In the Belly of the Beast: 5/5/11: GOP votes to keep tax breaks for Big Oil

INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 159

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

“POLITICS”
CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

THE ECONOMY

Myth of the “free market”

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
      


THE ULTRA-RIGHT
      


ENVIRONMENT





NUCLEAR POWER

The Cost of Nuclear Power

from Raj Patel by Raj      



Headlines for May 5, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 159

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell
“POLITICS”
    

GOP votes to keep tax breaks for Big Oil

Predictable voting by the Republicans. The GOP was unanimous in their support of handouts for the oil industrydespite what they told voters back homeMore from ThinkProgress.

Exxon Mobil is by far the most profitable company in the new Fortune 500 list, riding “high oil prices to a staggering $30 billion in income” in 2010. Exxon made over $10 billion more than fellow oil giant Chevron, the third most profitable company (AT&T edged out Chevron for the number two spot). ConocoPhillips’ $11.4 billion in profits put it in the 16th spot, giving the three oil giants a combined $60.9 billion in profits in 2010.

Today, the Republicans in the House of Representatives celebrated this massive redistribution of wealth from American families to oil executives. With the support of 7 oil-patch Democrats, 234 Republicans voted to block a bill to eliminate a $1.8 billion annual subsidy that treats oil drilling as “domestic manufacturing.

Taibbi: It’s loons vs. the boring as Republicans kick off 2012 campaign season

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I can’t believe it; the Monster Spendfest known as the 2012 Presidential (Ad) Campaign is being kicked offtonight, and we haven’t told you about it yet. Our bad.

To make up for it, here’s a dose of Matt Taibbi on the subject, offered for your reading or listening pleasure:

Yes, you read the news right: there is going to be a 2012 presidential debate this evening. Five Republicans are getting together in Greenville, South Carolina to kick off the long process of burying their party as a mainstream political force for the next decade or so.

In Taibbi’s view, things don’t look good at Casa Republicana:

First of all, for the next eighteen months, Obama is going to respond to every single foreign-policy question by holding up Bin Laden’s head and swinging it in front of him like a lantern (metaphorically speaking, of course).

On the domestic front, Taibbi sees even more trouble for the Home of the Brave team:

[F]or the next eighteen months, Barack Obama can walk into Florida and Arizona and California and explain to every person over 50 that the Republicans want to eliminate the Medicare program as they know it. The Republicans meanwhile are already running sideways away from Ryan’s program[.] … And this is without even taking into consideration the highly negative (for the Republicans) demographic picture heading into 2012, in which a Republican base that skews older, male, and white is slowly shrinking, while Obama’s urban, ethnic, and young base is growing.

What’s a lily-white party to do?

Of course the one way to combat all of this would be to put forward a unifying, charismatic candidate whose personality reaches across the middle and snags that extra 4-5 percent of middle-ground undecideds who would put the Republicans back on top. But that’s exactly who the Republicans do not have. Instead, the potential Republican field is made up of two distinct types of candidates: loony-ass, polarizing insurgents drunk on Christian mysticism and/or ego sickness (Michelle Bachmann, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin) and waffling, opportunistic bores destined to spend most of the primary campaign arguing that they are less terrifying to imagine holding the nuclear briefcase than anyone from the first group (Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney).

It’s a nice read; the phrase “God-humping” turns up, and the take-down of Mitt Romney is especially well-considered.

Me, I don’t think they’re as screwed as Taibbi says. As I noted at the beginning of this piece, the 2012 campaign is not going to be a national discussion, but the most expensive ad campaign we’ve ever been subjected to. And we do love our ad campaigns. Properly funded, God-humping hubris could just pull it off.

Besides, you should never underestimate Team Where Else You Gonna Go? — their hubristic disregard of the base they danced with in 2008 is a force to be reckoned with. They must think they’re bullet-proof at this point.

Hubris vs. Hubris — this could be a spectacle for the ages. Either way it ends, the show starts tonight; enjoy.

Americans for Prosperity Oregon—Wisconsin comes to the Pacific Northwest

This is one ad in a series being run by Americans for Prosperity Oregon. There are others that feature whiter faces, but this one jumped out at me — “Secret Lifestyles of the Rich and Government Retired”:

“Look at her smile,” he says. How does he hate thee? Let me count the ways.

This is Wisconsin come to the great Northwest. There appears to be a move afoot to dismantle Oregon PERS, the Public Employee Retirement System. Looks like the Koch Brothers–funded Americans for Prosperity is all over it. Welcome to the battle in the states, all of them.

By the way, in case the Envy Button hasn’t been pushed hard enough, there’s this from one of the probably-coordinated web-commenters on the periphery of this campaign. It’s pretty typical of the hard-right comment on this local issue.

