Monday, May 31, 2010

Corporate Criminals - Halliburton

Halliburton, and their former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR), helped make Iraq the hellhole it is today. Again, what I am talking about here are acts that, were they committed by individuals or even countries, would be severely punished. As committed by corporations they are forgiven and even legal.

The Crimes of Halliburton
Rape, Prostitution, Bribery, Slavery, Fraud
Certainly the most publicized crimes has been the frequent rapes associated the company. Perhaps most chilling has been their arguing that rape was a "workplace" injury, like a truck accident. The prostitution charge is more difficult but two names keep coming up, DynCorp and Halliburton. Although one could argue that Halliburton is simply a CIA subcontractor. The slavery charge comes from their forcibly trafficking in human labor. As to fraud, KBR's contracts during the Iraq War have been notorious as have the stories of providing substandard food and water to soldiers.

Which brings us to the interesting nexus of Halliburton and the Gulf oil spill. Halliburton was the concrete contractor for Deepwater Horizon. At a mile underwater, no one will ever know if Halliburton cut corners or used substandard materials.

Halliburton seems to always be involved in bribery scandals as well. Whether it is the Middle East or Africa, they seem to be caught frequently buying influence. It is difficult to believe they have not been bribing the Pentagon as well.

Before the Iraq War (January 2002), Halliburton stock languished at $5 a share. Four years later (2006) their stock had risen by over 700%. They had revenues over $14 billion last year. Their CEO, David J. Lesar, is an accountant not an engineer which means he neither knows or cares what a good engineering job looks like, he is all about profit.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Corporate Criminals - Chevron

BP is not the worst criminal conspiracy dressed as an oil company. Royal Dutch Shell (more later) and Chevron are much worse.

The Crimes of Chevron
Slavery, Vandalism, Murder by Proxy
One of Chevron's Amazon oil pits.
(Here's Daryl Hannah at another.)

Chevron is partnered with the Myanmar (Burma) military junta in building a gas pipeline project. Finding workers for this huge project was no problem - the Myanmar military simply impressed the indigenous people into slave labor gangs.

The recruiting system is simple. The junta burns their villages to the ground, herds the population at gunpoint into relocation (concentration) camps, doesn't allow them to grown their own food and tells them the only way to eat is to work. They work clearing the forest, as porters (slaves are cheaper than trucks), and sex slaves for the project engineers. It should be noted that Chevron does not directly impress the workers. The Burma junta does the "hiring," Chevron just profits from the arrangement. Chevron nobly claim they are providing "jobs" for the people in the region. Chevron neglects to note they are non-paying jobs with benefits that include torture and rape. Some reports say the workers are being paid a token for their forced labor. Burmese citizens who protest the pipeline project are murdered by the government. (See also Burma Digest about oppression in Karen State, End Human Trafficking on Chevron's link to forced labor, the Free Burma Rangers, and Rebecca Tarbottom on the True Cost of Chevron in Burma)

In Ecuador, Chevron's attack on indigenous people involves the destruction of their land and the poisoning of their rivers. When shareholders met last week in Houston, Chevron used the Houston police department to forcibly exclude shareholders who disagreed with management on its conduct in Ecuador from attending the annual meeting.

Chevron is an American corporation with headquarters in California. In California slavery is punished by at least three years in prison per count. What Chevron dumps in the Amazon River violates the Clean Water Act (if it were done in the US), it violates Ecuador law too.

Chevron has revenues of $167 billion last year and is the third largest business in the United States. Their CEO made nearly $9 million last year, 85% of it from non-salary bonuses and options.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Corporate Criminals - Union Carbide

Corporations want to be treated like people. They want the same, actually superior, rights as people. But they want none of the responsibilities that people are burdened with. British Petroleum has got me thinking about what corporations get away with that individual people, even whole countries, would be severely punished for.

The Crimes of Union Carbide
Manufacture of WMDs, Mass Murder
Some of the Bhopal dead (Source).

