Santa Barbara oil spill threatens the beauty of the coast and life itself…

May 21, 2015

I consider myself to have been privileged to drive along the California coast in the Santa Barbara area many a time. And while all of the coast is beautiful of course, I think that area is one of the most spectacular sites to behold, and so much of it in a natural state. But it has always made me uneasy to see those oil platforms out there in the ocean. They kind of look like invading aircraft carriers or something. I think they somewhat despoil the view. But my main concern was what happens if there is an oil leak? Well it has happened. Earlier this week area residents smelled a pungent odor and then oil was discovered covering the beach and upon inspection authorities found a leaking pipe line. Before it could be capped, more than 100,000 gallons had spilled out, over the beach or beaches and into the ocean. The depth of the environmental tragedy is not known yet.

What was a far larger spill, as I understand it, occurred in 1969, and is said to have been the inspiration for the modern environmental movement.

I realize we have to have oil (I guess we do) but there needs to be more safeguards — I mean we really need to stay on top of it — and there needs to be some kind of balance. We can’t just ruin our own nest, our natural environment, to produce energy.

Preserving the beauty of the planet is a good enough reason for me to limit offshore drilling and have restraints on all oil exploration and drilling and transporting, but that might not mean much to some. However, preserving the natural environment, our ecosystem is vital to life on this planet. The ecosystem is a miracle (a God-given one if you please) of interactive organisms and geology that makes our life possible and bearable. But I don’t think a lot of people understand that nor care. I also think money, money now, damn the consequences, blinds many to the need for conservation of the planet.

But most of all I just hate to see such a beautiful place despoiled.

I was afraid something like this might happen. And it has.


The corn for enthanol problem and millions in subsidies for millionaires…

November 13, 2013

Apparently the federal government is still doling out millions of dollars to millionaires via agricultural subsidies, some of whom aren’t even gentleman farmers — have nothing to do with farming, other than to collect their subsidy checks — and just as bad or maybe even worse is a misguided effort to burn cleaner fuel and help corn farmers at the same time. It is causing an environmental crisis and has increased food prices. The latter has to do with the corn-based ethanol mandate for our gasoline.

I’m talking about two different but somewhat related things here.

The subsidy scandal has been around for a long time. I mean at least once a year the story is done. But the lobby that supports the subsidies is strong and misrepresents itself as supporting Ma and Pa down on the farm, lest they lose the farm to the uncertainties of crop prices and weather and the high cost of chemical based, manufactured fertilizer (and gee in the old days it just came out of the end of a cow, as a byproduct, you might say), oh, and the evil banker foreclosing on the unpaid mortgage. But much of the subsidies go to extremely large farming operations and even business operations of individuals who have nothing to do with farming, other than they have investments involving land and other than they have somehow finagled their way into the subsidy bonanza.

And whether some of these subsidy payments may be collected illegally is apparently in question and there does not seem to be a lot of oversight by the government agencies involved. In fact, I just read that rules are being changed in the name of more transparency but in reality some of the subsidies are going to be moved to different programs that do not provide transparency. I know. That does not make sense. I don’t claim to be an expert in all of this. Like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers, well on the computer. But there is a bad smell from the farm programs and it is not cow manure.

And I’ll just add, something I have mentioned previously, my own congressman comes from a family who has a large farming operation, of which he is part, and it has collected millions of dollars over the years in subsidies. He is a conservative, anti-tax, get the government-out-of-my-business conservative Tea Party Republican. He sees no conflict. I imagine he considers it just good business.

The ethanol mandate was supported heavily by presidential candidate Barack Obama and continues to be supported by President Obama. He needed to woo Midwest corn farmers, particularly the Iowa farmers to influence the Iowa caucuses. Supposedly, replacing part of the gasoline mix with the additive of ethanol makes the fuel burn cleaner. Whether that is true or not, the resulting demand for corn has resulted in more pollution and environmental damage and has caused food prices to skyrocket because corn that would have gone either directly for human food or to humans via livestock feed is being siphoned off into ethanol production, the process of which causes pollution. And what has been noticed now is that farmers have put so many acres into corn, to include virgin ground, that it is becoming an environmental disaster, to include heavy erosion. And such heavy fertilizer use contaminates ground water and water ways and large bodies of water, such as the Gulf of Mexico. Lands that had been put into conservation programs, that carried a government incentive, are now being put into corn because the price of corn has jumped.

