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An Un-American Response

I continue to be disappointed by the response to the oil spill. While Steve Hayward's article puts many of the issues in very clear context, commentary like this is certainly not the norm. I am surprised that Obama has still not found any footing on this. The New York Times has joined in beating up on him. They correctly identify many of his problems, but it is the New York Times after all, so they come to all the wrong conclusions.

The thing that strikes me most about the response is just how un-American it feels. There is something helpless and blaming about it. We Americans are at our best when facing a crisis. But in this one, we are left feeling powerless and weak. Obama has shown anger, but we don't want anger. We just want some effective leadership. He has also used this as an opportunity to demonize BP. Yes, they are responsible, but on the whole, they seem to be living up to that responsibility. Frank Rich encourages Obama to take this demonizing even further and become a modern trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt. Obama is making a mistake by turning this issue into US against BP, and he would be making a mistake to take this any further. We are not looking for blame and threats. We want action to fix the problem and appropriate responsibility in cleaning up the mess. But Obama is not giving us either of those things. He will not be remembered well for this, because, at its core, his response has been very un-American. It has been serendipitous to watch The Pacific on HBO during this crisis. That was an American response, and the contrast is striking. 
Categories > Presidency

Discussions - 35 Comments

My son sent me this link: http://www.ouramazingplanet.com/infographic-tallest-mountain-to-deepest-ocean-trench-0249/ to an Amazing Planet graphic (which takes some tracking down) that shows just how amazing an engineering feat deep water oil rigs are. Perhaps this makes the leak a little more understandable, as well as the difficulty in plugging the thing. Consider at that depth what kind of pressure they are dealing with, not just from the depth of the water, but also the pressure of the earth forcing the oil out of the earth.

Looking at pictures of oil rigs on Wikipedia, the wonder is this sort of thing hasn't happened to any of the 79 rigs off shore of the US before. The darn things in the Gulf survived Katrina better than Louisiana's levees did. These things are marvels of engineering, but no wonder it is so hard to engineer a fix.

The Russians Nuke their similar leaks and suggest we do the same with the one in the Gulf. Where is BP going to get a nuclear device? If such a remedy has been proposed to the Obama Admin., say was proposed early on, after the "cap" failed, what do you suppose the response was?

Really, I agree with the post. I cannot understand why the federal response was not, "What can we do to help?" but rather "When are you going to fix that mess?"

I am sure oil rig engineers will learn all sorts of improvements that will make another such leak even less likely. Our federal government is not likely to learn much; did you read Peggy Noonan this week? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704312104575299082391565318.html?mod=wsj_share_facebook

Liberals seldom "roll up their sleeves" to directly help anyone; they use events and people as tools/levers to accumulate more power. Human welfare (and the welfare of the planet) is a distant priority by comparison. Ticks and leeches never contribute a damned thing to the organisms they siphon.

And, as you might imagine, whining and blaming is the default response to any crisis for such people. Not having any particular expertise in the world's real business, nor knowing much of anything that really keeps the economic engines running, they have only the blame game to fall back on.

Even today, I find it amazing (and appalling) that we have handed over our government to these children. Awful, just awful. Any real leader would have explained the complexities by now, and offered real help. As I've said over and over again, Obama is an empty suit.

Kate, that article refers not to the 'federal government', but to the Department of Justice. More specifically, it refers to the Department of Justice less the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which it praises.

One ought to ask it the division of labor between the various departments with a hand in law enforcement, civil defence, and intelligence is optimal. You've got the Departments of the Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, Energy, and Defense in the mix, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency. At the local level, prosecution, general legal counsel, civil defense, the police, and the prison system are often in separate departments, but the federal government all of the first and last and portions of the other three in the Department of Justice.

You could alter the institutional missions of the agencies in question for better focus.

AD, you are so right. I even complain about others using the generic term "government" in the same way. If I could edit the original, I would.

Noonan explains the Justice Dept. role as one of coordination, which is where she sees the failure. Coordination of all of the various agencies and departments of "government" (all levels) was one of the lessons we were supposed to have learned from 9/11, wasn't it?

Yes, I suppose so. The thing is, determining the institutional missions of the various agencies is the business of the elected officials, and the whole process is bunged up by the priorities of Congress (and sometimes cabinet secretaries) who frustrate re-organization in pursuit of turf and patronage.

