Skip

The Spill, The Scandal and the President
June 10, 2010 1:11 PM   Subscribe

The Spill, The Scandal and the President continues the high-quality political reporting we've been getting recently from Rolling Stone magazine.

I'm out of words to comment on this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy (160 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Since you're out of words, I unfortunately can't tell if you're being sarcastic. You know it's hard to tell nowadays. Is it better than the various mega-summaries available from other news outlets?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:19 PM on June 10, 2010


The report ominously concluded, "There are few practical spill-response options for dealing with submerged oil."

.
posted by jbickers at 1:26 PM on June 10, 2010


I'm sorry, I wasn't clear.

The article presents a great deal of new reporting, brand-new information that we have not seen before. And it flipped me the fuck out and I really, really didn't have anything to say except to post it.

I didn't want to editorialize one bit. Sorry if it came off as flip - the article actually made me feel physically ill.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]




I liked Colbert's take
posted by rosswald at 1:32 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


From page 1:
Most troubling of all, the government has allowed BP to continue deep-sea production at its Atlantis rig – one of the world's largest oil platforms. Capable of drawing 200,000 barrels a day from the seafloor, Atlantis is located only 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana, in waters nearly 2,000 feet deeper than BP drilled at Deepwater Horizon. According to congressional documents, the platform lacks required engineering certification for as much as 90 percent of its subsea components – a flaw that internal BP documents reveal could lead to "catastrophic" errors. In a May 19th letter to Salazar, 26 congressmen called for the rig to be shut down immediately. "We are very concerned," they wrote, "that the tragedy at Deepwater Horizon could foreshadow an accident at BP Atlantis."

The administration's response to the looming threat? According to an e-mail to a congressional aide from a staff member at MMS, the agency has had "zero contact" with Atlantis about its safety risks since the Deepwater rig went down.
From page 2:
Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency's culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP – a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company – with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years. He calibrated his response to the Gulf spill based on flawed and misleading estimates from BP – and then deployed his top aides to lowball the flow rate at a laughable 5,000 barrels a day, long after the best science made clear this catastrophe would eclipse the Exxon Valdez.
And it goes on and on - with full details and the details just make it worse.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:34 PM on June 10, 2010




The article kinda lost me re its objectivity when Darrell Issa was quoted for ... why was he quoted about anything in authoritative fashion regarding the Obama administration and regulation? What's he doing in there?
posted by raysmj at 1:35 PM on June 10, 2010


Wow, a lot of creepy people here. Why not shit on some other thread?

To spell it out, the awful part about this article is that it seems to show that Obama knew MMS was a serious problem, received numerous urgent complaints, publicly promised to fix it, appointed an oil industry suck-up to run it, ignored more complaints, allowed the largest amount of new Gulf drilling in history, then made light of the spill for almost a week, and still hasn't taken any protective action against further spills by BP, which the article points out has a consistently atrocious safety record going over decades and was majorly involved in every single major oil spill in the US, yes, even the Exxon Valdez.

It's a serious article with serious reporting and you should read it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:39 PM on June 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: Wow, a lot of creepy people here.
posted by hippybear at 1:42 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


AZ: Favorited by others: 36378, you seem to be doing alright!

I did try and make my link small and unobtrusive, not wanting to derail. I just thought it was a good example of the emotional response that's going around. It almost feels like people want Obama to make a "retaliatory strike."

I didn't have a chance yet to read the whole article, but am curious to learn more about Obama's role in this mess.
posted by rosswald at 1:42 PM on June 10, 2010


I kind of miss Bush. No, really.

I mean, when he was in power, you could feel proud to be on the left, as part of the opposition.

Now we're stuck with Obama, and he's proving himself just as bad in a lot of ways. But where's the opposition going to come from? Not from within his own party or the left, because almost everyone is stuck in "Criticism of Obama = vote for Palin" scare mode. So that leaves us... where? Waiting for Republicans to speak up in favor of civil liberties, or against the wars or big oil? Of course there not going to oppose the positions he basically co-opted from them.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:46 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


What the article is saying is that this is a fuckup of Bushian proportions - and they seem to have the data to back it up though there are a lot of anonymous sources.

I had my problems with Obama's politics - but never before today did I start to wonder if he were even competent. I'm seriously flipped out.
From the start, the administration has seemed intent on allowing BP to operate in near-total secrecy. Much of what the public knows about the crisis it owes to Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. Under pressure from Markey, BP was forced to release footage of the gusher, admit that its early estimates put the leak as high as 14,000 barrels a day and post a live feed of its undersea operations on the Internet – video that administration officials had possessed from the earliest days of the disaster. "We cannot trust BP," Markey said. "It's clear they have been hiding the actual consequences of this spill."

But rather than applying such skepticism to BP's math, the Obama administration has instead attacked scientists who released independent estimates of the spill. When one scientist funded by NOAA released a figure much higher than the government's estimate, he found himself being pressured to retract it by officials at the agency. "Are you sure you want to keep saying this?" they badgered him. Lubchenco, the head of NOAA, even denounced as "misleading" and "premature" reports that scientists aboard the research vessel Pelican had discovered a massive subsea oil plume. Speaking to PBS, she offered a bizarre denial of the obvious. "It's clear that there is something at depth," she said, "but we don't even know that it's oil yet."

Scientists were stunned that NOAA, an agency widely respected for its scientific integrity, appeared to have been co-opted by the White House spin machine. "NOAA has actively pushed back on every fact that has ever come out," says one ocean scientist who works with the agency. "They're denying until the facts are so overwhelming, they finally come out and issue an admittance." Others are furious at the agency for criticizing the work of scientists studying the oil plumes rather than leading them. "Why they didn't have vessels there right then and start to gather the scientific data on oil and what the impacts are to different organisms is inexcusable," says a former government marine biologist. "They should have been right on top of that." Only six weeks into the disaster did the agency finally deploy its own research vessel to investigate the plumes.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:48 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maybe the awesome God we worship in the Blue states can clean up the oil?
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:48 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


lupus, I agree with your sentiment. I think maybe a lot of people are just outrage-fatigued? Maybe feeling impotent (I know I am).

I guess I'm not particularly shocked. I've given up any hope of Obama being any sort of leader for "the people". He's another hack of the mighty and powerful, and any nugget he throws to us plebes, I'll gladly accept, but unfortunately, I don't think there's a heck of a lot of that gonna be coming our way.
posted by symbioid at 1:49 PM on June 10, 2010


I didn't want to editorialize one bit.

Should have left off the bit about RS and let the article stand for itself. The presentation came off as Pepsi Blue to me.

(How do you get the one-page presentation on RS?)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:52 PM on June 10, 2010


On this point: appointed an oil industry suck-up to run it,

The article says:

Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency's culture of corruption.

But from all other accounts I've heard, the administration official that it would have fallen to to carry out the clean up of MMS, Elizabeth Birnbaum, is still widely viewed as anything but an oil industry lackey, having spent almost her entire career working in the area of Environmental Advocacy against the big oil companies.

She recently left the agency after it became clear there had been ongoing failures at the MMS, but I have not seen or heard anyone credibly characterizing Birnbaum as an oil industry stooge. And this environmental advocate with decades of experience in the nonprofit sector and in the Clinton administration failed to clean up the MMS she was heading. How can that failure possibly be attributed to oil industry lackeys being put in charge of the MMS?

I don't follow that particular thread of this argument at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:53 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


More on Darrell Issa.
posted by raysmj at 1:57 PM on June 10, 2010


(How do you get the one-page presentation on RS?)

It doesn't have one. It's all click-through, all the time.
posted by blucevalo at 1:57 PM on June 10, 2010


[most comments removed - I do not know what the hell is wrong with everyone but I've been helping my elderly dad fix his computer on the phone all day and I NEED YOU to not be fucking around. There are a ton of places on the internet to go shit in other people's threads, but if you respect people here, maybe you should act like it or go to MetaTalk or call my dad and fix his computer for him if you're so smart. If I am missing some joke, which is likely, please let me in on it, I could use a laugh]
posted by jessamyn at 1:57 PM on June 10, 2010 [24 favorites]


Much of what the public knows about the crisis it owes to Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment.

Massachusetts represent!
posted by ericb at 1:59 PM on June 10, 2010


And this article presents absolutely nothing about the numerous reports from ProPublica and elsewhere about how administration officials and NOAA scientists have been expressing frustration for some time now about BP's complete unwillingess to provide the data they need to make accurate flow estimates and determine other key aspects of the disaster.

Believe me or not, if this disaster gets turned into the "Obama fails" story of the year, the political situation gets much worse for better regulation and energy policy, and the focus will shift away from the still pending criminal investigations into BP until it gets to the point that it will actually seems credible even to people who rightly blame BP that any criminal charges against them are only politically motivated maneuvering to shift criticism away from the administration's failures, which will undermine the integrity and credibility of the charges. That's what will happen, right or wrong, and the political landscape will be far less favorable to better regulation and moving rapidly away from fossil fuels even if the criticisms of the administration are fair (which in many cases they actually aren't).

Since the next presidential election isn't even an issue until another couple of years from now, there's no point in campaigning against the president right now, unless you want to ensure he doesn't have any political support left to take the steps you'd actually prefer him to do. Unless you're just so pissed off at the president now for disappointing you that you wouldn't be satisfied again even if he was perfect from now on. These are the only truly relevant facts before us right now, IMO, as I've said before and will say again anytime I get the chance.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:08 PM on June 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


Scientists: Gulf spill is bigger than previously thought -- "New report says the Deepwater Horizon well has most likely spewed 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day, more than previously estimated."
posted by ericb at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2010


Should have left off the bit about RS and let the article stand for itself. The presentation came off as Pepsi Blue to me.

It's a good article and I'm thankful it was posted. Not Pepsi Blue in my book.
posted by zarq at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Believe me or not, if this disaster gets turned into the "Obama fails" story of the year, the political situation gets much worse for better regulation and energy policy...

At least today the Senate voted down Senator Lisa Murkowski's anti-environmental resolution to gut the authority of the EPA.
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on June 10, 2010


The report ominously concluded, "There are few practical spill-response options for dealing with submerged oil."

Too bad the Deep Ones are all off the New England coast and also "don't exist"
posted by jtron at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2010


Mostly what I see is outrage and a feeling of impotence and wanting to place blame when in fact the problem is very clear: consumers of oil. Like wife beaters who blame the wife, we like to beat up on BP and politicians rather than face the problem that is us. So long as oil is being extracted there have been and always will be spills. The only way to stop them is to stop extracting oil. Which is a good idea for a lot of reasons anyway. Channel your hate in the right direction.
posted by stbalbach at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Collectively, our species simply does not possess the mental acumen, moral fortitude, and empathic consciousness in order to remain alive on this world in a sustainable manner. So much truth has seen the light of day since this whole horrible god damned nightmare began.

