough to already be setting reserves aside for their retirement, the fact remains that the vast majority of today's youth and their families are struggling as a result of high unemployment, stagnant wages and a shift from traditional pensions to 401K plans. These are the hard-working people who will likely need strong retirement, disability and survivor protections they grow and raise families of their own.  Moreover, younger workers already have been handed a higher normal retirement age of 67.  We ought to be talking more about preserving and strengthening the program for young and old alike, instead of pushing for cuts to the benefits of future generations.

"The baby boomers are going to bankrupt the program!"

* Social Security has run a surplus since the early 1980s in anticipation of the Baby Boomer retirement.  Thus, the savings in the trust fund are already there to met this increased demand.

"The Fiscal Commission says that everything is on the table for consideration, including Social Security.!"

* So far, not everything has been on the Commission's table of consideration.  In fact, many potential sources of revenue have been conveniently absent from the discussion:  Where is the discussion about reducing the deficit by levying a financial transaction tax against Wall Street?  Likewise, where is the discussion about closing tax loopholes and other tax advantages for wealthy corporations and individuals?

22 June 2010

The Truth About Social Security


Did you know...that Social Security is the nation's largest disability program?  It's true.  Almost 8-million disabled workers receive monthly Social Security benefits.  Included among those are thousands of wounded U.S. soldiers.

Did you know...that Social Security is the nation's most effective anti-poverty program?  It's true!  Without the safety net of Social Security, at least 44 percent of those age 65 and over would live below the poverty line.

Did you know...that social Security provides for children of those who have died in military service to our country?  It's true!  As of September 2006, an estimated 12,290 children were receiving payments as dependents of deceased service members who had been on active duty in the Gulf War period (extending from August 2, 1990 to date).  These children are eligible to receive Social Security in addition to veterans' compensation.

Did you know...that Social Security was the first on the scene to provide benefits for the children and widowed spouses of people who were killed by terrorists on September 11, 2001.  It's true!  Social Security is paying monthly benefits to 2,377 children and 853 widowed spouses of people killed in the terrorist attack and to 642 individuals disabled during the attacks.

Don't believe the lies you're hearing about Social Security--Tomorrow, Some Answers to Those Lies!

21 June 2010

Our Clown Alley Congressmen


At one time Texas sent men and women of honor and integrity to Congress.  These were men and women of stature who earned the respect of the world, not just their fellow Texans and Americans. Men and women such as Barbara Jordan, Ralph Yarborough, Mickey Leland, Sam Rayburn, Lloyd Bentsen, and Lyndon Johnson just to name a handful.

You might not always have agreed with them and on occasion you might take them to task for their political postures, but you always had respect for them--mainly because they demonstrated self-respect and obvious respect  for the offices they held.They understood the gravitas of the moment and the decorum expected of them.

Not so with our current collection of Clown Alley congressman.  As unattractive and motley a bunch of fools and damned fools as you would ever want to be subjected to.  There was a time when Texans would horsewhip such fools and send them over to Arkansas where they belonged--now we just elect them to congress.

Here's a sampling:

Jeb Hensarling (R), who was reported (Washington Monthly on August 26, 2009) to have responded to Senator Edward Kennedy's death in this way,  "While Americans should honor the legacy of the Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Republicans won't allow healthcare reform to proceed in the late senator's honor."

"Certainly people honor Sen. Ted Kennedy for all of his work," Hensarling, a top House Republican, said during an appearance on CNBC. "But at the end of the day, this is a democracy, and I think the voice of the people have [sic] been heard quite loudly in the month of August." Hensarling said health care reform should die "if anybody's listening to the American people."

Hensarling apparently was in Arkansas or some other foreign county for the 2008 elections in which Americans overwhelmingly voted for Democrats who were promising to bring about health care reform.  Fools and damned fools!

Randy Nuegebauer (R), who during the debate preceding the passage of the health reform legislation shouted out "Baby Killer" at Democratic congressman Bart Stupak who was explaining why he had shifted postions and would support the legislation. Nuegebauer later trotted out some lame, tortuously convoluted excuse that he really wasn't yelling at Stupak, he was yelling at the legislation...it is not known if the legislation deigned to yell back.  Fools and damned fools!

