Feinberg’s Millions

Earlier today I was listening to Jason Leopold talking about BP on The Shannyn Moore Show and I decided to google Kenneth Feinberg, the guy in charge of deciding and paying claims against BP for their seemingly intentional oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this year.  Honestly I was just trying to remember his name, so I was surprised when the first hit on google was this AP story from last week:

Law firm of BP claims czar paid $3.3M so far

By BRIAN SKOLOFF

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss.

The law firm of Kenneth Feinberg, the man in charge of BP’s $20 billion compensation fund for Gulf oil spill victims, has so far been paid about $3.35 million from BP PLC.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which was set up to compensate fishermen, business owners and other Gulf Coast victims of the April 20 BP well blowout, said Thursday that BP agreed to pay Feinberg’s firm $850,000 a month starting in mid-June.

The firm will continue to receive the fee monthly from BP through the end of the year, after which the contract will be reviewed.

President Barack Obama tapped Feinberg, who previously oversaw 9/11 victim payments, to run the BP claims fund, which the London-based company created under government pressure.

It’s nice to see that BP is paying someone for the devastation they caused in the Gulf, too bad it is a lawyer from Washington DC.  Not one fisherman is ever going to see that kind of payment, especially when the guy in charge of saying who gets money is pulling in $850,000 a month.  Doesn’t really seem like there is a lot of incentive there for Mr. Feinberg to expediate the claims process.  You don’t have to look far from here to see that the oil companies are in no hurry to pay their debt, and it looks like they have bought an accomplice.

For those that don’t know who Feinberg is, he is the guy who made sure veterans affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam only got $1200, that women who were left permanently infertile by the Dalkon Shield only got $725 from the company that put the device on the market fully aware of the dangers it posed to women, and he was the guy who approved multi-million dollar raises to executives of companies that took government bailout money.

Kenneth Feinberg brings a whole new meaning to schadenfreude.  He has become a rich man capitalizing on the misery of others, all under the guise of trying to help them.  It makes me sick to think that people like that exist, and it makes me furious that our government is enabling this vulture to compound the suffering of so many people.

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Slick Operators

On January 20, 1990 a Channel 4 documentary series called Scottish Eye aired Slick Operators.  The documentary tells the story of BP’s role in the Exxon Valdez oil spill and their lies in the aftermath of the spill.  Sadly it is still very relevant today.  BP is the largest owner of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and was responsible for many of the failures that led to the catastrophe in Prince William Sound.  They claimed that many of the safety measures they were supposed to have in place would have been impossible, yet they were using them at an oil terminal in Scotland.

I was at a meeting last week talking about planning some sort of action in Anchorage about the spill and someone there had a copy of this show.  They had seen it at an oil spill conference in 1990 and asked the presenter if they could borrow the tape to make a copy.  Luckily the presenter said yes, and my friend held on to his old 2nd generation VHS copy for 20 years.  The show is only about 25 minutes, but I had to break it up into 4 pieces after having some technical difficulties with uploading.  So without further ado, sit back relax, remove breakable items from your reach (I really wanted to throw something at someone…cough cough Tony Hayward cough cough.. while watching this), and enjoy the show:




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I’ve been looking for this for years…

It was probably about nine or ten years ago I got an email that had an open letter to Dr. Laura asking some questions about God in light of comments she made about homosexuality.  I sent it on to a few people, something that I have only done about 3 times out of the thousands and thousands of email forwards I have received, and sort of forgot about it.

Cut to a few years later I was having a polite argument with a friend about gay marriage, and I remembered the letter.  I tried to find it.  I searched through my old emails, I googled all sorts of keywords or phrases, I asked anyone that I thought I might have sent it to, and I couldn’t find anything.  Then last summer during the Ordinance 64 debates in Anchorage I tried to find it again, same results.