There are more nightmares to come.

Our desperation to cling to unsustainable lifestyles will make us do more and more damage to the necessary systems that support us and all other advanced forms of life on this world. Environmental horrors, social and economic systems collapse, corporate usurpation of nation states, ethnic cleansing, new inquisitions...

It's all coming.

People wondered why dystopia was such a popular subject in the modern young adult fiction....

It's because the truth is that the future of this world IS A DYSTOPIA.

We are killing ourselves. We are not going to stop... not by our own volition.

It doesn't matter that this is the only homeworld that we could have ever known. It doesn't matter how many times you show someone who is sceptical of environmental protection just how very limited our options are in choosing where we go from here.... it's not like Mars is enticing... nor is Venus a lush haven.

The will not be a "Green Revolution" of the kind that we will need to survive. We are comfortable in our collective complicity of ripping apart our world. So many of us just give into the distractions of a modern technological society. I know I do... though I try to unplug more and more. But it will not be enough to matter. The individual desire for immediate comfort and satisfaction will overrule any collective effort to save ourselves.

We were NEVER smart. We were only clever.

There is a reason that I refer to us in the past tense... it's because there is NO future. Not for us... and not for the majority of advanced mammalian life on this precious blue green gem of a world.

The reefs are bleaching... the waters becoming more and more acidic... the oceans raped of fish stocks. We are burning coal faster than ever, and the air grows more sickly and dark. We have abused the aquifers, and burned the soils with pesticides and fertilizers... the deserts and dessication is spreading... much like the virus that has forced it along.

We have been burning our time... we have been burning our futures away.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2010 [28 favorites]




And this article presents absolutely nothing about the numerous reports from ProPublica and elsewhere about how administration officials and NOAA scientists have been expressing frustration for some time now about BP's complete unwillingess to provide the data they need to make accurate flow estimates and determine other key aspects of the disaster.

This is sort of my general problem with RS political articles in general-- they pretty much try to find the MOST. OUTRAGED. ANGLE. POSSIBLE. and then whittle away any information that indicates problems being of a more systemic nature or those that don't point to a single Evil Sinister Villain Responsible For It All. Between this and the general ickiness I get from reading raging anti-corporate invective opposite cigarette ads, I sort of bring along a good quantity of salt to any Rolling Stone piece about politics.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


It's a good article and I'm thankful it was posted. Not Pepsi Blue in my book.

I agree. I totally don't understand why so much comment removal is being needed in all these threads -- I'm also wondering if there's a joke I'm not in on.
posted by Forktine at 2:19 PM on June 10, 2010


Now we're stuck with Obama, and he's proving himself just as bad in a lot of ways. But where's the opposition going to come from? Not from within his own party or the left, because almost everyone is stuck in "Criticism of Obama = vote for Palin" scare mode. So that leaves us... where? Waiting for Republicans to speak up in favor of civil liberties, or against the wars or big oil? Of course there not going to oppose the positions he basically co-opted from them.

The two party system doesn't leave much room for anyone but centrists, so you're not going to get a president as far on the left as many people thought Obama would be. On the other hand, the Tea Party can really only spoil elections for Republicans by splitting the right wing vote, whereas in a system like England's a group as far-right and overtly racist as the BNP can be a legitimate party that wins seats in the legislature.

Hopefully one of the few good things to come out of this disaster will be a healthy distrust of oil companies and the safety of drilling, in the same way that Chernobyl and Three Mile Island turned the public against nuclear power (which ironically is being seriously discussed as a less harmful alternative to fossil fuels these days).
posted by burnmp3s at 2:20 PM on June 10, 2010


Environmental horrors, social and economic systems collapse, corporate usurpation of nation states, ethnic cleansing, new inquisitions...

It's all coming.


Way to lighten the mood there PROD_TPSL.
posted by zarq at 2:20 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]




then whittle away any information that indicates problems being of a more systemic nature

I think this article certainly talks about there being a systemic problem, at least within the MMA and the way things were allowed to basically degrade to the point of complete failure over a decade or more, and then how Big Talk Was Made about how it was going to be solved but none of the actual problems were addressed on any real level.
posted by hippybear at 2:23 PM on June 10, 2010


Most comments removed? Crazy. Wish I'd seen whatever was so heinous before it disappeared.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2010


Rolling Stone is not high quality political reporting. It's populism peppered with facts distorted like a fun house mirror. It tells you what you want to hear - there is someone to blame. In fact it's not BPs fault, it's not Obama's fault, it's not Cheney or Bush - it's YOUR FAULT FOR BUYING OIL. I'd like to see some high quality reporting like that from RS. But no, we shift the blame and make MeFi faux-outage posts and forget about and go truck off somewhere for dinner.
posted by stbalbach at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wish I'd seen whatever was so heinous before it disappeared.

Early thread-shitting and people complaining about same. Please take this to MetaTalk if it needs discussion. If you hate this topic, maybe you can just go someplace else so people who are interested can talk about it?
posted by jessamyn at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2010


Do they say it's all the fault of the British?
posted by A189Nut at 2:39 PM on June 10, 2010


Chamber of Commerce Says Taxpayers Should Help Pay for BP Spill Cleanup; House Minority Leader John Boehner Agrees, Then Recants.


Classic. Just fucking classic.
posted by darkstar at 2:42 PM on June 10, 2010


it's YOUR FAULT FOR BUYING OIL

While I think there is truth to that, I also think that government regulation of industry has a major role to play, whether it is in enforcing environmental standards or making sure that toys get sold to children are lead free.
posted by Staggering Jack at 2:43 PM on June 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


saulgoodman: Unless you're just so pissed off at the president now for disappointing you that you wouldn't be satisfied again even if he was perfect from now on.

I agree with you, mostly, but what's detailed in the article goes well beyond the level of disappointment.
posted by blucevalo at 2:44 PM on June 10, 2010


Maybe the awesome God we worship in the Blue states can clean up the oil?
flat screen tv's? can you clean up the marshlands with your wii-mote? is there an app for that?
posted by kimyo at 2:44 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]




From the article (which, a few pages in, I find it good)

One of the Bush-era managers whom Salazar left in place was John Goll, the agency's director for Alaska. Shortly after, the Interior secretary announced a reorganization of MMS in the wake of the Gulf disaster, Goll called a staff meeting and served cake decorated with the words "Drill, baby, drill."

Okay. What. What what what what what. What.

I want to see Goll unemployed now. Like, yesterday. This is beyond belief. After the disaster? Drill baby drill? Christ on a sidecar.
posted by angrycat at 2:59 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rolling Stone is not high quality political reporting.
isn't the concept, you read article, you find fault, you post links? you further the discussion, feed the hivemind quality food.

they pretty much try to find the MOST. OUTRAGED. ANGLE. POSSIBLE.
if this disaster is not outrage-worthy, if guantanamo is not, if healthcare is not, what is?
posted by kimyo at 3:03 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


An internal cost-benefit analysis conducted by BP – explicitly based on the children's tale The Three Little Pigs – revealed that the oil giant had considered making buildings at the refinery blast-resistant to protect its workers (the pigs) from an explosion (the wolf). BP knew lives were on the line: "If the wolf blows down the house, the piggy is gobbled." But the company determined it would be cheaper to simply pay off the families of dead pigs.

You know, in that fucking boom video, the speaker had some words of anger for Obama and said that his response failures were breaking her heart.

Mine too. I mean, really breaking.

I can't read anymore of this article, but sign me up for any march on Washington/any other citizen efforts there might be.
posted by angrycat at 3:04 PM on June 10, 2010


It's a good article and I'm thankful it was posted. Not Pepsi Blue in my book.

It is a good article, and I too am glad it was posted (I'm almost always pro-posts). I just think everything in the post after the first link is shilling for RS. Why?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:06 PM on June 10, 2010


angrycat: if i'm not mistaken, that was somewhere within the first week of the spill, right about the same time it canceled the award dinner where they were going to present bp/transocean with a safety award.
posted by msconduct at 3:06 PM on June 10, 2010


I'm English but this anti BP rhetoric is music to my ears. The polluter pays principle is fair and desirable. The polluter should pay, and at long last it seems that it will. So well done Americans!

Well done Americans! (Now dig deep into your fucking pockets because you owe for multiple environmental atrocities, starting with Bhopal)
posted by verisimilitude at 3:08 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]




Well done Americans! (Now dig deep into your fucking pockets because you owe for multiple environmental atrocities, starting with Bhopal)

Surely you mean there's a multinational corporation which owes for Bhopal, not the American public. Because if that is your philosophy, we'll start billing the British citizenry for this Gulf disaster.
posted by hippybear at 3:13 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of interesting, appalling things in that article, but why the christ do they have to be couched in such a clearly one-sided semi-snide way? Sentences like "Exxon, quickly recognizing what still seems to elude the Obama administration, quickly shunted BP aside and took control of the spill" don't seem calculated to elicit a careful consideration (on the reader's part) of what the best response to the spill might have been, whether it's possible to have a corporate entity oversee its own mistakes, what the alternatives to that kind of self-oversight might have been, etc, etc. They just seem like they want to suggest a kind of generic inchoate incompetence on Obama's part, without all the messy work of, you know, thinking carefully and realistically about a) what might have been done better and b) what the failure to do those things implies about the administration and about our energy policy. Ugh.
posted by chalkbored at 3:14 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


drain the gulf
posted by Fupped Duck at 3:14 PM on June 10, 2010


I do my part for lessening our dependence on oil by never checking the oil level in my car. You're welcome.
posted by notmydesk at 3:40 PM on June 10, 2010


Hippybear: its as if you've already started. BP is responsible for almost one in every seven pounds of dividends paid to British pension pots. People are saying Obama's got his foot on the throat of British Pensioners.

I'm actually keen on his high environmental standards - providing they don't turn out to be double standards. So next time a US company fucks up abroad, I'd like to see them held to the same level of scrutiny. I'm not optimistic.
posted by verisimilitude at 3:41 PM on June 10, 2010


Surely you mean there's a multinational corporation which owes for Bhopal, not the American public.

That's what gets me about this. Nobody is claiming the government of the United Kingdom needs to pony up for this. They're claiming BP has to. And they do. I fully support the right of the United Kingdom to go after any American-based company that causes a disaster such as this.

It is not our responsibility to worry about the shareholders of BP. Those shareholders have been making money for a long time by investing their money in a company which has risks associated with it. And some of the money they've been making has been a direct result of increased profits made through negligent safety features and regulatory capture. Now it is time to pay the piper and we're supposed to say, "oh, we don't want to hurt the poor shareholders".

