Monday, May 31, 2010

"Never Poison the Food and Water"



This image strikes home the point. The hands of the people are tied. We're stuck in a situation no one appears able to get us out of. And the folks running the show seem content to let this year's disaster torture us for our resources and plug us one in the head.

This isn't a new story, though we have updated the product placement.



Because this was a demonstration. This was a gathering of people who dare to call attention to several glaring errors on the part of the government and the unregulated free market.

Again. Because this ain't the first time a predicted worst-case scenario has come to pass. When history looks back at this decade, that will be the theme.



I was drawn to this intentionally misspelled poster because it drives home another point: LOSEiana. It sure seems like we're snakebit down in "this part of the world." As a matter of fact, and this point was made more than once this afternoon (and sometimes in colorful terms), what's next? A volcano? A meteor?



This decade, their have been several major calamities affecting our nation, by my count. Any one of these would have crippled many other nations entirely. For the US as a whole, we take it on the chin and keep moving.

This is a blessing and a curse. We are dynamic enough to handle many problems in quick succession, but we tend to move on too quickly. We don't like to learn the lessons that might prevent small problems from becoming much bigger problems.

We don't like to look back into our own history for precedent and accept that the things that have happened before are likely to happen again.

Lastly, we tend to sell ourselves the theory that "blame" can be compartmentalized.



Any one of the catastrophes we have faced since 2001 would have crippled many other nations entirely.

So it says a lot that two of those catastophes have now tremendously and disproportionately impacted Louisiana.

It speaks to the wisdom of our nation's founders that federalism is able to help mitigate the affect of these catastrophes. It speaks to the weakness of our modern institutions that such mitigation is often incomplete, frustrating to implement, plagued with insufficient priorities and often easily taken advantage of the well connected or conniving.



It speaks volumes that our modern discourse refuses to focus. We will be plagued with the inability to formulate cohesive solutions to our internal problems as long as our common history has zero cohesion as it is told to us. We cannot find a solution to a problem while intentionally ignoring or misrepresenting that problem. And yet those are the terms in which the "problem solvers" attempt to communicate with each other.



Without coherence and focus, those affected by calamity often see their legitimate grievances dismissed; they are accused of whining or overstating the damage to serve a lawsuit or some political goal.

One can only hope that those with the temerity to derisively question the very reality we face will one day endure the discredit they so richly deserve.



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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fire-Eaters Set Free In Georgia

The New York Times is today* is reporting that a Federal court in Savannah, Georgia will be unable to continue with the prosecution of Charles Lamar and his cronies for the importation of African slaves to Georgia's Sea Islands.

This means the man who said he would re-open the slave trade went ahead and did so, and there was nothing the combined governments of the United States or Britain could do about it.

As if planters' sons weren't incourigible enough already, now we have to deal with them taking daddy's yacht to the Congo to see who can traffic in human beings the most flagrantly.

I'm sure this news will calm things down on the national scene.

Must be nice to live in a place where you can use local sentiment to your legal advantage. We all remember how Savannah's citizens rallied in support of the Fire-Eaters and secessionists who hijacked the Democratic National Convention in Charleston.

While the rest of the nation is trying to figure out how to build more railroads and roll more steel, these boneheads are racing to return to their 18th Century fantasy land. They're so angry they can't take their slaves with them to California, they want to leave these United States and STILL not be able to take their slaves with them to California.

Luckily, we appear to have far more sense here in New Orleans.

I'm sure this latest news will require yet another demonstration. Perhaps this time everyone will remember to extinguish their oil lanterns BEFORE heading to the rally.

* - 150 years ago, today...

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Unvarnished Truth

Read it. Accept it. This is Truth pulling the trigger on both barrels. Begin strategizing ways to change your life accordingly. Because by the time my friends' kids are my age, a lot of changes will have come. Let's hope it they are for the better. Because gettin' there ain't gonna be pretty.

Hell, it ain't pretty now.

And this ain't no squishy, environmental tree-hugger stuff, neither. This is cold, hard economic fact, accepting precedent and the situation on the ground. This is reality knocking at the door in a way "we will be welcomed as liberators" and "Dow 30,000" could never, ever do. No politician on any side of any aisle would dare look these words, much less repeat them.