Louie Gohmert (R), who like a misbehaving and out of line kid at a middle-school assembly waved a sign "What Plan" during President Obama's address to a joint session of congress on health care reform.  And, just like an errant teenager, Gohmert launched a tortuously laborious  "explanation" in self defense of what he really meant by by his rudeness and thoughtfully ignorant behavior.  Had he have pulled that sort of crap at my  school, Mr. Harlow would have given him a week's worth of detention!  Or maybe swats too!  Fools and damned fools!

Joe Barton (R), who recently apologized to BP for the dreadful way they were being treated and what he termed "the strong-arm tactics of the White House" in getting them to agree to set up a $20-billion fund to indemnify people and business for their losses and for clean up and recovery of the environment related to the catastrophic oil spill coming from their rig in the gulf.

Barton, like Nuegebauer and Gohmert, quickly came force with some half-ass, quasi-apologetic explanation for his foolishness.  Even the BP executive testifying to a house committee to whom Barton rendered his apology looked at him like he'd just bitten the head off a living chicken.

Fools and Damned fools!  Blithering idiots.  Braying jack-asses. Utter disgraces to their party, to their state, to their nation, to themselves and to all humanity.

17 June 2010

Seniors Falling Victim to Drive-By Health Care!


I've learned that a study slated to come out shortly in the Journal of the American Medical Association will report that the practice of discharging heart patients after short stays does not save on hospital expenses and makes it more likely that shortly those patients will return to the hospital for additional care.

One result of health care reform is that hospitals are facing closer scrutiny for their "cost-containment" practices and high infection rates.  A recent study by a Yale University cardiologist has found that shorter stays for heart patients, while not even cost effective, do create the likelihood of need for additional care within only one month of the initial release of those patients making the enti5re process very expensive.

The data from the study found that while the length of hospital stays for heart failure patients declined by 26 percent, the readmission rate increased from 17.3 percent to 20 percent, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.  Obviously, the readmissions cause a greater increase in costs than if the patient had remained in hospital care until fully ready for release.  Another case of penny wise and pound foolish, and since Medicare is picking up most of the added costs we find ourselves with an opportunity to answer its critics with a meaningful way to reduce Medicare expenses.  Cut expense and see to it that seniors are properly cared for--now there's a concept!

Early discharges and the resultant complications are not the only thing scaring seniors about hospital stays.  A recent Consumer Reports study of intensive care units at 926 hospitals across America found that  some hospitals have startlingly high infection rates.  The report suggests that the problem is highest at major "teaching" hospitals.  One of those, New York University's Langone Medical Center, reported 39 infections in 10,119 central line processes in 2008.  This is double the national average.

The article said, "Our study focused on one of the most dreaded types of the approximately 1.7 million infections that occur each year in U.S. hospitals. They are bloodstream infections introduced through the large intravenous catheters that deliver medication, nutrition, and fluids to patients in intensive care. These so-called central-line infections account for 15 percent of all hospital infections but are responsible for at least 30 percent of the 99,000 annual hospital-infection-related deaths, according to the best estimates available.

Even for those who survive, a central-line infection means weeks or months of debilitating treatments and side effects".

To read more Click HERE

16 June 2010

Some Seniors To See $250 Soon!

 In The Doughnut Hole? -- Your Check Is In The Mail
Try Not to Spend It All In One Place!

After tomorrow, seniors who are heavily burdened with high cost prescriptions can begin looking in their mail boxes for a bit of relief as a result of our recent health care reform legislation.  Seniors stuck in the Medicare Part D (Drug Plan) "doughnut hole" will begin receiving a one-time automatic payment from the federal government with the first checks going into the mail Thursday, June 17.

Tragically there are some people, even though the year is barely half finished, who have already "maxed out" on their coverage and can look to their mailboxes by Friday or Saturday. The "doughnut hole" is the coverage gap facing seniors, who are Medicare prescription subscribers, when they reach a point at which they must pay 100% of drug costs out of pocket (and continue paying premiums to the insurance company) until they qualify for catastrophic coverage.

This year, seniors on the plan will shell out the full price of their medications once they have spent $940 out-of-pocket (front-end co-payments) and will not get additional coverage until they have ponied up another $3,610.  Once they reach this "catastrophic" level, seniors (continuing to pay their full premiums) will pay 5% of drug costs.  The plan is run by private insurance companies with multiple variations, different drug coverages, and other variables which vary from company to company and from state to state--there is no single unified plan.  Each year, the insurance companies raise their premiums, reduce or completely eliminate drugs in their coverage.  Compounding this dismal situation for seniors is the often heard story of physicians insisting their patients take a name-brand (high cost) drug rather than its lower cost generic.

