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« Things to do in GSO | Main | Free press »

May 27, 2010


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My pragmatic, solutions-driven hero!.

"Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort?"

Jim Caserta

Free-market absolutists like to harp on the myth that the less faithful don't understand the concept of trade-offs. How about the idea that cutting corners has definite consequences, and can end up costing you a lot more. It can also lead to serious costs being borne by others. Cutting corners to increase profits is the free lunch - it doesn't exist; someone at some time will pay for it.

Account Deleted

And Barack fiddles while the Gulf gets coated.

Ed Cone

What should the feds be doing that they are not doing?

That's both a literal question, and a call for ideas.


So is Obama the Bat Masterson to the Oil Companies' wild west?
From what I've read it appears that these companies pretty much ran the show for decades and it finally caught up with them, and as a consequence, us. Laissez fare ass in a sling time!

Account Deleted

Ed: I am very disappointed that we as a nation allowed the oil to come ashore. In the Persian Gulf region they have previously used dredges and tankers to contain oil spills.

I think a federal response that lived up the the current president's promises "that our government will be prepared, will protect us and will respond in a catastrophe" (BHO in NO 2-17-08)would have included making sure the oil never reached the coastline.

That is the failure of our government that I am disappointed about. Of course BP should pay all the costs and get slammed, but so should the leader of the government that failed to respond adequately.

Or more simply put, he could have done the opposite of all the things he accused GWB of doing in the federal response in 2005.

greensboro transplant

@ed, "What should the feds be doing that they are not doing? That's both a literal question, and a call for ideas."

this is such a tragedy that i've not listened to much of the news. so, this is a serious question. have the feds actually done anything to stop the leak or prevent oil from reaching the coast?

the impression i got from the news that i did listen to was that the feds have underestimated the severity and have acted slowly. for example, was any federal action taken to disperse the oil in the first week of the spill?

Ed Cone

GT, from what I've read, the folks with the expertise to stop the flow are in the oil industry, and multiple companies are working with BP to cap the well.

I don't know if keeping a spill of this scale from shore is feasible, nor do I know (meaning, I do not know, not that I doubt the possibility) what efforts might have been taken that have not been taken on that front.

Brandon Burgess

GT, it appears that the fed govt's hands are tied. Their role was oversight. They failed in that role, miserably. Unlike Katrina where the govt may have screwed but could still offer some assistance, there is nothing the govt agencies can do to redeem themselves. They let this happen, at least from my perspective.

Ed Cone

Oversight and regulatory capture certainly seem to have been a problem, but what Jeff is suggesting is that we could have done more in terms of physical effort -- e.g. ships and personnel deployed -- to stop the spread of the slick.

Is that true? Could a more intensive, practically-possible effort have stopped oil from coming ashore?


There is some interesting information on what could have been done here.

Makes it look kind of simple. Of course the scale of operations needed is a little hard to imagine. I guess the earlier the response, the smaller the scale.


More here.

Ed Cone

More on scale:

Marine scientists have discovered a massive new plume of what they believe to be oil deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico, stretching 22 miles from the leaking wellhead northeast toward Mobile Bay, Alabama...

David Hollander, associate professor of chemical oceanography at the school, says the thick plume was detected just beneath the surface down to about 3,300 feet. He says it's more than 6 miles wide.

Jim Caserta

Given the fed's limited response, the answer to the question of whether they could have done more has to be yes. But to whether they could have stopped the oil from coming ashore - probably not...but that's not the issue. It's not just oil on shores or not, but the severity of the spill. I would imagine, however, that experts at Exxon would only reluctantly help BP, but would be more likely to help the feds, who could then pass the bill along to BP.

Say a logging company has a lease on a section of forest. They screw up and their section catches fire, causing other parts of the forest to catch fire, and then the fire threatens homes adjacent to the forest. Wouldn't the lease granter have the right and obligation to step in and do whatever they can to fight the fire, and not just leave it to the person leasing the section?

Ed Cone

JC, re cooperation:

BP is not tackling this mess alone. The entire drilling industry is involved, including Exxon (who has a great record when it comes to offshore drilling, not oil shipping). It's not like only BP engineers are calling the shots, all sorts of experts are involved.

At BP's West Houston complex, there's a command center filled with personnel from around the industry working with BP engineers. Several drill ships are in place. Tons of workboats are on site. There are 5 or more ROVs roaming the wellhead monitoring and cleaning things up. They're already bumping into each other because they normally work solo while tied to a ship by a mile long umbilical cable. They don't need more ROVs down there adding to the traffic. All these efforts are reported heavily in the Houston Chronicle and nola.com, but doesn't seem to get much for national coverage. If you only monitor the national coverage, you'd think BP is going it alone while we all sit by, but the reality is this is an industry-wide effort because we all know what's at stake.


