See more photos of the Gulf oil disaster at the Houston Chronicle.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!!
BP went on trial over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster on Monday, after the failure of efforts to reach a last-minute settlement.
US district judge Carl Barbier opened proceedings in New Orleans with a warning that it would be a “lengthy trial”….
The trial is designed to identify the causes of BP’s well blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies. That will help determine how much more each has to pay for their roles in the environmental catastrophe.
Months of negotiations have failed to produce a settlement that could have averted the trial.
BP has said it already has racked up more than $24bn in spill-related expenses and has estimated it will pay a total of $42bn to fully resolve its liability for the disaster that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil.
But the trial attorneys for the federal government and Gulf states and private plaintiffs hope to convince the judge that the company is liable for much more.
The Guardian quotes Columbia law professor John Coffee as saying that there could still be a settlement, because BP obviously does not want to deal with the adverse publicity that would go along with a month’s long trial with damaging information about the company in the headlines day after day.
Read live tweets from the trial by Dominic Rush of the Guardian here.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports: BP, Transocean Accused of ‘Reckless’ Actions in Spill.
The mishandling of an oil-rig safety test by BP Plc (BP/) and Transocean Ltd. (RIG) officials was a major cause of an explosion that led to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, lawyers for the U.S. and spill victims said at a trial.
BP and Transocean supervisors’ failure to properly interpret results of a pressure test on the Macondo well off the coast of Louisiana cost 11 rig workers their lives and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf, Michael Underhill, a U.S. Justice Department lawyer, and Jim Roy, an attorney for plaintiffs suing the companies, told a judge yesterday.
“BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment,” Underhill said in opening statements that began this morning [Monday] in New Orleans in a trial before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing litigation over the spill….
BP executives’ “missteps and reckless decisions” about the safety test were prompted by pressure to generate billions in profits regardless of the costs, Underhill said in his statement.
Read the entire Bloomberg article for an excellent summary of the issues in the case.
Through their attorneys, BP, Transocean, and Halliburton pointed fingers at each other. NOLA.com:
Opening day at the long-awaited civil trial against BP and its partners in the ill-fated Macondo oil well at times sounded like a group of youngsters blaming everyone but themselves for a bad deed. That’s not an unexpected beginning in the first phase of a federal trial aimed at determining each of the companies’ financial liability for the accident.
The trial at the federal courthouse in New Orleans began Monday morning with opening arguments by Plaintiff Steering Committee attorneys, representing private parties who sued BP and its partners for damages; the U.S. Justice Department; and the states of Louisiana and Alabama, whose attorneys outlined their views of how the accident occurred and whether BP or any of its partners were guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct, which could result in an eventual four-fold increase in fines under the Clean Water Act and the awarding of punitive damages for the private plaintiffs….
The federal, state and private party attorneys took aim at BP, which owned the drilling lease for the Macondo well; Transocean, which owned and staffed the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig; and Halliburton, which provided an unusual, lightweight cement that was used to block the flow of oil in the well.
Among the recurring story lines and accusations:
That BP made the ultimate decisions for drilling operations on the Deepwater Horizon rig, was more concerned with profits than safety as it ran behind schedule and over-budget on the well, and that BP rig supervisors botched a crucial safety test before the April 2010 drilling-platform explosion;
That Transocean had not properly trained its crew, which missed clear signals that a blowout was about to occur;
That Halliburton’s use of a cement made lightweight with nitrogen bubbles was known to be risky, and the mixture did not succeed in sealing the well.
Other takes on the opening of the trial:
Wall Street Journal: Accusations Fly as Trial Over Gulf Oil Spill Begins
Transocean, which owned the drilling rig, failed to train its crews properly and didn’t maintain key safety equipment, said Jim Roy, a lawyer for hundreds of businesses suing the energy companies that were drilling the ill-fated well.
Brad Brian, a lawyer for Transocean, said that wasn’t true, noting that the Coast Guard, federal safety regulators and BP’s own management considered the Deepwater Horizon rig “what ‘good’ looked like.”
Michael Underhill, the Justice Department’s lead civil attorney, focused on a last-minute conversation between BP engineers on the rig and onshore that he said showed that the oil giant acted with gross negligence. The rig was not reviewed by hydraulic engineer to ensure that everything is safe.
But BP attorney Mike Brock argued the accident was caused by many mistakes made by all the parties aboard the rig, which exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and unleashing the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. “There were a number of mistakes and errors in judgment that were made by BP, Transocean and Halliburton,” Mr. Brock said.
Energy giant BP, behind schedule and $50 million over budget drilling a deep-water well, emphasized cost-cutting over safety, causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, lawyers said Monday as the company’s high-stakes civil trial began.
Lawyers used PowerPoint presentations to provide a dramatic recounting of the April 20, 2010, explosion and fire in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 crew members. Workers were preparing to temporarily cap the Macondo well 4,100 feet underwater when it blew up. The 30-story drilling vessel about 50 miles offshore burned for two days before crumpling into the gulf.
The resulting spill of more than 4 million barrels of oil damaged the waters and economies of five states. And the responsible party was BP, according to the lawyers representing the federal government, Gulf Coast states and private parties.
One of the biggest questions facing U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is hearing the case without a jury, is whether BP acted with gross negligence.
Under the Clean Water Act, a polluter can be forced to pay a minimum of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil; the fines nearly quadruple to about $4,300 a barrel for companies found grossly negligent, meaning BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion.
The judge plans to hold the trial in at least two phases. The first phase, which could last three months, is designed to determine what caused the blowout and assign percentages of blame to the companies involved. The second phase will determine how much crude spilled into the Gulf.
The issues in the case are “massive” and “complex.”
Hundreds of attorneys have worked on the case, generating roughly 90 million pages of documents, logging nearly 9,000 docket entries and taking more than 300 depositions from witnesses who could testify at trial.
“In terms of sheer dollar amounts and public attention, this is one of the most complex and massive disputes ever faced by the courts,” said Fordham University law professor Howard Erichson, an expert in complex litigation.
The trial continues today.
AP via the Houston Chronicle: 1st witness to testify in Gulf oil spill trial
A University of California-Berkeley engineer who played a prominent role in investigating levee breeches in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is scheduled to be the first witness Tuesday at a trial involving another Gulf Coast catastrophe: the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Robert Bea, an expert witness for the plaintiffs who sued BP PLC and other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, will share his theories about what caused BP’s Macondo well to blow out on April 20, 2010, provoking an explosion on the Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and spewed an estimated 172 millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf.
Bea’s testimony was scheduled for the second day of a civil trial that could result in the oil company and its partners being forced to pay billions of dollars more in damages. The case went to trial Monday after attempts to reach an 11th-hour settlement failed.
