Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oil Companies Drilling The Public

It's not Alaska that's getting drilled in the current Oil Price Madness, not wetlands or parks, and not even the mideast deserts. It's American consumers who are getting drilled hard and fast while the oil companies are making historic profits. Public Citizen notes some fascinating facts about how the record high prices are making the profiteers richer and richer while you pay more and more. Check out these figures:

Given the oil industry’s exorbitant profits—the five largest oil producers and refiners in America (ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, BP and Shell) have enjoyed profits of $254 billion since 2001—the U.S. oil industry can easily afford to take a break from profiting from a national crisis and deliver this critical commodity at cost. ....

Consider that the top five oil companies also produce 14 percent of the world’s oil. Combined, these five companies produce 10 million barrels of oil a day—more than Saudi Arabia’s 9 million barrels of oil a day. This extent of market control has reduced competition and makes apparent the need for price caps.

Oil and gasoline prices were rising long before Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc. U.S. gasoline prices jumped 14 percent from July 25 to Aug. 22. Indeed, profits for U.S. oil refiners have been at record highs. In 1999, U.S. oil refiners made 22.6 cents for every gallon of gasoline refined from crude oil. By 2004, they were making 40.8 cents for every gallon of gasoline refined, an 80 percent jump."

The full article is here.

Thanks to Katrina panic, fanned into raging fury by the goofy decisions from the Bush House, gas jumped to 3.50, then "dropped" (ha-ha) to a mere 2.90.

Hey America, havin' fun yet?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Camera Obscura - Life on The Hellmouth

"Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that count. That's when you find out who you are."

This Friday's movie post is going to be a little different, given the apocalyptic state of the Gulf Coast and the daily struggle to both cope and understand what is an ongoing crisis. Life during wartime was surely hard enough, and the grisly visions and stories from the southern half of this country have made life even more difficult.

Likewise as grisly are the dueling political fights over responsibilities met and failed, but it is undeniable that the leadership at the national level is floundering like a ship riddled with gaping holes. What has created a flourishing sense of hope, however, are the tens of thousands of volunteers who have been stemming this disaster's tide. When critical care is required, so many people -- none of them elected -- provide comfort, food, shelter, clothing open the doors of their homes to strangers or lost animals, create ways to fund supplies and show a force of compassion which are all part of the best in human nature. They expose themselves to levels of shock and horror which has its own price, but they are willing to pay that cost.

We all saw it during and after the attack on 9-11. Heroic actions from firefighters, police, emergency workers, and much of Manhattan's residents as they fought for life and combated the carnage became an inspiration to many. And the yearning of the nation to bring additional help was also visible. We see it today in the Gulf Coast as Red Cross volunteers rush in food and water, or when a lone 18 year old commandeers a bus and drives survivors to safety, or other stories most of us will never know because we weren't there and often survivors and real leaders go unknown.

At almost any time, each one of us could face events that threaten to throw us to the ground, leave us ragged and beaten. Living in this world often turns to just enduring, and heroes often wonder how they got to be labeled "hero."

Lessons like this, and many others were presented in a television show with the laughable title of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (the quote above is from the episode "Becoming") and most of my friends will tell you they feared for my sanity to hear my fanboy ravings about the show. Yes, it's "just TV for God's sake!" they cried. Yet writer and producer Joss Whedon took the conventions of television and made sharply written commentary on Growing Up American-Style, from high school to college to the burger joint job in a series that had to jump from one network to another and still it plugged along. The typical Jump-The-Shark moment in season six of a musical episode rocked the fans and the critics and inspires public kareoke sing-alongs across the country.

Such a sing-along will occur in Knoxville this weekend as part of Slayercon, a bonafide Fanboy (and Girl) gathering at the Marriott. Details here and in MetroPulse.

Whedon is a third-generation TV writer, from his grandfather (who wrote for "Leave It To Beaver") to his mother and father (who wrote for Dick Cavett and "Benson") and now to him.

I tuned in for episode three in the first season and was amazed at how the metaphors for combating a witch were used to reveal ways parents try and live thru their children. And that same unique style remained, show after show as a teenage girl and her friends discover their town is located over a ''dimensional portal" called the Hellmouth and bad things were always ahead. I watched in secret at first, but soon started drafting others to watch. There was terrific humor, and of course vampires, a literary creation that has been with humans as far back as you care to look thru myths and legends.
And after a short time, the strength of One was shared among many, and yet it still became a burden. The "Scooby-gang", as they called themselves in mocking tones, were valiant but still endured unexpected changes. Villains could become heroes and vice-versa. It was risky for TV to go to philosophy and tragedy and humor in one show. Today, the International Buffy Seminar takes place in Murfreesboro, TN each May and countless conventions take place around the globe. Buffy had stories that resonated with most anyone.

