Gambling With Our Future

When I lived in Hong Kong back in the ‘90s, I was surrounded by gamblers. Everyone, from wealthy bankers to stuggling street vendors, bet on everything from the horses to the stock market–and they were all well aware that there was not much difference between the two. Horse-racing was a guessing game for the masses, and a rigged deal for those in the know. But so was the stock market, with the prices of key stocks controlled by oligarchs who could pass inside information to key associates, and, increasingly, by Chinese government authorities who could make decisions that would pump up the shares of Chinese firms listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange–the so-called “Red Chips.”

Americans are learning that our vaunted  financial markets are no different.

Look at what happened on May 6, when the equities markets plunged by 10 percent in minutes, and some big companies, including Procter & Gamble, one of the companies in the 30-stock Dow Industrials Index, fell by over 30 percent briefly.

Exxon Mobil’s Forked Tongue: Watch What Big Oil Does, Not What It Pays to Have Said

With British Petroleum spewing more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico in what could be an ecological cataclysm,  it is useful to look at the hypocrisy of the energy companies when it comes to an even worse crisis threatening life itself on the planet–rapid climate change due to increasing carbon in the atmosphere.

For years, the oil industry, and especially its largest company, Exxon Mobil, has been funding foundations and scientists that seek to refute the mounting evidence of global warming.  A recent Greenpeace study, released in March, found that Exxon Mobil was second only to Koch Industries in offering financial backing for these climate change deniers.  Between 2005 and 2008, Koch Industries, a privately held oil firm based in Texas, gave $24.9 million to anti-global warming scientists and foundations. Exxon Mobil, over the same period, gave $8.9 million.
 
Shrinking polar cap opens new oil drilling opportunities

Shrinking polar cap opens new oil drilling opportunities

Heavily criticized for its climate denial propaganda and lobbying, Exxon Mobil claimed in 2006 that it would no longer fund such activities. It has continued to do so, however, though a stealth campaign of funding foundations like the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and International Policy Network in the UK and the Cato and Heritage Foundations in the US, all of which themselves give money to the climate change deniers.

Other oil companies, like Shell, Chevron and others, do the same thing but at a lower level and with a lower profile than Exxon Mobil.

But here’s where the hypocrisy and lying become chutzpah.

Hurricane Season and the BP Oil Rig Disaster

One thing you don’t hear much mention of in all the coverage of the BP oil rig blowout that is now pouring 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, just a few dozen miles off the coast of Louisiana, is the 2010 hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, but which can start significantly earlier.

This is, after all, an El Nino year, so storms could be more frequent and stronger than usual. In 2007, recall, the first storm of the season was Tropical Storm Andrea, which reached a size strong enough to merit a name on May 7, just a week later than today.

I'm not Shedding Any Tears for Former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates

The former Los Angeles police chief, Daryl Gates, who died late last month of cancer at his home in California, is being widely credited in mostly laudatory newspaper obituaries as the man who developed the idea of Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT)units–those paramilitary police teams so loved by Hollywood filmmakers–who bring the art and weaponry of modern warfare into communities, breaking into houses with faces covered in ski masks, and carrying assault weapons in order to make arrests for often minor offenses, or blowing away people–often innocent people–in what the modern military c