So today I was reading some articles about God hating shrimp (which is my theory on why He caused the oil spill in the Gulf) and there it was.  The open letter to Dr. Laura that I hadn’t seen in close to a decade.  Back around the time I first saw the letter Susan Stepney, a professor at the University of York in the UK did a bit of digging and found the author was J. Kent Ashcraft.  Snopes says the authorship is a mystery, but it doesn’t really matter it’s just out there now like hundreds of other things that will eventually show up in your inbox.  I wanted to give credit where credit is due before posting it here.  And now without further ado, and mostly just so I never forget where to find it again, an open letter to Dr. Laura…

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination  – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.  19:27.  How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16.  Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws?   (Lev.20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

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A Goldman Opportunity

I am a bit of a geek.  I spent part of the afternoon watching C-SPAN2, which for those who don’t know is where you find the coverage of the Senate.  I would watch it much more, but I don’t have TV at home and I can only watch it on the rare occasion that someone invites me over to their house (and maybe the fact that I watch C-Span and Gavel to Gavel at my friends’ houses explains the lack of invites).  I have the app on my phone, and even went to buy a new pair of headphones so I would be able to hear the hours of health care debate last month.

Today I tuned in to listen to the vote that would allow the financial reform package to be talked about in the Senate.  It was not a vote on a bill, or a vote on amendments.  It was simply to allow the Senate to begin talking about a bill.  After weeks of closed door meetings with Wall Street executives the leaders of the Republican Party decided that they would just say no to financial reform.  I have read that they are hoping shutting it down completely will make the Democrats who control the Senate to give in and compromise like they do on just about everything else.

It’s time for the Democratic Party to prove they have a spine.  This is an opportunity for the Democrats to win over a large chunk of mainstream Americans.  We are all sick of Wall Street taking precedent over Main Street, and the GOP proved beyond a shadow of a doubt who they are working for today.  This is an issue that could even confuse the Teabaggers, if the reality of what happened can get to them somehow.  The problem, like always is going to be getting the message out.  The same corporate interests that control the GOP control the mainstream media.  I’ve heard it already today on CNN and ABC news on the radio, “The Democratic reform package is a loser.”

Immediately after the vote Alaska’s Senator Mark Begich gave an amazing and seemingly impromptu (although it was rehearsed a bit on The Shannyn Moore Show before the vote) speech on the floor.  In it he said:

It’s absolutely outrageous that almost half of my colleagues have blocked the opportunity for us to have debate and ultimately vote on the Wall Street reform legislation. They continue to protect their rich friends on Wall Street and in the banking world rather than protect the hardworking taxpayers who pay bills and try to save money every day.

Those blocking debate of this bill should be ashamed of themselves for the missed opportunity to hold Wall Street accountable. We should, at a minimum, have the chance to discuss ways to make sure the reckless and risky investments that cost Americans billions of dollars and millions of jobs doesn’t happen again.

I came to Washington to discuss issues and legislation out in the open, not to hide behind closed doors and work secret deals behind the public’s back. I’m disappointed and I know Alaskans are disappointed we don’t get to move forward on banking and financial reform.

I will continue to work on legislation that provides jobs for Alaskans and other Americans. And I hope those who are still on the side of mega-banks gambling at the expense of consumers will recognize the disservice they are doing to our country.

Thank you Senator Begich for working for Americans on this.  The Republicans may have seriously miscalculated their strategy on this one.  I think that we have an opportunity to show America who is really working for them, and who is working for the super rich.  Regular people would be angry about this if they had any idea what happened.  They are not going to get the story from the mainstream media, so it is our job to tell them.  We have the chance to gain support on a grassroots level for real financial reform.  And if the Democrats in the congress can take this opportunity to pass real reform and not kowtow to the standard tactics of the party of no, they can prove to regular Joes that they are the party of the people.

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Machine Gun Kelly’s Made in Alaska Bill

I grew up with guns.  I got a .22 rifle for my ninth birthday that I still have and love.  I have put thousands and thousands of rounds through that rifle and used it to kill more than a couple of cute little animals that wound up on a dinner table.  I am a member of a “sportsman” group so I can get a discount at the indoor shooting range when it’s too cold to go shoot outside.  I have 4 guns in my house right now, and grew up in a house with around a dozen different rifles, shotguns and handguns.  I am really looking forward to recently elected Anchorage assemblyman Dick Traini’s big machine gun shootout fundraiser.