Now as to farm subsidies, there may be an argument for them having to do with supporting family farms and maintaining a stable food supply. But they seem to be maintaining rich people and maybe there is a less costly and more efficient method of maintaining food supplies. And stepped up oversight is certainly in order. And if your income is in the millions (or billions), really it is hard to argue that you need help from the government. And if it is only in the millions because of the government, well the government should not be in the farming business and you should not be either.

As for the ethanol thing, well for one thing, as I understand it, it does not improve gas mileage and in fact reduces it. And I have already mentioned the environmental harm and the effect it has on food prices.

I am not at all against our agricultural sector. Much of my life I have worked in connection with it. A lot of family farmers run major operations that look more like corporate endeavors than that iconic picture of Ma and Pa down on the farm somewhere in Iowa, but the farmers I have come into contact with are hard working and multi-talented, being part businessman, farmer, mechanic, construction worker and so on. I don’t begrudge their success. And I suppose if the government is offering a subsidy it in most cases it is simply good business to take advantage. But on the other hand, we all have to realize that it makes no sense and is not fair to the rest of us for our government to subsidize people who can do quite well on their own. And I really have no good feeling about subsidizing corporate farming operations. Businessmen want independence and they should get it.

I’ve provided links to two stories that deal with the subjects I covered:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/24/millionaires-get-farm-pay_n_146189.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57611891/making-corn-based-ethanol-badly-hurting-environment-ap/

P.s.

I forgot to mention that energy independence was used as a selling point for corn-based ethanol production. But as I understand it, what with natural gas and new oil extracting methods we are now energy independent. I mean Hitler did turn to making fuel for his tanks from distilling the alcohol out of potatoes — but that meant everyone had fewer potatoes to eat.


God or Mother Nature makes a statement down south; are we jealous we don‘t have royalty?

May 1, 2011

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I’m going to try to use larger type for these posts in the future — but for now, maybe just up the type size on your own screen.

——–

Say it’s God or say it is Mother Nature, but natural forces have shown who’s boss in the Southern U.S.

As I look out at the beautiful view from my apartment, the greenery of the riparian jungle, with a full stomach, and in quiet tranquility, I think about the images of devastation and the anguish on the faces of some of those in Alabama and elsewhere in the South who were (are) victims of one of the worst onslaughts of multiple and incredibly strong tornadoes in history, with 300 or more dead and whole towns virtually destroyed. These images I saw on my computer thanks to the NBC Nightly News. I’ve been on the road all week and barely saw any of it until now. NBC did a good job of reporting, I thought.

The landscape looked like an atomic bomb had blown through.

Certainly the federal government can and should do everything in its power to help in the rescue effort and restore life as best it can down there. From all reports, the people, as a whole, are survivors, quite capable of doing for themselves with what they have. But they are follow citizens who deserve all the help possible.

This is where the National Guard and even the Army and other services need to be, and to an extent are, as far as I know. Just tried to glean more about that off the web. All I found is that National Guard troops were backing up overwhelmed local police chasing down looters. Looters should be shot on sight, I would say (but of course then there could be mistakes — but how low can one get?).

But it is far more important to look inward and help ourselves than it is to try to remake the rest of the world.

Already there has been speculation that global warming or man-induced climate change may have contributed to the unusual number and size of the tornadoes. This is something we need to know about, but I am afraid that it all will just get caught up in the political fight over what should be a scientific question.

While I have always realized that so-called conservatives balk at environmental concerns because they don’t want to be bothered by what they see as hindrances to their profits and that they prefer to worship at the altar in the shape of the almighty dollar, rather than protect what God gave them, I now have heard another explanation:

A caller to a talk show said that socialists want to use so-called environmental concerns as leverage to get government to force people into socialistic practices.

But I would prefer to judge things by real science, not political science.

Real science may or may not go against capitalistic practices, but it will weed out environmental extremism, if you can divorce science from politics.

