Mojo - June 2010

After BP’s Disaster and Obama’s “Malaise,” Coal Is the Big Winner

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 2:42 PM EDT

No sooner had Obama made his Oval Office energy speech last week than the pundits were comparing him to Jimmy Carter, saying his Debby Downer message was just like the so-called "malaise speech" in which Carter tried to wise up the populace to the energy mess. The Sunday morning pontificators were falling over each other to make the comparison yesterday, and even Der Spiegel ran an article asking "Will Obama Be the 'Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century'?"

I'm not even going to try to weigh in on that question. But I am old enough to remember the"malaise speech," which was not quite the speech that's now being depicted by the pundits. Carter's speech in July 1979 decried American reliance on foreign oil and proposed fresh departures into alternative energy. One of its main points was to seek creation of a new energy corporation to back alternatives fuels. There were some nods to solar energy and other renewable sources, but the real push was toward the oxymoronic"clean coal" in the form of coal gasification and liquefaction, along with the mining of oil shale, which is one of the most environmentally destructive energy extraction methods ever invented.

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(VIDEO) Sharron Angle: Unemployed Are "Spoiled"

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 2:19 PM EDT

Courtesy of top-notch blogger Joe. My. God., here's a mashup of campaign-trail statements by Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-approved GOP candidate who's challenging Senate majority leader Harry Reid for his Nevada seat, in which she dismisses America's 6.8 million long-term unemployed citizens as having been "spoiled" by government "entitlement" and repeatedly insists: "As your US Senator, I'm not in the business of creating jobs." (She is, however, apparently in the business of giving herself promotions in mid-statement.)

"You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job," she starts, and the facepalm-worthy statements kind of flow from there:

Iran Cleric: Dogs Are Un-Islamic

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 1:36 PM EDT

Just days after Mother Jones reported on Iraq's plan to kill a million dogs in the streets of Baghdad, a high-ranking Iranian cleric has issued a fatwa warning his countrymen that dogs are "unclean" and unfit to be pets.

"Friendship with dogs is a blind imitation of the West," Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem told an Iranian newspaper this weekend, according to Reuters. "There are lots of people in the West who love their dogs more than their wives and children...We have lots of narrations in Islam that say dogs are unclean." The Islamic Republic's roving moral police can fine dog owners for driving with their furry loved ones or walking them in the country's parks.

Before we get all bent out of shape over Iran's jihad on Benji, though, it's worth noting that the region's long had a problem with wild animals, and that could go a long way toward explaining the customary Muslim bias against pets in the Middle East. It's at the heart of Iraq's dog eradication program, and it doesn't always sit well with US troops and contractors in the region, who often adopt "mascot" animals that come in from the wild, even though they're forbidden to do so by military regulations. (On large US bases in Iraq, the military pays war-profiteering contractor KBR to conduct "vector control," collecting and destroying strays. On Camp Victory in Baghdad, where an officer told me KBR catches about 30 animals a day, the fuzzy prisoners are taken to a special clinic for execution, on the adjacent—and aptly named—Camp Slayer.)

It's a complicated situation, one that offers a number of compelling images. Check out MoJo's new photo slideshow on the dogs (and cats) of war, a display of images that depict animals' many roles—companions, workers, nuisances, condemned prisoners—in Iraq. And if you're interested in learning more, here's the MoJo story that started it all, too.

The BP Spill and the Bermuda Triangle

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 12:36 PM EDT

What went wrong with BP's Deepwater Horizon project? Well, it seems the problem was either the Bermuda Triangle, or maybe the Jews.

I suppose this is not unpredictable, but conspiracy theorists—including a leading white supremacist—have latched on to the eco-tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. Richard Hoagland has long claimed that advanced civilizations have existed on the moon. (His Wikipedia entry states plainly, "Hoagland does not have any scientific training.") Now he's pushing a notion that's more down-to-earth. Energy investment adviser Christian DeHaemer blogged about Hoagland's latest:

I recently heard a recording of Richard Hoagland...Mr. Hoagland has suggested that there are cracks in the ocean floor, and that pressure at the base of the wellhead is approximately 100,000 psi.

Furthermore, geologists believe there are another 4-5 cracks or fissions in the well. Upon using a GPS and Depth finder system, experts have discovered a large gas bubble, 15-20 miles across and tens of feet high, under the ocean floor.

These bubbles are common. Many believe they have caused the sinking of ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle.

That said, a bubble this large — if able to escape from under the ocean floor through a crack — would cause a gas explosion that Mr. Hoagland likens to Mt. St. Helens...only under water.