As the year progresses, seniors who hit the "doughnut hole" can expect their check within 45-days of getting there.  While the $250 is welcome, it hardly makes a real dent in the burdensome drug costs faced by millions of seniors already seeing their home equity and 401K plan values decline and daily increasing energy and food cost increases.

15 June 2010

Humana Crab Walks On Health Care Debate Lies!

Humana Now Back-Tracking On Its Health Care Reform Lies

Can you remember as far back as the run up to health care reform vote?

I ask this with just a certain amount of sarcasm, as I'm noticing that so many of my fellow Americans seem to suffer from both short and long term memory dysfunction.  For example, why are people ragging on Obama for getting us into the life-sucking quicksand of Afghanistan's history when it was Bush who took us there, then dallied while exploiting the oil-rich potential of Iraq with a war of invasion and occupation?

OK! I am digressing.  But do you remember what all the Medicare dis-Advantage lobbyists were spending millions of dollars to say to you?  Didn't it go something like this, "If Obama-care passes you'll lose your Medicare benefits".  Or something along those lines, right?  Oh yeah, and death panels, don't forget those damned old death panels.

Well, one of my sources has today provided me with a letter from SecureHorizons, the Medicare "Advantage" plan of healthcare insurance giant, Humana.

 "Your existing plan is not changing".  Well lordy me, Obama-care did not wipe out Medicare after all. And to my certain knowledge, there are no death panels being formed.

There is only one reason people (and giant insurance companies) lie.  That is to hide the truth!  The only reason this letter war necessary was to clean up from the lies Humana used to scare the living hell out of retirees and seniors---now they're having to back track.  It would be hilarious were it not so ludicrously tragic!

14 June 2010

Obama Talks to Seniors

 Tele-Town Hall Reached Out to Seniors

The Alliance for Retired Americans continues its involvement in the implementation process of the health care reform that President Obama signed into law in March.

Last Tuesday, the Alliance, along with several other organizations, helped the White House and President Obama organize a tele-town hall meeting to explain the new health care law to seniors.  The president emphasized that his administration has already started to send out $250 rebate checks for those who fall into the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” prescription drug coverage gap. 

Just days ago, (Thursday, June 10th - three weeks earlier than initially scheduled), checks from the federal government began to go out to some 80,000 seniors who hit the doughnut hole earlier this year.  The President went on to remind seniors that in 2011, those who fall in the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs, and that by 2020, the doughnut hole will be eliminated. 

Alliance members joined Obama in person at his Wheaton, Maryland forum.  Barbara Franklin, President of the Illinois Alliance, asked Obama a question by phone which highlighted the fact that the new health care law will end the federal government’s practice of distributing unfair, unnecessary subsidies to private insurers under Medicare Advantage.  The question came a day after Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter warning insurance companies offering Medicare plans that if they don’t keep their costs in check, they will be subject to harsh penalties.   

The Alliance also hosted 25 “watch parties” and related events elsewhere across the country.  “Retirees are grateful for President Obama's strong support for America's seniors and his personal commitment to help them become better aware of the new law's many benefits,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.  To see pictures from the  Maryland event, check out the slide-show at http://bit.ly/9gnyFK.

11 June 2010

RIP - Pansy Fox (1996 - 2010)

At, 2:42 pm, CDT, Friday June 11, 2010 time stopped and rebooted for Pansy and she left us and began her journey to The Rainbow Bridge.  This is the place where all animals who once loved a human are made whole and healthy and gather together while waiting to be united with their person.  Pansy will be welcomed by a host of critters awaiting our arrival someday.

Pansy Napping 2008

Winter came early to the Ozarks in 1996 and in mid-November there had already been a light dusting of snow on the ground and the Foxes that lived in a burrow behind a fallen tree down in the dry creek bed at the foot of our hill often were seen at the edges of our yard or coming around the corners of our out buildings, even in the early hours of daybreak, foraging for food and hoping to stir up a field mouse or unwary bird at our bird feeders. 

I was watching out the window at the vixen tracking and closing on what I thought looked like a chipmunk, but, I quickly thought to myself, "That little guy should be hibernating..it's not a chipmunk".  Then I realized that what I thought was a chipmunk was actually a small kitten.  Now, where foxes and chipmunks are concerned, I'm not likely to interfere with the drama of nature, the curtain rises and the players have their lines, and so it goes.  But, a kitten!  No way!.