The second witness scheduled is BP America president Lamar McKay.
The high-ranking executive is likely to discuss corporate decisions that were made during the disaster. It was not clear if there would be time for his testimony Tuesday. Other BP officials were expected to give videotaped testimony.
In pretrial depositions and in a report, Bea argued along with another consultant that BP showed a disregard for safety throughout the company and was reckless — the same arguments made in opening statements Monday by attorneys for the U.S. government and individuals and businesses hurt by the spill.
Attorneys for BP tried to block Bea’s testimony, accusing him of analyzing documents and evidence “spoon-fed” to him by plaintiffs lawyers. BP accused Bea and another expert, William Gale, a California-based fire and explosion investigator and consultant, of ignoring the “safety culture of the other parties” involved in the spill, in particular Transocean Ltd., the drilling company running operations aboard the Deepwater Horizon.
It should be fascinating to follow this case, and I’m really hoping there won’t be a settlement. A trial could bring out valuable information that we haven’t heard about so far.
I thought the BP trial deserved its own post, but please consider this an open thread and post freely about any topic in the comments.
Morning, news junkies.
I’m going to start this Saturday with my history pick first:
Click thumbnails for HQ views at pompo.com. Photography by Alfonso Bresciani.
I know we’ve had the perfunctory “Gulf oil spill: one year later” press coverage over the last few weeks, but since today marks the anniversary of New Orleans’ founding, I thought it would be prudent to take time out to dig deeper and get beyond the soundbytes. So this Saturday’s link dump is going to focus exclusively on the Gulf.
So how are NOLA and the Gulf Coast really doing?
Vanity Fair has posted a web exclusive from New Orleans-based photographer and CBS-affiliate videographer Jackson Fager, documenting the faces of shrimpers, fisherman, and oysterman along LA’s coastline, many of whom had their livelihoods snatched from them when the oil spill struck. Please check out Fager’s observations, thoughts, and photos. Here are the faces of the two women included in his slideshow (click for HQ and descriptions at the VF site):
BETWEEN THE LINES: And the Vessels of Opportunity, that was what BP set up to hire local fisher folks to clean up the spill, right?
DARRYL MALEK-WILEY: Right, that was funded by BP to hire people to go out and do clean-up work. A number of problems with that…No. 1, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network actually purchased safety gear and gave it to a number of fishermen to wear — respirators and things like that — because the environmental community knew about the dangers of the health impacts. And BP basically told fishermen and Vessels of Opportunity that if they wore the protective gear, they would no longer be working for BP.
In the interview, Malek-Wiley discusses a new organization called GO FISH (Gulf-Organized Fisheries in Solidarity and Hope), which is mobilizing fishermen and their families all the way from Alabama to Texas to fight for fair compensation from BP. Here’s what Malek-Wiley says these fishermen on the frontlines have to say about the official government spin that the oil has mostly disappeared:
DARRYL MALEK-WILEY: Yeah, what they say is that the oil is still here. We see it daily…tar balls are washing up all along the Gulf Coast. Just the way the winds blow…in the wintertime, the wind blows offshore so it’s blowing out into the Gulf; in the summertime we start getting southern winds blowing stuff back on shore. So we’re starting seeing tar balls come in; some of the oil come in. Because all the dispersant did was put it on the bottom of the Gulf, and so we’re starting to see some of that oil and dispersant coming back up and impacting a number of different coastal areas.
And, on dispersant:
DARRYL MALEK-WILEY: There is still a wide range of opinion. You know, the environmental community and fishermen basically agree that the use of dispersants without the needed scientific data on the long-term impacts of the stuff was not a smart thing. One point eight million gallons of dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico — nobody’s ever put that amount of dispersant anywhere in the world, so we don’t know what the impact of that is going to be. Some of the people who are sick, they’re taking samples of their blood and they’re finding the chemicals that make up the dispersants in their blood, as well as Louisiana sweet crude, and having serious health impacts.
Check out the rest of the interview to read more about those serious health impacts. It’s rather alarming, especially when you consider we’re talking about a population that has been out of work and lost their health insurance.
Dispersants: Questions remain
Last week the FDA declared seafood safe in Barataria, the coastal area hardest hit by the BP oil spill. The Miami Herald/AP article at the link says that means 99% of LA’s waters are open for fishing. The only meat I eat is seafood, and down along the Gulf we’ve gotten repeated “assurances” that our food supply isn’t tainted, but even all the way here in Houston a local chef who serves seafood still has unresolved concerns about dispersants:
“The thing that scares me the most about the oil situation is the dispersants, and from everybody that I talked to — from scientists to fisherman that’s the one thing that sit there and they hold onto,” he said.
Government scientists say their tests show no trace of any oil or dispersant in any seafood. They say the dispersant breaks down faster than oil in the water. NOAA says dispersant is simply not a concern, and for now, Caswell says he believes them.
“I eat it,” he said.
I eat it too, though I have cut back and still find myself wondering whether our public and private institutions are leveling with us on just how much they don’t know about the long-term impact of having these chemicals in our ecosystem and food supply and how far the reach of these effects might be. How many people have to get sick before they’ll admit anything?
Take for example this report out of Raceland, LA on fisherman Brandon Cassanova, who has mysteriously fallen ill, possibly due to exposure to dispersants. For months, Cassanova has been experiencing seizures, abdominal pain, memory loss, racing heartbeat, and elevated blood sugar, and his symptoms appear to be getting more acute. His lifelong primary-care physician, Dr. Mike Robichaux, believes Cassanova’s illness matches a “bizarre cluster” of symptoms experienced by people who say they have been exposed to dispersants and other toxins related to the oil spill. Robichaux, a former state senator and longtime advocate for locals exposed to pollutants, has written to Sen. Landrieu and others demanding the government for answers. He isn’t buying the line that the Gulf seafood is safe to eat, either.
While formal data collection by the LA Dept. of Health & Hospitals and long-term NIEHS research are underway, the task of proving causality between exposure and symptoms remains a hurdle. According to Tulane’s Dr. Luann White, most of the cases being reported are of a short-term and mild nature and dilution by the Gulf waters makes detecting chemicals and pathway of exposure to the public difficult. Anecdotally, however, Lafayette-based toxicologist Wilma Subra–who researched the chemistry of dispersants and came up with a list of possible effects–says she’s seen 600-700 people exhibiting this cluster of symptoms after being exposed to dispersants and crude, and that each of these cases seems to know of yet others going through the same thing.