The most appalling thing about homeland security was the insistence by the Democratic congressional caucus that baggage-screeners had to be unionized federal employees. Israel's baggage screeners are private contractors subject to unannounced state inspections but noooooo, we have to have people paying dues to the American Federation of Government Employees because you don't let a crisis go to waste.

Second first, yes, a unionized security force for the US is appalling. Don't I recall some key Democrats held up the whole plan over unionization? I always wondered why we didn't just expand policing powers of the FBI into airports, etc., as a logical response to the new threat. I suppose they couldn't be unionized?

First, now: I remember Richard Schweiker, HHS secretary under Reagan, about a year in office saying that, although he had come into the job pledging to "clean house" and reduce the size of the department, because of civil service he could only effect change superficially. Two levels down most of the department, down to the most inefficient and redundant employee, was protected by civil service rules. The most dedicated "small government is best" appointee could really do nothing against such a system.

Not that what you are saying is not true. It is, but this is an "oh, yes, and in addition..."

"Yes, they are responsible, but on the whole, they seem to be living up to that responsibility."

Um...the leak continues. Could you elaborate?

"We are not looking for blame and threats. We want action to fix the problem and appropriate responsibility in cleaning up the mess. But Obama is not giving us either of those things."

It's fine if you wish to put blame on Obama (rather than BP), but don't say you're "not looking for blame" and then jump into the blame game 2 sentences later.

One thing you might consider...

1. Restore the universality of federal civil service examinations and require hiring and promotion to be on that basis;

2. Require that civil service examinations be held within 60 days of a vacancy;

3. Make federal employees terminable at the will of their supervisor or his superordinates, with only two or three superior counter-signatures required.

4. Subject terminations to a rapid proforma review by an exterior inspectorate, with remedial powers including buyouts and transfers and discipline of supervisors in order to contain reprisals against whistle blowers;

5. End collective bargaining for public employees and grant the various public employee unions the same legal status the Lucchese family has.

I do not see why you cannot have a professional civil service without having a tenured civil service. It is time to stop treating civil service jobs like property a la Bourbon France.

(Sigh) I would consider just about anything, even a return to the spoils system if it would reduce the size of our bloated government bureaucracy.

It is all George Bush's fault. Make him fix it.

Well, they were TRYING to "reduce the size of our bloated government bureaucracy" when they cut way back on the frequency and thoroughness of oil platform inspections (at guess-who's request!).

So much red tape all that was. Just let the experts - they're in the business after all! - drill the oil without all the hassle of rules and inspections and suchlike. Let the market go FREE.... free as a bird!! (but not a bird soaked in oil - golly, why does BP even allow the leftist media to show us those pictures???)

Seems to me we have ample regulations and regulators, but they are too busy watching pornography on their work computers to DO THE JOB. Indeed, the recent globe-melting financial crisis was in part a response to Federal meddling in the mortgage industry.

And why the hell is BP out so far in the Gulf to start with, Craig?

I have yet to see our Federal government do anything all that competently, even warmaking. Any system that 1) protects the employee from competence-based evaluation, and 2) depends on the altruism of the workforce rather than self-interest won't be effective in the long-run. What it will achieve is ever more power to the political class, who produce nothing but consume much.

Enjoy this: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704575304575296873167457684.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion

The BP oil rig design was approved by all requisite government regulatory agencies. It has been used before -- see my first post -- and there are thousands of similar rigs around the world. If you think government regulation has been reduced -- that is just laughable. Go look up the regs on oil rigs for all the various agencies of government that have a say. Start with the Minerals Management Service (MMS) of the Department of the Interior.

Then consider what O'Driscoll says. You are really saying the same thing, that business and the agencies of government detailed to regulate them become complicit in the regulations and the regulations lose effectiveness. The only difference between your arguments is that you say, "Oh please, more of the same!" or at least what you argue for will end up with more of the same, because that is just how a government regulated economy works. O'Driscoll says, "Additional regulations will be added to existing ones without addressing why existing ones failed to prevent the crisis." and suggest simplifying regulation (of banking, but also applied to oil drilling) as building complexity into the system doesn't really help.

Redwald, I seem to be ignoring your comments,but would only quibble, not argue with your main point.

