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May 25, 2010

Comments

Send Chuck Norris down there. He's such a conservative tough guy superman, plugging an oil well a mile underwater should be a lay-up for him.

He could punch it with his beard or something.

Yeah, it's bitter humor, but it's the best I can do right now.

For what it's worth, bmaz over at FireDogLake has suggested blowing it up, with a nuke or with a big conventional explosion - but I suppose probably with a nuke, for enough power. We may not have craft that can go that deep, but surely we can drop a heavy-duty sealed vessel with the device in it.

http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2010/05/22/dr-sludgelove-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-junk-shotting-and-love-teh-bomb/

There may be definite reasons to think it would not seal the leak, but I don't know them. (And if there are reasons why a single deep-sea detonation, even nuclear with leftover radioactivity, would be conclusively worse than what's presently happening, I don't know them.)

I'd have to look at expert opinion on the matter, as I lack it, but am not entirely convinced by bmaz. Not that I know bmaz is wrong, just that I want to see what the counterargument is.

If we blew it up with a nuke, wouldn't it be a government nuke?

We could sit Slim Pickens AND Chuck Norris on the thing and have them wahoo it all the way to Ground (Ocean) Zero.

Thing is, what if it made things worse? What if it blew an even bigger hole in the earth's crust and all of the oil underneath from the entire world (not to mention all of the hot magma from the earth's core) flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and covered the earth and all of the pelicans and mollusks, and all of the saxaphone players in New Orleans and beyond, killing all life, except for Chuck Norris, who would somehow stare it all down and fight it with bad acting.

Then the government would be blamed for everything. As hot magma covered the FOX studios, Sean Hannity with his shiny hair and mouth still above the magma flow would sceech "I told you so"! until hot magma filled his piehole and made a Pompey husk of him.

Better that the private sector use their nukes to take this risky chance. Nothing will go wrong. Or at least the world would end with Rand Paul's ideology intact and Chuck Norris would be vaporized by a privately controlled crotch rocket which is the only kind he would permit between his legs.

Look, the plumes of oil spreading through the gulf are the plumes of freedom spreading for mankind everywhere. The more oil, the more freedom, and the less ocean, the more freedom, and the fewer mollusks, the more freedom, because mollusks are just a step away from becoming bureaucrats who do nothing but prevent freedom by filtering oil from the ocean by sitting at their mollusk desks and collecting their mollusk pensions.

Moe Lame was mad the other day on Redcrap that Heinz was voluntarily removing some of the salt from their ketchup (some do-gooders asked them to), ruining his dining experience without his permission, but Moe Lame had nothing to say about the oil pouring into the Gulf and ruining my dining experience without my permission.

Such is freedom that salt is removed from the ketchup and oil replaces the ocean and the salt in the ocean has no place to go but back into the ketchup, disrupting the freedom of the precious salty condiment fluids coursing through Moe Lame's veins at elevated blood pressure causing him to seek the freedom of private health insurance and be turned down for preexisting saline poisoning but he shall not demand gummint healthcare but shall whine about his ketchup and place his mouth over the BP oil well leak and he shall measure the amount of oil leaking and save us all from the incipient totalitarian Obamism seeping into our very mustards, and mayonnaises, and chutneys.

> nuke

Great idea! Let's crack the formations overlying the pressured oil reservoir, and let out all the millions of barrels of trapped hydrocarbons in one big whoosh, rather than letting it blow out through a narrow well casing.

I can't imagine why the US isn't rushing to implement this well-thought-out idea.

We need a ragtag band of volunteers willing to go there and drill deep enough for the nuke to stop the asteroi - well.

When the remote detonator fails, I nominate Dick Cheney to heroically stay behind.

there's no coast of Nebraska.
there are no Creoles in Vermont.

Eric: I am sure there is a really good answer to this question, but here it is anyway: given the hell that Bush caught at this site for his administration's response to Katrina, why isn't Obama being held to some similar standard?

bmaz over at FireDogLake has suggested blowing it up, with a nuke or with a big conventional explosion

That's just exactly what we need to solve the problem: gather a bunch of the least qualified people in the world, and ask them how they'd do it.

Now, if bmaz had suggested that we bend our efforts toward manufacturing the world's largest buttplug, I might have to reconsider.

In the case of Katrina, there were some actual failures after the fact that, given a reasonably competent set of administrators, would not have otherwise happened.

Which is not to say all of the blame lies on Bush and his administration; there's plenty to go around. But there's plenty that fairly lands there.

OTOH what's an Obama administration to do about this? I ask this as a conservative.

