It looks like BP has managed to seal off the Deepwater Horizon well---finally. Now it seems everyone is breathing a sigh of relief and getting ready to move on. I notice significantly fewer stories in the media. I commented yesterday on the 'feel good' report on the 'disappearance' of more than half of the oil. I said then that I am a bit pessimistic and totally skeptical of any numbers coming out of either the government or BP on any of this. I have been from day one and have become more skeptical as the estimates of the oil flow were ratcheted up each day. I read some time ago that the eventual fines will be based on how much oil came out of that broken well. Here is another story about that topic which explains just how much advantage BP has gained by making sure that no accurate flow rate was obtained. I wrote yesterday about the crisis of legitimacy that has infected our society and political culture. Part of what feeds that crisis is the lack of trustworthy, credible, and accurate information. How much oil did BP lose? We simply don't know. How effective and safe are new drugs big pharma keeps shoving at us? Again, we simply don't know. What is in our food and is it safe? Yet again, we simply don't know--in spite of labeling laws.
We have been wondering how much of what had become normal over the last few decades would remain given how bad the economy is, and may get. When it comes to the economy I am definitely a 'glass half empty' gal. This story gives an indication of why. How many of the public services we have been told for so long are necessary are going to be cut because we won't, or can't, raise taxes. In Illinois, the governor and legislature has been deadlocked for over a year on the proposal to raise the income tax, one of the lowest in the country, from 3 cents to 4. We can't go a single day without seeing an ad from the Republican challenger horrifying voters with the proposed '33% increase' the current, Democratic governor wants to 'impose.' But, of course, the Republican doesn't say what he would cut to balance the budget. Then there is the idiocy I heard on the tv news this morning from Milwaukee (click here if you want details)--the teachers' union, which is facing layoffs because of budget deficits, is suing to force the school board to reinstate Viagra and other 'erectile disfunction' drugs in the health insurance drug plans. Five years ago school board dropped the drugs because of the cost. Evidently, the union thinks it is more important to provide Viagra, etc., rather than preserve jobs.
As I noted yesterday, the Russian drought with its killer heat wave and wild fires has made the mainstream media. But the increased news coverage has come largely on the heels of the announcement of an export ban from Aug. 15 through the end of the year. So now the story has interest over here because the cost of our loaves of bread may rise 'a few cents.' The author of the story I have linked wonders how much the manufacturers can get away with. Well, last winter the companies that make the breads we normally buy here cut the size of the loaves by about one-fourth without reducing the price. I would say they can get away with quite a lot. A bit more and I might find it more economical to make our bread myself. And I can do it. How many others out there can?
Last winter I read a couple of stories concerning foreclosures which described successful efforts by some homeowners to fight foreclosure on the grounds that the parties trying to foreclose had no right to do so because they had no records showing they owned the mortgage. In the frenzy to make, sell, repackage, securitize the mortgages the various banks and brokerage houses simply became very slipshod about the paper trail. This story comes as no surprise to me. Given the level of fraud in the mortgage business (and not all of it on the part of the borrower) it seems inevitable that there would also be fraud in the foreclosure part of the business.
Mahablog has a nice post today that succinctly recounts much of what I have thought (and said) for sometime. We not only have a system where immature idiots are wielding an inordinate power but one in which selfishness has been raised to an artistic virtue. I remember reading a headline a bit ago (I didn't read the article because the headline told me that my blood pressure would skyrocket if I did) that touted eliminating Social Security because we oldsters were being so "me first" in this economic crisis. But at the same time the minions of the richest among us want their Bush Tax cuts extended and somehow that isn't being 'me first.' I am reminded of something I read a year or two ago where the writer recounted his experience trying to get his fellow tenants to contribute money hiring a service to collect and pick up garbage. Most of them refused. They were immigrants from what had been the Soviet Union and wanted nothing to do with 'socialism.' That is an attitude that has become more and more prevalent. Unfortunately, we seem to have no ability to discriminate between true socialism and concerted social action to accomplish a broad social good. That is a sad development.