Roger, as usual, you write truly and with clarity. You should blog more often, though I know you are a busy guy! It has struck me that President Obama lacks some leadership abilities during a national crisis as well. He's too often seeking to blame and does not inspire us to do better. I wish he would appeal to the hardy and gritty American spirit, telling us that we will get out of this recession through hard work and the capitalist ethos of private enterprise. Instead, he get realism and wary assessments that don't make anyone believe in the American spirit or capitalism. During the oil spill, he's talking about "kicking @ss!", shutting down drilling, and going after BP. He can talk honestly about the crisis, but again appeal to the fact that we will clean up and that the innovative spirit will find a solution and stop being so anti-corporation. In our wars, he can say, "We are going to win! We are going to hunt down the bad guys and kick their @ss!" Americans are not cowed by their enemy and no sacrifice will go in vain. Save your tough talk and curses for the terrorists and call it a "war on terror." Stop being afraid to state what it is. In short, please appeal to American principles and make us real proud to be Americans, not in just a carefully-crafted speech or two, but day in and day out. Make us feel like we can conquer our problems and emerge even better. I'm not feeling that from him.

We should consult him, H.W. ran Zappata offshore drilling, that is assuming it was not just a CIA shell corporation mabye he can give some insight.

Kate, the fact that the DESIGN of the rig was approved is not particularly relevant here. What matters is if there are serious inspections done and proper precautions taken, both in procedures and equipment, to keep the chances of a disaster truly tiny, and maintain a strong capability to limit the damage of any accidents.

Even the guy who wrote the letter to the WSJ (that Steven Hayward just posted) said that "BP's inability to follow its existing well-construction policies and those of the industry generally." were of prime importance - not the design of the rig itself.

You said, "If you think government regulation has been reduced -- that is just laughable. Go look up the regs on oil rigs for all the various agencies of government that have a say."

Laugh away, I guess, if it makes you feel better, but telling me to read up on a bunch of regs that you've likely not seen yourself is sort of weak. I'm sure that there are a huge number of specific and complex rules and regs as established by a wide variety of agencies that theoretically oversee the petroleum industry. The fact that there are a lot of written rules doesn't mean that the industry is over-regulated, or even adequately regulated. Simplifying regulations certainly sounds good (and, er, simplistic), but take a look at the inherent complexity of any major industrial operation, and any honest observer should see that simplifying such things so that they don't read like boy scout oaths and actually have the ability to detail standards and enforceability is the tricky part.

Getting back to my point about inspections:
"Despite federal regulations mandating that inspections be done monthly, the rig operation was only inspected three times over the first four months of this year; nine times in 2009 and six times in 2008. Officials at the Interior Department, which houses MMS, say rigs can miss inspections because they're on the move or because of weather conditions."
articles.latimes - dot - com/2010/jun/12/nation/la-na-oil-spill-20100612

"A source also told the IG [Inspector General] that MMS inspectors falsified inspection forms, in some cases allowing oil and gas production company personnel to fill out inspection forms in pencil. An MMS official would then write over the pencil in ink, and turn in the completed form. The IG couldn't verify that charge.

The IG discovered one MMS employee was engaged in job discussions with an oil company while he inspected that company's platforms. He found no incidents of noncompliance and was later hired."
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127118195

"BP's exploration plan for Lease 206, which calls the prospect of an oil spill "unlikely," stated that "no mitigation measures other than those required by regulation and BP policy will be employed to avoid, diminish or eliminate potential impacts on environmental resources."

While the plan included a 13-page environmental impact analysis, it minimized the prospect of any serious damage associated with a spill, saying there would be only "sub-lethal" effects on fish and marine mammals, and "birds could become oiled. However it is unlikely that an accidental oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.""

...and I hadn't even read this one yet when I wrote my earlier comment:
"BP has lobbied the White House Council on Environmental Quality -- which provides NEPA guidance for all federal agencies-- to provide categorical exemptions more often. In an April 9 letter, BP America's senior federal affairs director, Margaret D. Laney, wrote to the council that such exemptions should be used in situations where environmental damage is likely to be "minimal or non-existent." An expansion in these waivers would help "avoid unnecessary paperwork and time delays," she added."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/04/AR2010050404118.html

and since I know you're a fan of the WallStreetJournal:

"U.S. regulators have considered mandating the use of remote-control acoustic switches or other back-up equipment at least since 2000. After a drilling ship accidentally released oil, the Minerals Management Service issued a safety notice that said a back-up system is "an essential component of a deepwater drilling system."

