A radio ad playing in Colorado features Governor John Hickenlooper promoting the environmental safety of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the drilling process the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found responsible for contaminating groundwater in Wyoming. Hickenlooper made the ad for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the lobbying group for the oil and gas industry. In the ad, Hick claims that since 2008, “…we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing” in Colorado. Unfortunately, that claim is easy to verify as a lie. On September 13, 2011, an article ran in the Denver Post titled “Drilling spills rise in Colorado, but fines rare.” The article stated, “Colorado’s wave of gas and oil drilling is resulting in spills at the rate of seven every five days — releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.” In August, 2011, Kerr-McGee, a subsidiary of Andarko Petroleum, not once, but three times released cancer-causing benzene and other chemicals in spills that contaminated both land and water. Even a report (pdf) issued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission describes the August spill as “historic,” and acknowledges that it did in fact cause groundwater contamination. The report states the COGCC assessed over $1.6 million in penalties on the drilling industry “for violations associated with spills and releases” from drilling activities in Colorado.
Sixty four percent of all contracts written for bulk oil purchases in the U.S. are made by companies that will never take delivery of even one drop of oil. They are made by speculators positioning themselves to make money off the scare over recent events involving Iran. Recently and American warship was targeted with gunfire in the Strait of Hormuz. Initial reports attributed the attack to Iran, but it turned out to have been made by smugglers — a correction that was buried in the media. Iran also announced it would stop selling oil to Britain and France, but those countries had already stopped buying oil from Iran anyway — a fact less reported than Iran’s announcement. Decades ago, financial speculators made up only about 30 percent of oil trading markets and refiners and end-users made up about 70 percent. Today those numbers are reversed; now only about 36 percent of all oil contracts are made by producers and end users, while increasing demand for oil in the U.S. is a myth. Demand for oil and gas in the U.S. is down while production of American oil has increased so much that the U.S. has actually started exporting oil to Europe, Asia and Latin America. In fact, now America’s major supplier of oil is Canada, not the middle east. So high gas prices now simply cannot be explained by any shortage or increase in demand, since neither exist. But they can be explained by speculators and their effect on the market, and we are all paying a heavy price for their activity.
Everyone who buys insurance should visit the website Fight Bad-Faith Insurance Companies (FBIC), at BadFaithInsurance.org. FBIC lists insurers who chronically screw consumers by discounting, lowballing, fudging and delaying payment of legitimate claims. FBIC examines formal complaints lodged against insurers and reviews documents obtained through litigation against insurers to sort out good insurers from bad. FBIC finds that many well known insurers frequently act unethically and illegally. Consumers have virtually no recourse against these companies either, because government agencies that regulate the insurance industry are not only toothless and underfunded, but they are also often staffed by former insurance people.
Even worse, bad-faith insurers dominate the market. FBIC’s list of the top 50 bad-faith insurers contains many of the same insurers that advertise constantly on television. The worst company, State Farm (which FBIC rates “DO NOT BUY” in big, red letters), is followed closely by The Hartford and Allstate, which now owns E-surance. FBIC rates all three with a big, red “DO NOT BUY.” Liberty Mutual, Progressive, Geico, Mercury, UnitedHealth, WellPoint and Blue Cross Blue Shield are close behind. Fortunately, FBIC also lists the top 50 good-faith insurers — a shrinking list of companies that, for the most part, act ethically and responsibly toward customers and conduct business in accordance with the law. The list of good-faith insurers is topped by companies you’ve probably never heard of: Amica, Allianz and Chubb. Maybe these companies don’t carpet-bomb us with ads because their reputations are good enough to provide them with all the business they need.
After reading FBIC’s website, my husband and I switched our homeowner and vehicle insurance from Farmers to Chubb. We were surprised to find Chubb offered much higher quality insurance for about the same money. For example, in the event that you total your car, Chubb pays enough to go out buy a brand new car exactly like the one you had, instead of just giving you blue book for your wrecked one. Rental cars are covered in full under Chubb’s policy, and if you get personal liability coverage, Chubb provides $50,000 worth of identity theft coverage, including paying professionals to help you get your identity back and deal with problems caused by the theft.
Insurance is one area where you can vote with your money. Read Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies’ reviews and move your business to an insurance company that treats consumers fairly, abides by the law and deals in good faith.
In 1983, Mitt Romney took his wife, five kids and the family’s Irish setter Seamus, on a road trip to his family’s cabin in Ontario. Romney put Seamus in a dog crate and strapped the crate to the roof of the family car. Romney proceeded to drive at interstate speeds for 12 hours, until the dog — stressed, sick and afraid — came down with diarrhea, which dripped all over the car and grossed out his kids. According to the story, Romney stopped long enough to hose down the car and the dog, and then hit the road again, with the wet, scared, wind-whipped dog still strapped to the roof of the car.
Romney does not deny the story. But to hear him tell it, the dog enjoyed the fresh air of the roof — a statement that strains credulity as much as any of his varying political positions.
The story has resurfaced this election cycle and is persuading a lot of people — including Fox News contributor Lanny Davis — of Romney’s unfitness for the presidency. Davis, a Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote that anyone who would do what Romney did to his dog “shouldn’t be president of the United States.” I have to agree, but I’m far from the only one.
In 2007, Scott Crider founded Dogs Against Romney, to publicize “Crate Gate” and spread the word about Romney’s legendary form of dog abuse. Dogs Against Romney sells poignant swag like bumperstickers that say “Get ‘Ruff’ with Romney,” and “Mitt is Mean,” official doggy bandanas that say “I Ride Inside,” and T-shirts that say “Dogs Aren’t Luggage.” Dogs Against Romney even formed a super PAC to oppose Romney’s nomination for the presidency.
On Tuesday, February 14, Dogs Against Romney held a press event outside the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden to help draw attention to Crate Gate. Dogs Against Romney says it does not endorse any candidate, but held its even alongside “Pet Lovers for Obama” — another organization working to bring attention to Romney’s mistreatment of his family dog.
Corporations, and even entire industries, publicly claim that they adopt voluntary codes of conduct out of caring and concern for the health and welfare of people and the environment, but in reality, these codes confer far greater benefits upon the companies than they do upon the public, and can range from deceptive to fraudulent. Corporations use these codes as a crisis management strategy to stave off government regulation, improve their image, boost their credibility with legislators and regulators, and thus preserve their seat at the table in any regulatory discussions. Voluntary codes also give political cover to legislators who favor industry by giving the legislators something they can point to to calm public demands to rein in harmful corporate behavior. You can read my full article on voluntary corporate codes here. (Published in 2008 in CounterPunch)
This is the blog of Anne Landman, tobacco document researcher and former managing editor for the Center for Media and Democracy. I will be posting news items of interest, as well as my own thoughts and commentary in this blog. I hope you enjoy it! Fee free to comment and/or circulate posts.