And there was the music too. I learned of some great bands thru the music used in the show, like Ciba Matto, Velvet Chain, The Sundays, The Dandy Warhols, Blur, Lunatic Calm, and of course there were artists I did know -- Alison Krauss and Union Station, Joey Ramone, Amiee Mann. No wonder the cast and Whedon did such a terrific musical episode, "Once More With Feeling." Pop culture references were like popcorn -- it was everywhere. Fairly quickly the fans began to call it "The Whedonverse" because it contained so many different elements.

The spinoff series of "Angel" also became more than just a story of a "vampire in L.A." As the show continued, Angel and his crew battled with the grown up world and eventually the corporate one in the guise of the evil law firm (aren't they all?) of Wolfram and Hart. That show ended too, with the Angel gang in mid-swing during another apocalypse.

That's what they did -- they fought the bad things. As Buffy said "Yeah, sacred duty, yatta, yatta, yatta." Mostly the survivors had no idea a Scooby Gang was fighting for them. But once you become aware of a problem, whether its small or apocalyptic, how can you not stand your ground and fight for a better world?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Corporate Welfare in Morristown

What to do when an International Corporation may have to actually pay for building a manufacturing plant? Why, get it from taxpayers of course. That's what the Morristown city officials did on Tuesday, after they also annexed even more homes and land the owners wanted to keep OUT of the city. As Alex said in "A Clockwork Orange" - "You sees Pretty Polly, and you takes her." You'd think Kawasaki would want to invest some of their own profits, that city leaders would want them to invest in the community. Oh sure, they'll send 20 school kids to some seminars, or put a float in the Christmas parade sponsored by the local business club. Talk about lining up at the trough and chowing down! This feeding frenzy is standard ops, dictated to an 'elected' council which marches to any tune the piper plays.

Decades of recruiting manufacturing has also meant decades of seizing property, usually on inferior sites near property owned by friends of the recruiters and often by city officials, and fleecing the local and state population by using tax dollars to pay for any and everything related to construction costs. Naturally, those millions of dollars offset the tax payments they might make. All the toxic waste the industry creates is cleaned up using your tax dollars. When employees get laid off, they get tax dollar payments to go to schools operated by many of the same recruiters.

Decades of protests by locals are demonized. If an elected official does raise questions, they are smeared with lies and hand-picked replacements take over. Plans and pleas by residents to create non-industrial jobs lay gathering dust on the shelf. Temp agencies make sure salaries and benefits are minimal compared to national statistics. This year alone, unemployment in the county has been steady at 6.5 to 7.5% compared to a national average of 5%. Taxpayers get saddled with massive debts to build and maintain international companies, cable TV, sewer systems, etc etc. And city coffers bulge with profits which seldom are applied to local businesses or community projects, and they refuse to even provide crossing guards at schools in the city limits. But any hint of complaint is dealt harsh, swift rebukes by local media -- whose owners are also recruiters.

What does the community do? They quit voting -- the most recent city elections saw 93% of registered voters NOT voting. Sadly, it's all they can do to avoid vicious recrimination, threats, and publicized name-calling. Residents know their voices are reviled, ignored, and stolen.

Your taxes, your voices, your choices are NOT yours. They've been yanked out from under you.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Morristown Workers Fight For Rights

Last month, I told you about efforts of workers at Koch Foods to create a union to gain some rights as employees, and today the NY Times picks up the story.

Hour after hour, Antonia Lopez Paz said, her supervisor at the Koch Foods poultry plant here told women on the deboning line that production demands were so great that they could not go to the bathroom."

"What I didn't like is they would yell at us and tell us we're good for nothing and we didn't know how to work, and sometimes they wouldn't even let us leave to go home when we were sick," Ms. Lopez said as she nursed her month-old son. "We need to convince people to join the union, that they shouldn't be afraid because the union is the only way to make things better and stop them from mistreating at us."