A Thought Experiment on the Gulf Coast
This next one is interesting food for thought. Via geekosystem: What if the Gulf Oil Spill Never Happened? It’s a 2-minute animation clip by Chris Harmon, entitled Oil’d…please give it a look if you haven’t seen it yet:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
The Gulf Coast Oil Spill and Climate Change
I want to touch on the impact of the spill in terms of the broader environmental challenges for the Gulf…it seems like disaster capitalism struck this region and went into overdrive right at the time when it was most vulnerable and needed improvements in infrastructure and conservationist attention more than ever. Funny timing, that.
Over at Greenanswers.com, Chelsea Cooley paints a bleak picture with this headline… Last Days of Louisiana’s Bayous:
The 2010 BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico harmed Louisiana’s coastal eco-system in some obvious ways and in many other ways yet undiscovered. One unsettling truth is that the diminishing state of the wetlands actually aided the widespread effects of the oil spill, as the wetlands might otherwise have provided a protective barrier, preventing oil seepage into the bayous’ central regions. Barataria Bay, for example, a popular nesting ground for Louisiana’s pelicans, was one of the areas most polluted by the spill. The crisis compounded problems faced by an already delicate ecosystem.
However, the wetlands are also suffering due to a dramatic rise in sea-level associated with Global Warming. According to one professor of earth science from Tulane University, the sea-level rise in the Gulf Coast is occurring at a rate five times faster than it did in the 1000 years preceding the Industrial Revolution. The implications of human activity are on the table for all to see.
Also take a look at this SciAm/Reuters headline the other day that Dakinikat passed along to me… Seas Could Rise Up to 1.6 meters by 2100:
OSLO (Reuters) – Quickening climate change in the Arctic including a thaw of Greenland’s ice could raise world sea levels by up to 1.6 meters by 2100, an international report showed on Tuesday.
Such a rise — above most past scientific estimates — would add to threats to coasts from Bangladesh to Florida, low-lying Pacific islands and cities from London to Shanghai. It would also, for instance, raise costs of building tsunami barriers in Japan.
“The past six years (until 2010) have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic,” according to the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), which is backed by the eight-nation Arctic Council.
And, this piece at Huffpo brings it altogether. Pre-Spill, Coastal Threats Cannot Be Ignored, Environmentalists Say…It’s breathtaking to read the entire piece and the extent of the challenges the Gulf region is up against. I’m just going to quote a few snippets:
Dr. Virginia Burkett, senior science advisor for Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey, said the spill contributed to Louisiana’s wetlands loss, which was already well underway because of multiple stressors. And, she said, a year after BP’s rig explosion, cumulative effects of climate change and the spill are still poorly understood. Climate change itself, however, has been well studied.
Louisiana is in the grip of global, environmental change. “Temperatures and ocean waters are rising because of increased greenhouse or heat-trapping gases, like carbon monoxide, in the atmosphere,” Burkett said. “Glacial mass and annual snowcover are declining more rapidly than many scientists had predicted.” Ocean temperatures and acidity are increasing, and rainfall volume has grown. But spacing between rain events has expanded so droughts are more frequent in some regions of the world, she said. And in several ocean basins around the globe, hurricanes have become more intense.
As much as our government tries to pretend like the oil that gushed out into the Gulf last year just disappeared, they cannot wipe away the consequences of the larger pattern of environmental destruction that the BP oil spill has contributed to in the area. The spill last year wasn’t the first domino to fall, and it won’t be the last:
Burkett said events that hastened coastal erosion in recent decades won’t be the last.”When I was a child, Hurricane Camille was the big benchmark event, then it was Katrina.” And in the current decade, the Gulf oil spill is the gorilla.
What can we do?
Burkett offers these suggestions:
“Barrier islands and wetlands can be restored for hurricane protection,” Burkett said. “River sediment can be used to build marsh, instead of letting sediment wash out to sea.” Preparations can be made for more intense drought and wildfires.
“Home owners and communities can elevate houses, and cities can adapt infrastructure to the rising sea. In some areas, however, retreat may be the most effective option.” Her parents, for example, moved inland when they lost their home in Biloxi, MS to Hurricane Katrina.
So how much ‘ruin there is left in a nation’ may very well depend on just how much ‘retreat’ there is in it.
And, our ability to retreat depends on us even knowing we’re in danger in the first place. We saw the failures to get people out in time during Katrina and the several weeks it took for the current Administration to really respond to the BP oil spill, but what about the mini-disasters that build up cumulative damage yet go virtually unnoticed, leaving people unaware of the true extent of the daily threat they’re up against and how unsustainable their living spaces are becoming. Wired.com had a really interesting read recently on what can be done to better track crude leaking into the Gulf using satellite imagery… Gulf Oil Shouldn’t Spill Beneath the Radar:
A year after the Deepwater Horizon blowout sent 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, smaller leaks still bubble across the Gulf — but unlike big spills, they’re largely ignored.
A nonprofit organization called SkyTruth, which uses public and commercial satellite imagery to assess environmental damage, recently added airplanes and ships to its Gulf monitoring. But the group can still investigate just a tiny fraction of spills and leaks that may be reported, underreported or not reported at all by oil companies.
SkyTruth founder John Amos, a geologist and a former oil-company research scientist, thinks roughly $3 million per year could buy the necessary data and provide the first continuous, accurate assessment of Gulf oil pollution.
“The oil industry has done a great job convincing the public that modern drilling pollution is nonexistent. But we’ve discovered wells damaged by hurricanes in 2005 that are still leaking,” said Amos, who may have caught an oil company grossly under-reporting one of its leaks. “We have some tools available to do investigations, but in many cases it’s just not enough. For smaller spills, we need an up-close look from satellite imagery.”
On the proactive side of things, over here at Houston’s Reliant Center, the Offshore Technology Conference this past week has yielded some interesting results:
A possible tool for preventing oil spills like last year’s Gulf disaster arrived on the floor of Houston’s Reliant Center this week, courtesy of an auto industry refugee and a jackknife can opener.
The Latest Threat
As mentioned earlier, the BP oil spill isn’t the first or last threat the area is facing. Here’s the latest trouble, via the Daily Comet… Flood will deal blow to struggling oystermen.
Via the Sun Herald… Another slam for the Gulf:
GULFPORT — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Monday, sending a flood of fresh water through Lake Pontchartrain, through a strait and into the Gulf.
It’s something officials don’t do often, because of the effect it has on the marine life and the Mississippi Sound.
But the Mississippi River — already high at 1.6 million cubic feet per second flowing past Natchez — is expected to increase to 2.45 million cubic feet per second by May 22.
Knowing that volume is coming down the river, opening the Bonnet Carre is an attempt to divert some of it before it gets to New Orleans.
But scientists who study marine life in the Gulf cringe.
“It will change things, that’s for sure,” said Bill Hawkins, director of USM’s Gulf Coast Research Lab. But how much change depends on the volume and duration of the diversion.
