Monday, May 31, 2010

Last Call

And the oil geyser news just keeps getting worse.
The disaster, in its 42nd day Monday, is already the largest oil spill in U.S. history and officials are treating it it as the country's biggest environmental catastrophe.

Although Louisiana's wetlands and fishing grounds have been the worst hit so far by the spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said moderate southerly and southwesterly winds this week may start moving oil closer to the Mississippi Delta.

"Model results indicate that oil may move north to threaten the barrier islands off Mississippi and Alabama later in the forecast period," NOAA said in its 72-hour prediction on the expected trajectory of the huge oil slick.
Mississippi and Alabama have escaped lightly so far, with only scattered tar balls and "oil debris" reaching its coasts.

But the NOAA forecast was a sober reminder that oil from the unchecked spill, broken up and carried by winds and ocean currents, could threaten a vast area of the U.S. Gulf Coast, including tourism mecca Florida, as well as Cuba and Mexico.
Seven weeks in, no end in sight.  Could be another 2 months and change before it stops, too.  Should BP's latest plan fail, and the sawed off riser pipe increases the spillage by another 20-25%, then who knows.

That worst-case scenario of hundreds of billions in damage is looking more and more like reality every day.

A Slick Takeover

Former Clinton Treasury man Robert Reich argues it's time for the government to take over BP's operations until the geyser is capped.
It's time for the federal government to put BP under temporary receivership, which gives the government authority to take over BP's operations in the Gulf of Mexico until the gusher is stopped. This is the only way the public will know what's going on, be confident enough resources are being put to stopping the gusher, ensure BP's strategy is correct, know the government has enough clout to force BP to use a different one if necessary, and be sure the president is ultimately in charge.

If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP's north American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

The Obama administration keeps saying BP is in charge because BP has the equipment and expertise necessary to do what's necessary. But under temporary receivership, BP would continue to have the equipment and expertise. The only difference: the firm would unambiguously be working in the public's interest. As it is now, BP continues to be responsible primarily to its shareholders, not to the American public. As a result, the public continues to worry that a private for-profit corporation is responsible for stopping a public tragedy.
He goes on to list five reasons:
  1. BP continues to lie.
  2. BP has no accountability.
  3. The plans from here on out get riskier and riskier.
  4. The government has no authority to force BP to use other strategies.
  5. The President has no legal authority otherwise.
Probably worth looking into, I would think...

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

In all seriousness, does somebody want to explain to me how Israel's move today wasn't a message to Barack Obama consisting of the words "screw" and "you"?

BooMan games out the world response, especially from Turkey, who is now on the brink of turning this into a much, much bigger problem by withdrawing its ambassador from Israel and vowing to send another aid flotilla.
If Turkey is promising to send new supplies with naval escort, then we're headed for an epic showdown between two of Americas closest allies. I don't think Obama is getting too much rest and relaxation this Memorial Day.

Meanwhile, the Arab League will meet tomorrow and put immense pressure on Egypt to lift their portion of the Gazan blockade. I can't imagine that Egypt will refuse. In fact, I think Israel has jeopardized their peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

All this, and for what? To keep construction materials from the Gazan people? Israel is not behaving in anything resembling a rational manner. They just lost the only friends they had not named America. And who can help them now but Big Daddy? The problem is that Big Daddy has more to consider than Israeli's deluded interests. We have to worry about our own image and international relationships. 
Israel is now forcing us to choose between them and the Islamic world.  Obama's decision will shape our country for a generation.

No pressure, Mr. President.

Close All Shops In The Mall, Cancel The Three Ring Circus

The Economist has a good point: if you think President Obama hasn't done enough in the Gulf, shouldn't you be advancing the idea that we should shut down all offshore oil rigs?
Who's raising concrete critiques of administration policy? Chiefly Mr Obama. Last Thursday he laid out a series of mistakes he felt he had made. Chief among them was taking oil companies at their word when they claimed to have the capability to cope with worst-case deep-sea drilling catastrophes. Now, if we feel that the president has failed to act aggressively enough on this issue, both before and since the accident, then what course of action should we now be calling on him to take? One logical step might be for the government to immediately shut down every offshore drilling rig in proximity to America's coasts, pending the development of redundant, fail-safe capacity for capping and remediating catastrophic blowouts. Is this a good idea? I don't know. But if you wanted to argue concretely that the administration had not been acting aggressively enough in this crisis, then this is the sort of more-aggressive action you might be calling for.
And of course if Obama did this, he'd be slaughtered in the media and by the Republicans.  The Village cries out for "Daddy" to save us, but if Obama did that, he would be immediately portrayed as a fascist dictator of the highest order.
What we're seeing here is a perfect circus of media nothingball: people aggressively criticising the administration for not acting aggressively enough while aggressively ignoring the fact that they oppose anything aggressive the administration does.
It's almost like the entire Village is running on an irrational knee-jerk reaction to attack anything that Barack Obama does.