In 1984 Union Carbide was producing WMDs at their chemical plant in Bhopal, India. On the night of December 2 of that year Union Carbide released a toxic gas soup including phosgene and methyl isocyanate on the sleeping town. In all, Over 2,000 died in agony that night. Totally, 20,000 people have died and an additional 120,000 have chronic medical conditions caused by the exposure (Source). Even today, 25 years later, the now abandoned Union Carbide plant is poisoning the citizens of Bhopal. There are 390 tons of toxic chemicals in rusting barrels leaking their contents into the Bhopal water supply. Hundreds of new victims are born every year with birth defects because of Union Carbide.

Union Carbide, without proof, blames sabotage. They also blame the Indian government. Only reluctantly, usually responding to court orders, have they paid out settlements. And they whine on their website that the settlements are too large.

If Union Carbide were a country they would have been bombed by the US Air Force. The Bhopal gas attack was more deadly than Saddam's attack on the Kurds in Halabja. If Union Carbide were an individual it would be in an Indian jail on multiple counts of homicide. But Union Carbide is a company and it continues to thrive.

Union Carbide is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical (more on their crimes later). UC has $5 billion in net sales in 2009. Their total assets near $9 billion. Their 10-K report says that UC spent $105 million just for corporate restructuring in 2008-9. There is no mention of spending a single dollar for either Bhopal or India in the entire document. Former CEO Warren Anderson has been indicted in India and an arrest warrant has been issued, but he resides comfortably in one of his three mansions in Long Island, Connecticut, and Florida protected by the United States government.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

South Carolina Is For Lovers

What is it about the Palmetto State that makes family values Republicans so randy?

Current governor Mark Sanford famously went down the Appalachian Trail. Now we find the Republican candidate to replace Sanford, Nikki Haley, has been taking her own bootie hikes.

I suggest a new state motto: Fututa Sum Sic (I got fucked here)
From Pompeii, this might make
an appropriate state seal.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Best Buy Not Good

You remember the scene from the movie Fargo where car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William Macy) is trying to con a customer into paying for the Trucoat sealant he didn't want.
Jerry Lundegaard: Well, we've never done this before. But seeing as it's special circumstances and all, he says I can knock a hundred dollars off that Trucoat.
Irate Customer: One hundred... You lied to me, Mr. Lundegaard. You're a bald-faced liar. A... fucking liar. Where's my goddamn checkbook? Let's get this over with.
Best Buy is the consumer electronics version of Jerry Lundegaard.

There was a time when customer service at the company meant helping customers. But that was back when they had serious competition. With CircuitCity and CompUSA shells of their former selves, Best Buy is a giant among midget competitors. So nowadays Best Buy is all about selling the extras. You go in shopping for a product and their salesmen have an endless list of high pressure pitches for this service and that extra. All over priced and all generally worthless. Like that Trucoat sealant.

And if you make the mistake of actually paying for a service their Geek Squad will take months getting around to it if they even bother doing the service at all. A lot of their profits come from exhausting their customers into giving up and accepting paying for nothing.

Best Buy is not what it once was, which is a pity because they were once a very good company. They are now one of the sleaziest retail businesses around.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Day the Gulf Coast Died

Apparently, according to Monkeyfister, the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is no longer a leaking wellhead. It seems to have progressed into a rupture in the sea floor. If true then all plans to cap the wellhead or plug the leak are worthless because the wellhead in no longer a factor in the flow of crude oil. That means it will be months, perhaps years, before relief wells can reduce the flow of oil through the rupture.

No one has every tried to calculate the effect of dumping multiple millions of barrels of oil on a marine ecosystem. The coastal wetlands will certainly be annihilated. The northern Gulf fisheries too. There is no way of knowing how far the dead zone will extend in the Gulf waters. All of the Gulf states from Texas to Florida will be impacted. Cuba certainly will suffer. Perhaps Mexico. And if the oil flow enters the Gulf Stream the Bahamas are doomed.

