Archive for May, 2010

Sinnerman – Nina Simone

May 30 2010 Published by under commonplaces

Where you gonna run to?

Oh Sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
All along dem day

Well I run to the rock, please hide me
I run to the rock, please hide me
I run to the rock, please hide me, Lord
All along dem day

But the rock cried out, I can’t hide you
The rock cried out, I can’t hide you
The rock cried out, I ain’t gonna hide you guy
All along dem day

I said, Rock, what’s a matter with you rock?
Don’t you see I need you, rock?
Lord, Lord, Lord
All along dem day

So I run to the river, it was bleedin’
I run to the sea, it was bleedin’
I run to the sea, it was bleedin’
All along dem day

So I run to the river, it was boilin’
I run to the sea, it was boilin’
I run to the sea, it was boilin’
All along dem day

So I run to the Lord, please hide me Lord
Don’t you see me prayin’?
Don’t you see me down here prayin’?
But the Lord said, go to the devil
The Lord said, go to the devil
He said, go to the devil
All along dem day

So I ran to the devil, he was waitin’
I ran to the devil, he was waitin’
Ran to the devil, he was waitin’
All on that day
I cried -

Well I run to the river, it was boilin’
I run to the sea, it was boilin’
I run to the sea, it was boilin’
All along dem day

So I ran to the Lord
I said, Lord hide me, please hide me
Please help me
All along dem day

He said, child, where were you
When you oughta been prayin’?
I said, Lord, Lord, hear me prayin’
Lord, Lord, hear me prayin’
Lord, Lord, hear me prayin’
All along dem day

Sinnerman you oughta be prayin’
Oughta be prayin’, Sinnerman
Oughta be prayin’,
All on that day
I cried -

from Pastel Blues
* Nina Simone "“ piano, vocals
* Al Schackman "“ guitar, harmonica
* Rudy Stevenson "“ guitar, flute
* Lisle Atkinson "“ bass
* Bobby Hamilton "“ drums

One response so far

Lost Offshore Oil Rig Blues

May 30 2010 Published by under borderland,commonplaces,politics

We hear, now, there are giant plumes of oil rolling around beneath the surface of the Gulf, and that BP, not the Coast Guard, is running the show. We’ve also learned that we can expect it to get worse in the near term, despite the best efforts of BP and the Obama administration to reassure us that they’ve got a plan for dealing with the situation. It’s a shame that’s all we’ve learned, because after the Exxon Valdez, I’d have expected everyone to understand that large volumes of oil in the water is bad. Really.

How could this happen? Bad luck? Accident? Carelessness? I hate calling this crime scene a “spill,” which sounds altogether manageable and accidental, when it appears to be neither at this point. Criminal negligence seems closer to what was really going on. Hearing that it’s worse than Exxon Valdez, as this point, brings up feelings of despair and anger for me. Alaska is still not over that mess, and the lessons learned have apparently not taken root, seeing as how Alaska’s entire congressional delegation objects to the suspension of drilling permits in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Rikki Ott, a marine biologist and environmental activist from Alaska, has started a campaign to legalize democracy, to abolish the legal doctrine of corporate personhood. The core problem is something even deeper and more pernicious than oil coming out of a hole in the ground deep under the sea. The real problem is that there are giant plumes of money floating around the economy, contaminating and subverting democratic processes. As Wendell Berry has pointed out:

A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance. Unlike a person, a corporation does not age. It does not arrive, as most persons finally do, at a realization of the shortness and smallness of human lives; it does not come to see the future as the lifetime of the children and grandchildren of anybody in particular. It can experience no personal hope or remorse, no change of heart. It cannot humble itself. It goes about its business as if it were immortal, with the single purpose of becoming a bigger pile of money. The stockholders essentially are usurers, people who “let their money work for them,” expecting high pay in return for causing others to work for low pay. The World Trade Organization enlarges the old idea of the corporation-as-person by giving the global economy the status of a super-government with the power to overrule nations.

And how big are these “piles of money?” Our imaginations fail us when people describe things with numbers that have too many zeros, but thanks to the L-Curve visualization, we can begin to get an idea.

Hard to believe, even after seeing it.

BP has been stacking up those dollars the past few years. According to BP’s annual report:

2009 was a successful year, with positive financial and operational momentum despite a backdrop of weaker oil and gas prices. Replacement cost profit before interest and tax was $24.8 billion "“ a 35% decrease compared with the record level in 2008.

2010 doesn’t look so promising at this point. And how much of that oil money trickles down to regular people? Not much, if you consider how steep that spike in the end zone of the graph is.

Woody Guthrie lived in oil country, in Oklahoma, and he saw how it worked. He talked a little bit about the economics of oil in this interview with Alan Lomax in 1940:

Alan Lomax – What’d your family do? What kind of people were they? Where’d they come from?

