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Passing Gas to the Consumer

By: brasch Friday October 3, 2008 11:50 am

by Walter Brasch

Gas prices at the pump during the July 4th extended weekend were the highest they have been in six years. This, of course, has little to do with supply-and-demand economics. It has everything to do with supply-and-gouge profits.
Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies have earned more than $1 trillion in profits. Last year, the Big Five—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell—earned about $93 billion in profits. Their CEOs last year earned an average of about $20 million. Included within the profits is $2.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies because it’s hard to make a living when your hourly wage, assuming you work every hour of every day, is only $2,283.

“We have been subsidizing oil companies for a century. That’s long enough,” President Obama said more than a year ago. The Senate disagreed. Forty-three Republicans and four Democrats blocked the elimination of subsidies. Although the final vote was 51–47 to end the subsidies, a simple majority was not enough because the Republicans threatened a filibuster that would have required 60 votes to pass the bill. A Think Progress financial analysis revealed that the 47 senators who voted to continue subsidies received almost $23.6 million in career contributions from the oil and gas industry. In contrast, the 51 senators who had voted to repeal the subsidies received only about $5.9 million.

For a couple of decades, the oil industry blamed the Arabs for not pumping enough oil to export to the United States. But when the Arab oil cartel (of which the major U.S. oil companies have limited partnerships) decided to pump more oil, the Americans had to look elsewhere for their excuses. In rapid succession, they blamed Mexico, England, the Bermuda Triangle, polar bears who were lying about climate change so they could get more ice for their diet drinks, and infertile dinosaurs.

This year, the oil companies blamed ISIS, a recently-formed terroristic fringe group composed primarily of Sunni Muslims, who have opposed Shia Muslims for more than 14 centuries. Think of the Protestant–Catholic wars in Ireland. Because ISIS was laying a path of destruction through Iraq, the oil companies found it convenient to declare that oil shipments were threatened, and then raise prices, salivating at their good fortune that terrorists had come to their financial assistance during the Summer holidays.

However, because the oil companies have laid a thick propaganda shield upon the America people to make them believe that fracking the environment and destroying public health, while yielding only temporary job growth, will lead to less dependence upon the Arab nations and lower costs to Americans, the Industry has to come up with some excuses to drill the taxpayers.

Through deft journalistic intrigue and a lifetime of investigative reporting, I was able to obtain insider information from the ultra secret Gas and Oil Unified Greedy Excuse Maker sub-committee (GOUGEM). I have not been able to verify the transcript, but in the developing tradition of 21st century journalism, that doesn’t really matter.


“We have a problem,” declared the GOUGEM Grand Caliph “We have run out of excuses. Last year, we had to find excuses not only for the Summer vacations, but also to justify our surreptitious funding of the Benghazi investigation.”

“There must be a hundred different ways to nail Obama for this year’s increase,” declared the Sunoco representative.

“What if we claim that Obamacare caused gas prices to go up for ambulances,” said a newly-appointed representative from the Hess Corp.

“Tried it last year, but we couldn’t get much traction,” said the Grand Caliph. “Only Fox, Limbaugh, and some guy broadcasting through a tin cup from his room at Bellevue picked it up.”

“Afghanistan!”  shouted the Marathon representative. “We’ve gotten good mileage from blaming the war for the cost of gas.”

“Yeah,” said the Tesoro rep sarcastically, “while we’ve been reaping enough excessive profits to build a water park at every one of our executives’ McMansions. I’m afraid the American people after 13 years have finally caught on to that scam.”

“If not Iraq and Afghanistan,” how about a new war? We invade Switzerland,” the ConocoPhillips rep suggested, “and claim we’re protecting the world from weapons of mass Swiss Army Knives. Every Republican and a few Democrats will back us on that.”

“It only works if there’s oil in Switzerland,” said the Shell rep, “and since we haven’t developed the technology to frack the Matterhorn, we’ll have to find another reason to raise gas prices.”

The BP rep suggested that the oil companies claim gas price increases were necessary because the price of Dawn detergent, used to clean oil-slicked marine mammals, went up.