The BP well is 50 miles from Louisiana. Its release would send a toxic cloud over populated areas. The explosion would also sink any ships and oil structures in the vicinity and create a tsunami which would head toward Florida at 600 mph.

Now, many people have called Hoagland a fringe thinker and a conspiracy theorist. And they may be right... But that doesn't mean he isn't on to something.

Cue X Files music. Meanwhile, James Wickstrom, a virulent anti-Semitic white supremacist, has been pushing a similar scenario:

At some point the drilled hole in the earth will enlarge itself beneath the wellhead to weaken the area the wellhead rests upon. The intense pressure will then push the wellhead off the hole allowing a direct unrestricted flow of oil, etc.

The hole will continue to increase in size allowing more and more oil to rise into the Gulf. After several billion barrels of oil have been released, the pressure within the massive cavity five miles beneath the ocean floor will begin to normalize.

This will allow the water, under the intense pressure at 1 mile deep, to be forced into the hole and the cavity where the oil was. The temperature at that depth is near 400 degrees, possibly more.

The water will be vaporized and turned into steam, creating an enormous amount of force, lifting the Gulf floor. It is difficult to know how much water will go down to the core and therefore, its not possible to fully calculate the rise of the floor.

The tsunami wave this will create will be anywhere from 20 to 80 feet high, possibly more. Then the floor will fall into the now vacant chamber. This is how nature will seal the hole.

Depending on the height of the tsunami, the ocean debris, oil, and existing structures that will be washed away on shore and inland, will leave the area from 50 to 200 miles inland devoid of life. Even if the debris is cleaned up, the contaminants that will be in the ground and water supply will prohibit re-population of these areas for an unknown number of years.

When he's not ranting at BP and the "Marxist Obama administration," Wickstrom writes about Jews drinking the blood of innocent children.

Actually, more somber-minded people are fretting about possible apocalyptic consequences of the oil leak. The Coast Guard has raised questions about the wellhead's ability to contain the oil beneath it. (That is, the wellhead could break further, and this could lead to a greater flood of oil—perhaps 100,000 barrels a day.) Environmentalists and scientists fear that the spill—with or without a total wellhead collapse—could turn the Gulf of Mexico into one large dead zone. In a world despoiled by BP, even the conspiracy kooks have real nightmares to worry about.

Crist's Rogue Gamble Paying Off?

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 11:20 AM EDT

Charlie Crist's own version of "going rogue," of ditching the Republican Party and running for US Senate as an independent candidate, looks more shrewd by the day. Pilloried for abandoning the GOP that helped elect him Florida governor, Crist has now jumped out to a double-digit lead in Florida's Senate race, pulling away from Democrat Kendrick Meek and Republican Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favorite. A new poll by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Cherry Communications shows Crist with 42 percent backing, Rubio with 31 percent, and Meek with a measly 14 percent.

Crist's 11 percent lead over Rubio is by far his largest since ditching the GOP in late April. After declaring himself an independent, Crist has steadily built up his advantage over Rubio, who by contrast has slipped in the polls and was even named "Loser of the Week" by the St. Petersberg Times this weekend. A couple of financial ethics mini-scandals by Rubio, including double-billing taxpayers for travel costs, have contributed to the Tea Party rockstar's waning popularity.

BP's Worst-Case Estimate Puts Gulf Gusher at 100,000 Barrels/Day

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 10:49 AM EDT

Depending on the condition of BP's well, the Gulf oil gusher could leak up to 100,000 barrels per day, according to an internal BP document released by congressional investigators yesterday, and a senior House Democrat says that the company lied to Congress about how bad the Guld disaster could get.

While BP was reporting the 100,000-barrel worst-case-scenario figure internally, it was still giving the public and investigators a much lower estimate. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of one of the subcommittees leading the investigation, pointed out that BP representatives told his committee last month that the worst case scenario was only 60,000 barrels per day, despite the fact that the internal estimate indicates that the company has known for some time that it could be much higher.

Up until a few weeksa go, BP was still telling the public that the well was only leaking 5,000 barrels per day (after first claiming it was just 1,000. The Obama administration's flow rate team now puts the figure as high as 60,000 barrels per day.