Actually I suspect the idea would be NOT to drill deep Armageddon-style, so as to merely seal the bore (if it would) and NOT crack the rock formations all the way down to the pressured oil reservoir as joel hanes suggests. :o)

But, like Eric, I'd want to see something technical on the subject. I'm not convinced either by bmaz' suggestion, but I also wouldn't want the idea bypassed if in retrospect later it might have worked, and I certainly wouldn't want it bypassed on a That's Unthinkable And It Would Obviously Be Catastrophic basis without checking.

why isn't Obama being held to some similar standard?

with me, he is.

given that he can't do much, i still think he should be doing more: visibly leading, acting as America's advocate, and not letting BP drive things.

i thought Bush should've done similar things with Katrina, too. but, i didn't expect him to. i kindof did expect it from Obama, yet he has disappointed me again. he seems to be doing his usual passive facilitator thing. blech.

Obviously bmaz has not seen this movie.

OTOH what's an Obama administration to do about this?

Hard for me to say specifically, but I didn't run for president claiming I'd handle crises better than Bush.

More generally, a US president has the stroke to get a lot of people to listen to him when he insists on an audience and to act when he makes reasonable requests.

The basic problem, the leak, is an engineering issue. Obama could have, and in my mind should have, tasked someone with standing (Biden?) to start asking questions of the CEO's at EXXON, Shell, Chevron, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Fluor and the other top drillers/engineering outfits: who are the best people to fashion a solution asap and what do they need? Then get them what they need, waiving any regulatory impediments that might get in the way, to get the job done, or at least to be able to make the effort.

Of, as a shorter answer: Obama could have provided proactive leadership from day one, or even day seven.

Damn, Cleek and I are on the same page. This cannot end well.

Conundrum for the future:

How would the U.S. and other governments go about getting and justifying whatever extraordinary undersea capabilities they'd need to be ready to deal with eventualities like these (what? super-undersea-bulldozer-habitats? I don't even know what silly-sounding big things to mention; just figure good adequate stuff) - capacities that clearly have their place - **WITHOUT** it amounting, in practice and as it plays out, to the oil companies having effectively "commonized" a lot of responsibility onto the governments on that basis... and without it amounting to deep offshore oil drilling having then been legitimized, precisely along with its risks and possible damage, by the existence of those developed government capacities and readinesses (like, otherwise what was the POINT of that horrendous amount of spent money, if it's for no use)?

This situation now is horrific and disastrous, but in a way it's relatively simple precisely because BP's screwup has caught the government naked. What are the implications of the government becoming ready for this, if it could and if it were going to?

(It's not feeling like an wacky question at the moment. We have a real maximal uncontrolled visible nightmare playing out - one in which the question of letting off a nuclear weapon in the ocean has lost its talismanic badness and is dependent now on practical worries and scientific uncertainties - that big. After this it's likely that people with, I don't know, just attention spans may be looking for what the United States ought to have in the future.)

Seconding cleek and McKinneyTexas simultaneously. Yes, strange times.

but in a way it's relatively simple precisely because BP's screwup has caught the government naked.

Maybe I'm not tracking here, but expecting Obama to provide useful leadership is not the same as expecting the feds to have the inventory on hand to deal with this specific down-hole failure.

Given what we've seen in the last five weeks, I'd say that the first order of business is to cap the well. Were I Obama, I'd suspend issuing new offshore permits until the industry (1) caps the well, (2) updates minimum offshore rig design specs so as to be triply redundant on blow-out prevention (and other known failure modalities) and (3) provides a refit plan to upgrade existing wells to meet the minimum criteria set forth in #2.

I'd be surprised if the White House, through the Dept. of Energy, has not reached out to expertise at the companies you mention, McKinney.

Of course, the individuals at these companies could be calling BP and the government too (initiative, it's what we do, unless the attorneys put the kibosh on it, fearing (it's also what we do) that some sort of competitive advantage might be compromised (we don't do that) offering a little pro bono advice.

I'm sure BP has given them a call. They could have asked their colleagues at the Congressional hearing while they were sitting next to some of them but they were too busy pointing fingers at each other instead of plugging the leak.

Whatever happened to Red Whats-his-face who used to come in at the last minute when all else was lost and stop oil blow-outs? Didn't he and his crew put out all of ther oil-well fires in Iraq the first time around?

Did they have an underwater division?

What should Obama do?

If BP and his own damned Coast Guard won't even admit that more than 5000 barrels of oil are gushing, other than shooting a few people at sunrise, I've no idea.

I thought Bobby Jindal at the local level had all the answers.

Let's remember during Katrina, we were counseled by wise conservatives (Tacitus comes to mind, except for the wise part) to abandon New Orleans. Shut it down. It shouldn't be there in the first place. Whose dumb French trapper liberal idea was it to put a port city at the mouth of the Mississippi, of all places?

Maybe we should abandon the Gulf and the entire Gulf Coast. Freedom means things happen. We can't let the government interfere with destiny.