Jay Alford has more — The Coming Waters (h/t Dakinikat):
There’s more water on the upper Mississippi River right now than any time in history, period, in any time in history,” said Garrett Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “This overwhelms the volume of water that was in the river in 1927, 1937, 1997, 2008. An extraordinary flow is coming down the river.”
That water levels are expected to be above crest for seven to 10 days doesn’t inspire much confidence. Graves said there are “vulnerabilities everywhere from the levees in Baton Rouge to the levees in south Louisiana.”
I’ll close with the WSJ’s review this Saturday, of Rowan Jacobsen’s Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland.
The headline says a lot in itself… A Gulf Requiem:
“Most of the Gulf Coast has not been touched by the oil spill,” Mr. Jacobsen reports, “and is beautiful and vital as ever.”
Yet these early avowals of glass-half-fullism notwithstanding, it’s hard not to hear the mournful sounds of a pipe organ on nearly every page. And you have to wonder why all the people—oystermen, oilmen, shrimpers, tourists—are so grim-faced, as if shuffling past what appears to be a Gulf-sized casket.
It’s a true shame that we’d let an area that is one of our national treasures become a laboratory for climate change and disaster capitalism in this fashion. Take a good look, because what’s happening to the Southern Louisiana area and the rest of the Gulf is foreshadowing of the rest of our country’s future, if the interests of profit continue to be put before people, unabated, and people get pushed off further to the margins of the margins.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if our president would have responded to the death of OBL by using the new presidential force behind the bully pulpit to restore our attention to the Gulf Coast and all that has been neglected over the past decade… too bad any reminder of the Gulf and the struggles of ordinary people conflicts with the fierce urgency of Obama’s permanent campaign.
Good Wednesday Morning, Minx here and I have lots to share with you!
This picture is one of those that is worth a thousand words. It is a life-size Barbie, and I guess a literal translation what exactly turns men on?
When I was growing up, my mother never let me have Barbies. Later, she explained that she hadn’t wanted to give me a doll that modeled such an absurdly unattainable version of beauty. It was one way for her to shield me, however imperfectly, from the constant injunctions to be thin that would batter me throughout my life. At the time, I didn’t understand how refusing to give me one doll would help me love my body in the face of a constant cultural onslaught. When I played with Barbies at my friends’ houses, I wondered why my mother was so opposed to what seemed like a harmless toy.
The life-size Barbie built by Galia Slayen, a student at Hamilton College, vindicates my mother completely.
I will let you chew on that picture for a bit….Let’s stick with the women’s issues okay? This next link is great because it just proves that women writers still have not really broken that ceiling.
Surprise. Famed misogynist Bill Maher scores at rock bottom in the category of token women writers. Maher’s show Real Time has exactly zero female writers. All Maher has to do is hire 1 token woman writer and he will be right up there with most of the sexist late night doods:
Bill Maher – 0
Jay Leno – 1
Stephen Colbert – 1
Conan O’Brien – 1
David Letterman – 1
Craig Ferguson – 1
Jimmy Kimmel – 1
Some good news regarding educating women health workers in Pakistan so that they can save lives and protect women during dangerous times…like childbirth. From the State Department Blog Dipnote:
Alberto Rodriguez serves as Spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The Lady Health Workers are receiving training through the Family Advancement for Life and Health (FALAH) project from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This four-year, $48 million program works in 15 districts in Pakistan to remove barriers to and increase information about birth spacing.
Speaking at a press conference, Dr. Wyatt said, “Evidence shows that when a woman plans her births, she has healthier children. The U.S. government is proud to be improving the lives of women by supporting Lady Health Workers through USAID’s FALAH project in Jhelum and all over Pakistan.”
As part of the U.S. government’s long-term commitment to women and their reproductive health, USAID is training thousands of Lady Health Workers and working to improve health facilities around Pakistan. Through other programs, USAID also works to increase women’s participation in the labor force, expand girls’ access to quality basic education, and promote women’s rights in political, economic, and social realms.
Well, I guess a woman like Kay Hymowitz would not approve of the education and training given above. Anti-women women like Kay are a real threat to everyone. Reading this pisses me off, if you can’t already tell, so I will leave my attitude for the comments…
Truly, there’s no stranger beast on the planet than the professional anti-feminist. Different from the man with somewhat misogynistic attitudes, this creature is almost invariably a woman and oftentimes seems to me to be deliberately offering nonsensical arguments in order to stir the pot. For example, Kay Hymowitz in the Daily Caller argues that it’s bad that female educational attainment has risen since it will lead to a plague of college-educated spinsters.
Oh, and here are even more woman issues links, the first one is a good one, enjoy it! (That is said with a great deal of snark.)
NJ School Superintendent Says Young Women Are Worst Enemy
Clutch Magazine: NJ School Superintendent blames young women for community’s problems, saying, “our worst enemy is the young ladies.”
WMC to WSJ: Print Fair Coverage of Fair Pay
Change.org: The Wall Street Journaldecided to honor Equal Pay Daywith an anti-fair pay oped; the WMC has launched a call to action to hold them accountable.
Yemeni Women Will Not Remain Silent
BBC: After the President said co-ed protests defied Islamic law, thousands of women have taken part in anti-government demonstrations in the conservative country.
If You Can Tell Boys From Girls, the Air Force May Give You 20 Grand
Wired: The US Air Force has had problems distinguishing men from women and adults from children, resulting in targeting and killing the wrong people. They’ve issued a challenge for proposals for a new system: the winner could walk away with 20 thousand dollars in reward money.
Holding the Line to Protect Some Programs, But Defunding Others Important to Women and Their Families
NWLC: Although funding continues for critical family planning services that millions of women depend on for their contraception and preventive health care screenings, protecting these actions came at a high price.
Judge Gives Philly Area Students the Right to “Heart” Boobies
Good: Two middle schools got in trouble on Breast Cancer Awareness Day for wearing “I (heart) Boobies” bracelets, which were subsequently banned by their school. The ACLU filed a suit on their behalf and now, thanks to a federal judge, students in Pennsylvania are free to keep hearting boobies.
Blog Usage and Influence Growing Among Women
SF Gate: A new report says that 69 million women use social media weekly; 80 million use social media monthly.
Here is a bit from that first link up top about the School Superintendent:
In a bizarre speech this past Wednesday, Charles T. Epps, Superintendent of the Jersey City Schools, placed the blame for the community’s problems squarely on the backs of one group—young girls.
During Wednesday’s speech, Epps addressed about a dozen members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Jersey City & Vicinity when he began discussing the $1 million per year the district spends on school police. According to Epps, the district’s “worst enemies” aren’t gangs or kids who bring weapons to school, but rather the district’s young women.
“Our worst enemy is the young ladies,” Epps said. “The young girls are bad. I don’t know what they’re drinking today, but they’re bad.”
