Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Mainstream coverage of Nashville floods is minimal – and I’m fine with that

Longtime QandO readers know how cynical I have become about national media. They’re mostly biased, incompetent hacks and far more interested in pushing an agenda and a narrative than researching stories and actually telling us anything of importance.

Too often, that shows up in what they don’t cover just as much as what they do. I’m told their coverage of the Nashville floods was perfunctory. Even the Brits did a better job than some of the mainstream press in the US. This was a situation, perhaps the first one that affected me, where YouTube was the best bet for coverage.

Really, though, I’m glad we didn’t get much attention from those hacks during the last week. I’m sure a few are disappointed that we didn’t hand them any ready-made stories reinforcing their opinions that we’re just a bunch of rubes who need their enlightened guidance to take care of ourselves. But, hey, you guys have the oil slick to get hysterical over.

So, please, you mainstream hacks should just stay away from us. We’ve got work to do. We certainly don’t need your usual, lazy, formulaic, agenda-driven reporting on our work. It’s pointless – it all comes out looking like this:

**** Update 1:45 PM CST ****

I should also mention that I’m happy that Nashville isn’t so brain-damaged that bottled water is illegal here as it is in one of those Yankee cities. With one of our two water treatment plants out and water supplies disrupted in various places, a lot of of us lived on bottled water the last week. I’m still drinking it because I don’t completely trust the water supply yet.

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The one-sided war against Wall Street

Does Wall Street have come culpability in the financial meltdown we suffered?  Of course they do.  But so far, Democrats have chosen to focus only on that and ignore the culpability shared to an even larger degree by government.

Slipping through the news cycle yesterday at about 5pm eastern was this little jewel:

Freddie Mac is asking for $10.6 billion in additional federal aid after posting a big loss in the first three months of the year. It’s another sign that the taxpayer bill for stabilizing the housing market  will keep mounting.

The McLean, Va.-based mortgage finance company has been effectively owned by the government after nearly collapsing in September 2008. The new request will bring the total tab for rescuing Freddie Mac to $61.3 billion.

The fact that Freddie Mac and his ailing sister Fanny Mae have been hemorrhaging money since September 2008 with no end it sight didn’t stop them from paying retention bonuses to their officers even while private payments such as that were vilified and demonized.

Another bit of fiction that Democrats in Congress like to use is that both are “quasi-governmental” entities, or, in fact, really private institutions.  In fact they’re not at all:

As the CBO notes in a recent background paper, the standards for when to include government-sponsored entities in the budget go back to the 1960s, when a Presidential commission laid out a set of questions.

To wit: “Who owns the agency?” (In the case of Fan and Fred, taxpayers.) “Who supplies its capital?” (Taxpayers.) “Who selects its managers?” (The federal government.) And finally, “Do the Congress and the President have control over the agency’s program and budget, or are the agency’s policies the responsibility of the Congress or the President only in some broad ultimate sense?” (The feds have control in every sense.)

All that happened in September of 2008 is Hank Paulson put them in conservatorship. In fact, Freddie and Fannie alone will account for up to $391 billion in bailouts over 10 years according to the CBO. So why are the Democrats pointedly ignoring these two institutions? Reread the CBO background paper, especially the part about who selects the managers and who has control over the agency’s program and budget, not to mention control over it’s policies.

Ezra Klein tries to wave it all away as he delicately attempts to explain how Freddie and Fanny are really beneficial to society as a whole and not financial black holes. But now matter who hard he tries, he can’t quite avoid the truth:

The mortgage giants, slightly confusingly, do not sell mortgages. They buy them from the banks that sell them. About 90 percent of them, to be precise. They do that to make mortgages — and thus home ownership — cheaper. That’s fine. If the country wants to encourage home ownership as a policy, subsidizing banks so they can offer better mortgage terms is a sensible way to do it.

I assume he typed that with a straight face. Uh, no Ezra, that’s not the way to do it. That “policy” (Community Reinvestment Act) which was hardly endorsed by the “country” is precisely what incentivized sub-prime mortgages (you sell ‘em, we’ll buy ‘em no matter how bad they are) and the eventual collapse. So that makes it anything but “sensible”.