But they should be blamed for it.

Maybe I'm not tracking here, but expecting Obama to provide useful leadership is not the same as expecting the feds to have the inventory on hand to deal with this specific down-hole failure.

McKinney: No, wasn't linking those two things at all. My future-inventory question was completely down-the-road.

Mckinney, I agree with your three suggestions.

Then we'd have to nuke the political sh*tstorm that would envelop the country from the uncontrolled demagoguery leak from industry and their shills on the blogs, talk radio, FOX News, and a whole bunch of elected types on Capital Hill.

But Obama should lead .... and nuke.

JT--we've been on 24/7 demagoguery for decades. Now, if there was just a simple engineering fix for that . . .

You guys are talking about the wrong "nuclear option".

What Obama should do is nationalize BP, TransOcean, and Halliburton immediately. If he wants to be namby-pamby about it, he can demand an AUMF from the Congress first. But either way, he should take over the domestic assets of all three companies, and replace all their C-level officers with his own appointed czars, for the duration. The "duration" to be until the damned hole is plugged AND the Gulf is cleaned up, AND everybody is made whole.

Now THAT would be leadership.

--TP

McKinneyTexas:

I think there was a real difference in Bush/Obama's initial reactions. Bush spent the first few days saying it wasn't a federal responsibility -- that it was up to the state and city authorities to handle the situation. It took Obama a few days to react because he believed BP, who didn't even acknowledge there was a leak until 3-4 days after the initial explosion.

I think that's a pretty sizable difference.

I think that's a pretty sizable difference.

i think it's one that's going to be completely forgotten because Obama has come across, for weeks, as passive and hapless as Bush did.

what made Katrina bad for Bush was the idea that people got the idea that he didn't care; that he would rather be doing other things; that he didn't want to take charge. that he didn't even want to lead.

well, Obama is not leading, either. not in a way that is registering with the public, anyway.

fair or not, this is going to hurt him unless he really steps up and gets people to understand what he's doing and what the problems are. and he has to do it fast... like three-weeks-ago fast.

IMO

err...

make that "what made Katrina bad for Bush was that people got the idea that he didn't care;.."

"Let's remember during Katrina, we were counseled by wise conservatives (Tacitus comes to mind, except for the wise part) to abandon New Orleans. Shut it down. It shouldn't be there in the first place. Whose dumb French trapper liberal idea was it to put a port city at the mouth of the Mississippi, of all places?

Maybe we should abandon the Gulf and the entire Gulf Coast. Freedom means things happen. We can't let the government interfere with destiny."

Thulen, there's a fine line between satire and nonsense. It's 23 miles behind your back at this point...

There's very little Obama could do about this oil spill, so aside from puncturing notions of government omni-competence, there's little reason to blame him for doing little.

OTOH, when it came to Katrina, most of the trouble was indeed created by the local government, neglecting maintainance of the levies, and ignoring it's own emergency response plan, while diverting much needed resources to some gratuitous civil liberties violations. I similarly don't blame that on Bush.

The oil and toxic dispersants aren't enough to deal with. They should also experiment with nuclear bombs to see what would happen. What could possibly go wrong?

Republicans "starve the beast" - then complain that the beast is too weak to do its job...

There's very little Obama could do about this oil spill

If you want to limit "appropriate response" strictly to making oil stop coming out of a hole in the bottom of the Gulf, I agree.

If not:

He could take a freaking whip to the Minerals Management Service.

He could put a hold on plans to expand offshore drilling until folks understand what went wrong in this case, and how that might be prevented going forward.

Or, he could just fncking 86 the expansion of offshore drilling.

He could demand that BP and/or any of the other private actors involved pick up the tab for this spill, and insist that all other contracts awarded to them be reviewed and possibly withdrawn. Let the mf'ers sue.

There are about 1,000 things he could do, and has not.

Regarding Katrina, suffice it to say that Brownie did not do a heck of a job. Let's leave it there, shall we? I don't mind getting down in the weeds about it if you like, and believe you me there is plenty to lay at the feet of the feds, but the dead are fncking dead and they ain't coming back. So let's just leave it.

And seriously, fnck Joshua Trevino. The man is a god damned fascist. And I mean that in its full literal and historical sense. And the sooner folks get comfortable calling fascists by their proper name, the better off we all will be.

Exactly what cleek has been saying. I said it over at BJ, and I'll say it here: it's a perception problem, and people like John Cole who are trying to protect Obama don't see how bad the perception problem really is (which is why he and other commentariat at BJ shouted everyone down...don't go searching for empathy there...too many Snarkbolts flying).

If Obama is GOING to own this, one way or another, he might as well look good doing it. If we can't cap the well or clean the environment or wildlife, he can help us channel our energy that is something more productive than screaming at each other.