Consider yourself duly warned.

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Priorities

I just went over to Instapundit.

To start off, I'll say that reading Glenn Reynolds' old MSNBC blog is one of the reasons I started my own site.

On the other hand, at the time I looked at Instapundit today, there were 5 links to "Stesak" posts (the guy who beat Arlen Specter in the Democratic Primary) and only one regarding any aspect of the Macondo BP Oil Flood. (I also accept that this may change as Instapundit updates throughout the day.)

That one link is advertised as a doozy, promising to cover corruption at the MMS.

I was interested, unhappy as I am that MMS shenanigans previously noted under the Cheney/Bush management may have continued after I voted for change. That makes me angry, and on lunch break, I like to feed myself with anger. I followed the link.

And now I'm shaking my head.

Much to my chagrin, this solitary link regarding the Oil Flood enlightened me that a group of folks is complaining about a Freedom of Information Act request the MMS was dragging their feet on, about how many emails the MMS had recieved in support of more offshore drilling. This is a terrible culture of corruption, they posit, and one that will not abate now that Birnbaum has resigned.

...

Really?

The prime critique of the MMS from the right is that they aren't implementing "drill, baby, drill" fast enough, or accurately representing the email campaigns of voters who support "drill, baby, drill" policies.

So, even though I am critical of the current administration's response to this crisis, those who stand the most to benefit from my displeasure propose that we speed up and increase the very behaviors that created the crisis.

Incredible.


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On Precedent

First of all, it might help put things in perspective if the media would stop using irrational comparisons and historical inaccuracies to describe problems.

I'll discuss the lunacy of calling the Macondo BP Oil Flood "Obama's Katrina" at some later time. That's all oversimple political point-scoring narrative fed mainly to viewers of Fox News and right-wing radio listeners.

No, I'm going to focus on the more dangerous aspect of how the country is talking about the Oil Flood:

Unprecedented: adjective: having no precedent, novel, unexampled.

"Unprecedented" generally means that something is new, and hasn't been seen before. Because of the newness, it is something that cannot have been forseen or planned for, and that lack of institutional awareness rationalizes mistakes made by People In Charge. This is especially true the bigger the problem is.

And I understand that in a sense, every single problem, disaster, and catastrophe is unique in some way - but that doesn't mean they are "unprecedented."

It is damaging to the body politic for a leader to propogate the myth that problems are "unprecedented" and could not have been planned for. It is also damaging when the media does not call leaders on their illegitimate use of that word, especially when they propogate it carelessly by repeating it themselves. Or when they use other words to say the same thing.

From usually articulate Slate:*

But it's responsibility with an asterisk: BP is the only entity that can solve this problem, which is like none anyone has seen before.

Emphasis mine.

First of all, I didn't realize that BP was the only oil company on planet Earth that drills for oil beneath the sea. But that's another issue. I'd like to focus on the "like none anyone has seen before" part of this two part fabrication.

None anyone has seen before, hunh? None anywhere? Nothing close by? No similar situations at all that might have warned us this might happen? Exactly zero precedent?

Then, WTF is this? A semisubmersible oil drilling rig suffers a massive blowout, catches fire and sinks. This causes a tremendous oil gusher. It happened in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sound familiar?

I guess this will just have to be the "New Orleans is below sea-level" erroneous-media-regurgitation of this particular catastrophe. And it is a shame our usually eloquent President feels that he must repeat this falsehood to mitigate the shocking political, economic and environmental ramifications of this disaster.


Please see also, federal waivers establishing setup for future unprecedented disasters. The mind boggles.


* - The same Slate that published a different article dedicated to calmly describing how the Korean naval confrontation "is not unprecedented."

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Crash & Burn

Oyster is blogging at the Lens these days.

His first op-ed is a cautionary tale of how attack politics can backfire, badly.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Not A Winning Day"

Lord David posts this essential post (and associated comments) regarding the oil and the response.

I’m so pissed off I want to smash my own windows out.

But that would be foolish.