Now that I have said all of that it is pretty obvious that I am going to say something against guns, so here it goes…

‘Made in Alaska’ firearms bill would assert state rights

The state Legislature has passed a measure exempting from federal gun regulations firearms, accessories and ammunition made and kept instate. The so-called “Alaska Firearms Freedom Act,” sponsored by Fairbanks Republican Rep. Mike Kelly, passed the Senate Friday. It now goes to the governor. It is another effort to assert state rights over federal regulations. The firearms in question also must have “Made in Alaska” stamped on them.

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The Collateral Damage of Crashing the Tea Party

I have long been a fan of political theater.  I have seen protests infiltrated and opponents delegitimized.  I have seen, or maybe even taken part in internet campaigns to build false grassroots support for causes that might be helpful to my causes in the end.  It is done all the time on both sides of most major issues.  So today when I read about Jason Levin starting a group called Crash the Tea Party I thought it was a pretty great idea.  But by the time I finished reading the article, I had changed my mind completely.

Crash the Tea Party is “a nationwide network…sick and tired of the loose affiliation of racists, homophobes, and morons; who constitute the fake grass roots movement which calls itself ‘The Tea Party.'”  They seek to “dismantle and demolish the Tea Party…by infiltrating the Tea Party itself.”  The plan is to show up at Tea Party rallies and just exaggerate those things that are already so easily mockable, whether it is misspelled signs or wild claims in TV interviews.

While I am completely in support of the goal, this groups tactics play straight into the hands of the Teabaggers.  Most of us probably remember March 20, the day before the US House passed the so called “Obamacare” reconciliation bill.  The protesters were out in full force on Capitol Hill that day, and as members of the House walked from their offices to the Capitol several were accosted by them.  John Lewis, Andre Carson, and Emmanuel Cleaver all reported demonstrators/thugs yelling the N-word at them, and Cleaver was spat upon one of them.  Barney Frank was called a faggot on multiple occasions that weekend by somewhat ironically named Teabaggers.

The immediate response from the Tea Party and even the more “mainstream” of the right was to deny that these events had taken place, and to say that if they had it was left wing infiltrators trying to score points against the “real Americans” standing up to the evil fascist-socialist-Islamist left.  Known liar Andrew Brietbart even went so far as to offer a prize of $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone could prove the slurs were used, and then said that since no video has turned up it must all be a lie.  Turn on any right wing talk show in the country and this is already the talking point when any of this comes up.

Now with Mr. Levin out trying to promote his group in the media, the only people he is discrediting are those that have been standing up to the righties who are trying to cover up the hate spewing from the Tea Party movement.  This is going to make Fox News’ job that much easier next time a Teabagger does something deplorable in public, and we won’t have to wait long for that to happen.  Levin is doing what too many people on the left do every day, shooting himself in the foot.  Unless, this is all part of the plan and it is not the Tea Party that is being crashed.

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Al Barrette Board of Game

I have been sitting in the Anchorage LIO waiting for my turn to testify against Al Barrette’s nomination for the Alaska Board of Game.  I was listening to the people testifying and reading The Mudflats live blogging coverage of last nights municipal election, and figured that as long as I have internet access I might as well try a bit of live blogging. Head over to The Mudflats for more information on Mr. Barrette and the confirmation hearings in the legislature, I’m just going to post whatever little bits are interesting to me for the duration of the meeting.

Here it goes-

Woman testifying about bear baiting in the anchorage LIO – talked about the cubs bellowing next to their mothers who were snared.  Aaron Bloomquist, one of two pro-Barrette people in the room started laughing.