This may no longer be the Three Mile Island of petroleum spills - an object lesson for future caution. It may become the Chernobyl of oil disasters - a generational cataclysm.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What Is a 'Gotcha Question?'

The media is being accused of asking "gotcha questions" of Rand Paul. What exactly are they?

A "gotcha question" is a question that the interviewer knows his subject won't want to answer because the answer will make the subject look stupid (Palin), vile (Paul), a liar (Leiberman) or all of the above (Bush Jr.). In other words, a "gotcha question" is what used to be known as A TOUGH QUESTION.

Stupid vile liars hate tough questions. That is why Fox News was invented.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul and the BP Spill

Since Rand Paul chose to open his pie-hole on the Gulf oil spill a little translation is in order.

What Rand Paul Truly Believes
Rand Paul has attacked President Obama for criticizing British Petroleum, calling the criticism "un-American."
  • Paul believes that the only victim here is British Petroleum. By compelling BP to clean up the environment effects of the spill the federal government is forcing BP to act against its own interests.
  • Paul believes that the individuals who stand to benefit from a clean up should bear the full burden of cleaning up the oil spill. That would be Louisiana fishermen.
  • If these fishermen will not, or cannot, clean up the mess on their own that is proof their economic interests are unimportant.
  • Paul believes that if BP decides that it is in the best interests of the company to stop trying to plug the leak and let the oil flow in perpetuity, the government has no right to force BP to cap the well.
  • Paul believes that if BP executives act altruistically, if they spend BP assets to plug the well and clean up the disaster even though BP will not profit from the effort, then BP executives have acted criminally by stealing from BP shareholders. Only then, does Paul believe, should the federal government intervene by arresting BP executives.
Remember, Rand Paul is a beadle in the Church of Ayn Rand. He believes that BP should be allowed to pursue its business in an uncontrolled, unregulated manner.

Paul will not be saying these things out loud because he is surrounded by a herd of paid professional political consultants who are screaming at him right now to lie like a cheap rug.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Does Rand Paul Believe?

Some pundits have said that the big pile of shit Paul stepped in was the result of his being inexperienced in politics. By that they mean he is not yet practiced in the art of lying. Although judging by his rapid backpedaling he appears to be a quick study as he is now in full lie mode.

What Does Rand Paul Believe?
He is not, as he will claim, a libertarian. Rand Paul is an acolyte in the religion of Ayn Rand. There is a big difference.
  • Paul believes that selfishness is a virtue and charity is a sin.
  • He believes the economically powerful ought to have more rights than poor people.
  • On civil rights Paul opposes state sponsored racism (Jim Crow laws). He supports the right of businesses to refuse to serve or hire blacks (or Asians or Hispanics). He supports the right of individual doctors to refuse to treat people based on their race. He opposes lynching but supports discrimination.
  • He believes the only human right is property rights. All other rights flow from property. An unstated corollary is that those without property have no rights.
As an example, I have every right to turn my suburban home into a toxic waste disposal site if that is my business. It is my property and I can do as I want with it as long as I seek profit. If my neighbors object they can buy me out (if they are rich enough) or they can move away but they do not have the right to turn to government to stop me.

Quotes from Ayn Rand
  • The Virtue of Selfishness (title of an essay)
  • When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism ~ Virtue of Selfishness
  • They (Native Americans) didn't have any rights to the land.... Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent. ~
  • West Point Q&A, 1974
  • The person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind. ~ The Fountainhead
  • The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing. ~ The Fountainhead
  • It would be kinder to acknowledge people’s existence by hating them. ~ The Fountainhead
  • To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. ~ Anthem
  • There is no such thing as duty. If you know that a thing is right, you want to do it. If you don't want to do it—it isn't right. ~ We The Living
  • If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. ~ Time 2/29/1960
What does Rand Paul believe? In the end, all he believes in is Hedonism.