Although Epps was speaking to a group of pastors, no one seemed to bat an eyelash over his comments.
Epps praised employees from JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs for signing up to mentor some of the kids in the district.
Or as Epps explained, “They’ve signed up to help even the dirty, nasty, bad kids.”
Despite Epps’ admission that violent incidents in schools “break down evenly” among male and female students, he choose not to talk about the shortcomings of all of the district’s students, but instead threw the young female students under the bus.
I urge you to read the entire article from the Clutch Magazine link above, there is a rebuttal from a couple of professors that is right on the mark. What do you think about that superintendent?
I wanted to devote some of this morning’s post to women, and I just thought putting it up top would be a good thing. Now for the rest of the news…here are some links to feed your news junkie’s soul.
Did you all see this yesterday? Plane with Michelle Obama had to abort landing because of mistake – The Washington Post
FAA officials confirmed that the first lady was aboard the plane but had no additional immediate comment. They expected to release a statement later Tuesday. The first lady’s office also had no immediate comment.
The Federal Aviation Administration, already dealing with a series of controversies involving controllers sleeping and watching a movie on the job, sent a team of investigators Tuesday to the Warrenton radar control center, where the mistake was made.
The first lady was returning from a television appearance and other events with Jill Biden in New York and was aboard a Boeing 737 that is part of the presidential fleet of jets when the error occurred on final approach to Andrews.
And here is another link to an Obama story, this one about Barack:
When the even-keeled and cool President Obama gets prickly in public, it never goes unnoticed.
Y’all can read the rest at the links…I really have no comment on either of the articles.
On to more interesting stuff, yes? If you missed Dakinikat’s post about the DOMA fiasco, please click this link and read it before you go any further!
This link caught my eye: Poll: Majority supports gay marriage – Jennifer Epstein – POLITICO.com
As House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi engage in a tug of war over federal funding to protect the Defense of Marriage Act, a new poll suggests that a narrow majority of Americans believes gay marriage ought to be recognized by the federal government, while a growing minority support the legalization of marijuana.
Of those surveyed for a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Tuesday, 51 percent said they think marriages between lesbian and gay couples should be recognized as legal and come with the same rights as heterosexual unions, while 47 percent said the marriages should not be recognized.
The last time CNN asked the question, in April 2009, approval for gay marriage was at 44 percent and disapproval was at 54 percent.
I really think that more people don’t give a damn how other people live their lives. It seems to me that only those PLUBs and Fundies of the Religious Right are the ones with their panties in a bunch about this. Speaking of pushing “Godly” lifestyles on everyone…
Millions of Americans are without jobs and are having their homes foreclosed. The U.S. is currently fighting three out-in-the-open wars (or, if you prefer, one war, one occupation, and one kinetic humanitarian intervention) and several other covert ones. Financial and political elites are preparing to tell Americans (quite unpersuasively) that they have to sacrifice Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements because the U.S. debt is so large and unmanageable that it threatens to subvert America’s superior creditworthiness. And we’re constantly told that civil liberties erosions are necessary to combat the Great Menace of Domestic Terrorism. So what is our political class focused on, and to what are law enforcement resources being devoted? First, there’s this, from a couple weeks ago:
Nearly half of the members of the U.S. Senate are urging Attorney General Eric Holder to step up federal prosecutions of adult pornography.
In a letter sent to Holder earlier this week, 42 senators encouraged Holder instruct prosecutors and FBI agents to counter what the lawmakers called “the growing scourge of obscenity in America” . . . . The signatures on the letter from socially-conservative Republicans like Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Jim Demint of South Carolina are unsurprising. However, some fairly liberal Democrats also joined in: Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Tom Carper of Delaware and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Greenwald continues discussing “the growing scourge of obscenity in America” like online gambling…let me tell you, I know many a hypocritical Baptist in my neck of the woods that are closet alcoholic, porn loving, gamblers. You can read the rest of Greenwald at the link above.
Bradley Manning is being moved to a different base. I wonder if the torture will continue in Kansas…WikiLeaks suspect ‘moving to Kansas base’ – Americas – Al Jazeera English
The Army private suspected of giving classified data to WikiLeaks is being moved to a base in the Midwest state of Kansas in the wake of international criticism about his treatment during his detention at a Marine Corps base near Washington, the Associated Press has learned.
Bradley Manning’s detention has been the focus of repeated protests from human rights groups and international leaders.
His expected move to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which is slated to be announced on Wednesday at the Pentagon, could put him in a new facility that houses inmates with short prison terms or those awaiting trial.
The officials spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the move has not yet been made public.
Manning faces nearly two dozen charges, including aiding the enemy, a crime that can bring the death penalty or life in prison.
Manning’s move to a new detention center comes about a week after a UN torture investigator complained that he was denied being able to make an unmonitored visit to Manning.
Pentagon officials said he could meet with Manning, but it is customary to give only the detainee’s lawyer confidential visits.
But Juan Mendez said that a monitored conversation would be counter to the practice of his UN mandate.
Two days later, a committee of Germany’s parliament protested about Manning’s treatment to the White House. And Amnesty International has said Manning’s treatment may violate his human rights.
Manning is being held in maximum security in a single-occupancy cell at the Marine base, and he is allowed to wear only a suicide-proof smock to bed each night.
President Barack Obama and senior military officials have repeatedly contended that Manning is being held under appropriate conditions given the seriousness of the charges against him.
Okay, this next link is connected to Manning in a way….Crowley resigned because of things he said about the treatment of Manning. Anyway, please read the entire Emptywheel post below which is in response to the article written by Ben Smith.
There’s something deeply ironic about the beltway’s most tawdry purveyor of the Village narrative, Politico (“Win the morning™”), treating former State Department Spokesperson PJ Crowley’s investment in a strategic narrative dismissively. Ben Smith seems like he has never heard of something called “a narrative” or, on a larger scale, “ideology” before.
Original link to Smith’s article is here: Why P.J. Crowley went rogue – Ben Smith – POLITICO.com
I mentioned this murder of an Italian activist in Gaza on Sunday, here is an update on that:
And now I will continue to link to articles about MENA…Juan Cole has a good one here, take a look at the whole article, I am just giving you the first paragraph here: Saif admits Qaddafis are Brutal Foreign Occupiers | Informed Comment
Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of the dictator, gave an interview yesterday to the Washington Post. In it he justified the Libyan army’s horrific attacks on the besieged city of Misrata…
On to that little island country just south of Florida. This past week Cuba has been in the news a bit. Here is an article from AJE that I thought would sort of round-up what has been going on in that country.
Cuba’s Communist Party has chosen many members of the old guard to oversee a new economic course for the country, with Raul Castro, the president, and Jose Machado Ventura, the first vice-president, chosen to lead the party.