"What should the feds be doing that they are not doing?"

Did you ask that during Katrina?

Jim Caserta

The HUGE difference is that people knew exactly what to do with Katrina, as evidenced by how fast things changed once Lt Gen Honore got to NO. The technical difficulty of formulating the proper response for the spill is 2 to 3 orders of magnitude (100-1000X) more challenging.

Ed Cone

A head rolls, although on the regulatory side not the response side: "Ms. Birnbaum’s resignation came after weeks of questions about whether she was up to the task of remaking the Minerals Management Service, an agency widely recognized as one of the most dysfunctional in government."


"What should the feds be doing that they are not doing?"

......start by allowing Bobby Jindal to exercise some leadership that allowing Bobby Jindal to exercise some leadership that Obama will not, or can not do.


Karl Rove gives us the specifics about Obama's ownership of the Gulf disaster:

"Could this be Mr. Obama's Katrina?It could be even worse.

The federal response to Katrina was governed by the 1988 Stafford Act, which says that in natural disasters on-shore states are in charge, not Washington. The federal obligation is to 'support . . . State and local assistance efforts' by providing whatever resources a governor requests and then writing big checks for the cleanup. Mr. Bush had to deal with a Louisiana governor and a New Orleans mayor who were, by federal law, in charge.

But BP's well was drilled in federal waters. Washington, not Louisiana, is in charge. This is Mr. Obama's responsibility. He says his administration has been prepared for the worst from the start. Mr. Obama's failure to lead in cleaning up the spill could lead voters to echo his complaint in Katrina's aftermath: 'I wish that the federal government had been up to the task.' "


everybody has a plan until they get hit ~ evander holyfield

David Boyd

I'm pretty sure that was Tyson.


>>...the earlier the response, the smaller the scale.

That assumes the flow stops simultaneously with the start of the response.

Pointing fingers of blame may serve political or ideologic needs, but the lesson so far is this: The nation -- public or private sector -- lacks the capability to stop the flow of oil from this kind of offshore well before gross economic and environmental damage is inflicted. The prudent course: Don't drill any more of these wells and shut down existing wells until a solution is at hand that can prevent any flow of oil when the next accident happens.

A not very pretty picture of the MMS is emerging, but it would be foolish to imagine that organization was rough, tough, impartial and influence free until Barack Obama was sworn in, whereupon it sank into a morass of greed and complicity. The things reported about the MMS are the kinds of things that happen at a federal agency when the politicians who call the shots make it known that they really don't want the inspectors and the regulators to get in the way of the companies they are inspecting and regulating. That was a basic tenet of conservative policy during the Bush years.

Brandon Burgess

"Pointing fingers of blame may serve political or ideologic needs"

"A not very pretty picture of the MMS is emerging, but it would be foolish to imagine that organization was rough, tough, impartial and influence free until Barack Obama was sworn in, whereupon it sank into a morass of greed and complicity"

--Not sure who this is directed at. I was not putting this on Obama. The NYT has reported that MMS has had problems for years. That means folks other than Obama and his admin are responsible for creating the environment in which BP felt is was ok to run their operations in the manner that led to this.

I think Bubba may have a point about the location of the spill being under federal jurisdiction but then again, I don't know much about that kind of stuff. Other commenters have noted the various responses of other countries to similar disasters; responses other than "we are doing all we can to keep the pressure on BP" as Salazar expressed (not the exact quote) this week.


"The HUGE difference is that people knew exactly what to do with Katrina"

That still doesn't answer what Bush didn't do that he should have.

"Pointing fingers of blame may serve political or ideologic needs"

Yes, it served people like Justcorbly very well in those needs during the Bush years.


>>...the earlier the response, the smaller the scale.

When I wrote that I was specifically referencing booming operations as described in my link. I had no political slant to that comment at all. Probably doesn't apply to a gusher a mile down with all kinds of opportunity for horizontal travel before booming can have any effect.


Brandon, my comment wasn't directed at anyone. People being people, it is to be expected that they will try to leverage this incident for political purposes, whether or not intend to speak honestly or to spin.

As for MMS, some people are pointing to its apparent malfeasance and misfeasance in an effort to attack Obama, reviving the "on his watch" mantra used to attack Bush after 9/11 and Katrina. We'd need to be pretty gullible, though, to imagine that the roots of this MSS culture didn't extend beyond 20 January 2009.