I ran outside whooping and scaring the fox away as the kitten cringed down and went into a thrall just as it would if the fox had struck.  I picked up the little morsel thinking my most evil and dire thoughts at people who dumps pets in rural areas expecting them to make their own way.  Usually they don't make any sort of way at all.  They die of hunger, accident, or are eaten by predators.

Back in the house I went, with the kitten held by the scruff to keep it from scratching or biting me. We took it into the spare bedroom and set it up with water, food, and litter and left it to its self.  Later, we were able to take a closer look at her and determined that she was stinky and filthy and at the verge of starvation and would have been pretty poor pickings for that young vixen and her pups.

We quickly named her Pansy because her facial markings looked like a flower pansy popping its face up and quickly nursed her back to health.  She easily joined in with and was readily accepted by the other critters we chose to surround ourselves with. Pansy was one of those sweet unassuming little cats that never met a foe and was always the first to show up if one of the other cats let out a "distress call".  She loved to have her head bathed and would head butt the others til one would stop and give her head and face a big, long, slurping bath.  I can't remember her ever having a quarrel...unlike a couple of the others.

The worse thing she ever did was to run outside on a bitterly cold night in January and hide under the porch and refuse to come out. As frigid wind gusts blasted me and snow swirled about I spread myself out on the hard ground and managed to move some rocks for just enough space to get my head and one arm holding a flashlight up under the porch where I spotted her well out of reach and snuggled up next to an opossum while bathing its head.  She ignored my blandishments and offers of canned tuna and just looked at me blinking her incredibly beautiful and fiercely stubborn blue eyes.  She didn't come in until the next morning, and suffered a frost bitten ear which from then forward had a wrinkly, crinkly look to it.  After that, she made a daily visit to the 'possum up until we moved back to Texas.  And, we began leaving kibble and other treats out at night for it.

That was nearly ten years ago.

The past month her health was failing, as, despite steroids and special vitamins, each day she became weaker and weaker.  Even last night, she was the first and loudest for feeding in the evening.  But, this morning her breathing was shallow, she was too weak to walk or do much more than raise her head a bit and to prolong her in this state would have been cruel.

Arrangements were made with the vet and I held her in my hands as her little head relaxed and then dropped as she left this reality for another.  As I said, she has some very worthy companions, and at least one 'possum, waiting to show her the ropes over there...and, I suspect, to give her daily big, long, slurping head baths.

10 June 2010

Serial Criminal BP: Crimes Against Humanity & Political Clout

DAY THREE:  Crimes Against Humanity & The Environment

Right at four years ago, in the summer of 2006, BP lost a multi-million pound settlement to a group of Colombian farmers after being accused of benefiting from a regime of terror enforced by Colombian government paramilitaries protecting one of BP's pipelines.

BP has been heavily criticized for its complicity in human rights violations (defined), and environmental and safety concerns stemming from its involvements with the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

The Crees (first nation's peoples) in Canada have described BP as being complicit in "the biggest environmental crime on the planet".  Probably true, that is up until April 20, 2010.  BP is one of a number of companies there using a process to extract oil from sand that produces four times as much CO2 as drilling!

Concerned and fearful British Columbians have called on BP to cease its "Mist Mountain" Coalbed Methane Project in a stretch of the Rocky Mountains which is immediately adjacent to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

After the Texas City explosion ( detailed yesterday) OSHA found that two BP refineries, one in Texas City, Texas and the other in Toledo, Ohio were responsible for 97% of the 851 safety violations by oil refiners from June 2007 to last February---two months before the Gulf disaster.  These two sites had between them 829 safety violations leaving only 23 to be spread out over every other refinery in the nation!

Mother Jones Magazine has twice (2001 & 2003)  cited BP as one of the ten worst corporations as a result of their shoddy environmental and human rights history.  BP, according to Public Interest Research
Group investigations, caused 104 oil spills in the one year period of 1997 to 1998.  Additionally, BP has paid a $10-million EPA fine for its mismanagement of US refineries and an imposed fine of $1.7-million after having been charged with burning polluted gases its Ohio refinery.