The industry argued against the acoustic systems. A 2001 report from the International Association of Drilling Contractors said "significant doubts remain in regard to the ability of this type of system to provide a reliable emergency back-up control system during an actual well flowing incident."

By 2003, U.S. regulators decided remote-controlled safeguards needed more study. A report commissioned by the Minerals Management Service said "acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly.""
online.wsj - dot - com/article/SB10001424052748704423504575212031417936798.html

See what I'm talking about??? Even when MMS had the cajones to say that something was important and necessary, they allowed themselves to be pushed over by the industry, and caved into the industry's preference, which will typically take the next quarterly report as the prime directive, the main consideration.

You then suggested that "The only difference between your arguments is that you say, "Oh please, more of the same!" or at least what you argue for will end up with more of the same, because that is just how a government regulated economy works."

Um - no??? From the same WSJ article:

"[R]egulators in two major oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, in effect require them. Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since 1993."

You've got to have a regulatory environment where agencies are able to - and do - recognize themselves as authorities and real watchdogs, not some sideline entity that's just watching things for fun and making humble suggestions from time to time, if it's okay with the industry, of course.

Since you seem to know how ineffective my notions of regulatory rigor will turn out to be, I have to wonder what your idea of a solution might look like. I'm sure it starts with a fatalistic "that is just how a government regulated economy works" (very poorly and ineffectively!) and pulls in various tidbits of natural law, the imperfectability of mankind, drowning government in the bathtub, the private sector can regulate itself just fine, thank you, etc. But I wonder how any of those foundational notions might have prevented the current disaster. In the end, the Tea Party approach to actually improving anything (except things like weapons systems) seems to be "Why bother even trying?"

The switcheroo that conservative libertarians are pulling lately is easy to see. Most of them, most of the time, are reflexively opposed to regulations of just about any sort on business (except for some of a specific family-values nature, in certain limited areas). When some disaster like this happens, that simplistic opposition takes on a temporary complication that says "We're in favor of only good regulations that WORK!" Well, duh.

I tried to read the article you linked to by Gerald P. O'Driscoll, but it's available to subscribers only. I can take a guess what a senior fellow at CATO and former VP of Citicorp might have to say, but if you can provide a link to the article for us non-subscribers, that'd be appreciated, thanks.

Craig, the difference between liberals and conservatives is that the Right understands that human life is never perfect, honest mistakes happen, and ultimately society is not perfectible. Heaping ever more regulations and bureaucracy on social problems will never entirely fix them, and often the side-effects of such regulation/bureaucracy is to stifle innovation and economic dynamism, not to mention the centralization of power. Ultimately, you get mutually shared poverty for everyone except the political class -- hello, North Korea!

We saw this with Katrina, and now we are seeing it with this oil spill. The first priority of the Left seems to be assigning blame, and the second priority is political usurpation of the "problem" sector, whatever it is. It is a wearisome, foolish game, and only wearisome, foolish people play it.

Clean it up, have BP and its subcontractor pay fair compensation for losses, and let's move on with getting the energy the country needs. I would also suggest learning something from this disaster, but that's probably not going to happen given this administration.

Brutus - while you are at it blame Dick Cheney and Halliburton too. And how about Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck - I am sure you find something to pin on them too...

I am sorry about the O'Driscoll link. Try this: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11892

No one is interested in a lawless nation. Well,maybe someone is interested in a lawless nation, but he is not likely to be writing for the WSJ. Maybe you can find me the anarchist exception to the general rule.

You're right, I have not read the regs. for oil rigs, and I honestly and truly never actually expected you to go look. Part of my point in suggesting it was that there would be no one place for you to look, anyway, unless BP and other oil companies publish the collected works of federal and state law that they operate under, and that for the reading of the general public. Given that and what you write above in your response, I don't see how what I wrote previously is incorrect.