Fuck the shareholders.
posted by Justinian at 3:53 PM on June 10, 2010 [27 favorites]


verisimilitude: i actually had a conversation yesterday saying that if this had to happen, it's a good thing it happened in the u.s., else the u.s. wouldn't give a damn & that thing would be hemorrhaging until it ran dry--which could take years. quite honestly, i don't think many (if any) other countries have the resources & the clout to make a cleanup happen.

as for letting bp run the show: the simple fact is that the government simply doesn't have the expertise. one of the reasons they don't have the expertise is because oil companies will pay more for that expertise than the government will. another reason is that when someone who has actual expertise comes along, they're shot down & shouted down when they try to present expert ideas & opinions. please note: a whole lot of people claim to be experts but are actually full of hot air. which is part of why it was just easier to let bp--the experts--handle it than to appoint someone--gov't or private sector--only to have the appointed one fall on his or her face once they started running the show. whatever else this is, it's new territory & even the best laid plans of mice & men & oil miners go awry; in this instance the best-laid plans were none too good, and there was NO backup plan in place let alone one that was guaranteed to work.

msconduct predicts: bp will be bought out (shell company, i believe it's called), hayward & his to men will disappear quietly into the world of consulting, where they will be paid a handsome retainer & a literal king's ransom should something like this ever happen again. they are, after all, the experts, and they are now the only people in the universe with actual expertise.

as for obama ... he's got a rough job. he's shown nothing that one can point to with pride in this instance, and i doubt he'll be around for another term to push any long-range goals he has.
posted by msconduct at 3:54 PM on June 10, 2010


So next time a US company fucks up abroad, I'd like to see them held to the same level of scrutiny

Because humans being what they are, yeah, if a U.S. company fucked up in Indonesia or off the coast of Africa, no way would there be such a ruckus.

But if a U.S. company fucked up off the coast of Europe? There'd be anger and shame.

If a U.S. company fucked up off the coast of the U.S.?

You'd have a similar level of outrage.

It's too bad about the British pensioners. It's too bad about the shrimpers in LA. It's too bad about all the animals that are dying.

Nobody is angry because the company happens to be BRITISH petroleum. Not anybody I talk to about it, anyhow. Not that I've seen on metafilter.
posted by angrycat at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2010


oh! i forgot! as for mms, it will be restructured & for a small while things will look different. the grim reality, though, is that the oil business is too big to fail. right up there with the banks. that goes for mms (which, i believe, is the 2nd largest revenue generator for the federal gov't after the irs), for bp & exxon & shell & the rest, and for the shareholders and all the way down to the people working on the rigs & the helicopter pilots who fly them back & forth to the rigs & the companies that supply the rigs. even governor bobby jindal is pushing to get drilling in the gulf back at full steam & then some.
posted by msconduct at 4:03 PM on June 10, 2010


BP is responsible for almost one in every seven pounds of dividends paid to British pension pots. People are saying Obama's got his foot on the throat of British Pensioners.

What?

Did Obama commit 700 safety and environmental violations over the last 5 years?

Did Obama do deepwater drilling on the cheap and skimped on basic safeguards that could have reduced the chances of this well going terribly wrong?

Did Obama choose to pay out 84 cents a share every quarter since 2008 when they could have plowed 20 cents of that into safety and prevention and still had the highest dividend in the oil industry while preventing the halving of the stock price that has taken place since this event happened, likely leading to a cutting of that dividend by more than 20 cents?

When the hell did the British people get so damn stupid? What happened, you vote for a Tory government and your brains fall out of your ears?
posted by dw at 4:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


I keep hearing this. Obama isn’t doing what we want, blah blah. Movements pick leaders, not vice versa. Obama isn’t going to do jack unless people oppose the actual problem instead of, y’know, him.
It's not a bad piece, but the whole "Bush owns eight years of the mess...but after more than a year on the job..." and the devil is gloating stuff...
There was a pretty incestuous relationship between the MMS and oil companies well before Obama got the big chair. The energy policy was pretty well fucked. Bush was walking out the door changing the regs on debris from strip mining, how close coal fired plants can be to national parks, upping their emissions, opening millions of acres up to oil shale extraction, cutting government regulation on how trainloads of haz mat is shipped around areas of dense populations – those midnight regulations can take years to undo.

Finally something like this happens and everyone looks around like 'wha? oh, uh... er... Obama GRAR.'
I mean - where was anyone then?
What is any administration supposed to do if its own federal agencies and the company lies or says go to hell when asked for information (and even ignores info (to the point of threatening its own people)internally)?

That's not meant as a defense of this administration, quite the contrary; there are certain issues that require a great deal of work and organization and we cannot make the mistake of waiting for politicians to lead us there merely because we elected them.

As to that - there's plenty of push on this from a lot of different directions. The commercial fisherman have protests going.

There’s a campaign to seize BP’s assets.
There’s Ralph Nader's boycott, if that's your thing.
(Maybe boycotts and protests aren't the answer. But it worked for us in
Chicago. Someone named Rahm Emanuel was involved, y'know, responding to the pressure. Wonder whatever happened to him. (Of course, now BP wants to directional drill under the great lakes, and other shennanigans. Got cited by the EPA in '09 for sticking benzene right into our drinking water intakes. Classy.))

Point being, the president can't realistically just start kicking in doors and putting guns to people's heads to make things work (although this is where we're currently headed). In Bush's case his political support was protected. Big money. Secrecy. Lockstep party support.
Obama has to work through the political process. He's vulnerable that way. So he'll respond to pressure (kerry and lieberman's energy bill for example). So don't wait for him to lead - lead him.
Almost everyone else is fully entrenched and has their interests, party base, they have a history, etc.
...Of course, the Dems (Schumer) could fuck up a one car funeral, so my optimism that folks can capitalize on this is pretty restrained.

And I think Grijalva (from the FPP) is right. Wait long enough and people will forget the whole thing and be ready to swallow the b.s. again.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:13 PM on June 10, 2010 [10 favorites]




The "it's your fault for buying oil argument" makes me think of something I read recently which said something along the lines of: a person who advocates building a bridge can not be expected to drive their car into the river to prove their dedication to the cause. The need to buy oil is, at least in part, due to massive social issues like lack of mass transit systems, the way cities are designed, etc. It's not a problem that can be solved by individuals because it's not a problem that was caused by individuals.

And the social changes that need to be made, like dramatically redesigning cities, are ones that will be very hard to make happen because of opposition from huge corporations and their allies in government. Like Obama. Who apparently values the profits of BP more than the health and well being of the people and ecosystems of the Gulf. I can't believe there's another deep sea oil rig nearby that is still being used, despite serious safety concerns. It's obscene, and it indicates how out of touch with reality the government has become. After the epic disaster of the oil spill, they're still allowing deep sea oil rigs that aren't established to be safe to carry on? In the waters around Louisiana? You've got to be kidding me.
posted by overglow at 4:24 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


msconduct predicts: bp will be bought out (shell company, i believe it's called)

You really think Royal Dutch Shell is going to buy BP, given they'd be on the hook for the $30-70B in cleanup costs, which is 30%-70% of BP's market cap? $70B is nearly half RDS's market cap right now.

No one is touching BP right now. It's more likely BP will sell off assets.

as for obama ... he's got a rough job. he's shown nothing that one can point to with pride in this instance, and i doubt he'll be around for another term to push any long-range goals he has.

If he's not around another term, then it will be Palin or Jindal replacing him. If people thought Obama was naive, they're in for a world of hurt if Jindal gets in there. As for Palin, it's all up to who's pulling her strings.

The crazy thing is this is all playing out EXACTLY the way conservatives would like -- the Feds can't do much, so it's on the company to solve it, and if they fail it's up to the states to figure it out. And yet it's not working because the Feds can't do much. Cognitive dissonance much?

the grim reality, though, is that the oil business is too big to fail. right up there with the banks.

Nowhere close to true. We've had multiple oil companies fail during the lean times of the 1980s and early 2000s. The oil industry is about eating steak at $140/barrel and ramen at $40/barrel, as it has been for a century now. Banks, OTOH, keep the capital flowing so the oil flows. Without banks offering lines of credit, oil companies can't get equipment, since it takes money to get that oil out of the ground.

OTOH, there's the Penn Square Bank collapse, which dovetailed into the Continental Savings collapse and the resulting Savings And Loan Scandal, all of which was driven by fraudulent oil speculation.
posted by dw at 4:27 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


clarification: i meant a shell company, not the company doing business as shell. i'm probably using the wrong terminology. i meant that bp will be bought out--or perhaps sell off its assets, if you prefer--but that the people and the structure and the current business will continue, only under a new name & new leadership, which will be just like the old leadership.

and multiple oil companies did, indeed, fail in the 80s & early 00s. that's one reason regulations were relaxed, and royalties were suspended up to a point. because the economic ramifications (and the political ones, too) of that crash & burn led to quite a bit of financial chaos. since we're burning out industries with nothing to replace them, and because oil is king, big oil got bigger & they got there on their terms, not the governments'. (meaning here multiple governments since various national economies depend on oil.)
posted by msconduct at 4:37 PM on June 10, 2010


BP is responsible for almost one in every seven pounds of dividends paid to British pension pots.

Why is there so little diversity in the British pension system?
posted by dirigibleman at 4:40 PM on June 10, 2010


It was the most devastating assault on American soil since 9/11.

You had to go there?! THERE?! Really? REALLY REALLY?! Not saying it's not accurate, but anytime I hear anything compared to 9/11, my mind shuts down as a survival mechanism learned from the Bush administration and Rudy Guiliani's failed Presidential Campaign. NO, I WILL NEVER FORGET, SO YOU TELLING ME NEVER TO FORGET IS SUPERFLUOUS.

I almost stopped reading, but compromised to just throwing up in my mouth a little.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:42 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Like wife beaters who blame the wife, we like to beat up on BP and politicians rather than face the problem that is us.

More like a drug addict who blames the pusher. Pretty sure BP is part of the problem. The us getting off our ass part of the equation I can buy. But I have to go with overglow “The need to buy oil is, at least in part, due to massive social issues like lack of mass transit systems, the way cities are designed, etc.” not to mention rapaciousness and corruption.

We are killing ourselves. We are not going to stop... not by our own volition.
Quit. Me, I’m going to keep trying to put the ball across the line or die trying.
I mean, what’s the percentage in not trying to change this? Hedonism? You get to gasp out ‘I told you so’ after sitting on the sidelines watching other folks tear their hearts to pieces fighting for a good cause and failing?
I can't really think of a better use of my free time than involvement in something I believe in.
We can stop. We can change. Just a matter of choosing to.
We’re going to die one way or another anyway. Might as well live like it.