Another thing, "What is Obama supposed to do?" should never be an answer for our President. Ever. That's an abdication of responsibility, of leadership, and it's politically naive to think that's an acceptable answer ever for any national problem or crisis.

For example, people made tons of those worthless hair-booms when a rumor about them went around on the internet. People want to do something, and want to channel their energy somewhere. If Obama can't tap into that, then I really do have doubts about his ability to do anything else.

There seem to be two arguments here, though. One is about whether Obama will be seen as responsible for a major disaster; the other is about whether Obama deserves blame for the Federal response (or, retroactively, people were too hard on Bush, in comparison).

On the first point, this seems to be the point of a lot of the conservative/ ex-Bushie punditry that Dems and libs are pushing back against. But I think it also ends up related to the second, which some people have raised here.

Is there anything Obama can be doing to stop this leak? Pretty much, no. The government doesn't have the resources or expertise and that which is can muster, it has sent. It doesn't surprise me that they might have believed it was in BP's vested interest to do everything possible to stop this leak. Whatever else we've seen, I don't get the sense that people think BP isn't trying to stop this. And they, unfortunately, are the experts.

The rest of these complaints are important but largely irrelevant to the question of Obama's Katrina. A lot of happening behind the scenes, some of it bubbling to the surface occasionally. There is a lot of dead wood in these agencies, especially MMS, and if anything, this has shown how hard it is to reverse the dismantling of these agencies.

There are lots of reasons, though, why Obama won't be seen the same way Bush was. First, Obama is not opposed to government action and regulation. He's also shown considerably less fear of independent investigation. (Was there an independent panel that Bush did not try to squash?)

To an extent, there's a kind of bias at work here. People assume that Democrats are not beholden to these powerful interests. Largely that's not the case, but it's definitely the case that they actually are (with most industries—oil, definitely) less beholden. And that's all that's going to matter.

Bush's error was sitting passively by (CEO prez) while people were dying on television. That disconnection was shocking to people, and he could never really recover from that. Obama, for all his faults, isn't like that at all.

As someone recently pointed out, when you consider all of the natural (and man made) disasters Obama has had to control in just the past few months (Haiti, Floods), it's remarkable how well the government's handled them. I expect that as the reality of Deepwater Horizon becomes more clear, we're going to see an increasing animated administration.

Bush could never convincingly present government as a solution for problems, though, and that is the real reason he lost the peoples' faith.

Bush could never convincingly present government as a solution for problems

Did he ever try?

Take a page from the Japanese playbook and designate a part of the WH lawn as seppuku arae to be used by disgraced government, public and corporate officials. Name (with advice and consent of the Senate of course) an official Kaishakunin and set up a commission to be called the US Death Panel that decides who will be granted this honorable exit. At the moment one BP executive per week (and per new failure) looks like the right rate. Those designated for the procedure that fail to show up or fail in the execution will get all their assets seized. Those behaving honorably will be allowed to leave them to their heirs (after subtraction of damages of course). The official tanto is to be displayed publicly when not in use, maybe in the Capitol rotunda or in a special display case on the steps of the SCOTUS building.

"Another thing, "What is Obama supposed to do?" should never be an answer for our President. Ever. That's an abdication of responsibility, of leadership, and it's politically naive to think that's an acceptable answer ever for any national problem or crisis."

No. It SHOULD be an answer, frequently. Not everything is the government's job. Of those jobs, not everything is the President's. If the government takes on all problems, it will, inevitably, take on all powers, to cope with them. A government with the power to address all problems, has the power to cause many of them.

"As someone recently pointed out, when you consider all of the natural (and man made) disasters Obama has had to control in just the past few months (Haiti, Floods), it's remarkable how well the government's handled them."

See, there's an example: Haiti? Somebody else's country. Not a job for the President of this country. A job for private charity, sure. But not for our government.

Perhaps no such technology/expertise exists, but I am surprised that The President has not called for any and all international assistance.

Again, perhaps it wouldn't matter, but still Mr. President, show the people you're deadly serious about this.

Bush could never convincingly present government as a solution for problems, though, and that is the real reason he lost the peoples' faith.

it seems pretty clear to me that a lot of people have lost faith in Obama over his handling of this.

and that is what Katrina did to Bush. we can argue about the logic of holding Bush personally responsible for the govt's actions before and after Katrina hit, but the end result is that a lot of people decided that Bush's response was inadequate - and not just the way he managed the aftermath, but the way he looked doing it. he appeared detached and apathetic; and he was judged by that. he didn't lead, he left it up to others to take care of things. he, and his supporters said "not my responsibility!" while people died.

it's one thing to not do everything right. it's another to not do everything right and to look like you don't care.

likewise, there are a lot of people who haven't lost faith in Obama. and a lot of those people think the logic of the timeline and the org chart and the resumes of the people involved should be enough to carry the argument that Obama has done everything he can. but that's not the standard we hold Presidents to during disasters like Katrina and the waves of oil. we expect them to lead.