"business and the agencies of government detailed to regulate them become complicit in the regulations and the regulations lose effectiveness." That was my main point and I think your comment tends to prove it. What do we do about this? You are asking for some renovation of human nature that is simply not going to happen. I don't think we are really disagreeing on this one, except you seem to think there is some way to fix the current system of government regulatory agencies and I don't see how you are going to do that without using disinterested robots to create, enforce and oversee those regulations.

Here I began writing about the experience of various small business owners I know. The stories take too long to write today and I give up. However, they struggle with the incredible welter of regulations that descend from the myriad agencies of government, said regulations often being contradictory from one department to the next and often having contradictions within the same departmental ukases, or worse, those ask for operations that would make operating impossible. The regulatory agencies just do not have the information required to make good regulations; not without consulting people within the industry. Ah! I note that to you that is evidence of corruption. What is the answer?

I also must say, you are so right. No matter what regulations are in place, if people do not follow procedures correctly, there is going to be trouble and sometimes hell to pay, which is what people around the Gulf, and even within BP, are doing. That still does not answer how you are going to gain absolute compliance, every day, without stupidity or other accidents of human or machine.

How, exactly,do you regulate away human negligence? That letter to the editor Steve Hayward directs us to ends with "This spill is about human failure and it is time BP put its hand up and admitted that." Do you really dispute that? How the heck does government regulate that away? Even if BP does "put its hand up" what were the executives at BP supposed to do about it?

We could find those people who are specifically responsible for the disaster, take away their little "fortunes", then tar, feather and hang them and it would do the environment of the Gulf no good at all. I just don't see how government can regulate such human errors away without doing away with humans.

Maybe this applies: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/should-this-be-the-last-generation/?pagemode=print

Kate, I would wager that if you (and other Tea Partiers) lived on the Gulf Coast you might be somewhat less cavalier about it than just to offer an extended riff on how sh** happens and to err is human. Geez, what happened to conservatives who would have a relentless insistence on excellence? Didn't your GWB have some words of condemnation for lowered expectations? I guess when one's goal is to shrink government down so that it can be drowned in the bathtub and the target of the moment is the Other Team's prez and the agencies that failed to regulate, excellence is the last thing you want. Bring on the negligence and incompetence and corruption! See, government CAN'T regulate, so let's get them out of this, and let the oil companies do whatever they want!! If they're released into a truly, absolutely free market we won't get any more oil spills I guess?

"I just don't see how government can regulate such human errors away without doing away with humans."

Somebody's been hitting the Glenn Beck again, I think!
Well, let's see, firstly, we could have required the acoustic switches. After that, we could have required BP (and the others, too) to have serious emergency plans in place, with documentation of how their equipment and staff could be utilized, in what time period, to respond to a worst case scenario like this one. Oh, and maybe do all the required inspections? And maybe have (and enforce) a rule stating that inspectors can't be applying for a job with any company that is running a rig they're inspecting. That's a start. I don't recall reading of a "spill" (whoopsie, a "spill"!) of any magnitude like this from a Norwegian platform, do you?

Anyway, exactly how would any of that "do away with humans"?? Stringent, serious, relatively uncorrupted regulation of industries does not equal extinction of humanity (or Stalinism, or whatever Beckian point you were slashing at there). Your rhetoric is going off the rails to make your ideology sound noble.

But really, your response does seem to say that the Tea Party conservative approach is one of "Why bother trying?" to make anything better, to improving anything. Progress really is a dirty word (Beck's messaging is winning hearts and minds!).

While there's a lot in that article that Hayward linked to that I agree with, I do take issue with the part you quoted about "human failure." Failure implies that an attempt was made, and in many cases, as we can see in BP's lobbying activities and efforts to evade regulation and solicit corruption (etc., etc.), BP specifically sought to shirk its responsibilities and avoid having to even try (to do things in such a way to ensure the safety of employees and citizens, and the protection of the environment). And when the regulatory agency is, for the most part, captured by the industry, that will be reflected in the quality of the oversight, too. In a country which has no known limits on praising itself for its work ethic and its love of hard work and meeting challenges (don't conservatives claim that as an integral part of their brand?), we should expect more from all involved.