The oil industry is about eating steak at $140/barrel and ramen at $40/barrel, as it has been for a century now.

Also, from what I understand, drinking milkshakes from across the room.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:43 PM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


From the article: This article originally appeared in RS 1107 from June 24, 2010.

Can anyone please enlighten me as to how this article came from the future?
posted by davejay at 4:56 PM on June 10, 2010


"This article originally appeared in RS 1107 from June 24, 2010."

I'll never understand publishing schedules.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:05 PM on June 10, 2010




Can anyone please enlighten me as to how this article came from the future?
COLE: What year is it?
RAILLY: What year do you think it is?
COLE: 1995?
RAILLY: You think it's July of 1995? That's the future, James. Do you think you're living in the future?
COLE: No, 1995 is the past.
RAILLY: 1995 is the future, James. This is 1989.

watching the msm report this story has been a lot like living through 12 monkeys. when will someone get around to asking bp or thad allen if there is a casing failure? it's only been 2 weeks.
posted by kimyo at 5:22 PM on June 10, 2010




Mostly what I see is outrage and a feeling of impotence and wanting to place blame when in fact the problem is very clear: consumers of oil.

On one level, I agree in regards to our dependence on oil.
On the other hand, bullshit. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the reality is we need oil. I wish it weren't true, but most American cities require a car and other uses of electricity. We need to use oil, and we have off-shore drilling. Hence safetyfuckingregulations to prevent disasters like this. When regulations are outright disregarded and ignored to cut corners and save a few bucks up front, that is not my fault. That is the bloody company's fault and the government's for giving BP a free pass.
posted by jmd82 at 6:08 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The crazy thing is this is all playing out EXACTLY the way conservatives would like -- the Feds can't do much, so it's on the company to solve it, and if they fail it's up to the states to figure it out. And yet it's not working because the Feds can't do much. Cognitive dissonance much?

Normally I avoid replying to rabid apologists, but I've been hurting for an excuse to post this article by Digby, about the "stark difference in how the two parties respond to crisis". This incident was extremely similar to 9/11 in that it was a huge opportunity for the Obama administration to push an pro-environment, post-oil agenda, with near-total political support. We could have had the green energy equivalent of Patriot Act, a massive New Deal program to promote renewables while providing further economic stimulus. The same goes for the financial crisis - we should have had quick and meaningful reform.

Instead we have nothing.
posted by mek at 6:18 PM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


The ties that bind. Remember Rahm Emanuel's rent-free D.C. apartment? The owner: A BP adviser | Los Angeles Times

So while Emanuel had been living in BP sponsored housing for two years, in 2007 he introduced a measure to ask the EPA to block Indiana’s permit for BP and was starting public pressure campaign against BP's top 20 investors?

Wow. What balls.

(I actually didn't like the guy. But I thought he was only the son of the devil’s spawn)

So, let me follow this - Emanuel, a multimillionaire investment banker, gets to stay in - an apartment, when he's in D.C.

Apartments are kick ass! Especially for gay sex. And WMR is all for gay zionist Jews, so I'm on board.

In exchange, all he has to do is violate the law and give GQR $500,000 in polling contracts from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Or GCS. Or something.
Because the Dems wouldn't hire a shitbox outfit like Greenberg's anyway.

Also Emanuel singlehandedly makes the federal government not regulate Greenberg's PR client, who is BP.

Because PR firms benefit from that somehow. (I'm thinking what with the spill, this could be the year the Detroit Lions go to the Superbowl. Think about it sheeple)

Meanwhile they needed the help because the MMS would totally have stopped them if Emanuel didn't jump in.

And Greenberg was so certain this master plan would work, he had Emanuel officiate at his daughter Anna's wedding four years prior to any of this, just in case there was a spill in the gulf and just in case Emanuel became the White House Chief of Staff.

Or, y'know, maybe they know each other and Greenberg let's him stay at his place.
But that's a pretty tinfoil hat theory there. Two wealthy educated men with the same religious background and political outlook operating in the same social circles and working for a series of the same organizations - becoming friends? Pfft. Doesn't add up.

Y'know, you don't make a lot of money or advance in politics without getting a little dirty.
Someone wants to tell me Emanuel was involved in some shady real estate deal or cut someone a break for a big chunk of change, I'll probably not think to critically about it because it's more likely. Hell, I'd probably believe the thing about strapping someone to a train. Not his kids, but yeah, I can see Rahm Emanuel doing that over something heavy. He's that kind of bastard, sure.

Juicing someone $500K and cutting huge regulation deals so he can stay at an apartment? C'mon, even if he was that dirty, he's not that stupid.

This is a reform issue. Getting rid of broad-scale ingrained corruption is not as easy as tripping one or two people down the stairs.
Reminds me of the Thomas More thing from A Man for All Seasons
posted by Smedleyman at 6:30 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


homunculus: "Dick Cheney's Last Laugh: The Deepwater Horizon disaster raises new questions about the Bush administration's secret energy task force."

"When you have a disaster of this magnitude, it raises the question, if in this whole secretive process, what was discussed, how much did the Bush administration ignore, how much did they allow the oil and gas industry to basically do what they wanted," says AnneWeismann, chief counsel at Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington. "Secrecy is so pernicious that it can continue to damage even when the administration is not in power."

I'm not going to be an Obama apologist here. But this says something about what he walked into. I can't, personally, put the whole fiasco on his doorstep.
posted by Splunge at 6:59 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The true evil in this country is 401Ks. The idea that a majority of us have stock in these amoral corporations that are making our lives miserable puts us in the absurd position of cheering on our own demise.
posted by any major dude at 7:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


This article makes me happy in that it brings to light something that has been otherwise ignored by the media - the role of the MMS and federal agencies in this disaster. While BP certainly bears half of the responsibility for the spill, too many people are trying to lay all the blame on them. The fact is that any company in any regulated industry will do the minimum that is required. MMS rubber-stamped this project without the environmental review that is required by law. The end result is that my state, among others, will bear the brunt for unknown years to come.

I'm deploying on Friday to the coastal part of my state to try to clean up the mess that MMS and BP have caused. It infuriates me that this situation was allowed to happen in the first place, and that the response has been as lackluster as it has been. I will probably spend the next 3-6 months away from home working as a consulting biologist. I am going because I love Louisiana and I don't want to see our precious natural resources ruined any more than necessary. I am not against drilling, and I understand that we are a country that is highly dependent on oil as an energy source. But for fuck's sake, let's enforce the environmental laws that are put in place to prevent and/or mitigate a situation like this, and not continue to allow the oil companies free reign for the sake of profits.
posted by tryniti at 7:25 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


> The true evil in this country is 401Ks.

You can choose where your money goes. I didn't like most of the companies on my 401k mutual fund so I transferred it all to money market and t-bills in late 2007. Imagine my relief when I saw the market drop!
posted by Burhanistan at 7:25 PM on June 10, 2010


I'm glad to see that party allegiance and the two-party system isn't stopping a lot of readers here from crying foul when the administration so many of us believed in dropped the ball.

On the disappointing side of the discussion: the notion that Rolling Stone (a magazine that we all remember certainly strongly supported Obama before he started going back on many of his campaign promises) is biased for assuming a negative tone in their reportage of this outrage, and not doing their job for not awarding brownie points because the administration is currently expressing frustration with BP. The notion that this is "our fault" for consuming petroleum. The notion that if this administration is held accountable for their failures in this matter then that will open the door to worse political prospects in upcoming elections.

If this kind of apology catches on, well, someone just tell aspiring Republican politicians that if they want a free pass on any part of their greedy, government-undermining, plutocratic agenda, they can just run as Democrats. The tea party can fill in on the right and the left will be "forced" to betray their political conscience. In recent primaries, the political right has been ousting moderates in their party for not staying true to their constituency's values. It is worth noting that some on the left are maintaining that their own values are not only not worthy of similar hard-line activism, but that pragmatism somehow dictates that we look the other way when our representatives screw the pooch. "Things could be worse!" they warn. Indeed!
posted by millions at 7:27 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the primary link:

The median figure for Crone's independent calculations is 55,000 barrels a day – the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez every five days. [...] "BP screwed up a really big, big find," the source says. "And if they can't cap this, it's not going to blow itself out anytime soon."

Every day I follow this story and try my best to avoid descending into abject apocalyptic terror over it. After all, there have been worse oil-related incidents in the past, and in non-American waters this sort of thing happens more than occasionally and doesn't warrant this kind of breathless, hand-wringing coverage.

Every day it gets harder and harder not to embrace the conclusion (which gets ever more plausible) that this is The Worst Thing Ever and that we are all Hopelessly Fucked Forever.
posted by chaff at 7:28 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


tryniti wrote: "While BP certainly bears half of the responsibility for the spill, too many people are trying to lay all the blame on them."

MMS should be blamed for their regulatory failures. Ken Salazar and Obama should be blamed for not getting MMS under control. BP should be blamed for the gusher. Period. They alone chose to rush the cement job along. They alone chose to displace mud before the cement had adequate time to set. They alone chose to use a BOP they knew didn't work right.

You can blame the administration for failing to pay attention to what they were doing. You might even be able to blame some MMS employees for deliberately overlooking the reports coming from Deepwater Horizon. But you can't blame them for fucking up the cement job. You can't blame them for the choice to displace mud too soon. You can't blame them for failing to monitor return flows of mud.

Also, you must keep in mind that MMS is the way MMS is because it's staffed with a bunch of people who don't think it's government's job to regulate. If they actually believed in what they were doing, they might have done it.
posted by wierdo at 7:34 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This article makes me happy in that it brings to light something that has been otherwise ignored by the media - the role of the MMS and federal agencies in this disaster.

I'm not sure what your media sources are, but the Washington Post, Rachel Maddow, NPR, (I think) Newsweek, and even The Daily Show have spent time talking about MMS and its failures and corruption. And those are just the ones I can come up with off the top of my head having read or seen something about it. I don't think it's really been ignored much at all.
posted by hippybear at 7:36 PM on June 10, 2010


This incident was extremely similar to 9/11 in that it was a huge opportunity for the Obama administration to push an pro-environment, post-oil agenda, with near-total political support. We could have had the green energy equivalent of Patriot Act, a massive New Deal program to promote renewables while providing further economic stimulus. The same goes for the financial crisis - we should have had quick and meaningful reform.

Instead we have nothing.


Ah yes, cue the dramatic paragraph break.