Klein then attempts to further the myth of “quasi-governmental” status for the two institutions and, in a rather amusing and round about way, admits they were the cause of the whole thing:

Rather than using taxpayer dollars to subsidize mortgages, they were borrowing money very cheaply because their quasi-governmental status assured the market that there’d be a taxpayer bailout in the case of any sort of collapse. That is to say, their business model relied on markets ignoring the risk of their activities. And then, because they were private companies with shareholders to please, they also got into slicing and dicing mortgage packages to make money like an investment bank rather than a housing policy. In theory this should’ve worried the markets where they borrowed their money, but again, the government backstop saved them. Forget too-big-to-fail. This was not-allowed-to-fail.

Their “business model” relied on markets ignoring the risk of their activities? No. Instead their policy (CRA) directed that Fannie and Freddie ignore the risk an buy these mortgages that were a bad deal. In effect, by direction of a policy that encouraged and incentivized it, mortgage companies complied with the CRA and Freddie and Fannie bought the bad paper.

Klein denies this had anything much at all to do with the collapse of the mortgage market – even with $391 billion in bailouts staring him in the face. The most he’ll admit too is they were “part of the problem.” And that is at least better than the Democrats will do.

But he ends up doubling back on himself without seemingly knowing it:

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to eliminate Fannie and Freddie. You could solve the problem by fully incorporating them into the government and making them a straightforward housing subsidy rather than a stealth housing subsidy hidden within a profit-maximizing company. But it’s not clear that bringing more major institutions under the control of the government is going to be popular, either. So what do you do?

Well, it’s hard to say. Procedurally, Democrats think that the Fannie and Freddie question is a housing market question and should be dealt with in the context of a major housing-policy bill. What that bill will do, however, is anyone’s guess. And that’s pretty much where we are on Fannie and Freddie.

As pointed out, they both are “fully incorporated” into government whether that’s technically true or not. They’re certainly not private, and they’ve never really been “quasi-governmental”. They’ve been organs that execute government policy, no matter how absurd or costly. And recommending the two institutions be handled in the context of a “major housing-policy bill”, further cements the point that they’re part of the government that executes policy as it pertains to the housing industry.

And by the way – the payments to these two institutions are being kept “off the books” – meaning they don’t have to be accounted for in budgeting.

Until and unless these two institutions are addressed within any “comprehensive” financial reform bill, the bill isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell. And when Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) announces, “we’ve ended the ‘too big to fail’ debate. So no longer do I expect any argument to be made that this bill exposes the American taxpayer” feel fully entitled to shout that which fans normally shout at officials at sporting events who get the call wrong.

~McQ

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Drones, “war criminals” and the ICC

You probably recall the left’s call for the US to join the International Criminal Court. One of the primary reasons behind that call was a desire to see George Bush tried as a “war criminal” by much of the more extreme left. And that is one of the declared purposes of that court.

The Clinton Administration signed the Rome Statute in 2000 establishing the court but never submitted it for Senate ratification. Then Senator Barack Obama, when asked if the US should join the ICC, said “yes”, echoing the far left’s desire.

So I read this particular article with interest the other day, and wondered if their desire to join the court is still as strong now as it was then:

The pilots waging America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan could be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes,” a prominent law professor told a Congressional panel Wednesday.

Harold Koh, the State Department’s top legal adviser, outlined the administration’s legal case for the robotic attacks last month. Now, some legal experts are taking turns to punch holes in Koh’s argument.

It’s part of an ongoing legal debate about the CIA and U.S. military’s lethal drone operations, which have escalated in recent months — and which have received some technological upgrades. Critics of the program, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued that the campaign amounts to a program of targeted killing that may violate the laws of war.

In a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s national security and foreign affairs panel, several professors of national security law seemed open to that argument. But there are still plenty of caveats, and the risks to U.S. drone operators are at this point theoretical: Unless a judge in, say, Pakistan, wanted to issue a warrant, it doesn’t seem likely. But that’s just one of the possible legal hazards of robotic warfare.

Now note carefully what is being said. Not all drone pilots are considered to be violating the laws of war. For instance, an airforce officer flying a drone is a combatant and are normally found operating in a combat zone (Afghanistan) in support of combat operations.