We also make a fundamental mistake if we pin responsibiility for this on MMS and BP, because that implies that the laws and regulations on the books are sufficient if properly applied. I don't think we can say that at this point. If the law and the surrounding regulatory structure are inadeqaute, then no amount of enforcement would have prevented this.

I've stopped reading Bubba'a comments and don't intend to respond to Spag's.


This is Obama's fault? Apparently no one knows how to fix this darned thing and it's possibly the worst ecological disaster in a century. (see "possibly") I saw bumper sticker today that read, "At least the war on the environment is going well." Seemed apt.

This isn't about Bush and Katrina or any other gotcha and to make it so is inherently defeating. This is about a legacy of unregulated oil firms unable to fix what they break and regulators failing to provide oversight (heck, giving them privileged status - see those senators refusing to make the company pay for the damage). Whether that's from greed, incompetence, a don't-give-a-damn attitude (or all three), I'm quite sure the feds during this crisis have been fighting with a company in an industry that has had immunity from oversight for more than Obama's, Bush's and Clinton's terms.

Can we stop the "whose fault" crap and see this for the disaster it is and that we might not have the technology to fix it?

Account Deleted

No Sue we can't. I specifically object to the current president failing to have a plan in place to prevent the oil from coming ashore. Are we as a nation incapable now?

Yes, the Bush admin was a complete f-ing failure across the board in my view. Yes BP corporate devils caused the spill. The spill happened in federal territory and has been the responsibility of the federal government since day one.

I don't care about the well. I care about a president who watched for more than 30 days as an environmental catastrophe grew and grew.

Don't believe me? Ask Carville.

The current president failed to lead. No wait, he said today he has been engaged and in charge since the beginning so I guess that means he tried to lead and failed.

That makes him a failure in this instance.

Can you admit that?

Account Deleted

Or ask Chris Matthews. What is wrong with some of you?

"This idiotic cerebral meritocracy has got to end." Chris Matthews


"What is wrong with some of you?

I think it has something to do with what Ed recently referred to as a strain of French literary intellectuals who held all truth to be relative, and all texts to have meaning only as assigned by the reader.

He also sees this expressed by bloggers who are willing to overlook or excuse almost anything as long as it meets their own preconceptions or is expressed by someone they view as an ally. I can see it as well.


This is the most sensible, honest-sounding, it-ain't about-me-and-my-agenda original offering I've read from a local blogger on this topic, from someone who has obviously taken the trouble to to get up to steam on it as best he can. Anyone want to take a stab at who wrote it?

"I consider Deepwater Horizon tantamount to a moon shot. Drilling at all a mile down seems fantastic. How such a miraculous thing might affect oil prices appears premature. BP is quite aware of the challenge it faces. The existence of a fed fund to promote such action confirms BP is merely a contractor doing a job. Not only is there no known way to seal the well, BP uniquely possesses the equipment and ability to deal with the problem. What we are witnessing is the best in the business doing the very best they can. If you drive a car, you are complicit in the crime and should pray BP finds a solution."

Account Deleted

Our man Fec. He's a bright one.

But we can't conflate the well issue with the clan-up. The well issue is a fantastical feat of science.

Preventing the slick from coming ashore only required leadership from the president, as Chris Matthews so eloquently said today on Andrea Mitchell's show.


No disagreement there. Carville went nuts (again) on CNN tonight.


"Can we stop the "whose fault" crap and see this for the disaster it is...."

Where were you with that philosophy during Katrina?

Here's the thing. Most conservatives, including myself were critical of the federal response to Katrina under Bush. In hindsight, much of it was probably unwarranted. Nevertheless, we weren't making excuses.

Not so with liberals who are doing everything they can to try and immunize Obama and now try to take the high road by asking not to employ the blame game. That kind of hypocrisy and refusal to acknowledge the subpar response by Obama is nothing but partisanship.

Man may have created the oil spill, but man did not create Katrina. Yet Obama isn't expected to have a response to a man-made disaster but Bush is expected to fight nature.

Liberals played this and other games for ten years, but now they can't stand to have it applied to them. Everything is always somehow "different" such that Bush deserved all the blame that came his way, but Obama deserves none.


"Yes, it served people like Justcorbly very well in those needs during the Bush years."

As you can see from his subsequent comment about you and me, he's opted out of being held accountable for his nonsense.