What's with all this "was" and "could have"? This "incident" is still going on, you know. You seriously expect Obama to roll out a huge new push now, before the spill is even contained? Is there some unstated deadline for action you've established?
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:40 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now we're stuck with Obama, and he's proving himself just as bad in a lot of ways. But where's the opposition going to come from? Not from within his own party or the left, because almost everyone is stuck in "Criticism of Obama = vote for Palin" scare mode.

Where have you been seeing that? Most of the political blogs I read (which I'd been reading long before the election) have been either generically pro Obama (like TPM) without any fear mongering or bashing him (like Glenn Greenwald). I've seen a few users here try to make that argument, but not in the past few months.

Also, this "blaming the consumer" stuff is just stupid. If you live 'standard suburbia' or a place like LA then you really don't have a choice. The idea that consumers can chose whatever they want is just not true. Someone once wrote "You can choose from hundreds of different cars, but you can't choose public transportation"

It takes collective action to fix this, and the economy needs to be structurally changed to facilitate that. Cars didn't just come from nothing, the government spent billions, trillions probably building highways for them to drive on, which made them useful.

The idea that we can just fix all our problems by buying the right stuff is stupid.
Hippybear: its as if you've already started. BP is responsible for almost one in every seven pounds of dividends paid to British pension pots. People are saying Obama's got his foot on the throat of British Pensioners.
The fund managers chose to invest in BP given it's poor track record. People are responsible for their investments, that's how it works. If they didn't know the risks, they should have.

That's a far cry from saying that "Americans" in general should somehow pay for the crimes of one company, rather then the companies stockholders (who have already paid, I would imagine)
as for letting bp run the show: the simple fact is that the government simply doesn't have the expertise. one of the reasons they don't have the expertise is because oil companies will pay more for that expertise than the government will.
So why doesn't the government just hire the expertise? Just take everyone in the "War Room" they've got and put them on the government payroll. Pay 'em twice as much to make sure they come over, and then send BP the bill.
You really think Royal Dutch Shell is going to buy BP, given they'd be on the hook for the $30-70B in cleanup costs, which is 30%-70% of BP's market cap? $70B is nearly half RDS's market cap right now.
They're going to wait for it to go bankrupt, then buy the leftovers, I also think the original poster didn't literally mean Shell Oil but just a "shell company" in general. A lot of people think this might happen, BP goes bankrupt paying claims, a bankruptcy court divides up assets, including those going to pay for the cleanup and sells the assets to interested parties, including other oil companies.
I'm not going to be an Obama apologist here. But this says something about what he walked into. I can't, personally, put the whole fiasco on his doorstep.
No, but it was his administration who approved the drilling permit. And he was actively pushing offshore drilling before this happened, he wasn't actually doing anything to slow things down or fix things, and was in fact on board with the pro-drilling ethos that was permeating Washington.
posted by delmoi at 7:49 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


BP Oil Spill: Daily Dead Wildlife Tally
posted by gman at 7:59 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wierdo, yes, BP is responsible for ignoring many of the recommended safety measures that may have prevented this event. However, you can't overlook the fact that BP was ALLOWED to bypass required environmental investigation and planning by the MMS. A federal agency, whose sole purpose is to regulate these activities, looked at their "response plan" and lack of Environmental Assessment and gave them the go-ahead anyway. I am an environmental consultant, specifically to the energy industry. You can't build an onshore natural gas pipeline in this country without jumping through a dozen (much-needed) hoops to get approval. Companies must prove that there will be minimal impact to the environment and that they have a plan for worst-case scenarios. This is what I do for a living - I conduct and write these assessments. Trust me, agencies like US Fish and Wildlife and state-level departments like the Louisiana DEQ and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries go to great lengths to make sure that projects go through an extensive vetting process before getting approval to construct. By all appearances, it seems that NONE of this was done for the BP Deepwater Horizon Project. It is obvious that some person of responsibility in the MMS looked at BPs plans, which referenced walruses, for christ's sake, and didn't stop and think that maybe BP didn't have their shit together and hadn't thought through the potential environmental impacts of their project. Environmental laws and procedures, hate them or love them, are there for a reason. If those laws continue to be circumvented, then god help us all, because there will be many more Deepwater tragedies to come.
posted by tryniti at 8:05 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can choose where your money goes. I didn't like most of the companies on my 401k mutual fund so I transferred it all to money market and t-bills in late 2007. Imagine my relief when I saw the market drop!

For every person who does what you did there are a million who are only concerned about making money. Most people passively manage their 401k savings to maximize their yield and a cursory glance at the prospectus each year buries in their mind the names of companies of which they own stock like ExxonMobil, AIG, BP, Citicorp etc. So when the news comes on television that these companies are cheating the public or poisoning the environment the part of them that is outraged is somewhat mitigated by the part that wants to retire someday. Just a thought.
posted by any major dude at 8:06 PM on June 10, 2010


Hippybear: you are correct that the failure of the MMS has been brought to light by the media - perhaps I misspoke a bit. My point is that everyone is pointing fingers solely at BP, when the truth is, that if the oversight of these projects continues to be as poor as it seems to have been for this project, it will happen again. I have seen quite a few protests against BP, but nothing against the agencies which allowed this to happen. Hopefully this will continue to be in the spotlight so that pressure can be put not just on BP, but on the regulatory agencies as well.
posted by tryniti at 8:08 PM on June 10, 2010


For every person who does what you did there are a million who are only concerned about making money. Most people passively manage their 401k savings to maximize their yield and a cursory glance at the prospectus each year buries in their mind the names of companies of which they own stock like ExxonMobil, AIG, BP, Citicorp etc.

Which is why they deserve what they get. I mean. That's the whole basis of capitalism. Investment entails risk. It's the investors responsibility to manage risk. If they abdicate that, you know, they deserve what they get.
posted by delmoi at 8:28 PM on June 10, 2010


A lot of the blame should fall on Ken Salazar. I mean, his job was to go in and actually fix up MMS. He obviously failed.
posted by delmoi at 8:31 PM on June 10, 2010


This incident was extremely similar to 9/11 in that it was a huge opportunity for the Obama administration to push an pro-environment, post-oil agenda, with near-total political support.

Citation needed.

Show polls indicating near-total public support for "post-oil" in the days or weeks following the accident. After the accident, what proportion of the US population favored very large scale spending for green energy coupled with very sharp restrictions on petroleum? What proportion favored a spending program on the scale of the New Deal?

Really, go find them. Otherwise you are, to use the technical term, making shit up.

You know what this was an opportunity for, given the current political climate and the public reaction to the spill? A mild and temporary retrenchment in offshore oil drilling, finally cleaning out MMS, and maybe putting in a few new regulations.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:56 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"New report says the Deepwater Horizon well has most likely spewed 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day, more than previously estimated.

Which, to me is "Duh". It was obvious to anybody with a clue about liquid dynamics that 5000 bpd was a lie -- a lie told to you by BP and supported by the USCG.

The proof that it's a lie? That the cap on the well, which can't collect the entire flow, is now collection nearly 15,000 bpd -- with a couple of relief ports open. Why? Because the ship at the end of the riser cannot collect more than 15,000 bpd.

This disaster has been dumping at least 25,000 bpd into the gulf for nearly two months. It is far more likely that the actual flow is closer to 50,000 bpd. This will continue until at least September --assuming the first relief well intersects the blown well on the first try and gets a kill down the first try. It's more likely this thing won't be capped until October. Meanwhile, the gulf dies.

And yet, we spend how much on "Defense?" Why?

WHY?

Because, really, who did more damage? Al Queda?

or BP?
posted by eriko at 9:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


You seriously expect Obama to roll out a huge new push now, before the spill is even contained? Is there some unstated deadline for action you've established?

Show polls indicating near-total public support for "post-oil" in the days or weeks following the accident. After the accident, what proportion of the US population favored very large scale spending for green energy coupled with very sharp restrictions on petroleum? What proportion favored a spending program on the scale of the New Deal?

Right, sorry, my bad for expecting leadership from the leader. Won't make that mistake again.

This is our chance for significant reform. It's a perfect storm. Either you demand it now or you sit back and pray. I'm not going to keep my mouth shut on this.
posted by mek at 9:16 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


tryniti wrote: "Wierdo, yes, BP is responsible for ignoring many of the recommended safety measures that may have prevented this event. However, you can't overlook the fact that BP was ALLOWED to bypass required environmental investigation and planning by the MMS. A federal agency, whose sole purpose is to regulate these activities, looked at their "response plan" and lack of Environmental Assessment and gave them the go-ahead anyway. "

As I said, MMS should get plenty of blame for their failure to do what they were ostensibly created to do, provide oversight.

But let's be fair, the reason no environmental reviews were required is because this rig was/is 150 miles off shore and BP claimed that the maximum probable release was on the order of thousands of gallons, not millions. It's no different than the hundred other agencies that choose not to enforce regulations due to an executive policy of forbearance that's been with us since at least Reagan and possibly longer for all I know.

Unfortunately, our checks and balances aren't checking and balancing. Largely due to a lack of support for regulation on just about anything. I'm hoping that this fiasco will turn the tide with the public at large. Unfortunately, people poking a stick in Obama's eye and blaming MMS for the whole disaster, rather than the part they actually played is only going to make that an impossibility.

Yesterday or perhaps the day before I saw a poll that indicated that the public right now blames the government for the disaster more than BP. Obviously, if that sentiment holds, needed regulation will be a complete political non-starter.
posted by wierdo at 9:27 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This spill is our fault. We're the ones driving the cars and running the mowers which this oil powers.

Regardless of the fuckups by Obama, MMS, or BP--this spill was inevitable--it was only a matter of time before a combination of cost-cutting, stupid decision-making and unlucky mechanical failure was going to result in a spill of this magnitude, somewhere, somehow, on somebody's watch. Why is the news spending all of this time acting shocked that an accident in the course of human activity occured? Accidents are inevitable. This is the second time this happened.

We're here because as a society we ignored the tradeoffs that the petroleum economy requires. An oil economy means oil spills and the resultant damages--in pipelines, refineries and above and below ground wells.

I'm not saying BP shouldn't pay. But its merely a karmic vehicle for us. I think this stupid ginned-up anger is a way for us to avoid answering tough questions that we really don't have the answers for. But for all these stories about how terrible BP is--i haven't seen a single story that points the finger at us and our lifestyle as the cause for this disaster.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 PM on June 10, 2010


Like others above have said, blaming the consumer for consuming is completely facile. You can't exist in this society without consuming oil. See The Oil We Eat. If you haven't starved yourself to death in protest, your hands are dirty. For every tank of gas you buy, there are a thousand other ways you are dependent on oil that you are completely ignorant of. Top-down change is the only way we are getting out of this.
posted by mek at 10:33 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't know that Obama should have tried to lead a full on barrage against oil the minute the leak blew. At the time it was possible that BP might have been able to plug the leak quickly. But that didn't happen. There will be plenty of time to move in that direction in the future. If there's one thing Obama likes to do it's wait and see how things play out. The oil spill will still be politically salient in the months (and probably years) to come.