Castro’s appointment as first secretary of the ruling party’s central committee was expected, but 80-year-old Machado Ventura’s appointment as second secretary is likely to disappoint many Cubans hoping for new blood at the top.
Ramiro Valdes, 78, was named as the party’s number three at the party congress in Havana, the capital, on Tuesday
Several younger politicians were added to the 15-member leadership group, but in lower positions.
The appointments also mark the first time since the party’s creation 46 years ago that Fidel Castro, Raul’s ailing older brother, was not included in the leadership list.
Last month, Fidel, 84, announced he had resigned as first secretary of the party when he ceded the presidency to Raul several years ago.
“There was a lot of talk about the need to rejuvenate the leadership of the Communist Party, but so far there haven’t been that many new faces,” Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera’s South America editor, said.
“The reason, Raul Castro says, is that the party simply doesn’t have enough people who are well enough prepared to take over at this point.”
Cuba’s ageing revolutionaries will preside over the implementation of wide-ranging reforms to the country’s struggling Soviet-style economy, which were approved on Monday at the congress, the party’s first in 14 years.
The meeting has approved 300 economic proposals, though details are yet to fully emerge.
I just started a new puzzle and it is a cool painting depicting Cuba…without the misery.
Speaking of misery, here is an article I linked to in the comments yesterday, I just think it deserves to be on a front page. Click the link below to read the 10 Reasons to Still Be Pissed Off About the BP Disaster | Mother Jones
Your guide to the worst oil spill in US history, one year later.
The Pulitzer Prizes were announced this week, for a list of winners click here.
Boston Boomer had two really good posts this week, one about the Long Island Serial Killer and this one about Three Cups of Tea. After reading her post on Mortenson, I was reminded of James Frey and the harsh reaction from Oprah when it was revealed that his book was “made up”…Well, looks like Frey has another book coming out. You can read about it here, I am not going to quote any of the article.
Here is a funny political cartoon, that you may enjoy:
For some real information on what all those cell phones do to your brain:
It’s Not Just Rude, It’s Ruining Your Brain | Mother Jones
And lastly, the title of this next link made me laugh out loud, so click on the link and watch the video if you want. I did not because I am so sick of Beck.
Ha Ha…I see an old Twilight Zone in that title, do you?
What are you reading today? What are you thinking about? Let’s get that comment section going…
Minx here with your Wednesday morning reads. Can you believe it is March already? I guess time flies when you are having fun…uh, you know I say that with a huge dose of snark. I know that my family is not the only one out there with only 3 bucks in their bank account to get them to the next payday…which is at the end of the week. Individuals and families seem to have to “shut down” when it gets like this. Y’all know what I mean, you can’t buy any food or gas and just hope that no one gets sick or hurt during the next few days til payday. Well, that is enough of that, let’s get on with it shall we?
Looks like the possibility of a government shutdown has been put off for at least 2 weeks. NationalJournal.com – Shutdown Fears Fade as CR Deal Advances – Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The slim possibility of a government shutdown grew even more remote today when Republicans sent a two-week spending package to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., anticipated passage after a vote scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Okay, so now that we got that bit out-of-the-way, lets dig into something more interesting. (At least for me anyway….)
Yesterday, I was discussing a possible post with some of the gang here on Sky Dancing. It was going to be an overview of the Mid East and Northern African region with information on the countries and links to any updates on the situation there. What do you know, they have done an excellent job of this over a AJE. Damn, I really am fond of this news agency.
The world’s attention has been focused on a handful of countries – Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya – since the first popular protests broke out in Tunisia in December. But nearly a dozen countries in the region have seen political unrest, and the protest movement shows no signs of stopping.
Below is a summary of the demonstrations so far, and links to our coverage. You can also click a country on the map above for more information.
I highly suggest you bookmark this AJE page. There are links to articles for each country discussed.
There is some fast-moving news over in Libya, so for the latest be sure to check the Al Jazeera English Website.
Armed conflict is robbing 28 million children of an education, by keeping them out of school where they are often targets of sexual abuse and violence, according to a report released by UNESCO.
Released on Tuesday, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report warned that of the world’s primary school aged children not attending schools, 42 per cent of these live in poor countries that are wracked by conflict.
“Armed conflict remains a major roadblock to human development in many parts of the world, yet its impact on education is widely neglected,” Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, said in a statement released at the report’s launch in Dakar.
This often leads to a vicious cycle where poverty and lack of development are reinforced by a lack of education, and the risk of further conflict is heightened as millions of youths fail to find employment.
Thirty-five countries were affected by armed conflict from 1999 to 2008, of which 15 are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Children are also being used as soldiers in 24 countries including the Congo, Chad, the Central African Republic, Myanmar and Sudan, the report said.
UNESCO cited evidence in reports from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that rape and sexual violence are widely used as a weapon of war in many countries.
“Many victims are young girls,” the report said, citing Congo, where one-third of rapes involve children and 13 per cent are carried out against children under the age of 10.
According to the report, insecurity and fear associated with sexual violence keeps young girls in particular out of school.
I realize that many in these war-torn countries are just trying to survive, and education is not on the top of the list when it comes to dealing with the horrors of war and conflict. However, I wanted to highlight this issue here because it is yet another reason to support humanitarian aid to these countries. Children have rights as well, they have the right to attend a safe school and receive an education, but I think this tends to get lost in the shuffle in these areas of high conflict.
For another article on Libya, and other oil producing countries in the Mid East, Juan Cole has a new post up: Libya Standoff as Saudi Quivers and Iran, Iraq under Pressure | Informed Comment
It increasingly appears that outside intervention via the UN or NATO is off the table, and so the end game will likely play out inside Libya and based on Libyan dynamics.
Brent crude oscillated between $112 and $114 a barrel on Tuesday, and West Texas crude hit $100 on Middle East uncertainty, but analysts say that the price would have to stay high for weeks or months to have a serious impact on Western countries’ economic recovery. Prices may in fact stay high for a while, since Saudi Arabia is said to be willing to have Brent crude go as high as $120 before intervening with another increase in its own production.
Cole also points out that the Saudi’s have arrested a Shiite Clergyman that was speaking out for a constitutional monarchy:
Saudi authorities on Tuesday detained a Shiite clergyman in the Eastern Province who preached a sermon calling for a constitutional monarchy. Shiites are probably about 12 percent of Saudis and are culturally and politically repressed by the Wahhabi establishment, which typically views them as idolaters. Had the call for constitutional monarchy come from other quarters, it would be more significant, since it is hard to imagine Wahhabi-Shiite political unity. Unrest among Saudi Shiites might affect the oil-rich Eastern Province where they mostly reside, but the Saudi state has significant repressive capacities in that area.