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At one point Steve Florey, the other of the two pro-Barrette men in the room and a registered sex offender, started talking about something that a person on the phone testified about.  A woman in the room asked him to be quiet and he responded by calling her a “dumbass child.”  I am not exactly sure what to make of him calling her a child given his past legal issues.

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Thor Stacy is now testifying against Barrette.  If Thor is against you, you are probably fucked.

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Nick Jans just testified from Juneau.  He said everything I wanted to much better than I would be able to, I might as well just go home.  But I guess it’s about the numbers now.

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Rod Arno of the Alaska Outdoor Council just finished testifying, making it 9 for Barrette and 14 against so far.  I need something to clear the BS out of my brain after this guy.

Speaking of something to clear my brain, next up is Rick Steiner, who has been a guest on Moore Up North

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Steve Florey is now testifying/lying to the committee, and getting a few laughs from the room.

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Security is now getting called to the room after some words between Florey and some of the more rational people in the room.  This is getting interesting.

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Senator Stedman can’t be bothered to hang around for a committee meeting for another 30 minutes to get through the last 12 people who have been waiting hours to testify in front of the committee.  Thanks Bert

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I think I am up next, which means they must be getting to the end of the list, as I was the last to testify in the House meeting earlier in the week.  Not real big on public speaking, my hands are starting to shake a bit.  Luckily a lot of the people in the room are walking out to talk to the cops so I don’t have as big a crowd to worry about.

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I’m done testifying and it was awful.  But I guess it’s another tally in the anti-Barrette column.  The last person in the Anchorage LIO is now testifying, and all of the action has moved to the hallway.  I’ll try to update with what is going on out there later tonight, but for now I am off.

Pay attention, the full confirmation vote for Barrette is on Friday.  Go to TheMudflats.net and ShannynMoore.com for all the info on who to call and email.

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So the excitement has died down a bit, statements were taken by the police from about half of the people in the room.  Not really sure what is going to happen as a result of it, but the whole incident seemed to be blown out of proportion by Mr. Florey who was antagonistic throughout the meeting.  I didn’t hear what he told the police, but I hope it was a little more truthful than his testimony to the committee this afternoon.

I left before the hearing wrapped up, but it seemed like it was a foregone conclusion that the committee would be forwarding Mr. Barrette’s name to the full House and Senate for a vote on Friday.  So it is very important that people contact their legislators and ask them to oppose this nomination.

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Hell Has Frozen Over aka In Defense of Fred Phelps

On March 3, 2006 20 year old Matthew Snyder was riding in the gun turret of his Humvee in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, when he was involved in an accident.  The Humvee rolled over and Matthew was killed.  7 days later Snyder’s family held his funeral in his hometown in Maryland. Along with the family, friends, and community members who showed up to pay their respects to Lance Cpl. Snyder, there were a few protesters from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.

I’m sure that most people reading this know about Fred Phelps and his church.  For those that don’t they are a small Topeka, Kansas based Baptist church that is devoted to spreading the message of God’s hate for humanity.  Fueled by Fred Phelps self hatred as a closeted homosexual (I’m guessing here), they travel the country protesting with signs that say “God Hates Fags.”  Since their early days picketing at the funerals of victims of AIDS and hate crimes, they have expanded to include the funerals of soldiers and marines who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They see the deaths as proof that God hates America because we are all “fag enablers.”

Their message is disgusting, their tactics are reprehensible.  Everything they do is an attempt to get more publicity for their distorted view of Christianity.  Fred Phelps and his daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis are three of the worst people on the face of the planet, and I am not exaggerating my feelings for effect.  They truly are scum, and honestly if they were on a plane to protest that fell out of the sky and they didn’t survive the world would be a better place.

Anyway back to the story of the WBC protesting the funeral of Lance Cpl. Snyder.  They showed up and did what they do everyday, of course the family was disgusted and outraged, as they should be.  Snyder’s father Albert sued the church for intrusion and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of Mr. Snyder and awarded him $10.9 million in damages.  The Phelps family (who are mostly lawyers by the way) appealed and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict citing the Phelps’ first amendment protections.  Earlier this month the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and it will be very interesting to see what they have to say.