The Center for Responsive Politics found that BP is an aggressive and generous donor to American political campaigns, particularly Republican.  Of the more than $5-million of identifiable corporate contributions since 1990, 72% have gone to Republicans

Speaking from one side of his mouth in 2002, BPs chief executive, Lord Browne of Madingly, said, "...from now on we will make no political contributions from corporate funds anywhere in the world".  Seven years later, in 2009, BP was still bankrolling Washington, that year alone shelling out $16-million to K-Street lobbyists topping its own previous record of $10.4-million. Not surprisingly, BP sought exemptions from U.S. corporate laws and reforms.

Three days ago we set out to prove that the British company now calling itself BP was no better than career criminals and repeat offenders who, in many U.S. jurisdictions, find themselves facing life imprisonment.  We believe we have made our case and that BP should be treated as we would any other thug that repeatedly preys on the unsuspecting, weak and innocent.

Therefore, we beseech those with the authority to immediately: (1) Cancel all visas and lift the passports of all foreign nationals employed by BP above the level of "line" manager and incarcerate them until such time as they may be deported. (2) Seize and nationalize all holdings, accounts, businesses, and any and all other BP assets now held by BP in the United States or its territories. (3)  Put Americans in those executive positions left vacant by the deportation of foreign nationals.  (4) Use all net revenues, immediate and future, to satisfy the legitimate claims of those sustaining loss as the result of the current oil spill catastrophe and to clean up and restore damaged coastlines, seabeds, beaches, communities and habitats.  (5) Once all such claims have been settled and all restoration is complete or the restoration process is properly funded and ongoing all ensuing net revenues should be placed in a "lock-box", interest-earning fund dedicated to the preservation and protection of Social Security, Medicare, and other social safety net programs.

It is really no different than seizing the assets and expelling any other repeat offenders!

09 June 2010

BP: A Habitual Offender (Part Two)

DAY TWO - BP's Arrogance & Scofflaw Behavior

Operating under various aliases our "Career Criminal" has amassed a record worthy of even the most hardened serial criminals, from its sordid beginnings as a monopoly in Iran to its current day-to-day death, depredation, and destruction brought on by its stupidity, greed, negligence and arrogant disregard for safety.

Let's take a look at this "Repeat Offender's" rap sheet, shall we? 

1993-1995:  BP copped a plea and paid out $22-million, which included; $500,000 in criminal fines, $6.5-million in civil penalties, and the establishment of a $15-million environmental management system.  This was to head off more severe penalties and consequences for its illegal dumping of waste oil, paint thinner, and other toxic and hazardous material on Endicott Island, Alaska.  No Known Deaths

2005: BP, after a series of less serious accidents and unaddressed engineering problems and issues had a catastrophic explosion at its Texas City, Texas refinery.  Thousands of nearby residents had to flee their homes, 180 people were injured, and known dead were 15.

Cost-saving measures that curtailed important maintenance and safety measures were traced directly to company executives in London.

The company pleaded out again.  This time pleading guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act, receiving a $50-million fine and 3-years probation.

Four years later OSHA socked BP with an additional $87-million in fines after reporting that, leading up to the deadly accident, inspectors had uncovered 270 safety violations that had previously gone unfixed and 439 new violations.   Known Death Toll:  15

 2006 - 2007: North to Alaska, again. In October of  2007 the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reported a toxic spill of nearly 2,000 gallons of mixed methanol, crude oil and water at the BP managed Prudhoe Bay oil field.  Methanol is poisonous to humans, animals and plants.

Earlier, in August 2006, BP made headlines because it had to shut down its Prudhoe Bay oil operations due to leaks of crude oil and diesel fuel brought on by pipeline corrosion. In May 2007, BP suffered yet another partial shutdown due to leaks,  All told, current estimates are that BP, as a result of these leaks, released 5,000 barrels of oil into the fragile environment.  So far, nearly four years later, only 1,513 barrels of liquids, 5,200 cubic yard of contaminated snow, and 328 cubic yards of soiled gravel have been recovered

In 2007, BP had another partial shutdown resulting from leaks,  Experts interpreted this as another example of the company's decision to curtail badly needed maintenance of its pipelines.  No Known Deaths

2008:  In this two year period, three workers were killed in separate accidents at BP's Texas City Refinery.  Known Death Toll: 3.

2007: Again, BP cops a plea and pays a $303-million fine for manipulating propane prices.  The plea-bargained settlement included a $125-million civil fine to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, $100-million to the Justice department, $53.3-million to a restitution fund for the victims of its con games, and $25-million to a USPS consumer fraud education fund.  No known deaths.