It is a very interesting read, so check it out.
Oh, and did you see this: Obama Administration Approves First Gulf Deepwater Well – And BP Is the Majority Owner | FDL News Desk As Dayen points out, BP is the major stakeholder in the Noble Energy company that just got the permit.
So to recap, BP owns twice as much a stake in this well as Noble Energy, and yet the announcement of the permit says that Noble Energy received it. Noble operates the well, but BP is the biggest stakeholder, and as such could be the biggest voice in making key decisions about cost and safety. Reuters managed to mention this, unlike the AP.
I won’t say anything about this now, I will leave it for the comment section. (Search engines don’t like it when you curse on a blog post…)
On Sunday the Academy Award for Best Documentary– Feature Film was given to Inside Job and during the acceptance speech, the director mentioned that not one of the people responsible for the fraud that led us to the economic meltdown have been held accountable for their crimes.
For more information on this, take a look at this article: What Juror Wouldn’t Convict A Bankster On Known Facts? | Firedoglake
Okay, I am putting up this next link cause I just love it when Faux News gets caught in its own web of lies.
Fox News has been making a lot of hay about one of their reporters allegedly being “punched” by a protester in Madison, Wisconsin.
Turns out, that didn’t happen.
Mike Tobin, reporting from amid the massive demonstration on Friday, claimed that one of the protesters “punched” him in the arm. In another broadcast, he claimed a man threatened to break his neck.
In both cases, supporting evidence for these claims was not broadcast — yet still, Tobin’s reports have been widely cited across conservative blogs that seem eager to depict union workers as hateful and violent.
What’s worse, Tobin’s allegation that he was assaulted might have slipped past without rebuttal were it not for a camera-equipped bystander, who captured the scene.
Turns out, someone merely touched his shoulder, as evidenced in the video below. The incident he claimed was a “punch” could instead be described as a pat, at most.
Excuse me while I laugh out loud! Ha…Ha…
Okay, on to one last link before I turn you over to the comment section. Funny this link is about comments people leave on news or blog post. Mostly this post deals with the horrible comments during the reporting of the Lara Logan assault. We touched on this here on Sky Dancing. It also discusses the culture of online comments, and how different websites deal with the hate that many people will post, because they see their comments as being hidden behind an anonymous or made up name.
Rainey goes through several ways different outlets have dealt with the in-fighting, trolling, and barrage of racist / sexist / homophobic / ableist / you-name-it-ist comments frequently dotting their comments sections. The LATimes.com, for instance, “kicks off” comments that have been reported as abuse by two different visitors, and The Huffington Post employs a team of 30 people who monitor threads for abusive posts with the help of a special computer system – a system which is both necessary, given the millions of visitors HuffPost receives, and enviable to certain bloggers (working at, let’s say… oh, Mediaite) who have to manually comb through comments to clean away the muck. It’s no secret that dealing with abusive commenters is a job in itself, and not something a lot of online writers have the time or patience to deal with in addition to churning out content.
So what are you reading today? We don’t have a team of 30 people here on Sky Dancing, but we love reading your comments. So get to it and let us know how you feel.
By the time you start reading this, I’ll be headed back down to Grand Isle to check on the new ‘old’ oil that just surfaced and hit Grand Isle and Elmer’s Island. The Federal Government and BP are about to leave us since they consider the beaches clean. Too bad they’re not cleaning up the marshes and the bottom of the Gulf too. I thought I’d start with some of the latest Gulf Gusher news this morning. This one is from the BBC. It’s on the impact on animals living at the bottom of the Gulf.
In places the layer of oil and dead animals is 10cm thick
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill “devastated” life on and near the seafloor, a marine scientist has said.
Studies using a submersible found a layer, as much as 10cm thick in places, of dead animals and oil, said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia.
Knocking these animals out of the food chain will, in time, affect species relevant to fisheries.
She disputed an assessment by BP’s compensation fund that the Gulf of Mexico will recover by the end of 2012.
Millions of barrels of oil spewed into the sea after a BP deepwater well ruptured in April 2010.
Professor Joye told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that it may be a decade before the full effects on the Gulf are apparent.
She said they concluded the layers had been deposited between June and September 2010 after it was discovered that no sign of sealife from samples taken in May remained.
Professor Joye and her colleagues used the Alvin submersible to explore the bottom-most layer of the water around the well head, known as the benthos.
“The impact on the benthos was devastating,” she told BBC News.
Meanwhile, the BP oil spill claim process has been nearly as devastating to people whose livelihoods depend on the Gulf. The number of complaints has been tremendous. Another set of ‘final rules’ for damage reimbursement has come out. Head of the process, Obama appointee Kenneth Feinberg, asked for input from every one for the final criteria.
The final rules also promise to give claimants more data about the status of their claims, including how any payments were calculated and why.
They’ll be bad news to local boat operators who helped with clean-up efforts, though; the final rules say boats used as part of a “Vessels of Opportunity” program can’t get paid for any resulting property damage via the claims facility.
Under the new rules, oyster processors will now be eligible for four times their 2010 documented losses as a lump-sum payment. In earlier versions, only oyster harvesters could get that much.
Although the Facility’s experts predict that the region will fully recover from the spill in 2012 (so claimants in most other fields are being offered a one-time check for double their documented 2010 losses), they estimate it will take oyster beds longer to return to normal.
The final methodology also offers to pay “reasonable costs” of claimants who work with an independent accountant on their claims, and to treat them as part of their losses. That offer should help claimants submit proper documentation to back up their claims; less than 17% had submitted completed 2010 documentation as of Friday, the GCCF said.
BP, for one, submitted a 24-page letter saying that the proposed methodology overstates the region’s losses and that payments were too generous.
More and more information is coming to the surface about the connections between Tea Party politicians, organizers and the John Birch Society. I’m not sure how many people were aware of their new governors’ associations and campaign contributors when they voted for him but they should have some awareness now. You always have to follow the money. No where is this more true than in Wisconsin.
Much of Walker’s critical political support can be credited to a network of right-wing fronts and astroturf groups in Wisconsin supported largely by a single foundation in Milwaukee: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a $460 million conservative honey pot dedicated to crushing the labor movement.
Walker has deeply entwined his administration with the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation’s CEO, former state GOP chairman Michele Grebe, chaired Walker’s campaign and headed his transition. But more importantly, the organizations lining up to support Walker are financed by Bradley cash:
– The MacIver Institute is a conservative nonprofit that has provided rapid-response attacks on those opposed to Walker’s power grab. MacIver staffers produced a series of videos attacking anti-Walker protesters, including one mocking children. Naturally, the videos have become grist for Fox News and conservative bloggers. In addition, MacIver created studies claiming that Wisconsin teachers and nurses are paid too “generously” and other reports claiming that collective bargaining rights hurt taxpayers. The Bradley Foundation has supported MacIver with over $300,000 in grantsover the last three years alone.