The Chevron  rep said they could blame the Treasury Department for their underhanded tactics in locating the companies’ tax-free stash in the Caymans.  “How could anyone complain about us needing more income to pay our lawyers?” she declared.

The Valero rep wanted to blame the Veterans Administration. “We say we had to wait so long to get permission to raise gas prices that we had to do it ourselves,” he brightly said, and tagged that suggestion with the explanation that the companies could then claim they were being self-sufficient and not dependent upon the government. “The conservatives will love us,” he righteously declared.

After a few moments of idle chatter, something committees have perfected, the Exxon Mobil rep spoke up. “We don’t need an excuse.”

“You been inhaling too many fumes?” the Shell rep asked.

“Slip on a grease spot in one of your garages?” asked the Murphy Oil rep.

“We’ve always had an excuse,” the Shell rep whined. “Without an excuse, the motorist might not buy our gas.”

“Oh, they’ll buy,” said the Exxon Mobil rep confidently. “We’ve bought out and eliminated most of the alternative fuel sources, public transportation is in the pits, and no one walks. That leaves cars, and they all run on what we decide they run on.”

“So what’s your point?” asked the BP representative.

“It’s as simple as 1-2-3,” the Exxon representative stated. “One. We’re Big Business. Two. We’ve already bought the Republican-controlled Congress. Three. We don’t need to justify anything.”

By unanimous agreement, the gas bag cartel declared there would be a 10-cent a gallon hike by the end of Summer—and no excuse.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest books are the critically-acclaimed Before the First Snow, a journalistic novel; and Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the health, environmental, economic, and political effects of horizontal fracturing.]


Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Louis L’Amour

By: dakine01 Monday September 12, 2011 8:00 am

Louis L’Amour probably stands next to Zane Grey as a writer of westerns. From his wiki intro:
Haunted Mesa

Louis Dearborn L’Amour (22 March 1908 – 10 June 1988) was an American author. His books consisted primarily of Western novels (though he called his work ‘frontier stories’), however he also wrote historical fiction (The Walking Drum), science fiction (The Haunted Mesa), nonfiction (Frontier), as well as poetry and short-story collections. Many of his stories were made into movies. L’Amour’s books remain popular and most have gone through multiple printings. At the time of his death some of his 105 existing works were in print (89 novels, 14 short-story collections, and two full-length works of nonfiction) and he was considered “one of the world’s most popular writers”.[1][2]

As I looked through the list of L’Amour’s works at, I realized that I have not read many of his books although I have seen a number of regular and TV movies from L’Amours books. One L’Amour book I know I have read and enjoyed very much is The Haunted Mesa, a science-fiction (cross dimensional) story set in the southwest. From the wiki of the book:

The Haunted Mesa is a science fiction novel by Louis L’Amour, set in the American Southwest amidst the ruins of the Anasazi. L’Amour attempts, as in others of his works, to suggest a reasonable explanation for the phenomena attributed to The Bermuda Triangle, i.e., portals between worlds or different facets of this world.

Other L’Amour books I have read over the years are Sitka (set in Alaska) and High Lonesome.

As I said, I have seen more movies based on L’Amour’s work than I have read his actual books. Hondo with John Wayne, Utah Blaine with Rory Calhoun, and Heller in Pink Tights with Anthony Quinn. Sam Elliott has made a pretty good career out of Louis L’Amour books made into TV movies starring in The Sacketts, The Shadow Riders, The Quick and the Dead, and Conagher. Tom Selleck co-starred with Elliott in the first two and also starred in Crossfire Trail.

L’Amour wrote a novelization of the script for the epic western movie How the West Was Won.

Should Counties Put a BadgerCare Expansion Question on the Fall Ballot?

By: WI Budget Project Friday July 11, 2014 12:53 pm
Sample election ballots

Wisconsin residents may get to vote on BadgerCare expansion.

At least 11 Wisconsin counties may add an advisory referendum to the November ballot on the question of whether Wisconsin should expand BadgerCare and take the federal funding that would cover the full cost of newly eligible childless adults. The proposed ballot measure has generated a healthy debate about whether the Medicaid expansion topic is an appropriate matter for an advisory referendum.