Woody Guthrie – Well, they come in there from Texas, in the early day. My dad got to Oklahoma right after statehood; he was the first clerk of the county court in Okemah, Oklahoma after statehood. He was known as one of them old hard-hittin’ fist fightin’ Democrats, you know, that run for office down there. And they used to miscount the votes all the time, and so every time my dad went to town, it was common the first question I’d ask him when he come ridin’ in on the horse that evenin’ I’d say, Well, how many fights did you have today? And then he’d take me up on his knee and he’d proceed to tell me who he was fightin’ and why, and all about it.

AL – Where’d you live? On a farm?

WG – Well, no. I was born there in that little town. My dad built a six-room house. Cost him about seven or eight thousand dollars, and the day after he got the house built, it burned down.

AL – What kind of a place was Okemah? How big was it? When you remember it, when you were a kid?

WG – Well, in them days it was a little town about 1500, and then 2000. And a few years later it got up to about 5000. They struck some pretty rich oil pools all around there, in Garrison City, and Slick City, in Cromwell, and Seminole, and Bowlegs, and Sand Springs, and Springhill, and all up and down the whole country there they got oil. They got some pretty nice oil fields around Okemah there.

AL – Did any of the oil come in your family?

WG – Nope. Nope; we got the grease. Didn’t get no oil.

Listen to hear more of the conversation.

I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s been hard for me to think about much else since this thing started. I’ve got a few more things to say about it, but my heart’s been in my throat. I was hoping for good news from one of these last-ditch Hail Mary efforts, and now that none of those have panned out, I don’t know what to think. Disgust and disappointment – that’s all I’ve got.

4 responses so far

Standing Up for Common Sense

May 08 2010 Published by under borderland,commonplaces,education,politics

Every once in a while, there is good news:

Alaska opts out of Race to the Top school grants

TOO MUCH CHANGE: State leery after failures of the No Child Left Behind Act.

By Jeremy Hsieh
The Associated Press

While many states have accepted an educational reform challenge in the federal Race to the Top program, Alaska is watching from the sidelines.

Applications in a second round of bidding to the U.S. Department of Education are due June 1.

Alaska could compete for up to $75 million in grants, but Education Commissioner Larry LeDoux said the state will continue to forgo competing for the grants.

The grant structure rewards extensive education planning and policy changes. LeDoux says that means Alaska must give up some sovereignty to an inflexible program calling for too much change, too fast.

“Alaska has the right to be suspicious of an initiative where we hand over authority,” he said, especially after the state’s experience with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That law requires states to use standardized testing to measure math and reading ability and establish consequences and improvement plans for schools that fail to meet annual, escalating testing goals. For the 2008-2009 school year, 224 of 505 Alaska schools failed to meet the goals.

It was a bad fit for Alaska because it was top-down, rigid and urban- centric, LeDoux said, characteristics he also sees in Race to the Top. Meanwhile, Alaska has its own education reforms under way.

“I don’t disagree with what they’re trying to do, it’s just how we get there,” LeDoux said.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has urged Republican Gov. Sean Parnell to apply and pursue the reforms.

“Alaska must capitalize on every opportunity to bring resources to bear to produce young Alaskans fully prepared to meet the rapidly changing challenges of the global economy,” he told the state Legislature in a March address.

But just applying for Race to the Top requires a significant commitment. Bids for a grant facilitator to help with the first round of applications — winners were announced in March — came back with a $300,000 price tag. Of the 40 states that applied, only Delaware and Tennessee received awards.

Note that Mark Begich “D”-Alaska, who campaigned against NCLB, shows us just how morally bankrupt the Democrats are, and helps to snuff out any flicker of hope for progressive change to come from the Obama administration.

There is no race, and there is no top.

2 responses so far

Black Waves

May 02 2010 Published by under borderland,commonplaces

It’s not just beaches and birds.

VALDEZ, Alaska — The toll of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is a sadly familiar one: 250,000 dead birds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals–all victims of the oil tanker that ran over a reef late one April night and drained 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

There are others whom almost no one talks about, although unlike the birds, most of them are still alive. They are the people who scraped oil off the beaches, skimmed it off the top of the water, hosed it off rocks. Workers who stood in the brown foam 18 hours a day, who came back to their sleeping barges with oil matted in their hair, ate sandwiches speckled with oil, steered boats through a brown hydrocarbon haze that looked like the smog from hell.

After that summer, some found oil traces in their lungs, in their blood cells, in the fatty tissue of their buttocks. They got treated for headaches, nausea, chemical burns and breathing problems, and went home. But some never got well. Steve Cruikshank of Wasilla, Alaska, has headaches that go on for days. Two years ago, he was hospitalized when his lungs nearly stopped working. “The doctor said, ‘I’m going to give you the strongest antibiotic known to man, and you’re either going to survive or not survive. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.’ What’s wrong is, I haven’t felt right since that oil spill.”
[read more]

From The Black Wave:

The legacy of the Exxon Valdez

Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, marine biologist Riki Ott and the fishers in the town of Cordova, Alaska remind us that the biggest environmental catastrophe in North American history is still with us. …. Toward the end of their judicial saga, Riki Ott and the fishers of Cordova ask if corporate values have trumped human rights and community values in the United States today.