I’ve noticed that the need to make money — and the need is real of course — always seems to put people at a conflict with nature. An example: after the Gulf oil gusher disaster, people whose livelihoods depend upon the oil industry could not wait to get back to drilling in the deep water, while those whose livelihoods depend upon the natural fishery of the Gulf needed things to be cleaned up and possibly tighter regulations on drilling. And you cannot eat or drink oil. But then again, many can’t buy eats or drink without oil money.

We humans have a  natural habit of concentrating more on short-term gain than long-term sustainability (killing the goose that laid the golden egg and all).

Meanwhile, no matter what we do, we are at the mercy of God or Mother Nature, if you will.

—————-.

Also caught up on the Royal wedding. I had thought I was not interested. But it is nice to see tradition lives. And while the very next in line seems kind of a dud — sorry Charlie — his son Prince William would look good, kingly, on the throne, with his fine new wife, commoner, turn royal Kate Middleton at his side. Hopefully she will not be the wild distraction the royal family has recently suffered from on the female side — no real offense meant to these women. They just apparently were not cut out to go along with the often stodgy royal program.

I think many in the U.S. are a little jealous that the British have something to look up to. Our own so-called elite have let us down.

It is increasingly difficult to be a statesman in the atmosphere of modern American politics that seems more like a tawdry, vulgar circus than a sober discussion or debate on governmental policies.

Although the British royals have little to no political power, they give that nation a sense of dignity as representatives of the state, Great Britain, and its dominions.

I now understand why in the United States we have gone through periods of what has been called the Imperial Presidency — I think Ronald Reagan being the last actor (literally and figuratively at the same time) in that show.

I do recall that when Britain went to take back the Falklands from Argentina, many years ago now, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher went to the Queen to announce her intentions and get the monarch’s blessing.

And give it to the Brits: they had a successful little war down there. I say, good show!


If the oil is gone, that’s good, but I hope that does not send the wrong message…

August 5, 2010

While the seemingly apparent good news on the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill is that the hole has been plugged — even though further hole plugging work and/or relief well work continues — most of the oil seems to have disappeared.

But the bad news on this to me is that it gives an excuse to all those anti-environmental naysayer’s, who seem to think we all worry too much about being kind to the planet and want to send everyone back to the stone age, to proclaim that environmental concerns are always bunkum.

First I find it hard to believe that there will be no major and bad residual effects, and second, I really would like to know where the oil really did go.

Of course I know that nature is miraculous. Scientists found that out after the natural devastation of Mr. St. Helens years ago. I think within the first year the area that faced the worst devastation started little by little coming back to life. The ash dumped over the northern Great Plains turned out to be a helpful soil amendment.

As bad as the Exxon Valdez spill was and despite the fact that many fishermen and others never recovered. In general, the area survived and life goes on.

And despite the fact that American scientists opened Pandora’s box by creating the A bomb during World War II, we have not faced the nuclear holocaust yet — yet (well except for a few hundred thousand in two Japansese cities).

I still think we should do more to protect Mother Earth and I am not much of a risk taker myself and why do we constantly want to risk ruining our planet anyway?


A false story on China drilling in Gulf of Mexico becomes true — even if false

July 11, 2010

Back in 2006 and since then, former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that Red China (to use the old term) was drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and what with drilling restrictions, we, the U.S., were in danger of losing out on the hunt for this precious resource in our own backyard.

Lately, some Republicans, and I suppose others in the drill baby drill crowd, have been repeating this line.

Several months ago I picked up on the rumor and mentioned it in my blog, although I looked back and saw that I had said it was apparently a false rumor by Cheney. Nonetheless I asserted that if it was true we might have a case for asserting our Monroe Doctrine which calls for keeping foreign powers out of our hemisphere.

So, when I read yesterday an item from the McClatchy news service that the rumor of Chinese offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Florida, was false, I initially thought: didn’t I write about that as being true or at least thought to be true?

So, temporarily I fell for the rumor I had already asserted was false.

We all can’t remember the source of everything we hear and read about or recall the credibility of it all. And that is what those who like to play fast and loose with the truth depend upon.

Now to be clear, I still am not sure about the status of Chinese oil exploration and actual drilling here or anywhere else. I have read several times and commented on Chinese oil activities in Iraq where the Chinese have taken no risk and where the U.S. has spent so much blood and treasure.