Cowards and frauds usually react in that manner in order to duck their just consequences.

greensboro transplant

i wish i believed that the feds/obama handled this well. i don't care who would've received the credit. my family spends several weeks in the gulf each year (may move there) and the disaster saddens me.

but i believe the feds responded poorly. they obviously lacked the expertise and the preparation necessary to properly respond.

the govt failed with katrina. the feds failed in their oversight of financial institutions. the feds failed in their oversight of massey energy. they failed in their oversight and response with this spill. these are egregious, systemic failures.

sure. they'll do a great job with healthcare.


"Can we stop the "whose fault" crap and see this for the disaster it is...."

I assume your referring to Ed's multipronged BP-bashing as much as you were Jeff, one of the first locally to finally aim a little of it toward Obama. The answer to your question, as far as the liberal media, both locally or nationwide is "we will stop the SECOND public opinion shifts toward comparable culpability for Obama's failings as he and we have sat back and so adversarily and unhelpfully pinned on BP. That shift appears to be happening quite abruptly these last two days. I predict pragmatic, "come together" Ed will be resurfacing real soon if that's the case.

Account Deleted

Chris Matthews expressed my sentiments perfectly when he compared this to Dunkirk and Churchill commandeering every available boat to get those men off the French coast before the Panzers and Stukas ripped them to shreds.

Andrew Brod

"Adversarily and unhelpfully pinned on BP"? Are you serious?

It is quite reasonable to pin this on BP, and the only reason not to is if one pins it on the entire oil industry. If anything has been made clear by this horrid event, it's that this industry has no idea of how to handle a deep-sea blowout/spill. We all thought they knew what they were doing, but no. They're making it up as they go. Unfortunately, we're drilling more and more at such depths.

We often hear politicians denounce the "blame game," though the ones who oppose it are often the ones who deserve the blame. But for a calamity like this, the blame game is precisely what we should play. And it's not zero-sum. We don't have to absolve BP to assign blame to the Obama administration. They could both be at fault for different things.

The only approximately zero-sum element in this blame game involves public opinion. In spite of the growing criticism of his administration's handling of this crisis, Obama is probably in better shape than Bush was because there is such a ready and deserving villain in BP. Bush didn't have that--all he had was the weather.


Does the recent crash involving a State Trooper that led to several deaths prove that the High Way patrol has no idea how to handle a motor vehicle on a state highway?

Ed Cone

"Don't blame BP and/or its industry partners" is an incomplete thought.

What about, Don't blame BP if evidence shows they complied with all regulations and reasonable procedures?

Maybe, although many people will hold the industry to a higher standard than just going by the book, given the damage.

But evidence is mounting that BP et al did not do the job right, and acted irresponsibly.

If the story reported in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere bears out, Rand Paul's statements about not criticizing business really are bizarre and troubling. He's not in favor of accountability?

None of which means blame goes only to the industry. We've already seen evidence that the regulators were lax, and we'll see what we learn about the specific response by the administration.


Terry, exactly. But for some, making mistakes is all that's required to villainize someone, if only those who you saw as villains already. Some people even make a career out of it. Something about French relativism....


I think the majority of the criticism at this point is about the response, not the cause. Ed seems to want to focus on the former probably to excuse Obama for the pathetic latter.

George W. Bush didn't cause Katrina either, yet all the focus was on the response.

Ed Cone

If anyone wants to argue that evidence of corner-cutting or errors by BP would be no reason to discuss the company's accountability for the spill, have at it.

Andrew Brod

That would be a dumb thing to argue.


Brandon Burgess

But Ed, someone allowed them to cut corners. If a drug dealer is leeaching off of his neighbors, sure we criticise him. But if the cops allow him to do what he does, can we blame the dealer?


Brandon, to the sport's most skilled practitioners, the possibilities are endless.

Ed Cone


I don't see anyone arguing against reform of the regulatory process, or assessing the full landscape of error and responsibility.

Your hypothetical seems to posit a situation in which BP did nothing wrong under the regulations, but we don't know that to be the case, and we are seeing reports that the company skimped on process to save some time and money. If you think we should not pursue that line of inquiry, then you and I disagree.

To your example -- we should prosecute both the dealer and the crooked cops.

Andrew Brod

Brandon's right. If it's determined that everything BP did was in compliance with existing laws and regs, then even though they'll get skewered in the court of public opinion, it'd be hard to take the blame further. There will be official inquiries and processes to determine this (including litigation), and I'm happy to let them run their course. But I'll wager that BP won't come out of this blameless, even ignoring public opinion.

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