I wonder if there's a name for that?

The Kroog Versus Neo-Hooverism

I like Paul Krugman, he's a smart guy, a brilliant economist, and he knows what he's talking about on the fiscal side of things.  But on the politics side, he comes across as a bit naive at times, like he does today as he talks about the growing crusade to cut the deficit in the middle of the worst unemployment in a generation.
A similar argument is used to justify fiscal austerity. Both textbook economics and experience say that slashing spending when you’re still suffering from high unemployment is a really bad idea — not only does it deepen the slump, but it does little to improve the budget outlook, because much of what governments save by spending less they lose as a weaker economy depresses tax receipts. And the O.E.C.D. predicts that high unemployment will persist for years. Nonetheless, the organization demands both that governments cancel any further plans for economic stimulus and that they begin “fiscal consolidation” next year.

Why do this? Again, to give markets something they shouldn’t want and currently don’t. Right now, investors don’t seem at all worried about the solvency of the U.S. government; the interest rates on federal bonds are near historic lows. And even if markets were worried about U.S. fiscal prospects, spending cuts in the face of a depressed economy would do little to improve those prospects. But cut we must, says the O.E.C.D., because inadequate consolidation efforts “would risk adverse reactions in financial markets.”

The best summary I’ve seen of all this comes from Martin Wolf of The Financial Times, who describes the new conventional wisdom as being that “giving the markets what we think they may want in future — even though they show little sign of insisting on it now — should be the ruling idea in policy.”

Put that way, it sounds crazy. And it is. Yet it’s a view that’s spreading. And it’s already having ugly consequences. Last week conservative members of the House, invoking the new deficit fears, scaled back a bill extending aid to the long-term unemployed — and the Senate left town without acting on even the inadequate measures that remained. As a result, many American families are about to lose unemployment benefits, health insurance, or both — and as these families are forced to slash spending, they will endanger the jobs of many more. 
Now Krugman's correct on all this...except for the why.  He attributes it to craziness when he should be attributing it to old fashioned greed.

Look folks, the powers that be have decided that the continuation of the covenant between government and worker is unsustainable.  That's not true of course, but to keep this up, the wealthiest would actually have to, you know, pay more taxes.  That will not be allowed to happen.

So, the notion that we have to cut spending, that government is evil and inefficient, and that those who are out of work are simply lazy and undeserving parasites, well that's all over the newspapers and blogs these days.  The GOP is more than happy with it, and the Democrats are increasingly falling for it.  After all, poor people don't get into Congress, ya dig?  They don't matter.

Let them suffer.  The wealthier will grow more wealthy, and that's the way the world is supposed to work, right?

StupidiNews Focus

The Gaza flotilla story is a grim one.

The Israelis are basically saying that this was suicide by soldier, and that the aid workers killed were shot in self-defense as Israel was maintaining its naval blockade in its own waters.  The entire mission was a trap, the Israelis say, and that they had no choice but to open fire.  Two commandos were wounded in the exchange.

The Palestinians on the other hand say the flotilla was boarded in open, international waters, and that means the Israelis were committing international piracy, and that the aid workers grabbed whatever was handy to try to defend themselves from the Israeli commandos.  They lost badly and were slaughtered as a result.

Neither side is fully telling the truth, I suspect.  But the ship was either in international waters or it wasn't.  If it was in international waters, then Israel has a lot to answer for.  Turkey has already recalled its ambassador to Israel, the EU is furious, and even the White House is demanding a full investigation.

If the ship was in Israeli waters however, that's blockade running.  The Israelis used excessive force to stop the flotilla, but a naval blockade on your own nation's waters is perfectly legal.

The key is where the flotilla was at the time of the attack.  Somehow, I doubt we will never know the truth there.

And the clock ticks closer to a Israel/Iran conflict.

StupidiNews, Memorial Day Edition

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