However, it is argued, CIA operatives flying them in Pakistan and using lethal force for targeted killings in an undeclared war may be liable to charges of “war crimes”. It would, of course, require some legal entity in Pakistan to issue a warrant to take this argument from theoretical to real.

Now you may or may not agree with the legal arguments. But let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument, that they’re correct. Where does that lead us? Well, here:

Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That’s because the CIA’s drone pilots aren’t combatants in a legal sense. “It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” he said.

“Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause,” Glazier continued. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.”

There’s no question where the buck stops when talking about who has “authorized or directed” such attacks. It stops at the Oval Office.

So … about those cries for membership in the ICC and those shouts of “war criminal” by the left. Where in the world have they gone?
~McQ

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Massachusetts town bans bottled water

More nanny state fascism in the name of the environment, this time at a local level:

“We only have one planet and I just don’t want to see it spoiled,” said Jean Hill, who introduced the measure at Concord’s Town Meeting.

And with that Jean Hill managed to get the town of Concord MA to ban the sales of bottled drinking water in 2011.  Jean Hill and Concord’s town government have decided their concerns will take the decision out of your hands if you live in that town, after all:

“Water is something we can get from the faucet. You can’t turn your faucet on and get soda,” said Selectwoman Virginia McIntyre, explaining why other plastic bottles would not be banned.

Right – and you are now restricted to water from your faucet there.

As Lisa F., who sent the link in an email, asks:

What if my tap water smells like sulfur?

What about natural disasters when I’m told by the government to stock bottled water?

What about new moms who want to use filtered water for formula?

Well, Lisa, the government monopoly has spoken and it appears its just tough toenails for you and your rights.  A legal product has just been arbitrarily banned for use. Grab your reusable container if you want water other than that the government provides.

Of course Concord is a small town among many towns no banning bottled water so I don’t see avoidance of the law as a particularly onerous chore.  Instead Concord provides another example of the use of government and law to push a political agenda.  Their job should be the provision of essential services and protection while staying out of the business of dictating what citizens can or can’t own, use or do unless those activities violate the rights of others.

Oh, and a final note:

The ban on plastic water bottle sales may be largely symbolic. Town officials aren’t sure they have the power to enact the ban without approval from the state.

Unfortunately, the state is MA.

~McQ

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Top down bureaucratic rule may mean big bottom up problems

Despite the many problems cited with turning cereal grains into ethanol (price spikes, shortages, etc.) and a new study saying ethanol damages engines, the EPA is going ahead with plans to raise the amount of ethanol mandated in fuel mixes:

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a rule in the next few weeks that would permit oil companies to increase the percentage of ethanol in automotive fuel to 15 percent, up from the current level of 10 percent, so they can meet E.P.A. quotas for renewable fuels.

Like a true bureaucracy, the quota is much more important than the fact that increasing ethanol percentages could cause more pollution and damage car engines according to a new study:

But now the industry says it has conducted tests that confirm the higher-ethanol blend will cause problems in many cars.

Half of the engines tested so far have had some problems, said C. Coleman Jones, the biofuel implementation manager at General Motors, who spoke on behalf of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

More ethanol will confuse exhaust control systems and make engines run too hot, destroying catalytic converters, automakers say. It can also damage engine cylinders, they say.

For some car owners, “you will be walking, eventually,” Mr. Jones said. The industry is urging the E.P.A. to delay any changes to the fuel mix until after 2011, when more complete testing will be done.

The EPA’s answer?

An E.P.A. spokeswoman declined to discuss the E.P.A.’s specific plans beyond its November letter, in which the agency said it planned to make a decision by midyear. The agency said at that time that it was leaning toward allowing the change.

Bureaucratic inertia has set the ball in motion and facts simply don’t matter.   And I loved this:

While the change is intended to apply only to cars of the 2001 model year and newer, it’s unclear how it would be enforced at the pump.

Heh … yeah, are we going to have 2000 and below model gas pumps now?

The heavily subsidized ethanol industry says it’s just the oil companies trying to keep their share of the market:

The ethanol industry argues that the proposed rule is essential for reducing reliance on imported oil. Ethanol makers say that most cars will run just fine on 15 percent ethanol and oil companies are standing in the way only because they want to hold on to market share.