This disaster is the culmination of so many political, governmental and business failures over the past three decades that playing the blame game runs the risk of sounding like a cop-out. Yeah, BP had best be paying every little dime for this mess, but it shouldn't stop there. This can't be musical chairs, where the unlucky entity gets clobbered with litigation and every other contributor walks free. No, there is much work to be done. And we're going to have to learn what to do when big government AND small government AND free enterprise all fail catastrophically multiple times within the same decade.

I didn't say it would be easy.

I know it will be difficult to do so, but we're going to have to remember the times America was a nation capable of great things, and channel that problem-solving ability into the present dysfunction.

We focus on what can be done RTFN and prioritize correctly. Regarding the response to the current disaster, Maitri has four excellent draft executive orders ready to go, as well as a raft of other suggestions, starting with this:

I don’t want Obama to take responsibility for things that are not his fault like the rig explosion, subsequent leak of 12,000+ barrels per day (multiplied by 38 days) into the Gulf of Mexico and onto priceless coastal real estate or even the state of the MMS and US drilling regulations until April 20th, 2010 (admit it, the man had quite a bit on his plate already until that day).


She then proceeds to enumerate things he can do to start getting this thing under control as effectively as the catastrophic scale of the problem will currently allow. Some additional "prevent shit from happening again" ideas are thrown in for good measure.

My current rage towards this situation is so complicated I have trouble phrasing complete sentences. The only thing more infuriating than the current situation is knowing that our society has experienced enough of these situations to know better, but proudly continues to exhort our own inability to do something about it as if that is something to celebrate. My current cognitive dissonance at the current political atmosphere only increases when I envision how much worse things would have been with someone else in charge. Others are putting this in terms far better than I am able.

That's why I point to you other posts. Have fun reading. I'll be elsewhere, gnashing my teeth.

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TexaSEC

The college football conference realignment has been going on for years, and the only reason people think this is all something new is historical ignorance. My own post-1992 SEC centric worldview and associated ignorance has been aptly demonstrated when Dante schools me on the history of the SWC and their relationship with the Big 8 when forming the Big XII.

All that being said, the current volume of money involved with college football is making stakes even higher. As the Big (10+1) considers conference expansion, they have spoken of including Texas. The other money-power conference is the SEC, and if you hadn't noticed, there is something of a conference rivalry between the SEC and the Big (10+1), in addition to a straight up economic war for viewers and television dollars.

But these days, the balance of power will be decided by the University of Texas. The Big (10+1) wants them. The Pac-10 wants them. The Big XII would likely implode without them. They could go independent. They could go to the SEC. And right now, all that is up in the air.

The stakes are so high, some writers worry that the SEC will not survive Big (10+1) expansion without Texas.

Wow.

That is a staggering suggestion.

While I'd love to see Texas (and TAMU) in the SEC, I am hesitant to swallow a lot of the things the SEC would have to accept to make that happen. First of all, expanding beyond 12 teams has unpleasant schedule implications, unless we go to 15, which may be the least painful. (Though I would chafe at having to include Texas Tech instead of Clemson to make the move politically more sound.) I just don't see a 16 team conference being viable for very long, and 14 is really straining the seams.

Though I did think of an alternative after reading how much "little brotherism" exists on the Longhorn blogs: the SEC could just invite TAMU, and one or two other schools to get to 14 and 15. I mean, as much fun as it would be to have them both, I'd take either if we absolutely must expand.

But there is a lot of pride and money on the line, so anything is possible. You know us Southrons after all.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Be Vewy Vewy Qwiet

Where did Rand Paul go? A minute ago he was on every news outlet attempting to explain his complicated and utopian position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, boldly declaring that he brought a message to the Washington establishment that the Tea Party "wants their country back" presumably so they can ironically give it away to British oil companies in ways we haven't thought of yet.

And today? Tumbleweeds.

The guy is a US Senate candidate on the Republican ticket for crying out loud, doesn't he want any more national exposure? Where could he be? Wasn't he supposed to be one of the benefactors of our national "throw the bums out" attitude by running against the behavior we so often see in the government halls of Washington? You'd expect him to take advantage of all this free air time.