(And now that we have been told that Afghanistan might be sitting on a wealth of valuable minerals — maybe not oil — I have read the Chinese are attempting to make deals on that.)

I have always been dubious about the advisability in terms of environmental risks posed by offshore drilling. And when I travel past those rigs near Santa Barbara, Ca. and that beautiful coastline, I dread — what if?

There is hope expressed today from BP that even though it has just let that disastrous oil flow in the Gulf of Mexico go full blast temporarily, it might actually get it plugged up by Monday if its latest gambit to recap it works — let’s hope so.

A lot of environmental damage has been done already. Nature does have a way of restoring itself, but how long will it take? And will it be in our lifetimes or your lifetimes or your children’s or grandchildren’s?


Frankly I don’t care if Gulf residents don’t want drilling stopped or not…

June 17, 2010

There seems to be a conflict between people on the Gulf Coast and even in the life of individuals themselves when it comes to this BP oil blowout.

While the oil polluting the waters is devastating the fishing and tourist industry, the moratorium on underwater drilling (a direct result of the unfolding environmental disaster) is throwing large numbers of people out of work, since the oil economy is so big down there. In fact, it is reportedly much bigger than the fishing industry.

So while everyone is ragging on President Obama to stop the oil — everyone from die-hard environmental-denying right wing Republicans to fishermen to even oil drilling workers to the average American, he is taking heat for doing the prudent thing, shutting down drilling until we can be sure it’s safe — the oil’s killing us, but don’t stop it.

I can see the quandary or dilemma here. On the one hand, we have to stop the oil from polluting our ocean and since we thought things were safe before, but they were not, it only seems reasonable to stop things for now until we can get a handle on it all. But meanwhile in the middle of the Great Recession we are throwing thousands out of work.

And then today on the radio (and most of the talk on radio is reactionary right wing) they are saying that a majority of folks in Louisiana do not approve of the way Obama is handling things and that they don’t like the moratorium on underwater drilling — even as the sea turns red and marine life dies off as in some biblical plague — and right there, isn’t that ironic, since the right wing loves so much to spout off or refer to biblical prophecy — maybe this is part of what is foretold in the Book of Revelation.

Maybe you bible-quoting right wingers who seem to worship the god of oil money and comfort more than God Almighty himself, are reaping what ye have sewn — may ye drown in a barrel of oil.

But seriously, I don’t care what the people of Louisiana think, necessarily. It’s not their Gulf or their ocean; it is all of ours’.

I need to read more about this all, but one headline I read hit what has occurred to me — what if the leak or gusher or whatever you call it cannot be stopped?

Will the people who call you a tree hugger or crazy hippie environmentalist still deny it all? No, they’ll blame it on Obama or Bill Clinton or maybe they’ll go way back in time and blame it on Jane Fonda.

I say it’s Sarah Palin’s fault!

P.s.

In the interest of balance, I note that Mr. Obama did some God talk himself in his Oval Office address. Of course he is not politically right wing — but even though we all have a right to refer to God, don’t tell that to the Christian right — they think they have exlusive rights on the subject.


As the oil spreads, how long before mockers quit mocking?

June 11, 2010

The oil keeps spreading like a virus.

It’s as if we are being attacked and can’t do anything about it.

We’d like to sick the Coast Guard on it. But what are they supposed to do? Shoot it?

I’d like to see the president, the commander and chief, take charge. He’s supposed to save us. I think it’s in the job description.

He says he is in charge. Has been since Day One. In fact I read in the last day or so that actually President Obama was briefed early on that the problem was not going to be easily nor quickly fixed.

Obama has played it mostly cool, although I just read on a blog on the Daily Beast site that he succumbed to the demand to get mad, so he dutifully said on one of the morning shows that he was ready to “kick ass”.

But at any rate, from all the news I hear, it seems BP still has a lock on a lot of the info and is in fact using its money to even try to control internet access to the news or at least pollute and dilute the media with its propaganda.

Although I’ve heard the reports that the oil has spread beyond Louisiana and is making its way onto Florida beaches and I’ve seen all the photos of oil-soaked birds and turtles and dead fish and distressed fishermen and so on, I still don’t seem to have a handle on how bad the kill off of wildlife is. Just heard a report on a Public Radio show that so far it is not as bad as was the case in the Exxon Valdez incident, but the potential is a lot worse. The Valdez was a tanker with a known amount of oil. This underwater gusher is virtually limitless.