Here is the deal as I see it.

BP signed up the drill the well. BP and/or Transocean claimed to have the mad skillz required to do so effectively, and to handle any problems that might come up. If the well had performed flawlessly, BP and/or Transocean would have happily cashed the checks for all of the lovely oil they extracted and sold.

BP and/or Transocean are responsible for dealing with the spill. That includes stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf, mitigating the damage, and compensating all of the folks who are going to lose their livelihoods.

Want to make the big bucks? You take the risk. Isn't that what all the free market big shots say? Isn't that their claim on the billions and billions of dollars they extract from the economy and put in their pockets?

What part of "risk" do they not understand?

It is not the government's responsibility to provide hands-on technical solutions to every industrial accident that occurs. It is government's responsibility to represent the interest of the nation, and of the public at large.

In this case, day-to-day responsibility fell to MMS, who failed, abjectly. They did so because that organization is, apparently, profoundly and thoroughly corrupt.

So, without getting into the details of how they got to be so corrupt, and on which former President's watch it happened, it seems to me that job one for Obama is to clean house. Fire people, bring criminal charges against people where warranted. Dissolve the entire freaking agency and start over if that is what's needed.

If I read the org chart correctly, MMS is part of the Department of the Interior, which is run by the executive. The MMS fnckups belong to Obama.

Obama should also be making it abundantly and publicly clear that their current response is unacceptable. Even if they are doing everything humanly possible, it's *still unacceptable*. It's unacceptable because damage is being done to this nation and its people that BP will never be able to repair.

I am 110% with cleek on this, it is Obama's job to loudly and publicly represent and champion the interests of the nation and the people whose lives are being disrupted. It is not his job to "help" BP, it is not his job to make sure they aren't offended or have their feelings hurt. It is his job to rip them a new asshole, publicly and unambiguously.

Because they screwed up. It's their freaking well, and it's spilling oil all over the Louisiana coast, and it's not remotely close to over yet.

It's their well, it blew the hell up, and it's trashing the American Gulf coast.

They should be at risk of grave financial loss. They should be at risk of losing the privilege of drilling in US coastal waters. If they are found to be negligent in any significant way, they should be at risk of civil or, if appropriate, criminal sanction.

Obama should be visibly kicking @ss.

Accidents happen, but when accidents happen, *the people who are responsible need to clean up the mess*.

Last but not least, when Hayward is walking around the LA barrier beaches telling reporters to get the hell out, I'd like Obama to tell him to STFU or go home.

cleek:

"well, Obama is not leading, either. not in a way that is registering with the public, anyway."

I don't know that you can say that yet. I think what he says when he goes to LA on Friday will be pivotal. I hope he sets aside this need he has to compromise and comes down hard on the oil companies, and that he insists on strong, loophole-free legislation that will vastly reduce the likelihood of this ever happening again.

I think, especially in the beginning, Obama was in a tough spot. If he'd been more vocal and critical, lots of people would just accuse him of being narcissistic, like they always do. Why hand your enemies more ammunition? Besides, the priority is to get the leak stopped, and there's nothing he can do about that. Clearly, threats aren't working on this beast.

If Roberts wants Obama to take a Valium and to calm down, then clearly there is something on the horizon.

I don't know that you can say that yet

it's been almost five weeks.

"No. It SHOULD be an answer, frequently. Not everything is the government's job. Of those jobs, not everything is the President's."

What about should be the answer right now, in relation to the Gulf spill? Do you think Obama should do nothing?

"See, there's an example: Haiti? Somebody else's country. Not a job for the President of this country. A job for private charity, sure. But not for our government."

Did you oppose the invasion of Iraq?

As hot magma covered the FOX studios, Sean Hannity with his shiny hair and mouth still above the magma flow would sceech "I told you so"! until hot magma filled his piehole and made a Pompey husk of him.

Dang. I had pretty much come to the same conclusion as the author of this thread, that there isn't much the government could do in this case, but to see the Pompey-ization of Sean Hannity would be so worth it.

I'm having second thoughts now.

"A lot of people have lost faith in him already"

Based on....? The only polling done on this issue hasn't shown this. This whole terrible mess has been tragically undercovered by the media, though it's been discussed a lot in the blogosphere. Of those who have been reacting negatively, we have the wingnuts (who react negatively to everything he does and had no faith to lose) and those on the left who are insisting he "do something."