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said enough test data was available to approve the new blend. “You just see all this hand-wringing,” he said.

But it isn’t the oil industry objecting – it’s the auto industry saying such an increase will ruin engines.  In fact, it’s Government Motors.  And they have no particular skin in the game here – what is is.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sunk a good bit on money in a new car recently.  If this goes through and I end up walking because of it, who do I go see to recover damages?

~McQ

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More blacks running as Republicans

More blacks are running for Congress as Republicans this year than at any time since Reconstruction.  32 in fact.  And, as the article notes, these aren’t the “fringy” types , but experienced legislators or military veterans, etc.   Almost all of them attribute their desire and possibility of success to the fact that Barack Obama was elected president:

Princella Smith, who is running for an open seat in Arkansas, said she viewed the president’s victory through both the lens of history and partisan politics. “Aside from the fact that I disagree fundamentally with all his views, I am proud of my nation for proving that we have the ability to do something like that,” Ms. Smith said.

Democrats, of course, are skeptical:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

And of course there’s the little problem of race – not necessarily from the right as Democrats would like to portray, but among blacks themselves. Walter Williams has a few words to say about that:

What about blacks who cherish liberty and limited government and joined in the Tea Party movement, or blacks who are members of organizations such as the Lincoln Institute, Frederick Douglass Foundation and Project 21? They’ve been maligned as Oreos, Uncle Toms and traitors to their race. To make such a charge borders on stupidity, possibly racism.

After all, when President Reagan disagreed with Tip O’Neill, did either charge the other with being a traitor to his race? Then why is it deemed traitorous when one black disagrees with another, unless you think that all blacks must think alike?

What about these candidates relationship with Tea Parties? Again race is brought into the question:

Many of the candidates are trying to align themselves with the Tea Partiers, insisting that the racial dynamics of that movement have been overblown. Videos taken at some Tea Party rallies show some participants holding up signs with racially inflammatory language.

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 25 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters think that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites, compared with 11 percent of the general public.

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

However, the media will continue to try to make them “racist” events despite all evidence to the contrary.

The Obama election was signficiant in many ways, but one of the ways least anticipated was seeing conservative blacks empowered to run as such and be considered serious main-stream candidates. It also demonstrates that the black vote is maturing and becoming both more sophisticated and a more fractured vote – no longer a single bloc that will unquestionably vote for the candidate with a “D” by their name. Again, Walter Williams points out that if any group ought to be distrustful of government and want a smaller and less intrusive one, it should be blacks:

Having recently reached 74 years of age, if one were to ask me what’s my greatest disappointment in life, a top contender would surely be the level of misunderstanding, perhaps contempt, that black Americans have for the principles of personal liberty and their abiding faith in government.

Contempt or misunderstanding of the principles of personal liberty and faith in government by no means make blacks unique among Americans. But the unique history of black Americans should make us, above all other Americans, most suspicious of any encroachment on personal liberty and most distrustful of government.

[...]

The most serious injustices suffered by blacks came at the hands of government, at different levels, with its failure to protect personal liberty. Slavery was only the most egregious example of that failure.

Williams points out that government aided and abetted slavery – the Fugitive Slave act of 1850, Dred Scott, Jim Crow Laws, and Plessy v. Ferguson as only the most egregious examples. But, as he further notes, perhaps the biggest and most damaging government failure has been the public schooling blacks have been delivered which, for the most part, has failed to deliver on its promise for decades.

Then there’s the grossly fraudulent education delivered by the government schools that serve most black communities. The average black high school senior has a sixth- or seventh-grade achievement level, and most of those who manage to graduate have what’s no less than a fraudulent diploma, one that certifies a 12th-grade level of achievement when in fact the youngster might not have half that.

If the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan wanted to sabotage black academic excellence, he could not find a more effective means to do so than the government school system in most cities.

This new crop of black political hopefuls represent a change in thinking that black voters should welcome and support. They represent an awakening and a rejection of the situation that past bloc support of blacks has enabled. They represent a group which are saying no to the Democratic plantation and the “government is the answer” crowd. They’re pushing self-reliance and individual liberty over dependence. And let’s face it – that’s the way our of poverty or a disadvantaged situation – not depending on nameless and faceless bureaucrats to lift you out or change your circumstances.

So I see this as an important and welcome change among black voters. Whereas Barack Obama’s election did indeed signal the fact that America can and would look beyond skin color for the highest office in the land, the election of a number of black GOP candidates this year would be similarly significant and help shatter a very carefully crafted and decades old myth about the GOP.

~McQ

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Words to live by or “do as I say, not as I do”?

President Obama at the University of Michigan over the weekend:

The… way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate…. we cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like “socialist” and “Soviet-style takeover;” “fascist” and “right-wing nut” may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes.

… The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning — since after all, why should we listen to a “fascist” or “socialist” or “right-wing nut?” It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.

So what can we do about this?

As I’ve found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of slash and burn politics isn’t easy. And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect.

President Obama last November:

President Obama is quoted in an November 30, 2009, interview saying that the unanimous vote of House Republicans vote against the stimulus bills “set the tenor for the whole year … That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.”

Yesirree … no “coarsening of the culture” with that slur. No negative signals sent out to the most extreme elements of the left with that, by George.  Certainly no “vilification” and “over the top rhetoric” contained in those few words or “slash and burn politics”, right?

This is one of the things the current president seems impervious too – understanding that he is as big a part of the problem as those he decries.

As Peter Wehner points out:

Here is the rather unpleasant reality, though: our president fancies himself a public intellectual of the highest order — think Walter Lippmann as chief executive — even as he and his team are accomplished practitioners of the Chicago Way. They relish targeting those on their enemies list. The president himself pretends to engage his critics’ arguments even as his words are used like a flamethrower in a field of straw men. It’s hard to tell if we’re watching a man engaged in an elaborate political shell game or a victim of an extraordinary, and nearly clinical, case of self-delusion. Perhaps there is some of both at play. Regardless, President Obama’s act became tiresome long ago.

For those with the ability to see it, that is.

~McQ

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Libertarians – More popular than Socialism and Militias … and Indies love us

Here’s a somewhat entertaining survey by Pew. In it they asked various people to give a positive or negative reaction to a group words they were given. The words were socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, progressive, civil liberties, civil rights, family values, militia and state’s rights. Interestingly, conservative was left off the list.

As it turns out, libertarians scored a split verdict, with a 38% positive and 37% negative.

Now again, realize that people are being asked to react to the words based on how they understand them. There’s apparently no context given – for instance “progressive” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “liberal” if the person so chooses to consider it by an alternate meaning.

On the other hand, capitalism, socialism and libertarianism pretty well have a single meaning or context. What they actually mean to each person remains a mystery, obviously, but the most negative of the 3 was socialism, followed by libertarianism and then capitalism. That says to me that many people still think of libertarianism to be the realm of the blue skinned guy who refuses to carry a driver’s license and is worried about the gold fringed flag. But it also says that the image may be changing and becoming both more acceptable and more mainstream. Good.

And independents are most positive about libertarians (stands to reason since libertarians don’t consider themselves Republicans or Democrats) while Republicans are least positive. In many ways we’re actually competition for Republicans and try to hold them to their principles and slam them when they don’t live up to them. But Republicans don’t like us on the social side of things. And that’s where some Dems love us.

Interestingly the terms which provoked the most warm fuzzies – positives – were civil rights, state’s rights, civil liberties and family values. I see that as a hopeful sign, and another in a long line of signals that say stand down the size of the federal government, respect the state’s rights and those of individuals as well.

The most negative word of the group? Militia. I’m not sure whether that’s a function of how the media constantly portrays them, but my guess is it is heavily influenced by that characterization. But militias are a very minor and insignificant problem in this country today. I have to wonder how conservative would have fared.

I’m not sure what to really make of all this other than taking it at face value – people react to these terms for a particlar reason in the manner they do. On the whole, libertarianism seems to be making a better impression now than it has in the past. That’s a hopeful and welcome sign to me.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – dumb politican edition, part II

Thank you for your service.  Now hush up and go home Sen. McCain:

“Obviously that would be a serious mistake…at least until we find out as much information we have,” McCain said during an appearance on “Imus in the Morning” when asked whether the suspect, 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan.

“Don’t give this guy this Miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” McCain added.

Really?  Is that the way it works now?

You may not like the law, Mr. McCain but that doesn’t mean you can selectively apply it – the SCOTUS has been very clear about doing such things. 

Of course, you have to remember, this is the same guy that was so concerned about campaign financing that he sponsored a law that trashed the 1st Amendment and then claimed he’d rather have clean elections than free speech.

~McQ

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Oil spill – a perfect storm (update)

I’ve been watching this oil spill story develop over the weeks since the April 20th explosion and sinking of the BP oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

As an outspoken proponent of drilling for oil – both on-shore and off shore – I’ve watched happen what I had been convinced couldn’t happen.  A deep water platform, with cutting edge technology, blew up and sank.  A deep water well with the latest in blow-out prevention devices failed to function properly and stem the flow of oil from the well.  An  industry that had no contingency plan or equipment available to quickly cap such a leak.  And the result has been an environmental problem that the industry all but claimed couldn’t happen.

All that’s extremely disappointing and causes me great concern.  However, it doesn’t change the fact that oil is still critically important to our energy needs now and in the future, must be a part of any comprehensive energy strategy and must still be sought and recovered.  Period.  End of statement.

That said, the oil industry must seriously address what I’m sure most thought was unimaginable a few short weeks ago.  Obviously blow-out prevention technology isn’t fail safe.  Perhaps redundant systems are needed, or some easier method of manually addressing the failure of “automatic” systems, especially in deep water wells.  This particular well is at around 5000 ft. meaning divers couldn’t be deployed.  Robotic submersibles were unable to close the valves on the blow-out prevention device.  While that’s bad, what perhaps bothered me more was the fact that there was no industry backup plan in case such a situation presented itself.  They’re now fabricating a cap to put on the well and no one knows if that will work.

So this particular catastrophe’s continuance is on BP and the oil industry in general.  It seems they may have believed their own press a little too much and were caught flat footed when the worst case scenario unfolded.  Since BP is on the hook for paying for the clean up of this mess, not to mention losing a billion plus oil rig, I’m sure the lesson will be learned.

That brings me to the reaction by government to the growing disaster. It appears some lessons are never learned.  Slow to realize the size, scope and impact of the disaster don’t even begin to describe its reaction.  Certainly the Coast Guard has been on the problem almost from the beginning.  But, acknowledging the Katrina comparisons being made, that was the case then as well.  That doesn’t excuse the administration’s apparent lackadaisical response.  It doesn’t explain why a 1994 plan for such a disaster wasn’t implemented quickly as it was designed to be (it involves fire booms to burn off the oil – and the oil, light, sweet crude is very amenable to burning).  Had that been done, some experts believe the spill could have been contained soon after the accident.

It doesn’t explain why the EPA has taken almost 2 weeks to get involved or why the EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel “Bold” has yet to be deployed in support of the effort when it was in Miami, FL the 19th through the 23rd of April (OSV Bold has been deployed in the past to monitor and assist in other oil spills).

The White House is now in full spin mode and the modus operandi is the usual – blame others.   Stipulated – BP is to blame for the leak.  BP should pay for the damage it caused – all of it.  BP is the cause of the problem and they acknowledge it.  Got it.

Now – what has government, which we’re told is always the answer, done to protect our shores and waters from the disaster?  Well, it is appearing that so far the effort hasn’t been particularly well run, successful or timely.

Just as interesting is how little the press is howling about it.

Bottom line, this disaster points to inadequacies on both sides of the problem.  The oil industry needs to get its act together on this problem.  And government has been no better now than it has in the past.  I hold out some hope that the industry will learn from this disaster and do what is necessary to prevent it again.  Given its history, I hold little hope that government will improve its performance.  That said, it should be clear that it is up to industry to clean up its act since government seems inadequate to the job of cleaning up any mess industry makes (government will hold hearings, of course, and spout off about needing more regulation).  What shouldn’t end up being an option though is the abandonment of off-shore drilling.

UPDATE: Nice – the usual blame targets again emerge.  Huge surprise.

~McQ

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