2008:  The Russians get a dose of BP's street-corner shell game, and in 2010 impose a 1.1-billion Ruble fine ($35.2-million U.S.) after TNK/BP was found to have abused antitrust legislation by setting artificially high oil products prices in 2008.  No Known Deaths.

2009: In April, in good weather, off the coast of Scotland a helicopter with workers leaving BP's platform in the Miller oilfield crashed.  Known Death Toll: 16

2010: On April 20, The Deepwater Horizon explosion, fire and oil spill, in the Gulf of Mexico, becomes a ghastly scenario of death, destruction and catastrophic environmental impact of horrific dimensions as government, academia, and oil company experts dither in the search for an effective way to shut off the flow of oil sullying coastlines, towns, communities, businesses, fisheries, hatcheries and habitats for decades.

While a full investigation lies in the future, it is already known that BP did not equip the rig with a gas alarm system that could have shut off the power in the engine room.  Early on, an investigation revealed that critical gas and fire detection sensors and connected shutoff systems were not operating on the rig and that it was likely that other backstop mechanisms and air-intake shutoff  valves failed.  Known Death toll: 11

Coming Tomorrow: Revelations of Political Influence, Human Rights Violations, and More Environmental & Safety Violations

08 June 2010

BP: A Habitual Offender

DAY ONE - The Many Faces of BP

If BP were a person (hold that thought just a few minutes) it would be considered a career offender and incarcerated for life in a Super Max prison somewhere out in a desert.  And since SOTUS has ruled that, as far as political contributions go, corporation have the same privileges as do "people", let's present the argument for the declaration of BP as a "career offender".

First, let's get to know the history of, and, the various aliases used by this "habitual criminal" (legal definition provided)   

Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which morphed into the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company shortly after shelling out £5,000 to future Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to get the British government to grant them a monopoly on Iranian oil reserves.

After World War II the Iranians nationalized their oil industry (National Iranian Oil Company) and after a series of International Court of Justice legal maneuvers failed,  the American CIA, authorized by President Eisenhower, conducted a coup which placed the Shah on the Peacock Throne.  The Shah quickly abolished the Iranian constitution,  and shortly thereafter AIOC resumed operations in Iran as part of an international consortium in which it was limited to a 40% share.

In 1954 AIOC renamed itself and became British Petroleum Company (BP).  In 1959 the renamed company expanded its operations in the Middle-East to include Alaska and later, in 1965, became the first to strike oil in the North Sea.  In 1978 British Petroleum took over Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) while still operating in Iran and elsewhere.  Virtually unfazed by the 1979 Iranian Revolution, it cut a deal with Ayatollah Khoumeini and his followers and came out with new contrast giving 90% to Britsih Petroleum and 10% to Khoumeini and his "followers".

During the 1980s and 1990s BP initiated and aggressive campaign of take-over and fierce expansion which included, the British governments holdings in BP, Britoil and the remaining publicly traded shares of Sohio, some Gulf Oil stations and a refinery in the American Southeast, Amoco, Arco, and Burmah-Castro.

In 2000, after solidifying its gains, British Petroleum assumed yet another identity, BP, with a tagline of Beyond Petroleum.  Since 2001, BP has operated throughout America under various identities including; BP, Amoco, and Arco.  In 2004, it shifted its petrochemical business into an entity called Innovene but then quickly sold it for $9-billion to a privately held British company.

Currently, as part of its efforts to find and exploit new reserves, BP, in liaison with three Russian oil-oligarchs, has gained  50% ownership of TNK-BP in the former Soviet Union.

Today, throughout the world BP wears more than a dozen (retail) faces: BP, ampm, Aral, Arco, BP Travel Centre, BP Connect, BP Express, BP Shop, BP2go, Castrol, Air Bp & BP Shipping.

Coming Tomorrow:  Death, Destruction, Price Manipulation

07 June 2010

Alliance for Retired Americans Members to Quiz President Obama By Phone & In Person

One Of A Kind Meeting: Seniors to Talk Directly to President

At a special event on Tuesday, June 8, Alliance for Retired Americans members will ask the President health care questions by telephone.  A few members of the Alliance will be attending the event - which will include information on benefits for seniors under the new health care law - live, in Wheaton, Maryland.

This one-time, national “tele-town hall” can also be seen and heard on television by watching C-SPAN, or on-line at www.healthreform.gov.