And, oddly, it's this left-wing contingent that seems more upset about appearances, not action. Whatever Obama might be doing, they say, he needs to do it more publicly or "people" will lose faith.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't think this doesn't have the potential to harm perceptions of Obama; I'm just disputing the idea that this particular travesty will reflect upon him in the same way that Katrina did on Bush. Partly it's the nature of the disaster. Partly it's the nature of what's in the government's power to accomplish. Partly it's the fact that Obama happens to not be afraid of using government in a way that Bush could never bring himself to support.

As for the notion that he should be "leading," I think this is silly. There are times of national crisis (like 9/11) where you need someone out in front to rally or support the population. Then there are times when you need to be on top of making sure your people and agencies do their jobs effectively.

Bush never learned that one does not substitute for the other. I'm more than a little surprised to see so many on the left falling for the same confusion.

I am sure there is a really good answer to this question, but here it is anyway: given the hell that Bush caught at this site for his administration's response to Katrina, why isn't Obama being held to some similar standard?

He is being held to the same standard.

Not all crises are alike, and thus it is not proper to assess the ability to mitigate any crisis compared to any other.

With respect to Katrina, FEMA headed by an utterly incompetent crony hire failed to do any of the proactive positioning and logistical training that was advisable - and which Clinton's FEMA did more than once.

Also, when there were things to be done (expedite the delivery of needed resources, etc.), Bush and FEMA were flat footed and disinterested.

In the present situation, other than manning the bullypulpit more forcefully to denounce BP (and the other provisions I mentioned in this post), there is little to nothing Obama's admin can do.

Hence, the difference.

"it's been almost five weeks."

Understood. But what can he really do about stopping the leak? Has any president ever really been able to bully a corporation into good behavior? Seriously, not even Bush/Cheney could stop Halliburton!

It's far more important that Obama see to it that this kind of bad behavior never happens again.

The only polling done on this issue hasn't shown this.

may 13, poll says 33% disapprove of his handling of the situation.

CNN poll released May 24 says 51% disapprove of his handling.

I don't know what precisely it is a sign of, but the coverage of this here in Japan has been rather muted. Admittedly, with Katrina, I was cut off from my family, so I was constantly searching out information, but adjusting out for that, I'd say that this has barely raised a blip here in Japan. I don't know if Google News search gives an accurate representation, but for 'oil AND BP', I get 22,500 articles in English, and a grand total of 6 from Japan, with 4 of those articles being from English vernacular press rather than Japanese news sources.

This Vanity Fair piece asked 3 people who covered Katrina extensively to comment and they didn't see much connection.

See, there's an example: Haiti? Somebody else's country. Not a job for the President of this country. A job for private charity, sure. But not for our government.

Please refer to the precedent of "You break it, you buy it."

Perhaps President Obama should take a page from the brilliant "America Speaking Out" program of the pathetic but dangerous Republican Party -- ask everyday, normal, (as opposed to the rest of us) Americans how to fix the BP catastrophe.

We could tap the renowned ingenuity and street-level entrepreneurship of the world-famous American people.

Washington Monthly has a little post up about some of the responses the Rs are receiving for improving the country, among them, get rid of child labor laws (we coddle, we do), which would help in the Gulf (toss the nation's children into the Gulf and they can sink or swim -- them's that swims comes ashore, thems that sinks eventually plug the leaking pipe -- low wages, no benefits and we adults can tend to other matters) and, I love this one, stop the Nation's elitist, subversive teachers from telling kids that whales and dolphins are mammals, cause they are fish, dang it; if they swims in the sea, they are fish.

Obama could trade 12 chickens to BP in exchange for them fixing the leak.

If chickens are money, and whales are fish, and corporations are people, what is America?

"Bully a corporation?"

Isn't it our fucking oil that BP is letting leak into the Gulf? That well is on an Outer Continental Shelf lease to extract mineral rights from deep water sites. BP (and other companies) pay the US for rights to extract the oil, and pay a royalty on oil extracted.

Right now, the stuff spewing into the Gulf of Mexico belongs to us.

may 13, poll says 33% disapprove of his handling of the situation.

CNN poll released May 24 says 51% disapprove of his handling.

As I said, this does have the potential to harm Obama. We're talking about nature of attitudes, not satisfaction or dis. So, we can assume these numbers are correct and the trend lines look very bad. Or we could also note the later question in that same poll, which asks whether people think efforts will be successful or not. These two numbers track perfectly, as you'd expect. So, the reaction to Obama's "handling" of the situation is in direct proportion to the belief that it is successful.

The point here, again, is that Bush was not hurt because a bad thing happened or that he couldn't stop it. To the extent that Obama is perceived as failing to do what he could in the end is what will matter. As for whether people perceive him as acting "sluggish," I suppose that's possible. The problem with those assumptions, of course, is that there is no evidence behind them. Bush, unfortunately, did not have the luxury of having bad PR. He just couldn't spin his lack of interest and investment and the incompetence of his agencies.