Source of Ayn Rand quotes

Note: Paul claims the first name he uses, short for Randal, has absolutely nothing to do with Ayn Rand. And, Randy, I don't believe you.

Quick Thoughts

Buying Elections
Meg Whitman has spent $68 million of her own money so far to win the Republican primary election for California governor. Her opponent, Steve Poizner, is no piker himself having spent over $24 million of his own money. What's funny is that both are spending all that money arguing over which is the most financially prudent.

Shades of Maxwell Smart
In Pakistan a man was arrested for getting on a plane with electronic circuitry in his shoes. My first thought was - Shoe Phone!! Then I thought why bother with a shoe bomb when there is plenty of room for all of the explosives and triggering systems anyone would ever need in a computer laptop.

Republicans are scared of Muslims. I get that. I didn't know how scared until they started wetting their panties over an Arab-American from Dearborn, Michigan winning the Miss USA beauty pageant. I guess I'll never really understand the terrorist agenda.

Losing the War
Especially when all al Qaeda has to do is sit back and wait for us to eat ourselves to death. I love a good pig out as much as the next cholesterol-choked American but Dan O'Brien at has a list of fastfood concoctions that were surely developed in a sinister plot to kill us all.
Kentucky Fried Chicken's terrorist calorie bomb.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Did Transocean Destroy Its Own Rig?

Maybe they didn't, but if they did it was a sound economic decision.

It seems that Transocean over-insured the Deepwater Horizon by a whopping quarter of a billion dollars. The insurance companies have paid off, $401 million to date with more to come, without even a cursory investigation. Transocean is making a sweet profit from the disaster.

Torching your own assets for the insurance is a time honored, if frequently illegal, business practice. Of course, very little is illegal for oil companies.

Given the results where BP and the federal government bears all of the costs of the blowout while Transocean reaps nothing but profits, one could say that Transocean would have been fiscally irresponsible had they not destroyed their own rig. Of course, it was probably just a lucky accident.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bicep Tendonitis

There are 4000 tendons in the human body.
I know this because at one time of another almost all of them have decided to get too big for the sheaths. Patella tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis - you name it and it has swollen up. The latest is the tendon that holds my bicep to my left shoulder.

All I have to do is raise my hand over my head and ouch. I mean...OUCH!!!

If God made humans He has a really sick sense of humor.

Gum and Duct Tape

Even assuming BP gets some sort of fix rigged up to its Gulf oil spill (it hasn't yet, you know) it is going to be something held together with chewing gum and duct tape. In two weeks hurricane season starts and that could really roil the waters.
This is what Hurricane Ike did to a well built oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2008.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Right to Arm Terrorists

Tracking the logic of rightwing nuts is impossible. Consistency is insanity to them. For example:
In the conservative mind if you are suspected of being a terrorist you don't have a right to a lawyer but you do have the right to a gun.

Then there is Joe Lieberman who wants to strip citizenship from anyone suspected of being involved with terrorists.

The operations of the terrorist watch list is straight out of the old KGB. Anyone can denounce someone else, for any reason, and they become an unperson. Remember that Senator Teddy Kennedy's name was slipped onto the no-fly list during the Bush Administration. An eight year-old Cub Scout has been harassed by the TSA for years because someone denounced a two year-old toddler as a terrorist. Even Arabic names, which transliterate badly into English, are always being screwed up.

As to terrorists and guns, I still support enforcing the "well regulated militia" part of the Second Amendment and that gun ownership be restricted to people who are governed and regulated by the individual states. Gun owners should be required to take, and pass, a training course to purchase a gun in the same manner as one needs to pass tests to gain a driver's license. Gun owners ought to be able to prove the physical and mental ability to operate a gun safely.

Friday, May 14, 2010

BP CEO Is Logic Challenged

BP CEO Tony Hayward is excusing the on going oil spill by saying it is tiny when compared to the full expanse of the Gulf of Mexico. I'll go a step farther and claim that the spill is infinitesimal when compared to the entire Milky Way galaxy. Why, on a planet orbiting the Dog Star the spill is having no impact whatsoever.