There are many strong arguments in favor of taking the federal funding (see WCCF’s “Top Ten” list); however, some people who argue against including the BadgerCare question on the November ballot contend that it’s not a concern of county government. But even if we assume for the moment that an interest in county residents’ access to affordable health care isn’t reason enough for counties to allow voters to weigh in on the issue, counties also have their own reasons to be very interested in whether the state expands BadgerCare and accepts the federal funds:

  • One very important consideration for counties is they bear the financial responsibility (rather than the state) for some community-based Medicaid services. By getting 100% federal funding for coverage of childless adults below 138% of the federal poverty level, counties would enjoy substantial savings for mental health services. They could use those savings either to improve those services or for other local purposes, including property tax relief.
  • Another important consideration for counties is that the state recently projected a $93 million GPR deficit in the Medicaid budget – primarily as a result of the much higher than anticipated BadgerCare enrollment of childless adults with incomes below the federal poverty level. That deficit could be eliminated by expanding BadgerCare eligibility and accepting the full federal funding for coverage of childless adults. If policymakers don’t choose that option, significant budget cuts will be needed, and state aid for counties could be one of the budget items at risk.

The risk of significant cuts to Medicaid or elsewhere is also pertinent with respect to another argument that has been made against the proposed referendum – that there is no chance of convincing the Governor and legislators to reconsider their decision to turn down the federal funding. I think that assumption is mistaken because a number of different factors give new life to the issue – not the least of which is that we are electing new lawmakers this fall, and the candidates will probably have to debate the question of how to close the Medicaid deficit. Putting the Medicaid expansion issue on the ballot in November raises the visibility of that debate during the fall campaigns, and it gives voters who may plan to support GOP candidates for other reasons an opportunity to send those candidates a message that they should rethink their position on BadgerCare.

Some people have argued that advisory referenda are simply a waste of time and money because policymakers won’t pay attention to them. I can relate to that cynicism, but how far do we want to take that line of reasoning? If all lawmakers’ minds are closed on this and other policy issues, should we put an end to public hearings? Should the state save money by taking steps to shut down other forms of public input, such as closing down legislators email accounts?

Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Pot Theft

By: Kit OConnell Friday July 11, 2014 8:17 pm


An archaeologist holds up a potsherd with a bit of zig zag striped decoration

Another piece of an ancient thing.

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

In one sense, I was pushing against the tide of all these artifacts that are coming out — millions and millions of objects that are disappearing from the land. I was putting one back in. – Craig Childs, Pot Theft

Pot Theft is a collaboration between one of my favorite NPR shows and podcasts, Radiolab, and YouTube animators Minute Physics.

Last month, we had our very first (unofficial) artist-in-residence at Radiolab: Henry Reich, the brains behind MinutePhysics. Henry took a story from Craig Childs, the adventure-loving, cliff-scaling explorer from our Things episode, and animated it in trademark Minute Physics style: magic markers, stick figures, and tons of charm.

This animation is part of a series of Radiolab stories about “Things.” But if you’re new to Radiolab I recommend the recent episode “≤ kg” or the brain-zapping fun of “9-Volt Nirvana.”

Bonus: If you follow Cartoon Friday, you know I love Bob’s Burgers. A lot has been written in praise of Tina Belcher, and the sex-positive yet hilarious way the show handles her character’s adolescent sexual awakening. But fewer writers have analyzed the Belcher family son, Gene.

Writing for The Horn’s Over the Rainbow column, Dana Sayre draws out the show’s LGBTQ subtext in her take on “Genderfluid Gene.”

I’ve always loved Gene’s character for the sassy quotes which make the viewer wonder if he’ll grow up to be gay. Gene’s character gets wonderful one-liners like, ‘You don’t just throw away satin!!’ in ‘A River Runs Through Bob.’ Whether it’s secret spa days with Linda or dressing up in a sequin gown and wig to perform with the girl group he creates at school, Gene isn’t afraid to embrace his feminine (effeminate?) side.

But there are also plenty of times when Gene acts like a ‘normal’ 11-year-old boy. Whether it’s recording fart noises on his electric keyboard, talking about poop, or eating the orange foam from Family Frackus, Gene is just as likely to be grossing out the family as being fabulous.

[...] That definition seems to fit Gene, whose character mixes and matches gender and sexuality stereotypes at will. In ‘OT: The Outside Toilet,’ for example, Gene’s maternal insticts mix with his love of toilets. In the episode, Gene’s class is doing a parenting exercise and he declares to the family, ‘I was born to be a mother.’ Unable to properly care for his bag of flour in class, however, Gene instead cares for an expensive toilet abandoned in the woods. Gene would rather be a mother than a father, but has a love of toilets our culture would not ascribe to the same group who normally mothers children.

Food for thought for my fellow queer pop-culture junkies.

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Tar Sands Healing Walk 2014

By: Kit OConnell Friday July 11, 2014 6:39 pm


Late last month, indigenous activists from Canada’s Athabasca region and their allies took part in the fifth and final “Tar Sands Healing Walk.” Over a route of about 10 miles, they marched and gave witness to the devastation that Tar Sands extraction has brought to the land.

In Yes! Magazine, Liana Lopez shares a beautiful, photo-filled essay about this direct action:

‘This isn’t protest or a rally,’ organizer Crystal Lameman told the participants in the walk. ‘This is a spiritual gathering with prayers and ceremony in order to help bring all of us to an understanding about how bad this is and why it has to stop. The best way to stop it is at the source. So we need to start here.’

The Healing Walk gathering took place from June 27 to 29, with workshops and traditional ceremonies leading up to Saturday’s walk. A lot of discussion this year centered on the Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, announced the day before the gathering, which granted aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The decision may set a precedent for other First Nations, allowing them better footing in their fight against tar sands pipelines and other forms of industrial development.

Groups even came from the United States:

In this final year of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, organizers were quick to point out that their fight is not yet won. Far from it, as tar sands extraction is ramping up in Canada. Yet, just within the last five years, awareness about the issue has spread at a tremendous pace. And this year’s Healing Walk drew participants from all over world, including, for the first time, a Gulf Coast delegation from Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala., where tar sands refining and storage is set to take place this year.

‘We wanted to come see the source of what will be coming to our area and learn what can be done to stop it,’ said Mae Jones, who came with the Alabama delegation. ‘We are honored to be part of the walk this year.’

As noted in Lopez’s article, the Healing Walks are ending after five years but the work is just beginning.

A row of drummers marching as they drum on the Healing Walk.

Solidarity to all the earth justice superheroes that joined this Walk! -Kit

Ukraine, Obama, Nazis & Atrocities

By: operationmindcrime Thursday July 10, 2014 5:10 am

Yes, there still really are Nazis and yes they still are conducting ethnic cleansing against the innocent people of east Ukraine while the US media cover’s it up.

Proof of Ukrainian President Poroshenko and the US financing Nazis. Background and verifiable proof of the use of nazi symbolism by the Right Sector National Guard coup Ukrainian army. The SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) (English: SS Dispositional Troops) was formed in 1934 as combat troops for the NSDAP. By 1940 these military SS units had become the nucleus of the Waffen-SS.

The following video of the Right Sector ‘Azov’ Battalion induction ceremony was filmed and posted by Poroshenkos very own ‘Chanel 5’ TV station on June 3rd, 2014, one week after his ascension to the position of President of Ukraine.

From Wikipedia:

17 August 1938 Adolf Hitler decreed that the SS-VT was neither a part of the police nor the German Wehrmacht, but military-trained men at the disposal of the Führer in war or peace. The men were to be trained in accordance with the rules of the SS and manned by volunteers who had completed their service in the Reichsarbeitsdienst (or RAD, Reich Labour Service).

Additional use of the symbol by Ukrainian extremists and members of the current Kiev government. In this video which features tens of thousands of Ukrainian pro nazi far right nationalists conducting ritual parade ceremonies and violence across west Ukraine we see multiple uses of the Waffen SS Verfugungstruppe symbol alongside the red and black flag of Stephen Bandera (the WW2 nazi collaborator who oversaw the deaths of 80,000 Jews and Poles) and the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag.

This video features Oleg Tanybuk, the leader of Svoboda who met with John McCain and Victoria Nuland in the early stages of Maidan. He is now a minister in the current Kiev coup imposed government. Notice the flags.

Meeting with McCain:

Please read Oleg Tanybuk’s Wikipedia page. He wants to re-establish Ukraine as a nuclear power. Imagine Nazis with nukes in the heart of Europe.

Below is one of the Right Sector ( ‘National Guard’ ) leaders. His name is Mykola Bondar.  It’s hard to look any more ‘Hitleresque’ than this man. He is incredibly scary to look at. In late June he called for a resumption of war and the complete annihilation of the people of east Ukraine.

This is another Right Sector leader Oleg Lyashko filmed (by his own crew) only a few days ago in Slavyansk bringing democracy and freedom. He threatens to throw the representative from the window if he doesn’t resign and sign off on having committed crimes against the coup government.

Here he is showing the new version of Ukrainian justice to a captive prisoner. He promises imprisonment and death to a 62 year old man.


Now please pay close attention folks.

Bundy Ranch: Not A Legitimacy Crisis But A Government Learning From Its Mistakes

By: danps Friday December 10, 2010 1:03 pm

Cross posted from Pruning Shears.

Fire breaks out at the Branch Davidian's Mt. Carmel compound during the Waco siege.

Did the government avoid another deadly confrontation by showing restraint at Bundy Ranch?

Several weeks ago Rick Perlstein wrote a piece about the standoff between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). He called it “a watershed in American history” because those at the ranch were able to use firearms and the threat of violence to get the BLM to back down. Perlstein notes “anti-constitutional insurgency as Constitution-worship on the right” has a long history, and cites the Minutemen as an example. Yet he neglects to mention more recent history that provides important context.

The federal government had similar confrontations with armed insurgents at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco in 1993, and both cases ended with people dead — spectacularly so in the latter. Those events have taken on iconic significance for the far right. A quick trip to your favorite search engine will turn up an abundance of pages devoted to memorializing the events, and citing them as examples of a tyrannical government waging war against its citizens.

How would Perlstein have the BLM approach this case? There is every reason to believe another armed showdown would once again lead to loss of life, and another item being added to the far right’s list of grievances against the government. I understand his consternation at the BLM backing down last month, but history has shown that escalating tensions at such a volatile moment can have disastrous short term consequences and pernicious long term ones.

For as much as I think Bundy is a freeloader, a liar and a mooch, I was glad to see the BLM pull back. Situations like this one, Ruby Ridge and Waco are typically years in the making — and the worst thing the government can do is to force a dramatic conclusion. The BLM acted prudently by not creating one. I thought it showed the government had learned from recent history and was being careful not to repeat it.

That doesn’t mean the government should just go away, of course. It should just use the better means at its disposal to bring Bundy to justice. It can play the situation out longer than Bundy, and it should. The gun toting yahoos who showed up at Bundy’s ranch aren’t going to stick around if it looks like they won’t have a chance to play Freedom Fighter. They’ll drift away when it becomes clear the resolution is going to be considerably less exciting.

Officials seem to be thinking that way. On Sunday federal and state employees were quoted saying that Bundy crossed a line and the matter should continue to be pursued through the legal system. They haven’t given up or gone away, and they haven’t conceded anything to Bundy. They just decided — sensibly, I think — to dissipate the tension that led to the crisis and take a less provocative approach.

For as unsatisfying as it is to see the gun nuts claim victory in that one encounter, it’s better in the long run to see the thing slowly wind down with a whimper and not a bang. It isn’t hard to isolate Bundy. One way is just to put a microphone in front of him and let him talk. The support that sprang up around him began to wither once he began to expand on his thoughts. Another is to start cutting him off from the civilized world. Surely a rugged individualist like him can do without postal delivery, right? That’s just another form of dependence on the feds.

Maybe the same could be done with phone and Internet service. Other, non-firearm intensive federal agencies could start giving him some extra attention. He can be gradually squeezed without being attacked. Doing so will take more time, but it’s a necessary precaution when dealing with violent extremists. It would be nice to bring such people under the law more quickly; not doing so is no watershed moment, though. Hotheaded fanatics have to be handled differently. The last thing we need is to create a new generation of martyrs.

CNN’s Jake Tapper: Palestinians Want to Die (Update: Tapper Responds)

By: David Swanson Wednesday June 1, 2011 6:31 pm


In this latest assault on Gaza, Israel had by Thursday already killed 69 Palestinians including 22 children and 13 women, plus 469 wounded including 166 children and 85 women, and 70 houses destroyed. These numbers have since increased significantly.

Jake Tapper speaking at a microphone before an audience

On Palestine, Tapper echoes the rhetoric of warmongers throughout history.

In this video from Thursday on CNN, Jake Tapper interviews Diana Buttu, a former advisor to the PLO. After failing to persuade her of Israel’s complete innocence, he tells her that Hamas is instructing women and children to remain in their homes to die as Israel bombs them. She responds by expressing doubt that people want to die. Oh no, says Tapper, Palestinians live in a culture of martyrdom; they want to die.

William Westmoreland once remarked on Vietnam, where the United States killed 4 million men, women, children, and infants: “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.”

Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and defended the slave trade on the grounds that Africans did not object to being slaves.

President William McKinley said little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.

The view that the people you are abusing don’t mind it has a long history of being employed to distract from the evil being done.

Just as powerful, if not more so, is the view that no evil is being done at all.

ABC News’ Diane Sawyer told her viewers that scenes of destruction in Gaza were actually in Israel, and was later forced to apologize, but did not note that scenes like those she’d shown do not exist in Israel, rather leaving the impression that a simple mistake had swapped out similar scenes from one country for the other.

Polls have found that people in the United States believe Iraq benefited from the war that destroyed it and that Iraqis are grateful, while the United States itself suffered.

If people cannot be depicted as evil, because we see images of them, and they are 3 years old and have their limbs ripped off, and if our cruelty cannot be depicted as for their own good, then the cruelty must itself be denied. We must completely avert our eyes or invert the facts. Or we must blame someone else for it. Blame Israel for getting a bit carried away after so many years of innocent suffering.

But it is with billions of dollars of weaponry provided free of cost courtesy of U.S. taxpayers that the Israeli military is bombing civilian neighborhoods in occupied Gaza. The ongoing occupation is at the root of the crisis, but this new turn to large-scale violence was produced by fraud. The Israeli government learned that three Israelis had been killed, falsely blamed Hamas, and falsely claimed to believe the young men might still be alive. This fraud was used to justify a search-and-rescue operation that left numerous dead and hundreds under arrest.

Small-scale violence by Palestinians is not justified by Israel’s ongoing brutality. It is deeply immoral as well as absurdly counterproductive. But if individual murders justified the mass killing of war, the United States would have to launch a full-scale war on itself every day of the year. And it is the United States’ weaponry, provided under the euphemism of “aid,” that is pounding the homes of the people of Gaza.

Jewish Voice for Peace says, in an open letter that you too can sign:

In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, we reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality, and we mourn all those who have died.

Our unshakeable commitment to freedom and justice for all compels us to acknowledge that this violence has fallen overwhelmingly on Palestinians. And it compels us to affirm that this violence has a root cause: Israel’s illegal occupation.

We are united in our belief that:

The denial of Palestinian human rights must end.
Illegal settlements must end.
Bombing civilians must end.
Killing children must end.
Valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others must end.

Only by embracing equality for all peoples can this terrible bloodshed end.

Editor’s Note: Jake Tapper responded to MyFDL when we tweeted out the headline of this story.

In the interview, Jake Tapper says the following:

It’s horrific but I can’t believe you tell me people don’t want to die. There is a culture of martyrdom that we hear about all the time. One of the big differences between the horrific incident of Mohamed Khedair being killed and the three Israeli teens being killed is that whoever killed the three Israelis, it’s possible that they’ll have streets named after them and they will get money from Hamas …

We encourage readers to listen to the full exchange at the top of this post. -MyFDL Editor