Fighting Urge To Sympathize With BP CEO

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So far, The Oklahoman commentary on the BP oil leak disaster in the Gulf coast has been a pro-big oil quagmire of false comparisons, contradictions, inconsistencies and faulty logic.

Even as it calls for more offshore drilling despite the ongoing environmental disaster, the newspaper’s editorial page has criticized President Barack Obama’s response and demeaned U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman for his tough questioning of BP CEO Tony Hayward.

The newspaper’s overall argument about the spill is probably as close as you can get to endorsing U.S. Rep. Joe Barton’s direct apology to Hayward. Last week, Obama secured a $20 billion escrow account from BP to pay damages resulting from the leak, a move Barton, a Texas Republicans and a shill for big oil companies, called a “shakedown.”

In its latest bizarre take on the disaster, “BP's day of reckoning sends important messages,” (June 18, 2010), the newspaper claims that Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, who questioned Hayward last week, has a “love of big government and loathing for big business.”

“Still,” the newspaper argues, “we'll resist the urge to sympathize with British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward, who was in Waxman's dock on Thursday.”

The absurdity of apologizing to or having to “resist the urge to sympathize”–where in the world is this “urge” coming from?—with Hayward for what some are claiming BP’s shortcut methods at the well that exploded April 20 and killed 11 people is a stark reminder of the GOP position on the environment. The position: Drill, baby, drill and who cares what happens?

The newspaper’s most recent editorial on the disaster then presents this logical gem:

A couple of cautionary notes: First, if the blowout/spill indeed was precipitated by negligence, it argues against those who want to halt deep-water exploration forever. If negligence contributed, it means what happened was preventable and not some random occurrence that could happen anywhere there's deep-water drilling — rendering all such drilling too risky to undertake.

So, let’s get this straight, if the problem is simply corporate malfeasance, then we still must bravely “resist the urge to sympathize” with Hayward and continue deep-water oil drilling because we can trust all the other oil companies to make right decisions. Does anyone, even hard-core Republicans from energy states, really believe that?

Oil companies are only going to safeguard the environment if the government makes them do it.

The Oklahoman consistently supports deregulation. Do the editorial writers think we need more or less regulation when it comes to deep-sea drilling? Logically, the disaster shows we need more safeguards and more regulation to prevent another environmental disaster. The newspaper chooses to criticize Waxman instead.

Earlier, the newspaper argued in commentaries that Obama wasn’t getting angry enough about the disaster, that it was Obama’s “Katrina,” and that this country needs more, not less, offshore drilling.

The anger issue was politically manufactured to simply criticize Obama, Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster that took the lives of more than 1,800 people and cannot be compared to the oil leak, the idea that we need more offshore drilling right now given the epic environmental disaster is an incredibly naïve and robotic response to support the interests of big oil companies.

Barton later apologized for his apology after some leading Republicans distanced themselves from his remarks. The Oklahoman should have to apologize, too, for its reckless disregard of the environment and the people on the Gulf coast whose lives have been changed forever.

Here’s the problem for the GOP brand right now on a national level: The oil gushing into Gulf symbolizes what happens when people embrace a pro-corporate and deregulation ideology at any cost. It’s a dead and destructive ideology, and Democrats need to press the point.

Meanwhile, Hayward went to a big yacht race over the weekend as clean-up efforts continued along the Gulf coast.


Is It A Recovery?

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State revenues are on the upswing, but it’s not enough money to prevent the gutting of state government and public education this coming fiscal year.

According to State Treasurer Scott Meacham, May revenues were higher than last year and beat the official estimate. The revenues have allowed the state to pay back cash funds that were used to allocate money this fiscal year, Meacham said, and left $6.7 million for next fiscal year.

“As we look back at collections throughout the fiscal year, it is becoming more apparent that our recovery started in February and that trend continues this month,” Meacham said in a press release.

Meacham pointed out that May revenues were $387.7 million, which is $21.6 million or 6 percent above the prior year and $27.5 million or 7.8 percent above the official estimate.

Oil and natural gross productions were, according to Meacham, significantly higher at $56.2, a 106.5 percent yearly increase and a staggering 377.6 percent above the estimate. State tax revenues were up around 7 percent over last year but only 0.5 percent above the estimate.

There was a decline in personal income tax. Also, Meacham pointed out that corporate income tax was zero for the month after tax refunds were paid. Motor vehicle taxes were also down.