Is there any question about this any more?

“Stick Your Damn Hand In It!” the man said.

The reporters looked, but didn’t see it, because it was three inches under their feet, under the shingle rock of the icy beach. Gail pulled out her hand and now the whole place smelled like a gas station. The network crews wanted to puke. And now, with their eyes open, they saw the oil, the vile feces-colored smear across the glaciated ridge faces, the poisonous “bathtub ring” that ran for miles and miles at the high tide level.

The real clean-up needs to happen in the courts and corporate boardrooms. How many more ‘big ones’ can we endure?

2 responses so far


May 01 2010 Published by under borderland

This brings back some painful memories.

Yesterday, AKMuckracker wrote about the problem of accounting for the true price of oil, and published some information about the drill rig that exploded and sank in The Gulf. It was regarded as “state of the art.”

The rig belongs to Transocean, the world"™s biggest offshore drilling contractor. The rig was originally contracted through the year 2013 to BP and was working on BP"™s Macondo exploration well when the fire broke out. The rig costs about $500,000 per day to contract. The full drilling spread, with helicopters and support vessels and other services, will cost closer to $1,000,000 per day to operate in the course of drilling for oil and gas. The rig cost about $350,000,000 to build in 2001 and would cost at least double that to replace today.

The rig represents the cutting edge of drilling technology. It is a floating rig, capable of working in up to 10,000 ft water depth. The rig is not moored; It does not use anchors because it would be too costly and too heavy to suspend this mooring load from the floating structure. Rather, a triply-redundant computer system uses satellite positioning to control powerful thrusters that keep the rig on station within a few feet of its intended location, at all times. This is called Dynamic Positioning. (Also available here, where you can read the whole thing, and see more photos.)

I don’t understand the ending of this piece, where the author (unknown) concludes, “It"™s a sad day when something like this happens to any rig, but even more so when it happens to something on the cutting edge of our capabilities.” I say it’s a sad day when something like this happens to our planet, but even more so when we should know better than to trust our “cutting edge capabilities” with the potential for devastation that we all so clearly, and repeatedly, have seen. And now it appears that the contractor may have modified the blow out protector:

These modifications were discovered by remote operated vehicles, whose pictures transmitted to engineers trying to establish why the BPO didn’t activate, showed the part had been altered.

Yesterday, top BP executives met with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the U.S. Coast Guard and told them about the tampered BOP and the fact that BP had no knowledge the device had been altered.

Federal officials talk about “cleaning” it up:

As you know, yesterday BP began a controlled burn designed to remove large quantities of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and marine and other wildlife. The trapped oil was consumed in about 28 minutes. BP continues to use chemical dispersants, which, along with natural dispersions of oil, will address a large portion of the slick.

Who, but the news media, believes that “dispersants” remove anything from the water?

Alaskan author, Bill Sherwonit, has a guest post on Mudflats this morning, The Heartbreak of an Early Spring Day:

I"™m outraged by what seems to be the casual response, the apparent indifference, shown by both the government and media in the days following the blowout. After the initial shock and media coverage of the explosion and loss of human life, it seemed the dangers to the gulf itself and neighboring coastline were underreported, underplayed. For several days the story was relegated to the inside pages of our own Anchorage Daily News, which would seem to have a great and natural interest in reporting such a disaster, given Alaska"™s own history. Perhaps convinced by industry "œexperts" that the spread of oil was not an immediate threat to the Gulf Coast, the federal government too seemed to hold back, rather than do everything in its power to stop or at least slow the oil"™s spread through the gulf and eventually toward land. Residents of Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states have good reason to again feel betrayed by their government, by those who are supposed to be watchdogs and regulators and responders.

But more than anything I"™m saddened. We Americans "“ like people everywhere, I suppose "“ have such short memories. Didn"™t the Exxon Valdez clearly show it only takes one spill to do incredible, long-lasting damage? But we forget and so Americans in recent years have grown more supportive of increased oil exploration, both onshore and off. Many of us "œnaysayers" to such exploration and development have argued that it"™s only a matter of time before another "œaccident" occurs. But of course we"™re shouted down as unpatriotic alarmists and obstructionists.

If this was an accident, then we should also talk about an emerging disaster called “school reform.”

What kind of world are we leaving our kids?!

This John Prine/Steve Goodman performance of Souvenirs (sadly) hits the right note for me today.

Stick around, and listen to Steve Goodman sing You’re the Girl I Love toward the end of the video.

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