But here is the kicker. While employees of the private businesses may be at risk with regard to their pensions during an economic downturn, the government employees are not. In the private sector employees have only a contractual right to the benefits earned up to the date that the benefit package is amended. Not so for Oregon’s public employees. …

So for those of you worried about whether you will have a pension when you reach the age of retirement, or are worried that your current pension cannot be paid, please do not add to your worries that your favorite public employee will suffer a comparable indignity. In fact, rest assured that if worse comes to worse your taxes will be increased to make sure that the public employees will be just fine. … What else would you expect in a one-party state whose elections are funded in large part by the public employee unions?

A “one-party state”? Last I checked, eastern Oregon was Idaho come to Judgement in the legislature.

For documentation purposes, the link for the above quote is here. But there’s no law says you have to give him traffic.

CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

THE ECONOMY

Myth of the “free market”

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
Support for “free market” capitalism in the U.S. has collapsed, along with the financial system and the global economy as a whole, according to a recent poll.

Much has been made of late of growing numbers of Americans who view socialism and, yes, even communism as better alternatives to capitalism. As many as on-third of Americans seem to support increased social democracy, public control over the economy, and more public options in society.

Even more more significantly is the sharp decrease in support for “free market” capitalism. According to aGlobeScan poll, a mere half of people around the world agree that “free market” capitalism is the “best economic system.” Globally this tepid support for capitalism remains unchanged over recent years.

In the U.S., however, attitudes towards capitalism have undergone rapid and radical change over the past few years. For example, in 2002 about 8 in 10 Americans supported capitalism. In 2010, only 59 percent agreed with the statement that it is the “best economic system”, a mere 5 percentage point higher than the global total.

Indeed, as the GlobeScan poll revealed, fewer Americans support capitalism than Chinese people.

No wonder. As 25 million Americans lack jobs, major multinational corporations seem to get richer, pay fewer taxes, and their CEOs buy government policies, e.g, Koch brothers of Koch Industries.

These changes (dare one say improvements) in public opinion in the U.S. have also coincided with the largest labor movement uprising since the 1930s, an uprising begun in Wisconsin and which may change the political landscape in the 2012 elections.

The collapse of the myth of “free market” capitalism is essential to a basic understanding of capitalism, writes University of Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang in his recent book, 23 Things They Didn’t Tell You About Capitalism (2). While Chang is a supporter of capitalism, the poll cited above shows that for many working Americans with this understanding has come a desire for a different system or process – even if they haven’t yet joined the ranks of those who support socialism or communism.

According to Chang, proponents of “free market” capitalism had convinced many of us that markets free of government intervention work best. Resources, innovation, incentive are blocked when governments get involved in the marketplace. Indeed, government intervention reflects only “politically motivated interference,” the “free marketeers” claim. Almost word for word these are the talking points of Republican opposition to environmental regulation, health reform, and Wall Street oversight.

Ignored in this set of claims is that from its very beginnings, capitalism has been highly politicized, Chang potions out. Take the first attempts by the British to regulate child labor in 1819, for example. Their first laws focused only on the children laboring in the country’s grueling cotton factories, confining child labor to 12 year-olds and older and to less than about 70 hours per week. Presaging the likes of Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, and corporate backers of the tea party, opponents of the law decried this government “interference” in the market on ideological grounds, claiming it interfered with legal contracts between small children and rich and powerful cotton manufacturers.

Chang writes, “Today, even the most ardent free-market proponents in Britain or other rich countries would not think of bringing child labor back as part of the market liberalization package that they so want” (2). Of course, Cahng wrote this in 2010 probably before hearing of the likes Republican politicians in Maine and Missouri who are the trying to roll back child labor restrictions or to eliminate funding for enforcement of laws that prohibit child labor.

Objections to child labor laws, then and now, hinge on a defense of allowing corporations to hire workers they can pay the least – exploit the most – and gain the most profit from (3).

While Chang takes this government protection of children from exploitation “for granted,” citing the fact that mot people accept such laws as “natural,” it is clear that Republican politicians favor returning to a 19th century version of super-exploitative capitalism. Chang cites broad public support for environmental protections as a form of government intervention that is viewed positively. His remarks are supported by recent public opinion surveys in the U.S. that show strong support for federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, even among Republican voters.

Chang cites a long list of ways governments regulate markets: medicines, alcohol and drugs, food supply, firearms, slavery, human body parts, legal practice, stock markets, corporate audits, licenses for just about everything, banking, real estate and construction, rent controls, minimum wages, immigration, interest rates, and international trade. To this list, labor union membership and collective bargaining between employees and employers could be added.

Of particular note of this discussion was the government bailout of Wall Street after the financial collapse. Some of the most ardent “free market” capitalists – many of whom were perpetrators of the events that led to the collapse – became “socialists,” as some major mainstream media noted in the aftermath of that crisis, ironically fueled by deregulation motivated by “free market” ideology.