Yet the BP document, turned over to congressional investigators on May 24, notes that an even higher rate of leakage could occur if the blowout preventer and well-head are further compromised:

If BOP and wellhead are removed and if we have incorrectly modeled the restrictions – the rate could be as high as ~ 100,000 barrels per day up the casing or 55,000 barrels per day up the annulus (low probability worst cases)

At this point, it's hard to say whether this worst-case scenario could play out. "I think that one thing that nobody knows is the condition of the well bore from below the blowout preventer down to the actual oil field itself," Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said last week. "And we don’t know, we don’t know if the well bore has been compromised or not."

But what seems clear is that BP was well aware that the spill was much worse than they were letting on. "This document raises very troubling questions about what BP knew and when they knew it," said Markey. "It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill. BP needs to tell us what it will do if the well bore is compromised and 100,000 barrels per day of oil spills into the ocean."

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Chamber Targeting Next Finance Battle

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 9:20 AM EDT

As early as this week, top members of the House and Senate will hash out a final agreement on merging the two chambers' financial reform bills. Led by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), this "conference" process will soon produce a compromise—and, potentially, compromised—bill that seeks to prevent the kinds of abuses that brought the economy to it knees by rejiggering how Wall Street does business. But even before a conference compromise has been reached and a final bill sent to President Obama, lobbying powerhouses like the Chamber of Commerce are already plotting their attacks on the next phase of financial reform—making 1,600 pages of arcane law a reality.

Bloomberg reports that according to a Chamber analysis, the bill could require as many as 399 new rulemakings and 47 new studies, on everything from consumer protection to eliminating debit card "swipe" fees to making big banks cut off their riskiest investment outfits. Which is to say, once the bill passes, there's going to be a whole lot of jostling and lobbying and pressure on regulators, the ones implementing the bill, to weaken new reforms and spare banks the toughest changes. Even the subtlest of regulatory tweaks could mean billions of dollars kept or lost by the country's biggest banks. Here's Bloomberg:

The direction from Congress in the legislation is broad: The consumer agency is to police “covered persons,” or any person offering or providing a consumer financial product or service. Some of the “covered persons” are defined in the bill, while others aren’t.

For example, the agency would regulate mortgage brokers and anyone who is a “larger participant of a market for other consumer financial products or services.” In the rule-writing, the agency would have to determine exactly what a “larger participant” is.

"It’s all on-the-blackboard stuff until you get to the regs," said Wayne Abernathy, a former Treasury official who is now an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association. "That's when it becomes real life."

How a Right-Wing Immigration Lie Went Viral

| Mon Jun. 21, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

Did California really pass an immigration law that's just as punitive as Arizona's—but just failed to enforce it? That's the claim currently richocheting around right-wing blogs and Tea Party sites—trickling all the way up to conservative standard-bearers like The Washington Times. The origin of this claim seems to be a viral email sent from retired Border Patrol agent and Arizona resident Harold Beasley, who claims that California has an immigration law on the books that’s almost identical to the Arizona measure. Beasley is partially right, but mostly wrong. The state did pass such as law as part of Proposition 187, a harsh immigration measure that tried to deny any state-sponsored services to illegal immigrants. But the law is no longer enforceable—because the federal courts struck it down over a decade ago.

This important fact hasn't stopped Beasley—and others—from crying hypocrisy. Beasley cites a passage of the California Penal Code, Section 834b, which says that California law enforcement must attempt to verify the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants and turn them over to the federal authorities for prosecution or deportation. "Wow, is this the pot calling the kettle black?" writes Beasley, according to one version of his viral email. "You are telling Arizona that we are racists and will be racial profiling… You have had the same law for many years and NO ONE has been protesting your law. WHY IS THAT?"

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 21, 2010

Mon Jun. 21, 2010 2:43 AM EDT

 

US soldiers walk near a historic castle with members of the Kuchi tribe residing in the Bawka district in Farah province, Afghanistan, on June 12, 2010. Photo via the US Air Force by Senior Airman Rylan Albright.

Ad Targets Bachmann's Defense of BP

| Fri Jun. 18, 2010 8:35 PM EDT

A new political ad is taking a bite out of Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn) over her support for BP. It appears to be the first televised campaign ad to use BP's spill against a Republican incumbent in Congress.

 

 

By the standards of Joe Barton and much of the rest of the GOP caucus, Bachmann's BP lovin' is pretty tame. That said, she's taken $71,450 from the oil and gas industry, which is a lot for a Congresswoman from Minnesota. And Midwestern voters might not stomach a defense of BP as well as would those in Barton's East Texas.

For what it's worth, Bachmann calls the ad's claims "false and misleading." But her Democratic opponent and the ad's funder, Tarryl Clark, provides citations for Bachmann's words on her website.