And before I forget, something occurred to me. This incident was man caused. But could such a thing happen naturally? I mean couldn’t there be some type of underwater earthquake or something that could cause oil to gush out?

And then there’s the politics of it all. Now the right wingers usually mock any concern over the environment. But now some have taken to criticizing their arch-enemy, Obama, for not acting quickly enough to save us all. Well if environmental concerns are so silly, what’s the problem?

Also there is the paradox of people wanting the oil leak stopped and criticizing Obama for not stopping it but at the same time complaining about him putting a moratorium on new underwater drilling — we need the jobs.

I would think we as the American people have every right to be angry at BP for not taking necessary safety precautions and Obama has expressed that anger himself. But one right-wing business above all radio pundit was distressed because Obama had talked mean to or about BP. That would be Tom Sullivan. He also agreed with a caller that Obama in trying to put too much blame and liability and hurt on BP was risking sending that company into bankruptcy and then who would pay for the whole thing?

I don‘t think the rhetoric will throw BP into bankruptcy, but the cost of this whole catastrophe might well do it.

And someone I was listening to pointed out that BP tried to save costs and thus improve its bottom line by skipping safety precautions and in the end its safety failures may well lead to its bankruptcy.

Under no circumstances will BP actually pay all of the true costs. The biggest costs will be paid by those directly affected, those whose lives and livelihoods are ruined, such as the fishermen.

It costs the government because of all the attention it must put on the problem and of course it will cost the whole economy one way or another.

The eerie thing about all of this is that we really do not know when and if that oil will stop flowing.

It spreads like a cancer on a world that neglected to take care of itself and mocked those who have been concerned for all these years.

If the oil leak is plugged soon things might go back to normal fairly soon, except for those whose lives and livelihoods have been wrecked and the dead animals.

But if it is not and the oil keeps spreading, how long will it take for the mockers to quit mocking and start yelling in distress for someone to save them?


Mixed messages in the continuing Gulf of Mexico oil disaster; Obama should address American people directily (past news conferences) …

May 29, 2010

UPDATE: So what now? plan C or D? (I can’t keep track) The top kill and junk shot techniques have not worked, so now BP will try once more to cap the underwater well that is spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but that could take up to a week, it was reported Saturday evening. And still no solid feeling that the United States government is really on top of something that should be considered national emergency number one at the current time.

———————

Short of war, the BP Gulf oil disaster may become the longest running news story on record. Just checked the web and the news was that once again efforts to plug the underwater gusher have been halted. It seems that throwing mud and cement and golf balls and everything but the kitchen sink into the hole is not yet doing the trick.

Meanwhile, millions of gallons of oil are polluting thousands of square miles of the Gulf of Mexico and the threat is that it will spread as the result of the BP underwater oil well blowout. And scientists are saying that underwater plumes of oil are posing an invisible or hidden threat as well.

But the messages in all this are mixed (beyond oil and water). Even though residents of the areas affected so far in Louisiana desperately call for help and blame President Obama for not acting quickly and forcefully enough, there are also concerns expressed that a shut down of offshore oil drilling would endanger the area’s economy, just like the oil spill at sea endangers it too.

And while Republicans (well not all) claimed George W. Bush did what was called for during the Katrina incident, and Democrats (and others) claim he did not, now Republicans are criticizing Obama for not doing enough (and so do many Democrats), while Obama claims he has been in charge of the emergency response from day one.

While conservatives rail against big government, some of them now take the opportunity to criticize Obama (whom they see as liberal) for not using all the power of big government to deal with the emergency, and while they are usually against big government interfering with business, many think he ought to take over the emergency effort from BP, which is seen as not acting quickly or effectively enough.

I also read a column by one of those writers who makes it his profession to oppose nearly all things Obama criticizing his moratorium on new offshore drilling. He said that restrictions on offshore drilling closer to the coastlines, but somewhat safer because they are in shallower water, and on-land drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge is what has prompted drilling further out to sea and a mile deep into the ocean where things are harder to control, as BP was doing, and where, indeed, they can’t yet control things.