If you live in one of the following communities and would like to join a local watch party,  Dubuque, Des Moines, and Waterloo, Iowa; Suitland and White Plains, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri; Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Raleigh, North Carolina; Ashtabula, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Columbia, South Carolina, please contact:  ARAORGANIZING@retiredamericans.org .

 In addition, several allied unions are taking leadership roles and sponsoring events, including one in Las Vegas sponsored by the International Union of Painters and Allied trades.

The live events are scheduled to begin at 11:15 AM Eastern Time on Tuesday and will last about an hour.

The President will also be joined by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius. Topics to be covered will include the $250 checks for seniors caught in the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” coverage gap, and efforts to combat scams associated with those checks.

HHS Buys Time for Senate to Address the “Doc Fix”

While the U.S. House of Representatives managed to pass a bill that delayed the scheduled Medicare reimbursement cuts to physicians, the Senate did not pass a similar bill.  This allowed the 21 percent cuts to go into effect on June 1st, leaving lawmakers to scramble for solutions.  Fortunately, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced that it will be holding all payments to doctors for the next two weeks in order to buy Congress a little more time to pass a bill.

The Senate however, is not scheduled to deal with the ‘Doc Fix’ until June 7th at the earliest, causing many to call on congressional leadership to reprioritize their agenda in order to pass this critical measure as soon as possible.

“The ‘Doc Fix’ provision must pass the Senate in a timely and efficient manner, as the quality of care that Medicare beneficiaries receive is currently in jeopardy,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance for Retired Americans.  For detailed tallies of the House’s votes to approve the “doc fix” and unemployment benefits last Friday, go to http://bit.ly/bUmAtq and http://bit.ly/bcUg2A.

The original bill was supposed to extend COBRA benefits and Federal Medicaid assistance to the states as well, but those provisions were not included in the House votes.  The union, AFSCME, has offered use of its hotline (888) 340-6521 for calls to the Senate regarding these issues.  Callers using this line are prompted with a message to urge senators to “avoid cuts to Medicaid and jobs” to help the economy.  By entering your zip code, you are then connected to your senators’ offices.

Alliance Member Inducted into Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Congratulations to Bob Haase, a member of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, on being inducted into the Milwaukee County Seniors Citizen Hall of Fame.  As a member of the Alliance, Haase has led lobbying efforts to improve Social Security and Medicare, increase County funding for senior programs, and help make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.  Haase was honored at a community-wide ceremony held last Friday in Milwaukee.

Did You Know?
Eleven states will be holding primaries this Tuesday, June 8: Arkansas, including a Democratic Senate run-off; California; Iowa; Maine; Montana; Nevada; New Jersey; North Dakota; South Carolina; South Dakota; and Virginia.

03 June 2010

2010 Democrats Facing Stark Midterm Realities

Democrats Are Banking on Motivating '08 First-Time Voters

In a mail-piece sent out to party loyalists last week, The DNC announced its "National Plan" to target and motivate the surge of first-time voters in '08 who made the difference in the outcome of that election.  They accounted for 15 to 20 million of the total votes cast for, then candidate, now President Obama.

This key group will be particularly challenging in a mid-term election where the novelty of voting for our first African-American president does not oil the engine of voter turnout.  How daunting is it?  Well consider these statistics supplied by the Democratic National Committee:

This group is comprised of voters who registered after '06 and first voted in '08.  Over 50% of them are young African American or Latino,  the rest are New Dems and Dem voting independents, and all felt a "special connection" to the President.  However, these are voting cohorts who historically present a very low turnout in mid-term elections.  In short, there's a lot of gristle to be gnawed on and swallowed if we are to expect to see these voters turning out for 2010.

Another key group is made up of "Sporadic Voters" who are people who have voted in Presidential years or registered before '06.  Unlike the previous group (First Time Voters) these voters are more evenly spread between the parties, have low turnout in mid-term elections and are made up of a relatively high ratio of African-American and Latino voters.  Roughly 36-million fall into this category.

And, if I'm not dropping in a gratuitous metaphor, the joker in the pack are those who traditionally do turnout for mid-term elections.  They are more likely to be part of the GOP base, with 80% being white, older voters.  This group is about 72 million voters, more than the previous groups combined.

