Will the Orwellian lies of the oil industry's 'poison populism' be exposed in time to save humanity?...
By Ernest A. Canning on 9/6/2010, 5:43pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

"Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."-Dr. James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.

That 'Tea Party' backing Koch Industries, an oily conglomeration which is ranked as one of the nation's worst polluters, has joined with two other Texas-based oil industry polluters, Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., aka the "Toxic Twins," comes as no surprise. After all, Koch has already been aptly described by Greenpeace as "the kingpins of climate science denial."

It also comes as no surprise that California's Prop 23 measure on this November's ballot, which would require the state "to abandon implementation of [Assembly Bill 32's] comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries," was submitted [PDF] to the CA Secretary of State's office bearing an Orwellian label, the "California Jobs initiative" --- an initiative that has the backing of "Tea Party" darling and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose idea of "jobs creation" entails the transfer of domestic jobs overseas.

This corporate deception mirrors Pacific Gas & Electric's effort to use the ballot box as a vehicle for acquiring monopoly power. PG&E deceptively described its failed Prop 16 initiative, on last June's ballot, as the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act."

There's a good chance that, just as they defeated Prop 16, CA voters will see through the "jobs creation" scam of Prop 23. But, if current polls are indicative, a large segment of an under-informed electorate who, in their disgust with President Obama's betrayal of "change we can believe in," are being taken in by billionaire-funded "poison populism" --- moving to the Right when the health of our economy and of humanity itself cries out for a sharp turn to the Left...

Bad corporate "citizens" hold sway over what we see, hear and read.

One of the core problems I touched upon in Citizens United: A Case Which Will Live in Infamy was that, "by extending to artificial, inter-generational constructs known as 'corporations' the rights that the framers of the Constitution had intended only to apply to living, breathing people who make up the actual citizenry of this nation," the five-member majority of the U.S. Supreme Court opened the way for "corporate bought-and-paid-for candidates to flood the airwaves with the corporate message, either directly or through corporate-purchased propaganda time slots; an ability that can drown out the right of citizens to see and hear those who do not tow the corporate line."

As Bill Moyers observed:

As a relative few have concentrated more and more of America's wealth, they have gained a power to be heard in politics that is denied to most citizens.

Prop 23 is but an example of the mischief that can be wrought when three bad corporate "citizens" --- Koch Industries with gross annual revenue of $98 billion; Valerio Energy Corp., $90 billion and Tesoro Corp., $28.3 billion --- come together to kill off sensible climate legislation in order to protect their collective bottom lines.

Capitalism will make you sick touched on a shameless Koch subterfuge, where it sought to defend itself against Customs, Justice Department and EPA investigations of some 300 oil spills by asking former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to insert a clause in a so-called regulation reform that would put an end to the investigations.

In Covert Operations, Jane Mayer referenced the 1980 intra-family fight over control of Koch Industries which pitted Charles and David Koch against their brothers William and Freddie. Mayer states that William "attempted to take over the company from Charles, who, they felt, had assumed autocratic control. In retaliation, the company’s board, which answered to Charles, fired William."

But, during a Nov. 27, 2000 episode of 60 Minutes, "Blood and Oil" Bill Koch said the dispute entailed more than Charles' autocratic control.

It was...my family company. I was out of it, but that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime.

Bill Koch alleged that Charles "made millions by stealing oil from the government;" that Koch Industries falsified measurements of the amount of oil Koch was actually acquiring on its run sheets. While Koch Industries dismissed Bill as a disgruntled former executive, Bill's account was supported by the testimony of some 50 former Koch employees in a federal lawsuit.

Valero has its own corporate environmental/safety rap sheet:

• March 2005: State regulators warn refinery managers about concerns over leaks, fires and risk of catastrophe.
• January 2005: 12,500-pound propane leak.
• September 2004: 20,000 and 9,000 pound butane leaks.
• February 2004: 11,000-pound propylene/butane leak.
• May 2003: Chemical reaction bursts a tank roof open, releasing 25,000 pounds of acid and 15,000 pounds of hydrocarbons, forcing employees to flee for their lives. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommended a $132,000 fine).
• March 2002-August 2003: Excessive releases of carbon monoxide and other pollutants. (237,500 fine by Delaware).
• July 17, 2001: Explosion and fire in a sulfuric acid tank kills one man, cripples several others and releases more than 1 million gallons of gasoline-laced acid.
• April 2001: State regulators file criminal pollution charge accusing refinery managers of twice neglecting caustic chemical leaks that damaged the environment.
• May 2000: Worker burned by pipe failure.
• December 1997: Four workers injured when a tank explosion splashes them with a caustic chemical.

In Oil Companies trying to block California clean air laws, Juan Lopez of People’s World reported:

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit earlier this year against Tesoro for widespread violations of the Clean Air Act. The two oil companies have been the main defendants in more than 30 lawsuits alleging contamination of the environment with the additive MTBE.

In April of this year, 5 Tesoro employees died when the company's 120,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Anacortes, Washington exploded (Photo above, right).

The jobs lie as part of 'poison populism'

Whenever you hear concern about "jobs" emerging from the lips of billionaire sociopaths, grab hold of your wallet, your pocket is about to be picked.

There is simply no credible evidence that would support the notion that a dirty energy economy creates jobs. To the contrary, the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill devastated the tourism and fishing industries in the Gulf, with a corresponding job loss.

AB 32, which was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) in 2006, not only slashed greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. It created the "Energy Efficiency Center at UC Davis to promote California's leadership in clean-technology research, development and investment."

Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the "No on 23" campaign, claims that "Proposition 23 is a job killer" that "will pull the rug from under $10 billion in venture capital (in green technology)."

That claim is backed up by a PEW research study [PDF], which concluded that "jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent, while traditional jobs grew by only 3.7 percent between 1998 and 2007."

Go Left young man, go Left

In A Thoughtful Response to Robert Gibbs from the 'Educated Left, I argued that, in some measure, the Obama administration has caused more harm than its predecessor:

Even during the darkest days of the Bush/Cheney cabal, there was the hope that the foundering American ship of state could be righted by way of the electoral process. By raising the hopes of the American people during the course of the 2008 campaign, only to dash those hopes by betraying his own rhetoric, President Obama has, in some measure, caused more harm than the Bush/Cheney regime.

The widespread, spontaneous euphoria of Election Eve, 2008 came at the end of an eight year national nightmare. It had the feel of stepping out from darkness into the light.

The litany of betrayals --- the failure to restore integrity and the rule of law by prosecution of past war crimes, the extension of those crimes by way of an expanded, irrational "war on terror," the Wall Street bailout, the abandonment of even the pretense of a public option in a healthcare "reform" that enriched and further empowered the insurance industry CEOs and their Wall Street investors, a stimulus package that was woefully insufficient, just as Paul Krugman predicted it would be, and unrelenting unemployment and home foreclosures --- left a vast swath of the population disillusioned and angered.

A well-educated public would have understood that the solution lies not in a return to the nightmare that was the Bush/Cheney cabal, but the replacement of corporate Democrats with people like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), or by third-party candidates --- people who would represent the vast majority of Americans who make up the working class.

Unfortunately, that vast swath of the public is not well-informed. They are frightened and angry --- a ripe emotional mix which is open to exploitation by the billionaire-funded demagogues operating as the "Tea Party" movement --- a movement whose greatest accomplishment is to convince the uninformed that their subjugation by capitalist inequality is the very essence of "liberty" and "freedom."

A better world is possible

It's funny how revelations come during what would seem like an insignificant, quiet moment.

In my case, as I stood watching my electric meter run backwards, shortly after the workmen from Solar Electrical Systems completed placement of panels on my home, I got to thinking how different things would be now if President Obama truly were the change we could believe in.

How different it would be if this President had heeded the Founding Father's warnings about Empire and President Eisenhower's admonition about the military-industrial complex? How different if he had not only brought the wars for imperial conquest in Iraq and Afghanistan to an immediate end but had cut back significantly on the more than 760 military bases we maintain in other people's countries for the benefit of the billionaires at the pinnacle of the multinational corporations, not to mention the monies we continue to devote to new generations of ever-more-deadly weapons?

How different would it have turned out if, instead of handing the keys to our National Treasury to the robber barons on Wall Street, a newly elected President with a mandate for change had nationalized the banks and imposed a moratorium on home foreclosures? How different if, instead of bailing out GM, the company who "killed the electric car," the government used those monies to buy GM's U.S. factories in order to convert to the manufacture of efficient, American-made, solar-aided, plug-in electrics with batteries capable of at least 300 miles between charges.

Then I looked at my roof; the only one in my upper middle-class neighborhood with solar panels. The $700 billion we wasted on the Wall Street bailout, the $3 trillion Joseph Stigliz estimates we have already blown in Iraq alone, not to mention the billions squandered on tax breaks for the wealthiest of our citizens --- all of this could have been used to create full-employment, patterned on previous New Deal legislation such as the Civilian Conservation Corps., adding solar to every roof in America --- and there would still have been plenty left over to fund a Medicare-for-All healthcare system and to guarantee a college education, sans tuition, for every qualified applicant.

If those steps had been taken, the anger and the fear we see in the uninformed 'Tea Party" stooges would not be there. The billionaires who have funded the movement would be forced to expend their ill-gotten monies on legal counsel to defend themselves from charges of crimes against the environment and the health of our citizenry. They wouldn't have time for mischief like "Tea Parties" and Proposition 23.

Now, if someone out there, brighter than me, can come up with a way to pierce the corporate media's electronic curtain and make the deluded 'Tea Party' followers appreciate reality, their anger, now directed at the Left, will shift to their billionaire masters who have funded their misguided rants.

Update 09/08/2010 A new article, "Global warming bill a lose-lose issue for GOP candidates," underscores the disconnect created by the power of paid-for political propaganda (aka ads).

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Two-thirds of California voters support the state's climate change law, which would require California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels over a decade; 53% believe the state should act to reduce such emissions immediately rather than wait for the economy to improve, according to a July poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. Notably, more than 7 in 10 independent voters support the state's climate law

Although Meg Whitman is now attempting to "tip-toe" around Prop 23, during the Republican primary, Whitman joined Carly Fiorina in labeling AB-32 as a "job killer." Yet, a recent Rasmussen poll had Whitman leading former CA Governor Jerry Brown by 8%.

This is but the latest example of what Noam Chomsky described in Failed States as the "democracy deficit" --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- which he attributes to the manner in which “elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population…freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people."

The oil industry funded frontal assault via Prop 23 is so blatantly obvious that the citizenry will be repulsed by it, but the covert funded propaganda that depicts governmental regulations that serve to protect the populace from the deadly excesses of dictatorial corporate power succeeds precisely because so many of the under-informed cannot get past the friendly but false PR image of the corporate candidate.

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Think Progress video exposing billionaire-funded front groups' targeting of the Golden State...


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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).