It did kind of piss me off that he was out there still supporting offshore drilling in the days (and weeks?) after the blowout. I don't think he's still doing that, but he could have at least said something like "Well, we all thought this was safe and clearly we need to re-evaluate" Instead he was all "It makes sense to develop our own resources" (or something like that). Annoying.

And yeah, a lot more could have been done to clean up MMS. I suspect it wasn't because it would have alienated republicans who would have claimed he was trying to "Kill by delay" offshore drilling. But you know, sometimes there are more important things then mollifying republicans in their quest to destroy America and the world.
posted by delmoi at 11:07 PM on June 10, 2010


And yet, we spend how much on "Defense?" Why?
here, we might be able to make things better. why don't we bring our troops home? as many as possible, let's try to get them home for the holidays. we need them near. we don't need to waste more energy and lives in iraq or afghanistan.

we no longer need to worry about being attacked, about rogue nations and loose nukes.

the people displaced from the gulf coast, let's find them new homes in our communities, improvising if we must, seizing vacant properties from the banks, say.

getting people homed for the holidays. then maybe we could all take a deep breath and, informed of the truth, exercise our american ingenuity and make the most of the hand we've been dealt. or, if you must, the hand we dealt ourselves. that's a blame thing, though, and it's not productive. this is the mother of all accident scenes. this is time for triage.
posted by kimyo at 11:29 PM on June 10, 2010


It's all well and good to blame society, but what exactly do you expect any of us to do? We, many of us, worked and advocated and voted for Obama in part because we wanted to change society. Because we wanted a serious push for "green" energy and would be willing to accept higher oil prices in exchange for better environmental enforcement and less. In fact, that's what Obama campaigned on and promised us all

So now an article comes out detailing all the myriad failures of Obama and his administration leading up to and responding to the spill, and how he broke his campaign promises, and we should just shutup and remember whose team we're on and anyway it's societies fault so we should all just pound sand?

If it was McCain in office and we had the same spill and the same Rolling Stone article, somehow I doubt there'd be so many apologists finger-pointing at "society"
posted by crayz at 11:40 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"the problem is very clear: consumers of oil. ."

"This spill is our fault. We're the ones driving the cars and running the mowers which this oil powers. ."

This sentiment keeps popping up. Maybe on a grand-sweep-of-time scale it has some legitimacy, but I get the feeling you guys are not reading and responding to this article in particular?

Look, yeah, our current energy policy sucks, but the story here is about a giant mutinational energy corporation that has acheived regulatory capture of the USA's mechanisms to protect the environment through sheer financial clout. The United States has (in theory) a number of regulatory agencies designed to help strike a balance between the pursuit of private profit and the public good. These agencies have failed catastrophically due to being overwhelmed by corporate money. BP vs. MMS is just the latest and most high-profile example of this, there are half a dozen others in the past decade near to hand if you want more examples.

And you'd like to blame the current state of affairs on me and my hypothetical riding lawnmower? This thread has already had enough trouble so I'm not going to go ad hominem here but I am sorely, sorely tempted.
posted by chaff at 12:29 AM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yesterday or perhaps the day before I saw a poll that indicated that the public right now blames the government for the disaster more than BP. Obviously, if that sentiment holds, needed regulation will be a complete political non-starter.

This is the most frustrating part of this whole deal for me - I really think the long term political consequence of this is going to end up favoring Republicans and an anti-government ideology.

Reading the Rolling Stone article reminded me of during the campaign, when someone asked Obama why he'd want to be president now with two wars and a economic disaster in progress. I wish I could find the video - his response something along the lines that times of great crises are also the best times to make a positive difference.

Still, I find myself wishing McCain had won. It was pretty clear from the election that half the country is still crazy. Sure the mess would have been bigger in 2012, but hopefully there would have also been political will to clean it up, rather than everyone plugging their fingers in their ears and going "lolgovernment".
posted by heathkit at 1:52 AM on June 11, 2010


Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency's culture of corruption.

The parallels with 9/11 are pretty striking. In the aftermath of those attacks, the President's approval rating skyrocketed, the country was unified in common purpose, and we embarked on a decade of hostile military action and security theater at airports.

One would think this disaster, while not as costly in human life (at least, not in a short timescale), yet much larger in scale and the number of people it will directly harm, would provoke a similar response. What is it about human nature that we only seem to be united by threats from other groups of humans, and not more abstract or self-inflicted dangers?
posted by heathkit at 2:14 AM on June 11, 2010


It's all narrative. If we framed this as a War On Oil we'd all stand by our Commander-in-Chief as he invaded BP's offices looking for weapons of mass extraction, or something.
posted by mek at 2:30 AM on June 11, 2010


At sometime in the mid-70s, the formerly excellent combative news style of the Stone -- much of which tackled enviromental, social justice, civil liberties, war, etc. -- vanished so that Wenner could promote fashion.

Nice to see the old relevance back. I've noticed that much of the long-archived content on their website is gone (breaking many Wikipedia xlinks); I hope that means it's being re-fashioned too.
posted by Twang at 3:19 AM on June 11, 2010


Still, I find myself wishing McCain had won. It was pretty clear from the election that half the country is still crazy. Sure the mess would have been bigger in 2012, but hopefully there would have also been political will to clean it up, rather than everyone plugging their fingers in their ears and going "lolgovernment".

WTFBBQ?!

You honestly think that 12 years of ineptitude and corruption would have made a difference in anyone's thinking? That four more years would have magically changed people's minds - those people whose minds obviously DO NOT want to be changed? "Eight years wasn't long enough, but twelve! Twelve is the magic number at which stubborn fools will take their fingers out of their ears and demand socialized health care, an end to oil dependence, and nuclear disarmament! Yes, twelve years is the magic number!"

Obama was elected with a huge tide of political will from people who wanted this country to be cleaned up. What we're finding, other than the fact that half the country is crazy (and will always BE crazy - this is a two party system in which one party is pandering to the party that is totally batshit) is that it's a hell of a lot harder to clean up than any of us, including Obama himself, anticipated. Not to say that the man is perfect, everybody fails sometimes, but that the only person who really could fix the mess we're in now is Jesus himself. (Possibly. I mean, the man may or may not have even existed and he wasn't really known for prudent fiscal policy.)

And I think that the Republicans would be hell of disappointed to see what he would actually come up with - though we might finally have an answer to the question "Who would Jesus bomb?"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:02 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


These agencies have failed catastrophically due to being overwhelmed by corporate money

There is this attitude that somehow a disaster like this wasn't inevitable. I don't see how one can say this. Human activity, be it air travel, car driving or drilling for oil, inevitably leads to accidents. Machinery breaks, somebody makes stupid decisions, whatever. One cannot name the human activity where error, folly and mechanical breakdown will not inevitably cause a catastrophe. What pisses me off is that the coverage of the news networks and the papers seems ver calculated to avoid this fact--they want to portray this as an event that would have never happened if it wasn't for BP, those bad guys we all know about.

Don't get me wrong, under our law, BP must and should pay for all of this. But we ignore massively the fact that with just about every human activity there are tradeoffs that we choose to make.

It was said above that this requires a top-down solution, that we cannot expect to live without using oil. So therefore, somebody else must take care of the problem. Setting aside the issue of everybody reducing their oil consumption a little bit, all I am saying is that every minute one is driving a car, riding a bus, a subway, whatever, one is making a choice that leads to these types of accidents. What everyone would have you believe is that this wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for BP. Well there wouldn't be a BP if it wasn't for our demand for oil.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:14 AM on June 11, 2010


The emerging consensus view seems to be that it's now a foregone conclusion that BP, the fourth largest company in the world, will likely go bankrupt due to it's liabilities from the spill unless the UK steps in with a bailout (which it might, since BP dividends account for a substantial share of the British pension system).

Also, the government's flow rate estimation group has issued its latest revised estimate of the flow rate, pegging the flow rate at no less than 20,000 bpd and possibly slightly higher than 40,000 bpd on the upper end of the range.

That puts this disaster roughly on the scale of six Exxon Valdez spills.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:18 AM on June 11, 2010


Another thing the RS article omits that undermines much of its characterization of the administration and that rightly should be getting more attention and public support: the administration launched a criminal investigation into the oil spill nearly two weeks ago.

Wouldn't it possibly be helpful to the cause of that investigation to at least mention it once in an article like this, if the purpose really is to hold the responsible parties accountable for this disaster, and not just to take a self-satisfied piss in the president's lemonade?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:10 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Democracy Now interview with Tim Dickinson, the author of the Rolling Stone piece.
posted by homunculus at 8:33 AM on June 11, 2010


From homunculus' link: Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson on the Inside Story of How Obama Let the World’s Most Dangerous Oil Company Get Away with Murder

How is bankrupting and likely charging BP with criminal negligence letting them get away with murder?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:46 AM on June 11, 2010


Right, sorry, my bad for expecting leadership from the leader. Won't make that mistake again.

This is our chance for significant reform. It's a perfect storm. Either you demand it now or you sit back and pray. I'm not going to keep my mouth shut on this.


My point is that they're A LITTLE EFFING BUSY PLUGGING THE HOLE, SCRUBBING PELICANS, AND FIRING UP THE CRIMINAL PROBES at the moment, so how about you give them a few minutes before tackling yet more "significant reform". Feel free to demand it, but be a little realistic about the time frame.

Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson on the Inside Story of How Obama Let the World’s Most Dangerous Oil Company Get Away with Murder

Once again, framing an ongoing issue in past tense. Honestly, when did we start demanding that shit gets fixed the day after it's broken?
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:27 AM on June 11, 2010


How is bankrupting and likely charging BP with criminal negligence letting them get away with murder?

Honestly, when did we start demanding that shit gets fixed the day after it's broken?


Actually, as the FPP article and many other sources have made clear, BP was "getting away with murder" for years before this incident literally blew up in the faces of those running the oil company and those charged with oversight. MMS was utterly corrupt, rubberstamping projects because the people there were doing coke and fucking those they were supposed to be regulating. Past BP malfeasance was fined heavily and then settled for a tiny fraction of a payout. The system had broken down to the point where there was no regulation performed at all, and the corporate mindset was running roughshod over worker and environmental safety.

And people had been demanding that it be fixed. The FPP article makes clear that there were supposed plans in the works to fix things, but that they weren't implemented at all due to inertia or cluelessness or possibly endemic corruption. It's only now, after all this happened, that we're looking back and discovering collective outrage about something hardly anyone had heard of outside of a small circle.
posted by hippybear at 9:38 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


That puts this disaster roughly on the scale of six Exxon Valdez spills.