Chang argues that the myth of the “free market” rests on the fact that government intervention has become so natural a part of everyday life (and beneficial) that we do not see it, we do not notice it anymore. Further, he states, “[t]here is no scientifically defined boundary for free  market.” In fact, economics is no science at all; it is “a political exercise” (8, 10). Advocates for a “free market” operate under pretense then. “Their ideological cloak is to pretend that their politics is not really political, but rather is an objective economic truth, while other people’s politics is political. However, they are as politically motivated as their opponents” (10). Simply put, ideology, interests and the drive for power define the nature of this political struggle, not science, not objective facts, not inherent moral or natural truths.

“Free market” ideology, then, is little more than a sham cover for special interest struggles within the capitalist framework, from which working families derive neither serious benefit nor have an material interest in continuing to believe in.

Commodity trader: Oil price will continue to rise because there is no more oil left

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While there’s an argument to made that the prices are artificially high now, long term, it’s hard to argue against dwindling supply. The fact that Big Oil is drilling in deeper water and more difficult situations says what it says. You might think this would trigger a serious reaction by political leaders to embrace new energy, but that would be ignoring the deep financial ties between Big Oil and government. CNBC:

Oil prices are likely to continue rising despite their recent spike, because the world’s oil reserves are dwindling, famous investor and commodities bull Jim Rogers told CNBC Thursday.

In March, Rogers predicted that crude prices will rise over the next decade.

“Where is the oil? I still want to know where is the oil? You know why the price of oil is going up? Because there is no oil,” he said.

NOTE FROM JOHN: With prices constantly going up, there’s not exactly an incentive for Big Oil to go find more oil. Why should they? They’re going to spend that much more money looking for more oil, just so that the prices will go down? The only time they’ll look for more is when they start losing money.

Speaking of oil companies, why are we still giving them massive taxpayer funded subsidies when they continue to make massive profitsThinkProgress walks us through the Republicans who claim they want to get rid of those subsidies and then keep voting against legislation to get rid of them.

THE ULTRA-RIGHT
     

ENVIRONMENT

Tomgram: Ellen Cantarow, Dirty Energy’s Dirty Deeds

from TomDispatch – Blog by Ellen Cantarow
For years, “not in my backyard” has been the battle cry of residents in Cape Cod who stand opposed to an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.  The giant turbines will forever mar the beauty of the landscape, they say…    



NUCLEAR POWER

The Cost of Nuclear Power

from Raj Patel by Raj
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George Monbiot and Helen Caldicott had at it on DemocracyNow! this week, in part because of Monbiot’s take-down of Caldicott’s claims. Monbiot himself seems to have become a convert to nuclear power. Having laid out these very sensible criteria – to which I also subscribe – he has recently decided to ignore much of the evidence showing that nuclear power violates them. In order to support nuclear power, he needed to be convinced that

1. Its total emissions – from mine to dump – are taken into account, and demonstrate that it is a genuinely low-carbon option

2. We know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried

3. We know how much this will cost and who will pay

4. There is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be diverted for military purposes

I’m baffled by the questions of political economy shrugged off by #4. Particularly after Fukushima, finding places to dump the waste will be harder than it is already, so that’s #2 out. Not knowing where the waste is going, you can’t answer #1 or #3. And even if the number of deaths by direct radiation exposure are small, the costs of evacuating the area around Fukushima, and keeping tens of thousands from their homes and lives, isn’t chump change. It’s a cost that comes from no other source than the meltdown. Some scientists, and I stress that they’re scientists with reputation to preserve and a peer-reviewing history behind them, have taken a stab at posing the question of the true cost of nuclear power. The ever-thoughtful Bob Costanza writes here and the Union of Concerned Scientists writes here.

Incidentally, the most useful commentator I’ve read on all this is Geoffrey Sea, and I hope to post his recent analysis here since, as far as I can tell, he’s not posting anywhere else. Again, watch this space.

Decommissioning Fukushima reactors could take 20 years

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
Workers have entered the unit 1 reactor building of Japan’s damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant for the first time since a hydrogen explosion hit the facility a day after the devastating March earthquake and tsunami. Twelve staff members stepped in to install duct pipes to six ventillation machines that will filter out the radioactive material in the air, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said May 5. High radiation levels inside the plant have kept workers from entering the facility to repair the plant’s cooling systems. The workers—equipped with protective suits, masks and air tanks—entered through a special tent set up to prevent radiation leaks. They are to work in 10-minute shifts. The operation is expected to take four or five days. (AlJazeera, May 5)
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This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Corporations, Corruption, Events, Human Rights, Military, Nuclear Power, Obama, US Economy. Bookmark the permalink.

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