If people end up viewed the MMS failures as Obama's failures, he could end up more like Bush, but I doubt that that's going to end up being a very compelling argument.

And all of this is assuming that one poll (with no released internals) compared with another, different poll from several week earlier, tells us much of anything. Maybe it does, but people still seem to be engaging this question entirely superficially, as if people are too stupid to notice differences.

Why does everything Obama do have to have a corollary with one of the worst presidents in our history?

We could tap the renowned ingenuity and street-level entrepreneurship of the world-famous American people.

I see an opportunity here for Joe the Plumber.

Why we should nationalize the problem

It is indeed quite possible, even likely, that there is no strikingly obvious and easy remedy for the leak. And yes, BP probably has at its disposal better assets than the US gummint currently has to deal with this kind of problem.

Well, for one thing, strike that last argument. What nationalizing the problem means, at anyone's minimum description of what that might mean, is that the gummint expropriates all those resources -- labor, materiale and expertise, from BP and any other entity -- that might be needed to deal with the problem. Now, if that seems too extreme, if you believe that sacred, libertarian fundamentalist, property rights trump every consideration of even the most extreme and pressing public good, then, sure, you don't think we should nationalize the problem. But your objection is ideological, not practical. You probably don't think we should nationalize any problem.

What prospect is there though, that practically speaking, the gummint running the show would give the public interest a better outcome? Sure, a magic solution, something quick and easy, is almost certainly not possible, or BP would have done that already, because its interests align with those of the public at that extreme end of the spectrum of possible responses. But BP's interests are not identical with the public's -- the arbitrary cap on their liability insures that -- and there is still quite a bit of daylight between what is good for BP, and what is good for the public, at the less extreme end of the spectrum of possbile responses; responses that improve the public good at least marginally. In a disaster of this magnitude, even a very marginal improvement would be incredibly valuable.

This idea that BP might not act as zealously to guard the public good in the present circumstances as the gummint would, is not some mere theoretical consideration. They have systematically dragged their feet on sharing what they know of the shape and size of the problem. They blew through their liability cap abouit 2 seconds after the initial explosion. At this point their sole interest is minimizing the PR hit. So of course they guard information about the leak carefully, no matter how much that information might let others, the gummint, or engineers who work for academia or other oil companies, help with marginally improving suggestions.

At the very minimum, information about this problem needs to be fully and completely nationalized, controlled by the gummint and made available to all, and not subject to any consideration at all of BP's interests in controlling the PR or protecting business secrets. If we don't take at least that step, if we don't get the full extent and nature of the porblem out in the open for the scrutiny of the whole world, how can anyone say that there is nothing useful to be done that BP isn't already doing? Glasnost has to be the first step of perestroika. Surely this procedure applies to crony capitalism as least as well as to crony Communism.

And if we have nationalized the means of information about this problem, it follows that we need to go the next step, and nationalize the means of at least ameliorating the problem, if no miracle cure is possible. For one thing, in many cases it's the same machines and technicians for the information and intervention. But even if the functions were cleanly separable, there is still the fact that BP's interests simply do not align perfectly with the needs and interests of the public. All of the experise, the skilled labor, and the speicialized machines that BP controls are now deployed to protect BP's interests. Sure, nationalizing them will not make them more expert or skillful, or more powerful. But it will deploy them serving our interests rather than BP's.

The fact that no miracle cure seems likely is actually the strongest possible argument for nationalizing the problem. The solutions available are likely to provide only marginal improvement, and that at a trade-off. We obviously already have a trade-off in the question of dispersants. BP has a clear interest in maximal dispersant use, the effects on deep sea ecologies be damned, no matter what the ultimate potentially much greater cost of destroying those ecologies, because there is more risk of PR hit plus breach in their liability limit, from surface oil. Right now we're letting BP do what is in its interests with dispersants, not ours, at a potentially devastating cost.

The same reasoning applies to every measure to stop or ameliorate the leak. To take an extreme case, perhaps the idea of nuking the leak really is simply a bad one, with bad outcomes dominating the decision tree. But surely, if it is at all possible that the potential good outweighs the likely (and largely imponderable, which may doom further consideration of this idea) risks, it is for the people and their representatives to make that trade-off, not BP. Extreme solutions are right off the table unless we nationalize, even ones that might be worth the risk, because only the gummint, after public debate, can take those risks.