And while we hear the cries of devastation to beaches (resort areas) and ecologically valuable and sensitive wetlands, we also hear the complaints that while only three beaches on the Gulf are affected right now, all the negative news has discouraged tourists throughout the Gulf region to the detriment of the tourist trade.

And the fishing industry in the Gulf is shut down and in peril of being destroyed forever or for at least a generation.

Although Obama made his second trip to the Gulf Friday, he was immediately criticized by some for not staying longer and still not sounding all that convincing that he is on top of things and is in charge — even though he said he is in charge and is willing to take the blame — the buck stops here and all — in the response.

Meanwhile, BP had stopped the top kill efforts, for 16 hours, as I understand it, to shut down the underwater gusher and no one outside of BP, not even the government, it seemed was aware of it. It was also reported that BP put on a show of white-jump suited for-hire clean up workers on the beach when Obama was present and then sent them home once he had gone (BP subsequently vowed the cleaners would be back in the morning, it was reported).

But from what I am hearing and reading, I get the impression BP is still leading the government around by the nose.

As I blog this, this thing has been going on for more than five weeks and although the top kill and junk shot techniques BP is said to be using now — pouring mud and cement and golf balls and old tires and stuff down the hole — may be working (well I just learned they are not at this time), they may also not be and it might all go on until August when it is said the relief wells could be finished — or it might go on for decades (at least one scientist I heard said).

We’ve all learned a lot. We’ve learned that the governmental agencies, most notably the Minerals and Mining Management Agency (or whatever it is called) is corrupt with inspectors taking payoffs and with personnel going back and forth in employment between the industry and government. We’ve found that BP went out and drilled a mile deep without enough knowledge or even concern as to what to do should it hit a gusher and things got out of control. We’ve found out that no one was in charge and no one knew what to do on that Deep Horizon oil platform (well that’s what the headlines said) on which eleven men were killed. That’s not a criticism of the poor workers (and it’s a dangerous job and accidents will happen). It’s an indictment of BP, notorious for playing fast and loose with safety procedures and environmental concerns over the years.

But let’s get back to the big government thing. Very few people would say they are in favor of “big government”. But in a disaster, suddenly big government becomes desirable, a necessity. But how do you just create big government suddenly when you need it.

And in a world where we still value wealth and comfort and status over everything else, corruption flourishes.

I am fortunate to currently live in a place in Northern California far away from oil spills and to have one of the best views of nature anywhere in the world.

But the money-first pave-everything-over crowd is always ready to destroy it all.

And if they got their way, too many people locally would support them under the mantra: “We must have jobs”.

And one more thing, there are reports that some are getting sick in the cleanup efforts, presumably from the oil and oil mixed with toxic chemical dispersant.

I am not at all convinced that we have to spoil our nest to survive — that seems sort of a contradiction anyway.

P.s.

Just what does it take to get Barack Obama excited? And why doesn’t the leader of the world’s only superpower take it directly to BP (in person)? He should demand that the CEO meet with him (summon him, so to speak) and there should be a photo op of both of them together. And Obama should take that opportunity to say (demonstrate) that he really is in charge. I also think a television address directly to the people (aside from a news conference) on this one would be in order and quite valuable.

P.s. P.s.

I realize there is some reluctance by Obama, probably, to take complete ownership of this thing because then when things go from bad to worse he takes all the blame and it also might leave BP and out in future legal claims — but the facts are plain to see — it is all BP’s fault and liability, but the government has to be there to protect the interests, the life of the people.

OH, AND HAVE A NICE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!


Obama makes his case on oil disaster; I set my own record straight…

May 27, 2010

UPDATE:  It’s on again for the top kill technique of dumping mud and cement down the hole to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, it is now being reported (7:21 p.m. PST). It had been halted for some time due to technical reasons. I don’t plan to keep updating this blog post by the hour, but I was surfing the web and saw the news — if you have not read this post, please do. I have some thoughts on the subject:

————————- 

Just watching — still am listening to questions and answers — President Barack Obama’s address to the nation about what he is doing about the BP Gulf oil leak disaster. He presented a pretty good case that the federal government has been in charge and he has been on it from day one and that everything is being done that can be done. And he allowed as how his administration is not perfect and some mistakes were made.