The logical fallacy is called "division." Just because the oil spill is has not (yet) reached the beaches of Cancun does not mean it is not devastating where it is and where it is is pretty damn big. At 80 miles by 40 miles, the surface oil slick is covering thousands of square miles of ocean. Beneath the surface in the mile deep column of water is an oil plus dispersant mass of unknown dimensions poisoning the waters.

But, if we view this disaster on a galactic scale....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oil Addiction and My Neighbor

Whenever I think of the reasons for the underwater oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico I think of this guy in my neighborhood. He own all the adult male toys - RV, ORV, ATV, SUV - you name it, if it has initials and consumes fossil fuels he's got some. He also has a shitty life.

Middle-aged with a beer belly, he is a stereotype of the suburban Republican. He works in the construction industry which, in Southern California, means he is earning half of what he made back when he bought his toys. He wife left him. Not talking divorce here, she up and ran as far away as she could from him and his pink-faced brat of a son (who has since grown into a pink-faced thug of a young man). All he has left to console him is his toys.
  • His RV is one of those huge monsters that cost about a quarter of a million dollars. He can't afford to take it out much anymore but he still has to pay storage for it because it is too big to legally park on the street.
  • He's got two-wheeled, three-wheeled, and four-wheeled off-road vehicles. If they made a five-wheeled vehicle I'm sure he'd buy one. None of them has anything remotely resembling a muffler because most of the fun is in the manly roar they make.
  • He even owns a power washer, gas fueled of course, to keep them all clean.
  • His joy, however, is his boat. The big, fucking 30-footer he has parked in his driveway.
His boat is WAY bigger.

I don't remember the last time he was able to put it on the water but he still loves his boat. Every weekend he carefully removes the tarp covering the boat and sits in it. He drinks beer, listens to country music, and pretends he is on Lake Mead. Occasionally he'll start the engine and leave it roaring in the driveway, pretending it is skimming along the water.

Last weekend he hooked the boat up to the trailer hitch on his pickup truck. He drove the boat around the neighborhood for an hour then he parked it back in his driveway. He spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in his boat getting drunk.

The problem is that this pathetic guy is copied millions of times across this country. The reason that incautious executives and ill-trained engineers were drilling for oil past their depths in the Gulf of Mexico is to feed the oil addiction of Americans men. All of their rumbling toys spewing power are penis substitutes for men who have lost the ability to feel masculine without artificial aides.

Their oil addiction is a much greater burden to society than all of the heroin addicts that ever lived. America would be much better off if they traded their gas hose for a smack syringe.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Advice to Democrats re: SCOTUS

Fight back early. Don't let Republicans set the tone and define the agenda for the nomination hearings. They are already planning to erect straw dogs to pillory and to drag the hearings out for months. Plan defenses, of course, but more importantly plan counterattacks.

Counterattacking will keep the Republicans off balance and disorganized but it will also demonstrate Democratic fortitude. The major reason Democratic polling is off is because of months of passively sitting back and taking it over Health Care Reform. Showing some backbone for the nominee will help Senate Democrats come election time too.
I was curious what a straw dog looks like.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Grecian Formula

Lest we forget: The riots in Athens, the turmoil in European financial markets, and plunging stock exchanges worldwide were all caused by Goldman Sachs who, finding themselves with insider knowledge of Greece's shaky finances (because Goldman crafted the cover-up scheme) couldn't help but profit from Greece's misfortune. The worse things are for Greece the more money Goldman Sachs makes. It's called business.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Great Burp

If I'm the SEC I'd be over this like fleas on a stray dog. Just before 3 pm EDT today the stock market dropped nearly 900 points and recovered almost all of that in a matter of minutes. The cause is being blamed on a typo by some Citigroup trader.