Lastly, even if there were no benefit directly accruing to the handling of this disaster, I think that the deterrent effect of nationalizing this problem would prove salutary at preventing recurrences. Maybe the initial explosion really was a truly freak occurrence, something that deterrence won't help prevent because there was no wild risk-taking in this case that needs deterring. But that hardly seems certain, or even likely. Visiting ruin upon BP would hardly be an act of irrational vengeance, even if it wouldn't help out the present disaster, even if that horse is already out of the barn. These malefactors of great wealth need to learn that negligence has consequences, and when the consequences their negligence visits upon the public reach a Wrath of God magnitude, the public will visit some wrath of equal magnitude on the perpetrators.

If chickens are money, and whales are fish, and corporations are people, what is America?

Can we get Dave's Insanity Sauce classified as a vegetable?

First of all, it ought to be proposed NOW, that the US government now KEEP AND MAINTAIN THE EQUIPMENT AND the resources to solve this sort of thing AND BILL THE COMPANIES FOR EVERY DIME SPENT, FIXING THEIR SHIT, INCLUDING LAWYERS FEES, SO THAT WHEN THEY DO THIS, THEY REALLY, REALLY, REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAALLY GET TO PAY FOR IT!

Since the companies don't? Not by half?

I am not a great believer in the military but you can overstretch what they are not capable of. Fixing civilian fubars is what they do. BP is obviously in over their head. Put them out of their misery and put somebody else in there even if it is the drilling lead from shell working under a four star general. It's call command a good commander should be able to get up to speed fast.

I am not a great believer in the military but you can overstretch what they are not capable of. Fixing civilian fubars is what they do. BP is obviously in over their head.

But what would the military commander order the [whoever is under his/her command] to do?

First of all, it ought to be proposed NOW, that the US government now KEEP AND MAINTAIN THE EQUIPMENT AND the resources to solve this sort of thing AND BILL THE COMPANIES FOR EVERY DIME SPENT, FIXING THEIR SHIT, INCLUDING LAWYERS FEES, SO THAT WHEN THEY DO THIS, THEY REALLY, REALLY, REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAALLY GET TO PAY FOR IT!

While I agree with which party(ies) should pay for it, do we even know what the equipment in question is? Don't we have to figure that out first?

Put them out of their misery and put somebody else in there even if it is the drilling lead from shell working under a four star general. It's call command a good commander should be able to get up to speed fast.

My talks with retired military personnel lead me to believe that the big thing that gets a person past Major to the full bird is *not* innovation, but rather a dogged willingness to go full out in pursuit of whatever a general sets before them, effective or not. I really don't see how that sort of command gets you anything in this case.

Honestly, I think you'd be better off with a roomfull of recently separated out captains and some techies than you would be with anyone near the top of the chain if you want initiative and innovation.

"First of all, it ought to be proposed NOW, that the US government now KEEP AND MAINTAIN THE EQUIPMENT AND the resources to solve this sort of thing AND BILL THE COMPANIES FOR EVERY DIME SPENT, FIXING THEIR SHIT, INCLUDING LAWYERS FEES, SO THAT WHEN THEY DO THIS, THEY REALLY, REALLY, REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAALLY GET TO PAY FOR IT!"

That'll probably get as far as Dodd's plan for banks to pay into a fund to be used when banks go bankrupt.

"If chickens are money, and whales are fish, and corporations are people, what is America?"

You left out an important item on your list. In parts of my native Louisiana, cock-fighting is a popular pastime. In order to square that "sport" with the animal cruelty laws, which apply to birds, an ingenious legislator passed a rider to reclassify fighting birds as fish, because the animal cruelty laws don't apply to fish.

So... if chickens are money and whales fish, but chickens are also fish, then whales are money, right?

Well, it all tastes like chicken to me.

Maybe Rand Paul, once he's nominated to the Chairmanship of the Federal Reserve by President que Sarah Death Palin, will introduce the new American currency -- the Moby.

So, trying to put two and five together in the latter days of the mathematical mess called America, maybe the Family Research Council and the rest of the desperate closeted gays on the far religious Right in the Republican Party, who have declared gay men to be cruel, Nazi-like, night-time predators in the barracks of the American military (turns out being armed with cruise missiles doesn't prevent rape), will suggest that these aggressive gay predators are just the ones who have the guts to dive deep and stop the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Glen, nothing new there. Catholics did similar things to be able to eat meat on Fridays without violating the rules. E.g. ducks and geese* are vegetables/fruit since they hatch from (goose) barnacles** that in turn grow on trees with branches extending over water***. Also capybara are fish since they are "water pigs" and what lives in the water is a fish.


*esp. the barnacle goose
**In German Entenmuschel = lit. duck mussel
***claimed by among others Gerald of Wales in the 12th century

Oh, that's some funny stuff right there. I imagine it'd be less funny if I were still Catholic, but...no, I think it'd still be a laugh, if a despairing one.

Top kill worked?

fingers crossed

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