Clearly, the challenge--and, I'm thinking challenge is not the word, more like the damned near insurmountable task--is to generate a turnout that will swing close elections by a few points.  To accomplish this expect to see Obama's grassroots group, Organizing for America, using phone banks,  and door-to-door campaigns to reach out and touch 20088's First Time voters and other highly prioritized groups in order to generate early vote programs, such as "Vote-by-Mail and absentee voting.  The DNC will fund robocalls targeting the same potential voters.

The Democrats cite how the numbers can be made to work through such tactics by providing Ohio as an example where there were 763-thousand First Time Voters (681K Youth, 545K African-American, & 100K Latino).  In this example, the campaign would generate 88-thousand votes, an increase of 8% for First Time Voters, and 2% of the '06 turnout and sufficient to "swing" a close election.

Well maybe, but I'm thinking someone needs to be sending for money, guns and lawyers!

02 June 2010

Let's Save Social Security and Medicare - Starting Today!

Here's How To Take A Stand & Fight Back!

But first, there's a reason you should care and take the time to get involved.

Opponents of Social Security are conducting a multi-million dollar campaign designed to fool the public about Social Security by claiming that benefits for "greedy geezers" must be cut to lower the deficit.  Over the past week we have clearly demonstrated that is not true.  Without grassroots input, help, and support to oppose it, this campaign of disinformation and outright lies will continue.  Former Nixon henchman, billionaire, Peter G. "Pete" Peterson will continue using his personal wealth to fund right-wing propaganda that cutting entitlements is the way to cut the deficit.

We, all of us and each of us, individually and collectively must keep an eye on the President's Fiscal Responsibility Commission to make certain that it does not unfairly target the essential safety nets provided by Social Security and Medicare.  The Commission and Congress need to know that you oppose any recommendations that will raise the retirement age, lower benefits, privatize or do anything else to diminish these critical American programs. The following list the ways you can make your voice heard.

Contact your members of Congress today to (1) let them know that you support Social Security and Medicare and (2) request that the Commission host open field hearings that will encourage debate and input from constituents like you.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper that urges the Commission to fully examine ALL the tax and spending policies that created the deficit (two wars, tax cuts, rocketing health care costs, housing bubble, Wall Street adventurism that triggered the Great Recession and widespread unemployment), not just the entitlement programs.

Talk to your friends and neighbors about the value of Social Security and Medicare.  Share the good word about the importance of making these vital programs remain strong for our children and grandchildren.

Finally, if you need assistance or guidance in this, please feel free to call upon me either by way of my e-mail, a comment to this post, or a comment in my guest-book.

01 June 2010

The President's Fiscal Commission: The Players

Here Are the Nuts & Bolts

The commission has 18 members, 6 appointed by the President, 3 appointed by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 3 appointed by Senate Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell, 3 appointed by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and 3 appointed by the House Minority Leader John Boehner.  Additionally, Democratic Leadership Council CEO Bruce Reed was recently appointed to serve as the executive director of the commission.

The President's Appointees:  Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union; Dave Cote, a Republican executive who is head of Honeywell; Ann Fudge, a former executive at several corporations; Alice Rivlin, a former vice chair of the Federal Reserve and director of both the Congressional Budget Office and President Clinton's White House budget office, former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate  Whip Alan Simpson.  Bowles and Simpson serve as co-chairs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Appointees: Kent Conrad of North Dakota; Max Baucus of Montana; and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.

Senate Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell's Appointees: Tom Coburn of Oklahoma; Judd Gregg of New Hampshire; and Michael Crappo of Idaho.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's Appointees: John Spratt Jr. of South Carolina; Xavier Becerra of California, and Jan Schakowsy of Illinois.

House Minority Leader John Boehner's Appointees: Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Dave Camp of Michigan, and Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

  • The Commission's task is to put forth recommendations to (1) reduce annual deficits to 3% of the national economy by 2015 and (2) improve the the long-run fiscal outlook, including changes to address the growth of entitlement spending.
  • The Commission must vote on a final report containing a set of recommendations no later than December 1, 2010.  This report have the approval of 14 of the 18 members for its adoption by the Commission. Blocking cuts to Social Security and Medicare thus requires 5 commissioners.
  • If the final report is adopted by the commission, Senate Majority Leader Reid has promised to give the recommendations an up or down vote by year's end.
  • Should that occur, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will then cause a vote on the Senate's recommendations by the end of the year.
  • The commission will dissolve 30-days after submitting it final report. 
Tomorrow:  The things you need to do to protect Social Security and Medicare.