If the Wikipedia page is correct in saying that the Exxon Valdez spill was 257,000 barrels of oil, and this spill is dumping out 40,000 barrels of oil per day, then this is the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez every six days. This means we're looking at approaching TEN Exxon Valdez spills in the next week or so.
posted by hippybear at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2010


Sure, but this time, specifically, BP is not going to get away with it. There's very little doubt about that anymore.

And as for oil industry influence being the specific reason that the "plans in the works to fix things" didn't get implemented, I'll point out again that the Obama appointee who was brought in to head MMS and clean-up the corruption there was not some oil industry friendly stooge but a career environmental advocate with no ties to the energy industry.

There may well have been too much corruption already within the department and too much institutional inertia to fix things quickly, or Obama's appointee may not have been up to the task as an executive, but it still seems to me there's not any basis for the frequent insinuation/naked assertion that the administration's own desire to appease or cozy up to the oil industry played any role in the failure to reform MMS.

And as an aside (not related to the current national crisis, but to the frequent claims from various corners about the administration's corruptness and ineptitude) more big news today: The Treasury, in its May report to Congress on the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said TARP repayments reached $194 billion, $4 billion more than the outstanding debt of $190 billion.

This means we're looking at approaching TEN Exxon Valdez spills in the next week or so.

Dear god BP has fucked us.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:10 AM on June 11, 2010


Wow. I seemed like it was just yesterday they were boosting their estimate to 20-30k bbl. Now it's 20-40? Is that post 'cap'?

Also, check this out. BP: Is Team Obama Pushing for a Full Externalities Precedent?
As readers may know, I’ve been consistently disappointed by the Obama Administration: its faux progressive packaging versus its corporatist posture, its half-hearted, halting reforms which are noisily trumpeted as the real thing, its deep seated belief that public antipathy to its initiatives means it needs to work harder on selling its message, when it really needs a new strategy.
But the escalating disaster of the Gulf oil spill, and the unique constellation it presents, namely, a big, rich, isolated, foreign perp, which is largely if not solely responsible for the mess, in close proximity to contested mid-term elections, might actually rouse Obama to do something uncharacteristic, namely get tough.
This is by no means a likely outcome, but we are seeing some novel behaviors. First is that Obama finally may have succeeded in getting someone important afraid of him. This is a critically important lesson; Machiavelli told his prince it was much more important to be feared than loved. Mere anger is often negotiation posturing or a manifestation of CEO Derangement Syndrome; fear is much harder to fake. And BP is finally starting to get rattled. Per the Wall Street Journal:
I certainly hope so. Salazar has gone so far as to say that they'll try to make BP pay for the lost wages of people out of work at other companies because of the offshore drilling freeze! That almost seems over the top, but also hilarious.
Tensions escalated sharply on Wednesday when the U.S. Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, said he would demand that BP pay the lost wages of oil workers in the Gulf region idled because of the administration’s order to halt new deepwater drilling for six months. That demand could add hundreds of millions of dollars to BP’s obligations….
I hope that happens. This company needs to go bankrupt.
---
There is this attitude that somehow a disaster like this wasn't inevitable. I don't see how one can say this. Human activity, be it air travel, car driving or drilling for oil, inevitably leads to accidents.
While I'm all for banning offshore drilling, mainly because I don't think we should be using Oil at all, I think it's kind of ridiculous to say that accidents like this are non-preventable. Unless you think that laziness, greed, and poor regulation are impossible scourges that can't be eliminated. But it's clear that laziness, greed, and poor regulation are responsible for this to a certain extent. They could have made sure they had a BOP that worked, and they could have made sure all the pressure was equalized properly (or whatever) before going forward with pumping out their drilling mud.
From homunculus' link: Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson on the Inside Story of How Obama Let the World’s Most Dangerous Oil Company Get Away with Murder
The problem is they'd been convicted of environmental crimes 4 times already. They may not get away this time but you could argue they did in the past.
posted by delmoi at 10:11 AM on June 11, 2010


BP was "getting away with murder" for years before this incident literally blew up in the faces of those running the oil company and those charged with oversight.

Well fine, agreed, they've been getting away with murder. But my point is that it's still a little early to declare that Obama has let them get away with it again. This particular murder is still happening.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, they've definitely gotten away with it in the past. The fossil fuels industry, in general, has made a literal killing externalizing the costs of its operations. That's why they've been and continue to remain so cost-competitive with alternative energy sources: subsidies in the form of tax breaks, lax regulation and weak enforcement, and free passes on the environmental damage they inflict on poorer countries. But I'm much more confident than some seem to be that this time, things are going to turn out a lot differently.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:21 AM on June 11, 2010


or what schoolgirl report said.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2010


they want to portray this as an event that would have never happened if it wasn't for BP, those bad guys we all know about.
Well, but they did corrupt the government agency set up for oversight on them. Certainly no one in the gulf wanted this. The American people didn’t want this. Doubtlessly many people at BP didn’t want this. The workers on the rig who died didn’t want this. So the tradeoff in human activity for recovery of oil – does not equal – the corner cutting, corruption and malfeasance driven by greed and profiteering that occurs coincidentally with oil production.
It’s not like you absolutely have to have myopic fanatically greedy psychopaths in every natural resource venture.
BP scientists, the petroleum engineers, everyone else, are just guys doing a job. In fact many of them sent safety warnings and everything else to try and prevent things like this.
And they were ignored. By people who wanted to maximize their profits risking other people’s lives. So there are actual bad guys here.

If it was McCain in office and we had the same spill and the same Rolling Stone article, somehow I doubt there'd be so many apologists finger-pointing at "society

Probably not. But it would be just as true. There’d just be a bigger scapegoat. Big reason why I’m not a big supporter of the left. Anyone who succeeds, seems like they're immediately ripped on as having sold out for having compromised anything at all at any point ever.
Eight years of Bush and all you heard was – well, the GOP is tight, what can we do? *wring *wring *
If you can’t proceed, you prepare. Prepare for when it is time to act. Lay the groundwork. Set up the organization. So when it is time to move on something, you can move swiftly and with force.
Can ‘t fight them directly? Ok, change the rules. Change the environment you're fighting in.

We’re having the Hawks parade today. And Blues Fest is starting. And we have the crosstown classic. Should we suddenly realize the need for better public transportation in Chicago and start fighting the battle today?
Or maybe have had something in place for a while? Or even manipulate the special events to coincide in such a way as to illustrate the problem and create social pressure to change it?
(Naaah. C’mon, who’s that smart? )

Fight in an oblique fashion and you don’t need to have the kind of resources your opponent has. Wealth and power have a kind of inertia. They can’t turn on a dime.
All it takes is some thought and dedication and the right perspective.

Blaming someone – well, hell, maybe it is us or BP or Obama’s fault. So?
Justice’s job is looking backwards and assigning blame after the fact. Social action is for forward thinkers who want to get shit accomplished before something bad goes down.

We’re too habituated to being passive. Lots of reasons why. T.V., film, other media. Even a lot of interactive stuff. Someone does something, some guy kills someone, and we go after him. Not a lot of initiative taking or outlining and defining a goal and guiding events to that point.
It’s easier to find a scapegoat. Even if it is us. Makes us feel like we know something. And if we know, then we don’t have to do anything.
If I had any brains I'd have set something up, a flash mob perhaps, for today in Chicago. Lot of commuters and what not. Lots of eyeballs. Plenty of other things, social media type things, to do to, economical methods, in contrast to big money moves like buying the top google and yahoo search results. Kirkland and Ellis right on North LaSalle.
It's a target rich environment. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a facebook group involved. So, easy enough to work towards a solution.
There's always going to be greedy bastards, sure. But we can change it so their hands aren't in making a profit from such fantastically dangerous materials.
Maybe they go sell pet rocks. Whatever.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:29 AM on June 11, 2010


The Oil Disaster Is About Human, Not System, Failure via Andrew Sullivan.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 AM on June 11, 2010


Did anybody listen to BBC radio this morning? They interviewed this scientist from their version of NOAA and the scientist said that the oil, as long as it doesn't hit the coast, is no big deal, and that spills far offshore are often just left to degrade naturally.

Did anybody hear this? It struck me as extremely weird. Not being a scientist, I don't know how to evaluate it.
posted by angrycat at 12:29 PM on June 11, 2010


> Did anybody listen to BBC radio this morning? They interviewed this scientist from their version of NOAA and the scientist said that the oil, as long as it doesn't hit the coast, is no big deal, and that spills far offshore are often just left to degrade naturally.

That sounds just peachy, except for...you know.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:36 PM on June 11, 2010


An underwater plume of this magnitude is a scientific mystery at this point. It's rare enough that BP denied its existence and NOAA didn't even bother looking for it, it was discovered by independent researchers. We simply don't know what the consequences will be, but I doubt they will be "no big deal".
posted by mek at 12:46 PM on June 11, 2010




the oil, as long as it doesn't hit the coast, is no big deal, and that spills far offshore are often just left to degrade naturally

The thinking here is that the ocean organisims that are most damaged by the spill, the small animals and plants that live in the upper ten metres of the ocean, also regenerate very quickly. This takes days. Oil that hits the shore can persist and have residual effects for months, if not years. It's better to damage a large area of the ocean than hit shorelines because the ocean is resilliant and the shallow water/shore ecosystems are very fragile.

Oil in small droplets can breakdown over a period of a month or two. How fast is mostly governed by temperature and how rich the water is in nutrients and oxygen.

The assumption that that scientist made is that the spill is small, limited and that the ocean is big. A small "insult" in a big, resilliant ecosystem. In most cases for oil spills, that's more or less true. Nature does indeed deal with the majority of oil spilled in most cases.

The counter concern is that the large volumes of oil from the DWH and the continuous "spill every day" that's happening may indeed overwhelm the ocean's ability to deal with the oil.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 1:06 PM on June 11, 2010


How is bankrupting and likely charging BP with criminal negligence letting them get away with murder?

we didn't bankrupt bp. they did that themselves.

But my point is that it's still a little early to declare that Obama has let them get away with it again. This particular murder is still happening.

are you suggesting that obama should just wait patiently, politely, until the murdering is complete? then slap the cuffs on?

personally, i'd rather he wrest the gun away from the bell tower lunatic and take control of the crime scene.
posted by kimyo at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2010


are you suggesting that obama should just wait patiently, politely, until the murdering is complete? then slap the cuffs on?

Launching a criminal investigation, touring the Gulf region, meeting with the family of the dead rig workers, carrying out a review of all MMS processes and reorganizing MMS into three distinct agencies, etc. =/= Just sitting there.

You all have started making BP's PR lackeys' jobs way too easy. Good luck with that approach!
posted by saulgoodman at 2:23 PM on June 11, 2010


Launching a (toothless) criminal investigation, touring the Gulf region (ie: busing in 400 workers for a photo op), meeting with the family of the dead rig workers (after missing the 5/25 memorial in order to attend a fundraiser), carrying out a review of all MMS processes and reorganizing MMS into three distinct agencies, (firmly nailing the barn doors shut, mad cows akimbo in the gulf) etc. =/= Just sitting there.

we have only the 'appearance' of a president.
posted by kimyo at 3:25 PM on June 11, 2010


the oil, as long as it doesn't hit the coast, is no big deal, and that spills far offshore are often just left to degrade naturally

The thinking here is that the ocean organisims that are most damaged by the spill, the small animals and plants that live in the upper ten metres of the ocean, also regenerate very quickly. This takes days. Oil that hits the shore can persist and have residual effects for months, if not years. It's better to damage a large area of the ocean than hit shorelines because the ocean is resilliant and the shallow water/shore ecosystems are very fragile.
That doesn't take into account the mystery plumes. That's probably something that's only really happened to a noticeable extent here. When you have something like the Valdez where the oil is spilled on the surface, obviously that won't happen. And there shear volume of oil we're talking about here makes this much huger.

---

Also, people, have a little patience here. Didn't we elect the guy who didn't panic and freak out all the time (McCain)? There are plenty of things to criticize Obama on, but there's nothing he could have done to fill the leak sooner. We also have a halt for (most) new drilling. That's an important step. We'll have to see what happens. It will be perfectly fair, in a few months to look back and see if the president did enough. But demanding something right away isn't a good idea. The only thing that matters is getting the leak stopped.

---

Speaking of stuff to criticize Obama on, though. I just came across this:Obama overlooked key points in giving OK to offshore drilling linked via Matt Yglesias
“It’s really important to understand you have decades of nothing going wrong,” said one senior administration official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity as a matter of White House policy.
“The last time you saw a spill of this magnitude in the Gulf, it was off the coast of Mexico in 1979,” said a second senior administration official. “If something doesn’t happen since 1979, you begin to take your eye off of that thing.”
posted by delmoi at 8:14 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Launching a (toothless) criminal investigation

Why is it toothless?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:59 PM on June 11, 2010




Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted yesterday the White House was failing to hold anyone “accountable” for torture.

A growing part of the Obama legacy
posted by homunculus at 10:52 PM on June 11, 2010




kimyo: But he's done a great job prosecuting bush whistle-blowers!
posted by delmoi at 4:55 AM on June 12, 2010


All in all, a pretty damning report card.
posted by unliteral at 5:08 AM on June 12, 2010


Sick of RS being filled with politics. Don't disagree most of the time, just think there should be more music reporting.
posted by kenaldo at 12:14 PM on June 12, 2010


delmoi: yes we can't believe it's not change we can believe in.

there's a coward behind a desk, in fact there are quite a few. on their screens they have high rez satellite images, they've watched the whole thing in real time.

or maybe they've got rov footage showing a leak at the seabed, or data to confirm multiple point casing failure.

maybe one of you is reading this now. a patriot would publish. a patriot could look this man in the eye.
posted by kimyo at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2010


Rolling Stone was a magazine with political coverage from the start. In fact, when they changed format in the 80s or 90s, I forget when, they were criticized for "going soft" or something. I'm glad they're doing political coverage again. And they seem to be doing a great job at it, too. Yes, the articles might be coming from a certain point of view, but it's usually populist, which is a pretty classic rock-n-roll attitude.
posted by hippybear at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2010


We're fucked.
On the same day, the Wall Street Journal noted that there might be a leak in BP’s well casing 1,000 feet beneath the sea floor:

BP PLC has concluded that its “top-kill” attempt last week to seal its broken well in the Gulf of Mexico may have failed due to a malfunctioning disk inside the well about 1,000 feet below the ocean floor.

...

Indeed, loss of integrity in the well itself may explain why BP is drilling its relief wells more than ten thousand feet beneath the leaking pipes on the seafloor (and see this).

Yesterday, recently-retired Shell Oil President John Hofmeister said that the well casing below the sea floor may have been compromised:

[Question] What are the chances that the well casing below the sea floor has been compromised, and that gas and oil are coming up the outside of the well casing, eroding the surrounding soft rock. Could this lead to a catastrophic geological failure, unstoppable even by the relief wells?

John Hofmeister: This is what some people fear has occurred. It is also why the “top kill” process was halted. If the casing is compromised the well is that much more difficult to shut down, including the risk that the relief wells may not be enough. If the relief wells do not result in stopping the flow, the next and drastic step is to implode the well on top of itself, which carries other risks as well.

...

Oil industry expert Rob Cavner believes that the casing might be damaged beneath the sea floor, noting:

The real doomsday scenario here… is if that casing gives up, and it does come through the other strings of pipe. Remember, it is concentric pipe that holds this well together. If it comes into the formation, basically, you‘ve got uncontrolled [oil] flow to the sea floor. And that is the doomsday scenario.

Cavner also said BP must “keep the well flowing to minimize oil and gas going out into the formation on the side”:

And prominent oil industry insider Matt Simmons believes that the well casing may have been destroyed when the oil rig exploded. Simmons was an energy adviser to President George W. Bush, is an adviser to the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, and is a member of the National Petroleum Council and the Council on Foreign Relations.
posted by symbioid at 8:18 PM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]




Interesting stuff. At work last week, we watched a film about the Piper Alpha disaster, in which 167 workers, mostly Occidental Petroleum employees, were killed. The film, Spiral to Disaster, mostly talks about the safety engineering and process issues that led to the accident, which were investigated by the Cullen Inquiry. To me, it looks like much the same set of issues behind the Deepwater Horizon blowout: interference from head office in favor of quick profit and a politicized regulatory environment. Although RS didn't report on that one.
posted by sneebler at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2010


Video of security guard trying to restrict access to beach workers. Interestingly, the guard won't say who he's actually working for.
posted by delmoi at 11:00 AM on June 13, 2010


Ironmouth wrote: "There is this attitude that somehow a disaster like this wasn't inevitable. I don't see how one can say this. Human activity, be it air travel, car driving or drilling for oil, inevitably leads to accidents. Machinery breaks, somebody makes stupid decisions, whatever. One cannot name the human activity where error, folly and mechanical breakdown will not inevitably cause a catastrophe."

The sort of attitude of inevitability you're so aptly demonstrating is one of the things that leads people to believe that careful work is fruitless in the first place. Rigorous control of process, in depth understanding of the problem domain, and multiple backups lead to reliable solutions.

Note that despite the issues the Space Shuttle had, you haven't seen one of them crash from a software error despite being flown mostly by computer. That's because they have an incredibly rigorous process for writing and testing the code. A sort of process we should adopt for all high risk activity. Unfortunately, we're really bad at realizing what exactly is high risk until after the fact.

My point is that it was only inevitable because we are a bunch of buffoons who buy into this belief that regulators can do nothing right.

Small spills are probably nearly inevitable. There are simply too many failure modes to get rid of them all 100% with any reasonable procedures. Large blowouts like the one at hand should be nearly nonexistent. It's not as if this is 1910 and we don't yet have a full understanding of how oil wells work.
posted by wierdo at 2:27 PM on June 13, 2010




Note that despite the issues the Space Shuttle had, you haven't seen one of them crash from a software error despite being flown mostly by computer.

Maybe not the best example, given the two shuttles and crews that were tragically lost. Sure, those tragedies weren't due specifically to a computer glitch, but at best, all that demonstrates is that it may be possible to make some subsystems within a complex system fail-proof. It's the overall complexity of the systems that guarantees some minimal failure rate. And in sufficiently complex systems, it isn't always clear at design time that a particular subsystem failure will lead to a critical failure, and it's impossible to completely isolate every subsystem from every other. Every system involved, all the way down to the nervous systems of the operators and the regulatory systems in which the rig operates are implicitly part of the complex system that make up a drilling operation like Deepwater Horizon.

Suppose we magically managed to completely reform and perfect all our regulatory systems, safety procedures, fail-safes, etc., today. Even so, the political and economic drivers that led to the current decline in regulatory standards wouldn't magically disappear, too. So even if we could achieve the perfect regulatory environment, as long as the political motivations and financial incentives to undermine or subvert those systems exist, those systems will be susceptible to failure in the future.

When the consequences of failure are disasters on this scale, we simply can't afford to take such chances. Regulations alone can't possibly eliminate all the dangers in the long term. Another political party/movement hostile to regulatory systems would inevitably come to power again some day down the line, even if they didn't still wield significant political power today (and further complicating matters, they still do wield significantly more political power than those foolishly heaping the worst of their scorn on the current Democratic administration like to acknowledge), and the results can't help but eventually be more of the same.

The only certain way to prevent catastrophes on this scale is not to engage in activities that can cause catastrophes on this scale in the first place. But we're too stupid and proud to admit that.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:27 PM on June 13, 2010


For an example of how the very same political interests that rally to this day around further deregulation of the energy industry (and virtually every other industry) as their explicit policy aim are continuing to influence the way the disaster response is unfolding, consider this:

Officials Under Jindal's Authority Help BP Block Media Access

Don't think for a moment there aren't thousands upon thousands of peevish little partisan pricks who wield substantial political power over their own little private fiefdoms, doing everything they can to make this disaster into a political opportunity for people like them, even if it means in various direct and indirect ways hindering the effectiveness of the response, because that's what they do. Every tragedy presents an opportunity to someone, and those among us who don't have it in themselves to feel ashamed over any personal success, no matter how petty or spitefully-motivated, generally tend to fare better in all the confusion.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:02 PM on June 13, 2010


Here's another example of the point argued above: GOP celebrates PR opportunities created by Gulf disaster.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:02 AM on June 14, 2010












Operator At BP Call Center Says Company Never Does Anything With The Calls: We’re Just A ‘Diversion’
“We take all your information and then we have nothing to give them, nothing to give them,” said Janice.

Janice said calls about the oil disaster are non-stop and that operators are just warm bodies on the other end of the phone.

“We’re a diversion to stop them from really getting to the corporate office, to the big people,” said Janice. … Because the operators believe the calls never get past them, some don’t even bother taking notes.
posted by ericb at 9:51 AM on June 15, 2010








Mac McClelland: More Dirty Details From My BP Mole
posted by homunculus at 2:14 PM on June 16, 2010


« Older The Fast Bike With The Funny Name (tm)   |   Theremin Guitar Hero -... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post