I look forward to John McCain’s condemnation of this policy, much as he condemned Barack Obama for saying this is what we should do. Perhaps he’d like to take the opportunity to for once put some substantive daylight between himself and the Bush administration.
Good news from the UK: The Kingsnorth Six were acquitted by a Crown Court jury. They were members of a group of 23 Greenpeace volunteers who had attempted to shut down the Kingsnorth coal-fired power plant, specifically the six were the ones painting the smokestack with “Gordon Bin It” when interrupted by the police.
Their defense was ‘lawful excuse’, that they were protecting property of greater value (the Earth!) from the impact of climate change. We will need our Mercedes-driving lawyer friends to tell us if the verdict has greater significance — but the jurors were common people, not politicians. It was an impressive show — judge and lawyers with their white wigs — hopefully it has an impact.
The Guardian account of the acquittal here says “It was the first case where preventing property damage caused by climate change has been used as part of a “lawful excuse” defence in court. It is now expected to be used widely by environment groups.”
Written testimony that I submitted for the case is a bit long. The “Summary Facts” are below. The main point, that the government, the utility, and the fossil fuel industry, were aware of the facts but continued to ignore them are more generally valid worldwide. It raises the question of whether the right people are on trial.
According to the new Interior Department Inspector General (IG) report, nearly a third of the Denver Minerals Management Service’s 55-person office “received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies.” Several employees have tried to claim that they were unaware of federal ethics guidelines. However, as the IG outlines, almost all these officials had attended ethics briefings and knew the rules:
RIK officials often bragged about the “RIK way of doing business,” which aimed to “be a part of industry.” In the summer of 2006, RIK employees wrote up a document titled, “Initiative to Clarify Guidance for RIK Interaction with Industry,” which would codify their “uniqueness.” In short, RIK officials wanted to rewrite the ethics rules to cover up their misdoings. From the Initiative document:
As further evidence that employees were aware their socializing with industry officials was unethical, at one point, RIK oil marketing specialist Crystel Edler had her industry friends hide the fact that she had gone to a Shell party and stayed in a hotel at their expense. Edler told her friends that they were “sooo wonderful” for helping her out:
In a statement today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) criticized “how cozy the relationship between Big Oil and the Administration’s regulators have been,” which has “cheated the American taxpayer out of billions of dollars owed them by the oil companies.”
On the campaign trail Monday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican nominee for president, attempted to portray his Democratic opponent as inconsistent and soft on national security issues. He blasted Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the Democratic nominee, for proposing to increase defense spending, despite a past commitment to “slow our development of future combat systems” and “cut investments in unproven missile-defense systems.” McCain argued that the world has become too dangerous to even consider these options.
Yet, just over a month ago, McCain’s senior economic advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, promised that McCain would de-fund these very same programs. In a submission to the Washington Post editorial board, Holtz-Eakin claimed that McCain would save $160 billion from reduced discretionary funding, some of it from Pentagon procurements, and another $150 billion from reduced deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the defense procurement programs McCain promised to ax from the budget were:
- The Airborne Laser (ABL), a project to develop plane-mounted anti-missile laser technology. The program could give the U.S. the capability to shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost phase, soon after launch.
- The Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS), a program of combat support vehicles and technology, designed to make the army a more flexible, easily deployable force.
These programs should be the target of budget cuts, and both Obama and McCain are right to say so. Read more
Wow, this is one heck of a scandal at the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service. Here’s a taste:
Two other reports focus on “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” and unethical behavior in the service’s royalty-in-kind program. That part of the agency collects about $4 billion a year in the form of oil and gas rather than cash royalties.
Modeled on a private-sector energy company, the decade-old royalty-in-kind program transports, processes and resells the oil and gas on the open market. But while its officials interact with energy company executives, they are subject to government ethics rules, such as restrictions on taking gifts from sources with whom they conduct official business.
One of the reports says that the officials viewed themselves as exempt from those limits, indulging themselves in the expense-account-fueled world of oil and gas executives.
There’s much more beyond that. Note that I’m pretty sure these are the guys who will be supervising our new paradise of continental shelf drilling. But I’m sure that electing a new chief executive from the same political party as the current one, who shares the same close ties to the same oil and gas companies that make the donations that allow them to hire the same political operatives, will be just the thing to turn this kind of problem around. You know what they say — if it first you don’t succeed, try again with a different guy who has the same ideas and associates.
Tomorrow marks the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In a press conference today, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino about the administration’s ongoing efforts to find Osama bin Laden, calling him the “mastermind” of 9/11. Perino interrupted the reporter, claiming bin Laden was not the true “mastermind” of the attacks:
Q But Osama bin Laden is the one that — you keep talking about his lieutenants, and, yes, they are very important, but Osama bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11 –
PERINO: No, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11, and he’s sitting in jail right now.
Perino seems to be attempting to justify the White House’s failure to catch bin Laden by suggesting he was not the “mastermind.” But in September 2006, former press secretary Tony Snow stated:
Osama bin Laden, mastermind of September 11th, the person that many people talk about and still have concerns about, calls this fight, the fight in Iraq, “the third world war.”
While Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has admitted to being the “architect” of 9/11, bin Laden was not inconsequential; he approved and executed the attacks. KSM in fact, brought the idea to bin Laden, who according to the 9/11 Commission, “wanted to hit the White House, Pentagon and U.S. Capitol,” not just the World Trade Center.
Perino suggested that it would take “superpowers” to catch bin Laden. “So there are human limitations to any — this is not the movies, we don’t have superpowers,” she said. It didn’t, however, take “superpowers” to capture bin Laden at Tora Bora in late 2001, where he escaped in part because of a lack of troops.
Yesterday, at an event promoting health care reform, “David B. Snow Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Medco Health Solutions, one of the country’s largest health care companies,” argued that “Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s plan to eliminate the tax break for employer-provided health insurance ‘will create chaos‘”:
I’m very frightened of the conversations that try to shift responsibility away from employers to individuals…There will be more uninsured.
Snow is not the first industry leader to criticize the tenets of McCain’s health care plan. In August, Humana CEO Mike McCallister endorsed the progressive prescription of universal health insurance:
We don’t have the right economic model because not everyone is in the risk pool….getting everyone in the risk pool or getting them covered is the right thing to do. We’re wealthy nation, we should find a way to do that.
Most Americans agree with Snow and McCallister, at least in part. According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, only 39 percent of Americans think that McCain would “better handle” health care.
Part of the “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” at the Denver Minerals Management Service involved employees illegally taking drugs, often while at the office. According to the new Interior Department Inspector General’s report, Gregory Smith, Program Director of the Royalty in Kind Program, referred to cocaine as “office supplies” and rewarded his employees for obtaining it for him:
One of Smith’s subordinates also revealed that in late 2004, Smith repeatedly called her looking for cocaine — even though she had already given some to him earlier in the day. Eventually, he showed up to her house where he “obtained crystal methamphetamine” and the two “engaged in oral sex.”
Marcy Wheeler takes a look at the sexual assault perpetrated by Smith.
Josh Bivens says it’s not just gasoline that’s squeezing family budgets:
Today’s Interior Department inspector general (IG) report reveals that government employees at the Denver Minerals Management Service — who are responsible for “handling billions of dollars in oil royalties” — expressed a desire to be a part of the oil industry’s “culture.” This included attending social events with oil representatives, who joked about having relations with the government employees. From the IG’s report: