Correction: Hayward Likely a Criminal

Yesterday, I called Tony Hayward a mere git.

guilty tony hayward Yesterday, I called Tony Hayward a mere git.  And, until today, I have been skeptical about calls for criminal charges against BP.  I had seen that as a way to isolate BP and treat it as a mere bad apple, all in an effort to deny that great ecological danger is inherent in deep-water oil drilling and the cars-first transportation schemes that make it necessary.

Well, while that will almost certainly still be the end result, it turns out that Tony Hayward probably is in fact a major corporate criminal, a personage who knowingly exceeded the legally permissible bounds of businesslike destruction-for-money.

Turns out Hayward cashed in a big chunk of his BP stock in late March of this year, and used the proceeds to pay off the mortgage on his mansion in Kent.

The Tory broadsheet that broke this story interjects, of course, that “There is no suggestion that he acted improperly or had prior knowledge that the company was to face the biggest setback in its history.”

Well, ahem, let me suggest exactly that:

Reporting its analysis of internal BP documents it obtained from “a Congressional investigator,” The New York Times said this on May 29:

Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.

On June 22 [of 2009], for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.

“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”

The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards. The internal reports do not explain why the company allowed for an exception. BP documents released last week to The Times revealed that company officials knew the casing was the riskier of two options.

And here’s the probable smoking gun:

The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of “well control.”

The Times story doesn’t say when “in March” this struggle was on BP’s agenda.

But a criminal prosecutor might find a lead worth exploring there, no?

No wonder old Tony has been acting so squirrely and blurting about “wanting his life back.”  Methinks the git doth protest too much.

BP Dividends Forthcoming

BP is planning to proceed with its normal dividend payout. $10,000,000,000.

tony hayward Tony Hayward is a 53 year-old with no visible gray hair and is CEO of the corporation once known as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which turned its first owner’s primitive accumulation of stolen Australian gold into a half century of stealing Iranian oil, capped by advocating the U.S. overthrow of the democratically-elected secular-democrat Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh.  Tony would just like his life back.  He feels quite put out these days, it seems.  The champagne on the corporate jet just doesn’t have the same sparkle it should.

The proper British word for Hayward is, I believe, git.

But, as always, the system is larger and more imposing than the gits it attracts to run it.  As Chomsky always says:

The chairman of the board will always tell you that he spends his every waking hour laboring so that people will get the best possible products at the cheapest possible price and work in the best possible conditions. But it’s an institutional fact, independent of who the chairman of the board is, that he’d better be trying to maximize profit and market share, and if he doesn’t do that, he’s not going to be chairman of the board any more. If he were ever to succumb to the delusions he expresses, he’d be out.

Hence, the news that BP is planning to proceed with its normal dividend payout.  $10,000,000,000.

Here Come the Poses

Clearly, the verdict has already been reached, before the monkey trial even starts.

money justice The other day, I said that the Deepwater Horizon blowout would lead to six months of scapegoating and posturing about “our concern,” then yield to a renewal of deep-water oil drilling.

Yesterday, President No-Change passively admitted the same:

We owe all those who’ve been harmed, as well as future generations, a full and vigorous accounting of the events that led to what has now become the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Only then can we be assured that deepwater drilling can take place safely. Only then can we accept further development of these resources as we transition to a clean energy economy.

Clearly, the verdict has already been reached, before the monkey trial even starts.  “Let us collect the testimony, then find ourselves assured of the necessity of what’s going to be done, regardless of the facts.”

This is called softening up the rubes, in the game of corporate-sponsored politics.

As always, it is going to take a major social movement to stop this heedless overclass of ours. Like their predecessors, they have lost all capacity for self-reform.  Obama is 100 percent part of the problem.

Iron Horse Autopsy

Rail shipping workers are also 5550% easier to unionize than hundreds of thousands of atomized, over-worked, beat-down truck drivers.

roger rabbit strangle Depending on the equipment used, railroad freight shipment is 50 to 550 percent more energy-efficient than trucking.

Have you heard Obummer mentioning this fact in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon blowout?

You won’t, barring a popular uprising.

Rail shipping workers are also 5550% easier to unionize than a scattered army of atomized, over-worked, beat-down truck drivers.

Draw your own conclusions…

Youth Taking the Exit Ramp?

In a major positive trend for ordinary people/a major crisis for business owners, it seems that, even in our car-pushing social environment, younger residents of the United States are starting to vote with their feet against cars-first transportation.

When he was 9 or 10, my now-14-year-old son said, “Don’t worry, Dad, my generation is going to solve the environment.”

Maybe he was onto something.

In a major positive trend for ordinary people/a major crisis for the investing class, it seems that, even in our car-pushing social environment, younger residents of the United States are starting to vote with their feet against cars-first transportation.

Advertising Age, with great worry and a search for “blame,” reports:

It’s a rarely acknowledged transformational shift that’s been going on under the noses of marketers for as long as 15 years: The automobile, once a rite of passage for American youth, is becoming less relevant to a growing number of people under 30. And that could have broad implications for marketers in industries far beyond insurance, gasoline and retail.

In 1978, nearly half of 16-year-olds and three-quarters of 17-year-olds in the U.S. had their driver’s licenses, according to Department of Transportation data. By 2008, the most recent year data was available, only 31% of 16-year-olds and 49% of 17-year-olds had licenses, with the decline accelerating rapidly since 1998. Of course, many states have raised the minimum age for driver’s licenses or tightened restrictions; still, the downward trend holds true for 18- and 19-year-olds as well (see chart) and those in their 20s.

It’s not just new drivers driving less. The share of automobile miles driven by people ages 21 to 30 in the U.S. fell to 13.7% in 2009 from 18.3% in 2001 and 20.8% in 1995, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Travel Survey released earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Census data show the proportion of people ages 21-30 increased from 13.3% to 13.9%, so 20-somethings actually went from driving a disproportionate amount of the nation’s highway miles in 1995 to under-indexing for driving in 2009.

The environment is the reason Gen Y-ers most often give for wanting to drive less, [researcher] William Draves said.

[Draves also] sees the fundamental economic transformation wrought by the internet (and, apparently on the internet; research firm J.D. Power & Associates found that Gen Y-ers don’t talk about cars nearly as much as their elders in social media.) This demographic will be working on “intangibles” in professional jobs, not on tangible things that require physical presence, Mr. Draves said. “Time becomes really valuable to them,” he said. “You can work on a train. You can’t work in a car. And the difference is two to three hours a day, or about 25% of one’s productive time.”

The news gets even better:

In fact, Mr. Draves predicts a resurgence of urban living in denser housing surrounding train stations. As a result, suburban shopping malls and big-box stores such as Walmart, Target and club stores that rely on people hauling big purchases away in cars stand to suffer.

Before you scoff, consider Walmart. Few, if any, retailers are quite as dependent on the car. Walmart has yet to find a highly profitable small-store concept that fits densely packed urban areas; it’s disproportionately strong in rural and suburban areas and has had trouble penetrating big cities with mass transit.

When gas prices dropped sharply in late 2007, Walmart started posting its best same-store sales results in years. The rebound in gas prices was just as tough on Walmart as the drop was favorable. The retailer’s year-over-year customer traffic turned negative last year just as gas prices shot past their 2008 levels, U.S. Chief Operating Officer Bill Simon said in a March speech to analysts.

The auto-pushers, of course, are keenly aware of this and are hatching their plans and talking points:

The economy, rather than any longer-term secular trend, has impacted driving and licensing among younger people, said Paul Taylor, chief economist with the National Automobile Dealers Association. “If job prospects improve,” [NADA said, “people will want the personal freedom and mobility that owning a car provides.”

And social polarization, they know, is part of what compels car ownership:

Driving is more likely “delayed than denied,” argued NADA’s Mr. Taylor. “That age cohort may eventually get married and have children. Living near work is something you do when you’re young and single, and when you start picking out schools and amenities you want for your children’s development, people are less willing to live near the office.”

Interesting times ahead…

More Addict-Talk

Someday, they’ll invent a magic pill that will cure our dependence. Until then, we promise we’ll keep waiting for that pill, doing what we do. What pill will it be? Well, it’ll be just great, we’re sure.

Obummer’s first National Security Strategy is out.  Turds aplenty, including this one:

The United States has a window of opportunity to lead in the development of clean energy technology. If successful, the United States will lead in this new Industrial Revolution in clean energy that will be a major contributor to our economic prosperity. If we do not develop the policies that encourage the
private sector to seize the opportunity, the United States will fall behind and increasingly become an
importer of these new energy technologies.

We have already made the largest investment in clean energy in history, but there is much more to do to build on this foundation. We must continue to transform our energy economy, leveraging private capital to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies that will cut greenhouse gas emissions,
improve energy efficiency, increase use of renewable and nuclear power, reduce the dependence of
vehicles on oil, and diversify energy sources and suppliers. We will invest in research and next-generation
technology, modernize the way we distribute electricity, and encourage the usage of transitional fuels,
while moving towards clean energy produced at home.

Someday, they’ll invent a magic pill that will cure our dependence. Until then, we promise we’ll keep waiting for that pill, while doing what we do. What pill will it be? From what will it be made? Well, whatever it is, it’ll be just great, we’re sure.

What’s this even doing in a document about military posture, you might ask? Well, of course, until that pill comes out, we may have to break into a few more houses…

Death by Car Hits the Airwaves

Courting Carmageddon hits the Recovery Zone airwaves.

For those who may be interested, I was interviewed yesterday by Stephanie Potter, host of KBOO Radio’s “Recovery Zone” program.

Here is a link to the show, where you can listen to and/or download the mp3 file:

Courting Carmageddon on KBOO Radio, May 26, 2010



It’s also possible, of course, that it will prove to be impossible to stop the oil blowout. In that case, the Gulf of Mexico may be completely ruined for centuries. In that terrible case, the odds of an uprising increase substantially, as the elite palliatives will be very hard to sell, even in this TV-addicted land.

nostradamus A comrade at The Oil Drum, watching British Petroleum’s attempts to stop the catastrophic Horizon Deepwater blowout with drilling mud, wrote:

I do think that when this whole tense episode is finally over and done with, it just might turn out to be one of those truly defining moments that changes our collective view about energy and what we’re willing to pay to keep getting it in the ways we’ve taken for granted.

That would be grand. But I would wager very heavily against it. Substantially reducing our oil acquisition efforts would be a grave threat to cars-first transportation in the United States. Threatening cars-first transportation is threatening corporate capitalism, which could not survive the loss of the automotive-industrial sector. Hence, there will be intense, coordinated efforts to pour political mud down our windpipes if and when control over the undersea gusher arrives.

For what it’s worth, as posted at TOD, here is my own prediction of what will happen after the blowout gets sealed or the relief wells come on line in August or September:

What makes you think our collective view is going to start receiving consideration? Nothing could be more threatening to the continuance of corporate capitalism. There will be much hand-wringing, a few monkey trials, and another toughening of the regulations. Then deep-water drilling will resume in full. Nothing else is possible, barring a major social upheaval.

This is just a 6-month whirlpool in the status quo.

I pray I’m wrong here, but that’s my assessment.

It’s also possible, of course, that it will prove to be impossible to stop the oil blowout, or that Top Kill and/or the relief wells will make the blowout worse. In that case, the Gulf of Mexico may be completely ruined for centuries to come, if it isn’t already. In that terrible case, the odds of an uprising increase substantially, as the elite palliatives will be very hard to sell, even in this distracted, TV-addicted land.

As to the rest of the residents of the region, seems to me this will put more fuel in the tank of the Latin American left. How will Mexico and Colombia, for instance, be able to cope with the consequences of a dying Gulf while also preserving their radically inegalitarian and hidebound socio-political orders? How will US overlords be able to continue punishing and demonizing Cuba and Venezuela in the face of the extreme damages and hardships they are sure to face? Hugo and Fidel didn’t cause this Eco-Fuck. Our own naked emperors did, undeniably.

How Cute

Don’t get me wrong. The fact that 40 children a year get cooked or asphyxiated in automobiles is no laughing matter. I’m sure none suffered that fate while sitting on buses or trains. And however many died while walking or biking were certainly overwhelmingly killed by an automobile.

tbone crash A recent press release from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers:

For Immediate Release:
April 13, 2010
Alliance: Wade Newton: (202) 326-5571
Safe Kids: Kate Jones: (202) 662-4478

Washington, DC – The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers today announced that it has joined Safe Kids USA and more than 40 other interested organizations in efforts to increase awareness and urge parents and caregivers to never leave a child alone in a vehicle. In an attempt to make 2010 a year when no more children die from heat stroke by being “forgotten” in a car, safety experts and child advocates remind parents and caregivers to always check for sleeping children before leaving a vehicle.

“I grew up in the southwest and I can say for sure, cracking a window is not enough,” said
Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Safe Kids USA is dedicated to preventing unintentional injury to children. With the help of more than 600 coalitions nationwide, Safe Kids USA works to improve the safety of kids by educating families about child injury risks and prevention, providing safety tips and resources to parents and caregivers, providing safety devices to families in need and advocating for better child safety laws on the national and local levels.

How sweet, no?

How large is this problem?

From 1998 to 2009, 445 children died from heat stroke because they were unattended in vehicles that became too hot. More than 50 percent of them were “forgotten” by a caring adult who became distracted as they left the vehicle. Another 30 percent became victims of heat stroke when they were left unattended by an adult and then gained entry into, and became trapped inside, an unlocked vehicle.

So, about 40 children a year.

And roughly how many children perished in automobile collisions in that same time frame?  In 2008, a relatively low-death year thanks to high gas prices and the Great Recession, there were 6,130 car-crash killings of people aged newborn through 20.

So, for every one child who suffocated or cooked to death in a parked car, there were 153 who died while a car was being operated on the road.

What if we limit the comparison to babies and toddlers?  In 2008, 411 children aged newbie through 5 died in car crashes.

So, ten times more than suffocated or cooked.

Don’t get me wrong.  The fact that 40 children a year get cooked or asphyxiated in automobiles is no laughing matter.  I’m sure none suffered that fate while sitting on buses or trains.  And however many died while walking or biking, they were certainly overwhelmingly killed by somebody operating an automobile in their pathway.

These people — the corporate executives and alliances and politicians, the ones who push cars-first transportation on us — are knowing, for-profit, businesslike murderers.  And their primary beneficiaries — major corporate shareholders — are avid sponsors of this killing, whether they think about it or not.

And, if they aren’t an intentional front in the effort to divert attention from real problems, shame on Safe Kids USA for its pimping of the cars-pushers’ Orwellian efforts.

[Note: According to its latest Annual Report, Safe Kids is heavily subsidized by the NHTSA. This supports my thesis that the core mission of this Ralph Nader-engendered agency is to soft pedal, rather than regulate and reduce, the death and destruction generated by the automotive-industrial sector of the capitalist economy.]