I'm a bit shocked you'd even link to a Peter Singer piece. You do know who he is, right? I'm not sure what your point was there. I wouldn't suggest (and neither does Singer) that we should make this the last generation, but then, I'm also opposed to this "Why bother trying?" approach that only sees improvement in an extreme, narrowly-defined promotion of "liberty" (of a laissez-faire capitalism) and for everything else just offers politicized, hateful prayer teams. Should we even bother trying to clean up after the disaster? I mean, hey, humans are fallible after all!

Your (and Redwald's) response REALLY seemed to follow what I guessed at in my earlier comment, to wit:

"...I have to wonder what your idea of a solution might look like. I'm sure it starts with a fatalistic "that is just how a government regulated economy works" (very poorly and ineffectively!) and pulls in various tidbits of natural law, the imperfectability of mankind, drowning government in the bathtub, the private sector can regulate itself just fine, thank you, etc. But I wonder how any of those foundational notions might have prevented the current disaster. In the end, the Tea Party approach to actually improving anything (except things like weapons systems) seems to be "Why bother even trying?"

The switcheroo that conservative libertarians are pulling lately is easy to see. Most of them, most of the time, are reflexively opposed to regulations of just about any sort on business (except for some of a specific family-values nature, in certain limited areas). When some disaster like this happens, that simplistic opposition takes on a temporary complication that says "We're in favor of only good regulations that WORK!" Well, duh."

I think, if you and the Tea Partiers have your way - and I'm guessing you will - more and more people will opt (intentionally or not, with philosophical cogitation or not) to make their generation the last.

(actually, that last comment was primarily a response to Kate, but I must've clicked "reply to Redwald" - oh well, I'm a fallible human!)

Dear Fallible Human,

I don't see any switcheroo. There are a variety of Libertarian viewpoints as well as conservative viewpoints on all sorts of issues,including the extent of government in all sorts of areas, including regulation.

Dissecting the Right was a preoccupation of some of the NLT bloggers for awhile there and it was fun. I suspect there are shades of opinion in any party, although we would find voting blocks would line up behind one issue or another. Pete and a commenter are discussing abortion politics in the GOP on another thread, for an example of how that plays out.

As to "if you lived on the Gulf Coast you wouldn't be so cavalier..." -- be cavalier about what? I just read on Drudge that some Congressman is asking BP executives to commit hari-kari. Does that sound more caring to you? I suggested tarring, feathering and hanging and somehow that was not going far enough for you?

I really do not see how increased government regulation will prevent human error, bad judgment, or even malice or greed. Therefore I do not see how creating an ever larger government bureaucracies helps liberty or even safety in any useful way. Yes, if it does not do any good, then I think it is a waste of time, money and effort spent on a Utopian vision of the world. Government brings necessary order to our society, but it can only bring so much order and if it tries to bring more than what it can do well, it becomes onerous for no useful end. Yes, the world is a messy place and capitalism is messy -- freedom is messy, but I prefer it.

I also do not see how BP as a corporation is not already paying for this massive piece of ugly human fallibility. How much is stopping the leak likely to cost? How much will it cost to clean up the mess, to whatever extent it can be cleaned up? Will fining the company on top of all that expense make sense? Well, no, except to give the Obama gang some more cash to throw around, as if the "stimulus" money has not been enough -- which it probably has not since it is not buying off the American voting public as apparently intended.

Anyway, yes, I know who Pete Singer is and threw in that link as it is what I see as the logical conclusion for discouraged leftist idealists. If human beings will not behave as if naturally good and endlessly adjusting man's regulatory and legal systems will not make for Utopia, then we might as well get rid of man. He's no darn good anyway, right? Always being fallible, making messes, creating obnoxious Tea Party movements and not agreeing with Craig Scanlon. Let's be done with us.

Still, this thread was not on regulatory measures to prevent crisis, but rather how we respond to a crisis. Just about every president is going to deal with one or another, and Obama has shown himself unable to do so with the kind of leadership past presidents, both of the left and of the right, have.

"I just read on Drudge that some Congressman is asking BP executives to commit hari-kari."

I'm not surprised that Drudge might get a story wrong, or add on a wildly misleading headline, but here's what Cao (R-Louisiana) actually said, and it seems pretty tame - obviously just rhetoric:

"Mr. Stearn asked Mr. McKay to resign. In the Asian culture we do things differently. During the Samurai days, we would just give you a knife and ask you to commit Hari-Kari. My constituents are still debating on what they want me to ask you to do, but that being said, the cleaning up process has been a disgrace and the claims process has been dismal..."