Even though no one from Koch would answer reporters' questions, they are not trying to fight this campaign. Perhaps they see the handwriting on the wall with policies that put the highest pay at $7.55 an hour even if you have been employed for as a long as a decade.

The full article is here. (reg. required) Also Kim Miller at Tennessee Independent Media Center has been working this story.

Monday, September 05, 2005

7th Day Of Hell

From the New Orleans Times Picayune. Be sure to read their Open Letter to The President.

And don't be distracted by our failure, says Homeland Security. Also in that article you can read just what local leaders have been experiencing when asking for Federal aid:

It was not until Saturday, six days after Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast, that federal assistance finally arrived in Plaquemines Parish, a community of 27,000 southeast of New Orleans, said Amos Cormier, chairman of the Plaquemines Parish Council.

Asked what kind of assistance the Federal Emergency Management Agency brought Saturday, Cormier said, "They were two guys in a car."

He said the National Guard also arrived Saturday, even though their presence was requested Wednesday. The parish had to deputize dozens of firefighters and parish workers, giving them weapons to maintain order and prevent looting.

"Bureaucracy has committed murder here," Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, said on Meet the Press yesterday. "Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off, and we've got to start with some new leadership."

Then was this observation over the staged phot-op by Pres. Bush.

So many people here in ET are searching for ways to help, both for right now and for in the long days ahead. But also remember the amazing efforts to document the lives lost and the search for people taking place thru on-line journals, message boards, and traditional news sources are vital. Ways for you to help are all around -- just look.

And me, I think it is important to keep refering to "Refugees" and not "evacuees". Don't window dress the horrors.

"I don't feel like I'm in the U.S.," says Scott. Lovett, 22, said. "I feel like I'm in a war. All the guns, the chaos."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ignored Details of Development

Hopefully, even a novice would know how easily facts are lost in Time -- whether it's poorly kept minutes of the Hamblen County Commission, or the ravaging of wetlands around the Gulf Coast. Recent or ancient, there are always many versions of events.

Take the story from National Geographic from 2004:

Louisiana has the hardest working wetlands in America, a watery world of bayous, marshes, and barrier islands that either produces or transports more than a third of the nation's oil and a quarter of its natural gas, and ranks second only to Alaska in commercial fish landings. As wildlife habitat, it makes Florida's Everglades look like a petting zoo by comparison.

Such high stakes compelled a host of unlikely bedfellows—scientists, environmental groups, business leaders, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—to forge a radical plan to protect what's left. Drafted by the Corps a year ago, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) project was initially estimated to cost up to 14 billion dollars over 30 years, almost twice as much as current efforts to save the Everglades. But the Bush Administration balked at the price tag, supporting instead a plan to spend up to two billion dollars over the next ten years to fund the most promising projects. Either way, Congress must authorize the money before work can begin

Read the full story here.

Not many news reports have noted another interesting change in Lousiana, that they farmed out the preparations for evacuations to a consulting company. They have so far evaded any blame in the breakdown of support and aid following Katrina.

And at least one person claims our knowledge of "Gulliver's Travels" by Swift are just wrong. Who knew it was all about sex?

Get That Cup Of Joe Delivered!!

As of today, you can have a piping-hot, fresh Cup of Joe delivered to your email -- just use the form in the Links section and that's all there is to it. Many thanks to The Editor for the much-needed info on how to add this service. The Ed. has been working hard to make sure this site meets my goals and is easily accessible for all of you. Learning to write computer codes, adding and creating new items for this page are ongoing and will continue.

With shattering aftermath of the hurricane in the Gulf Coast, there have been some odds and ends in the news I have held onto -- here's yer News.

The short American attention span regarding Media Mogul Pat Robertson -- presidential candidate/diamond mine magnate/banker/faith healer/CIA advisor -- sadly gives him the chance to spew inane and unsane ramblings between commercials and fundraising. In this story from 1999, Robertson's tattered past got some much-deserved attention.
Even with his recent high-profile status, most news agencies still ignore the man's wacky behavior.

In China, they ARE prepared for a massive typhoon. They evacuated nearly one million people (if you believe their press reports.)

Reporters on the scene in the South appear to be finding some much needed outrage regarding the same old cheerleading comments from elected/appointed officials, via Slate.

And there is much outrage to report over the societal breakdowns in New Orleans, with reports of children being raped to death.

And the nation's largest-of-its-kind program to use satellites to track sex offenders in Tennessee will begin next week.

More later.