Fox, Meet Henhouse

Heckuva job, Ken!

In the weeks since BP’s Deepwater Horizon well started spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, there’s been increasing attention to the “cozy” relationship between the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the oil industry it’s supposed to regulate. How cozy? Just last summer the Obama administration tapped a BP executive to serve as a deputy administrator for land and minerals management.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last June appointed Sylvia V. Baca to the post, which did not require Senate confirmation. The appointment follows eight years at BP. From her MMS bio:

Baca had been general manager for Social Investment Programs and Strategic Partnerships at BP America Inc. in Houston, and had held several senior management positions with the company since 2001, focusing on environmental initiatives, overseeing cooperative projects with private and public organizations, developing health, safety, and emergency response programs and working on climate change, biodiversity and sustainability objectives.

As Director of Global Health, Safety, Environment & Emergency Response for BP Shipping Ltd. in London, Baca led a worldwide team to develop innovative and proactive energy and the environment initiatives. Among her accomplishments, she oversaw health, safety and environmental outcomes for an $8 billion ship building program, resulting in the youngest, greenest and most technically advanced fleet in the world. The project has received numerous awards for its safety and environmental advancements.

Baca is also an excellent example of the revolving door between government and industry that MMS has been accused of facilitating. From 1995 to 2001, she was an assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the Department of Interior before leaving to work for the oil giant.

Of Course

I’ll bet Ken Salazar got right on it, too!

A sixty-page memorandum addressed to Renee Orr, the chief of the leasing division of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was sent in September 2009 by an environmental investigator, warning of potential disaster in offshore drilling operations and the particular dangers posed by gas hydrates.

It was written as a public comment to the federal government’s proposed rule for oil and gas leasing between 2010 and 2015 on the outer continental shelf, and offers a wide-ranging compilation and analysis, based on meticulously documented scientific, industry and government sources, of many accidents little known to the general public.

It warns of the potential for catastrophic environmental disaster in an offshore accident, highlighting many of the potential dangers that the Deepwater Horizon explosion has now put on display. It also raises concern about the ongoing and unrecognized release of vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere, a gas 20 times more powerful as a warming agent than CO2.

“The primary cause of blowouts, spills and uncontrolled releases of gases from offshore operations is drilling into methane hydrates, or through them into free gas trapped below,” the report warns MMS. It cites much evidence compiled from accident investigations and other documents published by MMS itself, which is the federal agency responsible for assuring safety and environmental protection of offshore drilling operations, as well as leasing rules and royalty payments.

Code Pink

I really admire these women, who really and truly put themselves on the line all the time:

HOUSTON (KTRK) — Activists staged a nearly naked protest to bring attention to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dozens of Codepink activisits, in a women-led, women-initiated action, took their message to the public in front of the BP headquarters on Westlake Park Boulevard just before noon Monday.
The women posed nearly naked, dripping with ‘oil’ and dragging nets of fish.

The protesters mourned the deaths of the 11 workers and devastation of wildlife and livelihoods all along the Gulf Coast.

“At the BP headquarters we will put our bodies on the line to hold BP accountable for the rape and plunder of our planet,” says Diane Wilson, a fourth generation fisherwoman from the Gulf who joined the protest. “We call for stripping BP of its corporate charter and seizing its assets to pay the victims, clean up the Gulf and try to restore the devastated wildlife.”

Charter Schools’ Big Success? Accounting Tricks, Shady Land Deals, and Skimming Off the Top

I don’t understand! It normally works so well when they try to operate government as a business…

Nearly every claim made by charter school proponents has come under fire in the last year. A major national study shows that test performance is on average no better in charters than in traditional schools; another report contradicts the stated “civil rights” mission of the charter movement, claiming that the schools are actually exacerbating racial segregation.

And now a third plank of the charter movement platform—that they provide a greater “bang for the buck” by avoiding waste and fraud—is starting to warp.

The claim has been touted by unelected school managers like Detroit’s Robert Bobb, who has set about dismantling the Detroit public schools while endorsing a private plan to set up dozens of charters in their wake over the next decade. (Legal challenges have slowed that train down).

While Detroiters watch the clock tick on his tenure, up in March 2011, Bobb collects a recently increased salary nearing a half-million dollars, paid in part by the pro-charter Broad Foundation. And that doesn’t include speaking fees for conventions in the suburbs to tout his fraud fighting “war stories.” He’s spreading district money around too, signing nearly every city high school over to private “education management organizations,” and setting aside $40 million for an out-of-town consultant team to carry some hatchets. Bobb’s promised to close 45 schools on top of the 29 he shuttered last summer—and thousands of teacher layoffs loom. The district’s deficit, which he was appointed to fix, has grown since his arrival.

Bobb’s case for expanding charter schools in Detroit is being undermined nationwide. In the last month, reports of corruption, fraud, and profiteering by charter schools in Ohio, Philadelphia, DenverNew York, and New Orleanshave uncovered dozens of loopholes, accounting tricks, and outright skimming by self-described “edupreneurs.”


In April, Philadelphia’s City Controller released some unflattering details during an investigation into 13 of the city’s 63 charter schools—which collect a total of $294 million a year in public dollars. The 94-page report shows charters gone wild, with little oversight from the school district’s Charter Schools Office (CSO).
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A Brief Commercial Announcement

Well, it’s official. I didn’t get the job.

I have no way of knowing for sure, but I kind of wonder if the HR person did a Google search. HR people are geared toward making the safest possible hires, and I’m sort of a suspicious, anti-establishment sort.

So if you’re in a position to make a donation (and please, don’t make one if you’re hurting for money yourself), I’d appreciate it.

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