– The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is a major conservative think tank helping Walker win support from the media. The Institute has funded polls to bolster Walker’s position, and like MacIver, produced a flurry of attack videos against Walker’s political adversaries and a series of pieces supporting his drive against the state’s labor movement. Over the weekend, the Institute secured a pro-Walker item in the New York Times. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is supported with over $10 million in grantsfrom the Bradley Foundation.
– As ThinkProgress has reported, the powerful astroturf group Americans for Prosperity not only helped to elect Walker, but bused in Tea Party supporters to hold a pro-Walker demonstration on Saturday. In 2005, the Bradley Foundation earmarked funds to help Koch Industries establish the Americans for Prosperity office in Wisconsin. From 2005-2009, the Bradley Foundation has givenabout$300,000 to Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin (also called Fight Back Wisconsin).
It should be no surprise that Walker’s radicalism is boosted by Bradley money. Today, the Bradley Foundation is controlled by a group of establishment Republicans, along with Washington Post columnist George Will.
I’m not sure if you’ve gotten a chance to check out Yves’ excellent analysis of public vs. private pay scales in Wisconsin from Sunday, but if you haven’t, you’ll see that the private sector clearly pays more. One thing that the right wing frequently does when it explores this issue is to throw all public sector and all private sector employees into an average. This is comparing apples to oranges because public sector jobs frequently take higher levels of education than the overall economy. Think scientists, teachers, engineers, etc. Yve’s also point out the roll of the Koch brothers PAC in Walker’s campaign.
First, let’s debunk a couple of issues thrown out by Wisconsin governor Walker’s camp before turning to the real culprit in state budget’s supposed tsuris. The state budget is not in any kind of real peril. The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that the state would end fiscal year 2011 with a gross positive balance of $121. 4 million and a net balance (after mandated reserves) of $56.4 million. Walker asserts there is actually a $137 million deficit. But where did that change come from? Lee Sheppard of Forbes estimated that Walker’s tax cuts for businesses would cost at the bare minimum $100 million over the state’s biennial budget cycle. Other sources put a firmer stake in the ground and estimate the costs at at $140 million. Viola! Being nice to your best buddies means you need to go after someone else.
The second major canard is that Wisconsin state employees are overpaid. If any are, it sure isn’t the teachers, nurses, or white collar worker.
There’s a nifty chart there via Menzie Chin at Econbrowser that breaks it down nicely.I’m really getting tired of hearing distorted stories from the right wing on this. Wisconsin right winger Congressman Paul Ryan is among the seriously confused. He’s supposed to be the Republican bright bulb on economics too. You can also add an article at the rather conservative The Economist to those with data showing how public sector employees do not receive better than private sector wages and benefits with an article called ‘Don’t join the government to get rich’.
But the Economic Policy Institute tells us that, in Wisconsin, public-sector workers are not in fact paid more than their private-sector counterparts. They’re paid less. You can only make it appear that public-sector workers earn more by ignoring the fact that “both nationally and within Wisconsin, public sector workers are significantly more educated than their private sector counterparts.”
Nationally, 54% of full-time state and local public sector workers hold at least a four-year college degree, compared with 35% of full-time private sector workers. In Wisconsin, the difference is even greater: 59% of full-time Wisconsin public sector workers hold at least a four-year college degree, compared with 30% of full-time private sector workers.
…Public employees receive substantially lower wages, but much better benefits than their private sector counterparts. Wisconsin state and local governments pay public employees 14.2% lower annual wages than comparable private sector employees. On an hourly basis, they earn 10.7% less in wages. College-educated employees earn on average 28% less in wages and 25% less in total compensation in the public sector than in the private sector.
The EPI study does find there’s a class of public-sector workers who earn a bit more than their private-sector counterparts: those without high-school degrees. In other words, district attorneys earn less than corporate lawyers, but janitors at the district attorney’s office may earn more than janitors at a corporate law office—provided the government hasn’t outsourced its facilities staff to the same private company the law office uses, which it may have, since governments have been targeting low-skilled workers for outsourcing precisely because that’s how they can save money.
The article also talks about Republican efforts to let state’s escape their pension obligations through bankruptcy. I can only imagine how many elderly workers would be impacted by this. Interestingly enough, Wall Street is against this too since many firms make money managing huge state pension plans and any state bankruptcy would impact bonds issued by states. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.
It turns out, however, that state governments won’t have the money to pay a lot of those pensions. They’re likely to renege on their promises, and Republicans in Congress want to allow them to declare bankruptcy in order to do so. (Funnily enough, this may be the one area in which labour unions and Wall Street are in alliance: neither one wants states to be allowed to declare bankruptcy.) In other words, as Ezra Klein points out, the public-sector employees got rooked: they accepted lower pay in exchange for retirement benefits, and now the retirement benefits look unlikely to come through.
Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization has written an article at Project Syndicate indicating that high food prices might be due to protectionist trade policies and a relative small amount of global trade in wheat and other grains. Can the world work together to stop food insecurity?
Export restrictions, for example, play a direct role in aggravating food crises. Indeed, some analysts believe that such restrictions were a principal cause of food-price rises in 2008. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, they were the single most important reason behind the skyrocketing price of rice in 2008, when international trade in rice declined by about 7% (to two million tons) from its record 2007. Similarly, the 2010-2011 price rise for cereals is closely linked to the export restrictions imposed by Russia and Ukraine after both countries were hit by severe drought.
Most people are surprised to learn how shallow international grain markets truly are. Only 7% of global rice production is traded internationally, while only 18% of wheat production and 13% of maize is exported. Additional restraints on trade are a serious threat to net-food-importing countries, where governments worry that such measures could lead to starvation.
Those who impose these restrictions follow a shared logic: they do not wish to see their own populations starve. So the question is: which alternative policies could allow them to meet this goal? The answer to that question consists in more food production globally, more and stronger social safety nets, more food aid, and, possibly, larger food reserves.
A conclusion to the Doha Round of global trade negotiations could constitute part of the medium- to long-term response to food-price crises, by removing many of the restrictions and distortions that have muddied the supply-side picture. A Doha agreement would greatly reduce rich-world subsidies, which have stymied the developing world’s production capacity, and have pushed developing-country producers completely out of the market for certain commodities. The worst kind of subsidies – export subsidies – would be eliminated.
I didn’t cover any of the major international news items today since we’ve been trying to keep live blogs of the global protest contagion. I’ll try to come back with some pictures and information on the oil in the marshes here in Louisiana so you can see exactly what our government is letting BP get away with.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?