That's not really asking them to go ahead and DO it.

And you hardly "suggested tarring, feathering, and hanging them." (which is fine, as I'm not obsessed with physically punishing individuals for a collective crime of this sort - I'd rather make them pay and, most importantly, do what's necessary to prevent another disaster like this) You actually were making a point about how doing such a thing "would do the environment of the Gulf no good at all." and then you went right into your regulation-as-anthrocide bit. That's not really how suggestions work - to bring something up and say how pointless and/or unhelpful you think it would be.

"Will fining the company on top of all that expense make sense? Well, no, except to give the Obama gang some more cash to throw around..."

That's a nice question to introduce this article (which was congressional testimony):
http://www.brookings.edu/testimony/2010/0609_oil_spill_greenstone.aspx?p=1

Which features this factoid:

"[C]urrent law protects oil companies and actually provides economic incentives for spills, rather than preventing them. The 1990 Oil Pollution Act capped firms' liability for economic damages from oil spills at $75 million, not adjusted for inflation and in addition to all removal costs."

I suppose that qualifies as some of that "onerous" government intervention, big government regulators keeping their boot on the neck of business? By capping their liability to a comical $75 million (a gentle rub on their wrist)?

And listen to this wild-eyed utopian claptrap:

"In the case of drilling, the benefits are the expected value of the oil. The costs include equipment used and wages paid to employees. But, the costs also include the expected payouts for potential spill damages to shorelines, local economies and the environment.
So, the cap inevitably distorts the way companies make these decisions. Locations where damages from a spill may be costly - for example, places near coasts or in sensitive environmental areas - seem more attractive for drilling with the cap than if firms actually were responsible for all damages. Further, investments in safety equipment, like blow-out preventers, or the use of safe, but time-consuming methods, are less likely to appear beneficial with the liability cap.
The result is that the cap effectively subsidizes drilling and substandard safety investments in the very locations where the damages from spills would be the greatest.
In the case of the Deepwater Horizon venture, the rules of the game were such that the British Petroleum Company and its partners were able to make the decision to drill and decisions about safety equipment with the legal guarantee of a $75 million cap on economic damages from spills. By some estimates, the economic damages will actually be more than 100 times the cap."

"I know who Pete Singer is and threw in that link as it is what I see as the logical conclusion for discouraged leftist idealists."

Indeed, the logical conclusion of what you imagine discouraged leftist idealists are thinking.

Singer actually said:
"I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now."

Perhaps you should inform Singer that there's really no point in trying, and he should give up that foolish talk of "less suffering" and learning from past mistakes!

I - another discouraged leftist idealist - would also not opt for the universe devoid of people. I would just be happy if humans could exhibit a bit more restraint (I used to think that was a key value of conservatism) in the realm of consumption and reproduction for a while. But for now the right's hopes for outbreeding The Enemy (hinted at in this blog at least a few times) and the ethic of "Kick their a** and take their gas" and/or "Drill, baby, drill!" seem to be somewhat predominant. Not terribly far-sighted or visionary, to say the least.

I also enjoyed your earlier boilerplate about the small business owners that "struggle with the incredible welter of regulations that descend from the myriad agencies of government." I think there are at least a small handful of small business owners sprinkled around the Gulf coast who are wishing that there had been one or two more regulations in place on that platform, and enforced. Now the jackboot of Big Gummit is on THEIR throat, preventing them from giving us Castrol-flavored shrimp.

Maybe this idea would be good: pre-emptive (pre-emption! You like that, right!??) emergency relief well drilling!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/15/oil-spill-response-senato_n_612666.html

But hey, why bother trying?? Doesn't Lautenberg know how messy freedom is? Let's not be utopians (Stalin! Hitler! Obama!).

What further regulation would have prevented this particular disaster?

Steve Hayward should be thanking me for keeping you off the streets.

Um...see my last link? If they would have put a pre-emptive relief wellhead in place during construction then we'd already be talking about this in the past tense. And if that had been required, it would have prevented the post-explosion spill from lasting days, weeks, or months.

Oh, you took that "off the streets" joke from Steve and used it over here. It's a real all-purpose jab, eh? Careful, Kate, some people see recycling as a "left turn"!!