So the revenue news remains mixed, though there are reasons for optimism. It remains to be seen if the good news will continue, and, if so, at a fast enough pace to make any real impact.

The state’s two largest school districts have announced the elimination of teaching positions for the fall, state employees face furloughs and programs for the mentally ill have been cut because of budget cuts.

One-time federal stimulus money has helped the state budget this coming fiscal year, leaving many financial analysts to wonder what will happen in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 when the funds are no longer available. Will state government and education continue to face steep and damaging cuts in the years ahead despite increased revenues? If so, is that really a recovery?


BP Oil Spill Responsible For Epic Environmental Crisis

Be sure to vote in the new poll about the BP oil spill.

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The Gulf oil leak has given environmentalists a perfect opportunity to expose the insanity and greed mongering of deep sea offshore drilling and to show how the GOP “drill, baby, drill” philosophy is a major component of what created the country’s worst environmental crisis in its history.

Nothing shows this opportunity more than a recent poll that shows 83 percent of the American people disapprove of the way oil giant BP has responded to the leak, which is gushing millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, killing wildlife, dirtying beaches, stopping fishing in some areas and hurting tourism.

It’s an epic environmental and financial calamity that has made for typical GOP contradictions. For example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a member of the “drill, baby, drill” party urged President Barack to lift a temporary moratorium on deep sea offshore drilling so oil companies, such as BP, could continue their great work in the Gulf. At the same time, he’s been critical of BP. So which is it, Jindal? Are these oil companies looking out for our best interests or not? Should we let them drill without additional oversight and regulation?

The real opportunity here is in the outrage against BP’s mistakes and response. This is an opportunity for Americans to wake up from their corporate-induced slumber and realize huge oil companies, such as BP, care only about their profits and feel no responsibility to the environment. What they do to safeguard the environment, whether in the ocean or on land, must be dictated by government regulation. Does anyone really think this is not true, that the market will somehow correct environmental damage on the scale that is currently happening in the Gulf?

And, oh yeah, isn’t BP just too big to fail no matter what it does? The British government apparently thinks so.

This is also an opportunity to teach that the future rests with alternative, renewable energy sources, including wind and solar power. True, fossil fuels are supposed to continue to dominate our energy scene in the U.S. for years to come, but at what cost to the environment?

In an email to his supporters before he flew back again to the Gulf, President Barack Obama asked for support for a “clean-energy future” and wrote:

The BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast is the worst environmental disaster of its kind in our nation's history. I am returning to the region today to review our efforts and meet with families and business owners affected by the catastrophe.

We are working to hold BP accountable for the damage to the lands and the livelihoods of the Gulf Coast, and we are taking strong precautions to make certain a spill like this never happens again.

But our work will not end with this crisis. That's one of the reasons why last week I invited lawmakers from both parties to join me at the White House to discuss what it will take to move forward on legislation to promote a new economy powered by green jobs, combat climate change, and end our dependence on foreign oil.

Today, we consume more than 20 percent of the world's oil, but have less than two percent of the world's oil reserves. Beyond the risks inherent in drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth, our dependence on oil means that we will continue to send billions of dollars of our hard-earned wealth to other countries every month -- including many in dangerous and unstable regions.

In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.

The president went on to argue:

The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a new future. That means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything -- from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks -- more energy-efficient. It means rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.

Many businesses support this agenda because shifting to clean energy creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. This is how we will reinvent our economy -- and create new companies and new jobs all across the country.

There will be transition costs and a time of adjustment. But if we refuse to heed the warnings from the disaster in the Gulf -- we will have missed our best chance to seize the clean-energy future we know America needs to thrive in the years and decades to come.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn’t see the idea of creating more clean and renewable energy as a major story that has emerged from the crisis, even though it’s as obvious as the tar balls showing up on the Gulf’s beaches. This is short-sighted. Some media outlets also want to depict the crisis as Obama’s “Katrina” when instead the disaster is a culmination of what happens when you allow unbridled corporate power to determine how the environment will or will not be protected.

Obama’s poll numbers on how he has handled the crisis—52 percent disapprove his handling of the disaster—will also be big news, not his statements about green energy. But, as I argued before, Obama didn’t invent the SUV. He’s consistently favored green energy development. He doesn’t want to see people in the Gulf suffer financially. The big oil corporations got what they wanted and this is the result.

Plugging the leak is the main issue, but the crisis should be a referendum on corporate malfeasance and irresponsibility, not Obama. It should be about developing cleaner energy sources and about protecting the planet for future generations.