An accident, they are saying. Yeah, right. With today's modern computer trading and arbitrage trading an unscrupulous market maker like, perhaps, Citigroup (or dare I even suggest it, Goldman Sachs), could make billions in the wink of an eye using such an accident. This kind of market manipulation would be an irresistible attraction to the riverboat gamblers riding the New York Stock Exchange.

It's being called an accident. Maybe. Maybe this is happening all of the time and the only accident was that this time it was too big to ignore. I find it hard to believe the imaginative traders at those big investment banks haven't seen the possibilities in this type of market swing. And I find it impossible to believe, if they saw the possibilities, that they wouldn't have done it. Repeatedly. Greedily.

Accident or no, many humans watching this today on CNBC panicked and lost fortunes selling into the trough. Those fortunes were recovered by wily hedge funds and perfidious investment bankers.

Prediction: The Great Burp will be followed by The Great Cover-Up. We shall never know the truth.

P.S. I blissfully missed all the hysteria until it was long past over.

Advice for Visitors to Arizona

Let's say I am foolish enough to drive my car across the Colorado River into Arizona. What do I need to keep from being detained as an illegal alien?

My California driver's license is invalid. Only an Arizona license is accepted. I would need to carry my birth certificate (I mean, really, who brings their birth certificate when visiting the Grand Canyon?) or a passport. It wasn't too many years ago when I didn't need a passport to travel back and forth across the US-Mexican border now I'm going to need one to enter Arizona.

I guess I could carry a US Certificate of Citizenship. That sounds like a nifty thing to have and Arizona accepts those. However, the US Government won't issue a Certificate of Citizenship to me because I am a natural born American citizen.

Unless the Arizona police do racial profiling they are going to have to arrest as an undocumented alien almost every tourist that enters the state and commits a simple traffic violation. So my advice for visitors to Arizona is - go to New Mexico instead.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

I can't help wondering what Cinco de Mayo will be like in Arizona this year. Large gatherings of brown-skinned people speaking Spanish and drinking Dos Equis, why it's an event just begging for some intensive documents checking.

What is Arizona doing? They are cracking down on multiculturalism and Spanish speakers (real) and banning celebrating a terrorist holiday (satire). While Virginia's governor Bob (slavery was hunky dory) McDonnell is celebrating the day, I think he just wants an excuse to drink beer in public, Arizona governor Jan Brewer is boycotting the festivities.
The Battle of Puebla (May 5, 1862)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Random Thought on the Gulf Oil Spill

  • One of the causes is that BP executives and engineers believed the propaganda that off-shore oil drilling was totally safe. That was always a lie but it was that firm belief in a lie that led to a slow early response.
  • Pity the Louisiana bayou folk. First Katrina and now this. They can't get a break.
  • Speaking of the bayou folk, BP has lawyers are canvasing the stricken area. I won't say they are lying only because I don't want to be sued, but I am certain these shysters are neglecting to fully disclose that by accepting a $5000 one-time payout these citizens are signing away their rights to sue for the years of lost livelihood caused by BP.
  • The phrase "Drill Baby Drill" is, mercifully, dead.
  • If, as predicted, the oil slick fouls Florida's Suncoast beaches then the economic impact will be far greater than the largest predictions. Multiply that still further if the Florida Keys and South Beach are hit.
  • One impact has been on Marco Rubio, the Radical Republican candidate for Florida Senate. He has been backpedaling faster than a clown on a unicycle from his previous "Drill Baby Drill" mantra.
  • It is quite disconcerting how frequently engineers are using the word "hopefully" to describe their attempts to cap the spill.
  • Betcha that BP, formally British Petroleum, will change its name again.
Three-Mile Island of Off-Shore Drilling
The biggest impact is that this spill is poised to do to deep water off-shore oil drilling what Three-Mile Island did to nuclear power in the United States. That is curtail it for a generation. This is not some isolated Alaskan coastline, 50 million Americans live along the Gulf coast. This population will have a massive political impact multiplier effect. Given my opinion on the issue, this is a good thing.