The most recent twist in this case came yesterday when the 4th circuit court ordered that Albert Snyder has to pay the legal bills of the Phelps family, which so far are $16,510.  This is apparently standard practice in lawsuits, and for a good reason.  If there is a possibility of you being required to pay the legal bills of someone you sue, chances are you are going to make sure you have a solid case before going ahead.  Courts are full enough without frivolous lawsuits and a person should not have to spend thousands of dollars to defend themselves against a lawsuit without merit.

Which brings me to the part that is probably going to make some people upset.  I think that maybe for the first time in their existence, the Phelps family is completely right.  Personally I think their actions could not be more wrong, but their legal argument is correct.  The purpose of the First Amendment is not to protect speech that is popular.  It is to protect the speech that is not.  The Phelps family has the right to stand on our public streets and say what they want to say.

It is that right that Lance Cpl. Snyder and thousands of his fellow soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors have given their lives to protect, and it is doing a disservice to them to try to take away the rights of someone just because we disagree with what they say.

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Sarah Palin is a Terrorist

I’m not sure if this is the first time I have called Sarah Palin a terrorist.  If I did it might have just been hyperbole, I was probably trying to argue with someone and I enjoy overstating my arguments just to see how people will react.  She has come close to deserving the label in the past, but her most recent Facebook note Don’t Get Demoralized! Get Organized! Take Back the 20! has finally put her over the edge.

Her note includes a map of the Lower 48 states, with cross hairs on the districts of 20 Democratic members of the US House who live in districts won by McCain/Palin in 2008. 

One of the lucky 20 to be targeted by Palin was Tom Periello, from Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.  Members of a local Virginia tea party group found what they thought was Periello’s home address and posted it on their website telling the other teabaggers to “drop by” the house.  And now it seems that at least one of these patriots did “drop by.”  And while they was there they decided to cut the gasline to the home they thought belonged to Congressman Periello.

But the home did not belong to Tom Periello, it was the home of his brother Bo.  Bo was home with his wife and four children last night when he smelled the gas that was leaking into his home.

The Charlottesville, VA news site DailyProgress.com reports Nigel Coleman was one of two teaparty organizers who posted Bo Periello’s address online.  When he found out that he had posted the wrong address he said, “Do you mean I posted his brother’s address on my Facebook? Oh well, collateral damage.”

As I sat and watched the House vote on Sunday I had very mixed feelings.  I was amazed that the first major step towards real reform in health care was actually happening.  I have been conflicted about the specific bill for a long time, knowing that it doesn’t go nearly far enough but also knowing that it will help a lot of people who can really need it.  It took me a long time to grudgingly realize that this was probably the definitive case of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The thing that really bothered me that day was the actions of the teabaggers the day before, spitting, yelling, hurling racial epithets.  I sat with my friend watching history being made in and history being repeated.  I was at the same time tremendously proud and tremendously ashamed of my fellow Americans, tremendously hopeful for our future and tremendously scared of what it might hold for those who history has left behind.

We sat and watched the debate, and talked about what would happen next.  We talked about the anger that was building inside of this group of people who felt betrayed.  They were like a wounded animal, fighting to stay alive.  And for many the health care vote would be a massive assault.  While they were wounded before, they are now wounded and cornered.  Their only choice for survival is to fight back.

There was a moment where the leaders of the Tea Party movement had a choice to make.  The anger was growing and starting to spiral out of control, and they could have tried to stop it.  They could have come out publicly and condemned the racist attacks of the weekend, they could have condemned the property destruction, they could have. But they didn’t.  Instead Sarah Palin put out her Facebook note with crosshairs on it.  She urged her supporters to “reload.”

Luckily whoever cut the gas line in Mr. Periello’s home yesterday didn’t kill anyone.  But someday, probably someday soon, one of Sarah’s supporters will injure or kill someone they disagree with politically.  When that day comes, the blood will be on her hands.

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