———————–

ADD 1:  I think commentator David Gergen described Obama’s address as a little flat and low keyed. And I have to say it seems that Obama as president tends to be deliberate in his actions and plays the role to some extent as a consensus builder — I’m not sure this works so well in a big time emergency. I’d rather have someone with the attitude (if not the way of thinking) of the late “I’m in charge” Gen. Alexander Haig. Obama the candidate was a little more forceful and single minded.

Obama’s cautiousness and pragmatism may be good for long-range policy making but no so good for immediate action. And despite his claims to the contrary today, it does not seem that the government took full charge from the beginning. But in the end, actions will speak louder than words.

———————————————-

It’s pretty apparent from just following the news day to day — and what are we? a month and a week or more past the beginning of the disaster? that everyone was caught off guard.

—————————-

CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION:  And for anyone who reads this blog regularly, I want to note that I had in a previous blog questioned the legal jurisdiction in the incident and even suggested it was in international waters. More careful checking — which was only a click to Wikipedia away — tells me that it was some 40 miles off shore and in U.S. territorial waters, and clearly the news has indicated from the start that the U.S. assumes jurisdiction. Thank you.

———————-

Obama admitted that there were deep flaws in government environmental and safety oversight, and of course that has been the case long before he took office.

He also said that although he is placing a moratorium on new offshore drilling he still believes the nation has to continue offshore drilling to meet its energy needs, but the disaster points to the fact it needs to work harder on developing alternative energy.

My personal feeling is that offshore drilling should be halted — it’s not worth the environmental risk. But polling shows that feeling is not shared by a majority of the electorate — and maybe they are more practical-minded that I.

It is strange that some on the right who complain about an overbearing government are now calling for bigger and bolder action by the government. It shows how disingenuous they are and what lengths they will go to oppose the middle and the left and Obama.

I’ll blog more on this and other things later today — I hope.


Has Obama met his Katrina? And real political change has to come from outside the establishment…

May 26, 2010

Is Barack Obama offering real change? To some extent, maybe. But his change, especially his inability to handle the Gulf oil spill crisis, is making his change look  too much like the same old same old Bush W methodology — he’s doing a heck of a job.

The measure of a leader is what he can do in a crisis. And in this Gulf oil disaster Obama is not particularly having his finest hour. In some ways it seems like this is his Katrina. I’d have to go back and look at the actual time line, but as I recall, we first heard that there had been an explosion on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf. There were casualties, eleven dead, but the first reports quoting experts assured us all that there was no sign of oil escaping. But maybe there should have been contingency plans in the advent that it was (and it was). Apparently there were not. That of course is primarily the fault of BP, but the federal government certainly should have had plans and realized the potential and immediately took charge and made sure something was done post haste. The response was rather slow (despite Obama administration claims) and the government let BP control the information and action, puting itself and all of us at the giant oil corporation’s mercy.

Of course Obama can’t immediately fix everything wrong in government left over from previous administrations. One big problem is that the agency or agencies that oversee oil and mining and such on land and sea are rife with corruption. We now find out that many of the inspections done on offshore oil rigs were phony — the industry did them itself and the paid-off bureaucrats signed off on them. It’s even been reported that BP took a shortcut in drilling the mile-deep Deep Horizon well by throwing sea water into it instead of mud as it was supposed to (profits before safety) . And this is what we get. But maybe if Obama was not so busy apologizing to our enemies or at least people who don’t like us and trying to rebuild a nation (Afghanistan) that resists rebuilding, he would have more time to take care of things at home.

During the Katrina fiasco, Bush just did not seem to care. It was not worth his time to help a bunch of poor people down in New Orleans who probably did not and would not vote for him and his party. In Obama’s case, I am sure he cares, but there seems to be something missing. The fact is that no one really knows what to do to stop that leak (they were still dithering this morning, more than a month after the thing began), and that is not the president’s fault.

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UPDATE: a so-called top kill procedure began at 1 p.m. central time today (5-26-10) in which BP is essentially throwing mud and concrete down the hole in an attempt to plug it up but its CEO was only giving the gambit a 60 percent or so chance to work. Meanwhile I just heard  a report that the oil gushing out (millions of gallons so far) is becoming darker and presumably more toxic. It is said they might not know for days if this is working, and if not, efforts to dig relief wells would not be done until August. There is also talk of using a convoy of tankers to suck up the oil — seems like that would be hard to keep up.