Pro-tip: With the latest technology (I think even Steve knows about it, based on some of his youtube vids) a person can read or write a blog (or comment therein) from their notebook PC or even their cellphone while walking on the street, or sipping latte at their favorite sidewalk cafe (I don't want to blow your mind by straying too far from the stereotypes you hold), or dressing up in colonial garb and having a FoxNews-sponsored tea party. One needn't stay indoors!

Yes, Craig, but in your case that would require walking/sipping and thinking simultaneously. Since you clearly aren't up to such a feat, Kate is correct -- she is keeping y our off the streets (and snugly in your parents' basement where you belong).

And, as I suspected, you drink latte, a communist drink if ever there was one! Bottom's up, comrade!

Craig, see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703303904575293270746496824.html?mod=googlenews_wsj again. That was "existing well-construction policies and those of the industry generally. " and "all of the industry practice and construction systems are aimed at ensuring that one never has to use that device.(a fail-safe blow-out preventer)" Good sense and common practice required what you suggest as government regulation. That still would not have prevented this disaster which was caused by human failure, apparently. You just cannot regulate against human failure, so that even if that BOP were government regulation and not merely industry policy and stinking good sense, the same disaster would have occurred.

Government just cannot protect us from everything.

Do you mean you do this, write contrarily on this blog, everywhere you go?

Kate, I read that WSJ article. You seem to be confusing blowout preventers with relief wells. They're not the same thing. Blowout preventers are an integral part of the wellhead itself. A relief well entails construction of an entirely separate wellhead and piping system. See this for a good illustration (of the POST-disaster relief well that was drilled last fall for the Montara platform off of Australia - lesson learned within the industry??):

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_4_UAdFdh7xI/Su1BvlA8BbI/AAAAAAAAAHE/ICIX9UvWVI8/s640/Montara_well_repair__31545a.jpg

Canada actually requires such relief well capability. Yet, "Just days before the Deepwater Horizon blowout, BP pressed the Canadian government to rescind its long-standing policy that all exploratory wells must have 'a relief well ready in case of a blowout,'" [I guess they're not keen on the "Don't bother trying" concept.]

Read about it (w/ links to full documentation) here:
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1358

In light of what BP is currently doing (drilling TWO relief wells, after the fact), this quote from BP's filing to rescind the requirement is quite striking. BP wrote that, in the event of a blowout:

"it will always be preferable to re-establish and remain working with the existing well rather than initiating a relief well”

One might think that the experts at BP had read something about Montara (for starters), or had some idea of Transocean's (owners of the Deepwater rig) dodgy record!

"Do you mean you do this, write contrarily on this blog, everywhere you go?"

Why do you, Redwald, and Hayward persist with this? I think your question hints at what the real problem is: that I don't contribute to the echo chamber effect. Also note my prior use of the very generic "A person can..." I'm not partial to lattes or tea parties.

Hey, buddy, look around. I've had plenty of disagreements with people. The "echo chamber" has plenty of disagreement. The problem with you is that 1) your commentary is generally one-sided and myopic, and 2) your interest in real debate is overshadowed by a real glee at irritating those rightest bastards.

Occasionally you contribute something, but it generally turns out to be specious. Sorry, Don Quixote, but if the shoe fits.

Redwald, I haven't the least interest in your opinion of me or my comments here. Your approval or disapproval is irrelevant to me.

"your interest in real debate is overshadowed by a real glee at irritating those rightest [sic] bastards"

...says the guy who just a few comments before had a little tirade about latte-drinking = communism and my inability to walk and drink a latte at the same time, etc.

Hey, you can't stand a little pun? Rightest/rightist -- it's a joke, buddy. Man, lighten up just a little.

Oh, sorry, you can't. You're on the Left...gotta save the planet and all. I forgot.

"Hey, you can't stand a little pun? Rightest/rightist -- it's a joke, buddy. Man, lighten up just a little."

A prime example for the other thread where we're talking about conservatives and comedy. If that's what y'all call funny, then maybe a right-wing version of The Onion, The Daily Show, or The Colber Report just wouldn't be possible. Glenn Beck might be as close as you'll ever get.

Oh well, everyone has their talents. Liberals do humor and righties do paranoia and non-stop outrage.

;)

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