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But Obama needs to be more visible in marshaling the forces that can put their heads together and figure out what to do. He does not need to be anti-business or anti oil but he needs to be pro-American.

This Gulf oil disaster, with the fishery of the Gulf in peril (maybe already ruined), and the coastline and wetlands of Louisiana being devastated and the potential for far wider environmental and economic damage, needs to take priority over things such as Afghanistan where we are currently wasting blood and treasure.

And again, Obama’s change seems like more of the same. While he came in sweet-talking the Islamic world of the Middle East, he’s got the nation mired deeper than ever in the war over there.

He did not do away with torture and he continued the bank bailouts and while health care is listed as his greatest success so far, it really remains to be seen. And the housing crisis continues along with high unemployment.

Real political change may have to come from something other than the establishment.

While I hate to break down all politics to left and right, or liberal (progressive has become the modern euphemism) and conservative, I have to think that while in 2008 we essentially got change (supposedly) from the left in the presidential election, next time around it may come from the right or even more likely from something that is neither.

(And by the way, even though “liberal” has been attached to the Democrats and while liberals nowadays like to call themselves “progressives“, didn’t the “progressive” term start with Republican Teddy Roosevelt? Or at least in that era? Back then the Republicans wanted clean government and instituted civil service to replace the spoils system, while Democrats seemed to prefer machine politics that got votes by handing out jobs).

If the economy does not improve substantially, in the presidential election of 2012 or even the congressional elections next fall we might get real change (though not necessarily change for the better).

There are a lot of other issues other than the economy — defense, war policy, illegal immigration, gay rights (I prefer really to say homosexual rights, but the word gay has been ruined for decades now — it used to just mean happy), the environment (BP spill, a good example), and so on, but the economy or the perception of the economy usually takes center stage in elections.

I thought it was strange Al Gore not only lost due to an electoral college technicality but did not win by a landslide, seeing as how he would have presumably continued the relative prosperity under Bill Clinton — but I guess people did not know the bottom was going to fall out and so they thought they could afford to express their disgust with Clinton’s outrageous lack of judgment and morals (and I can understand their disgust).

But unless my memory fails me, the economy helped George W. Bush, one of our most obviously dull witted presidents, win two terms, even while it had ruined his dad’s (a far brighter bulb) chance for a second term.

I still think the vast majority of the electorate remains essentially middle of the road — it just tends to swing a little left and a little right at times.

But things are so bad (even though there are some signs of economic improvement here and there) and the corruption and ineffectiveness of government so great, that the electorate is liable to swing back to the right or something that is not the traditional right, but is not left.

The tea party movement and its faction of libertarians and the stray bigots and nut cases add another element that does not exactly fit into the familiar liberal/conservative paradigms.

While I doubt the new element can gain much strength in government by itself, I do believe it can have, or has had successes with individual candidates and I really believe it can have a major impact on the actions of the establishment, whose professional politicians are fighting for their survival. Since the tea party still seems to be closer to the Republicans, that party, the GOP, is particularly vulnerable to its influence.

The libertarian element really offers a challenge to the establishment who can only think in left and right terms because it is left and right or right and left at the same time.

In addition, hard-core tea baggers threaten to oppose the entire establishment to include Republicans and Democrats.

Both the Republicans and Democrats, who have had a stranglehold on politics since the Civil War, are facing insurrections within their own parties as well as a challenge from what amounts to a quasi third party, the tea party. In some respects the tea party will remain stronger if it remains tea party lower case instead of becoming an official party with membership and bylaws and a written platform and its name on the ballot, as in Tea Party. It’s hard to fight a challenger you can’t quite identify.

While I think there are regressive and racial overtones and outright idiots within the ranks of the challengers, overall I still feel this new movement of change (different from the Obama change) is a healthy development for our democracy.

Presumably candidates on the national level will still have to appeal to the broader electorate, so that is a safety mechanism.

On the other hand, if the establishment keeps failing and desperation is too acute, extremists could get the upper hand.