He couldn't be hiding away somewhere, trying to avoid the spotlight, could he?

JMac at Beyond the Trestle is more charitable to the ol' boy:

It took him less than 48 hours to completely abandon lifelong principles he's advocated for in the public and private arenas. Having been academically curious to the unique Libertian ways of him and his father, I've been dismayed at how quickly he went from principled candidate to shameless panderer ... and I don't even agree with the guy.


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Monday, May 24, 2010

Trading Places

Fascinating look at when the two main American political parties did their switch.

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"Disasters don’t give a damn about political views."

More essential reading from Cliff:

Some people think regulation on companies goes against our system of free enterprise. You can be for free enterprise and look out for the general public at the same time. You shouldn’t have to choose between the two. A business should make all the money they can make as long as they don’t destroy the lives of other people to do it.


One of my biggest problems with what passes for conservatism today is that they frame this choice as a stark one: if you want to go after both of these reasonable goals, you're a socialist; any cap on or criticism of the free-market is not just bad policy, it is unAmerican.

One of my biggest problems with what passes for liberalism today is that they want to "regulate" businesses but can't seem to figure out how to do so in a way that effectively protects people, property or natural resources.

Hence we end up with the following:

Earnest criticism of Obama from his own base:

I can only conclude the Obama Administration has been a failure in how it’s handled the Macondo oil gusher in the gulf.


And praise of Republican officials from the left:

Credit where it's due. The only people showing anything like real leadership at this point are Craig Taffaro, Billy Nungesser, Bobby Jindal, and now Caldwell.



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Friday, May 21, 2010

Humid Commentary

If your worldview or poltical stance on an issue is roughly and uncomfortably challenged by a cake, you may need to begin re-evaluating your worldview.

Related: FYYFF: The Oily Version

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A 15 Team SEC

I don't think the SEC needs to expand, but if we ever do, we need to do it like this.

Three divisions. Add Texas, Texas A&M and Clemson. While we would have to tweak the proposed method for determining a champion, whoever wins a conference of this magnitude should qualify to play for the national championship every year.

Be still, my heart.

Highlights? Plenty. Every year, Georgia would play the following teams:

Auburn, Clemson, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas A&M; two rotating members of the other divisions and Georgia Tech.

Be. Still. My. Heart.

Then again, poor, poor LSU, who ends up with this schedule. Every. Year.

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi State, Texas, Texas A&M; two rotating members of the other divisions (which means some years, their schedule could include all that plus Tennesse/Auburn AND Georgia/Clemson). But they would never be criticized for loading the non-conference slate with the Louisiana Directionals and Tulane again, EVAR, and may be the only team in the history of the sport to go to the national championship with two losses multiple times.

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Quote of the Day

When I hear anti-choice, pro-war, anti-drug, anti-civil-liberties Republicans call themselves Libertarians now (when it is convenient for them not to be regulated by government for some specific activities), alarm bells go off.

- Maitri

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul is Not a Racist

Update: 4:00PM

Other opinions on this matter from:

DSB

Suspect Device

Maitri

For real entertainment, read the Paul thread at Peach Pundit.

And Loki's facebook points me to this op-ed at the Washington Post where the author deconstructs Paul's argument on libertarian grounds.



------------------Original Post------------------------

And people don't automatically agree with you just because.

It is a shame we cannot have a real philosophical discussion about anything in this country without folks misconceptualizing the whole thing.

I watched the whole Maddow interview with Paul. I've read a few things about it on the internet. I had yet to see where any of the controversey comes from, until I realized that we're dealing with two epistemologically closed worldviews attempting to communicate.

This is not a defense of Paul's position. I don't agree with him. But I am forced to wonder at the breathless posturing on the part of his interviewers and the writers. It is as if they cannot grasp his fairly easily stated position.

Like a Christian trying to understand a Buddhist's "version" of salvation, this subject will be defined by a conceptual difference. Feel free to take issue with Paul's position, but please do not see it as an ignorant or racist point of view.

It took Maddow nearly 20 minutes to illuminate the following points that could have been gleaned from the first 3 minutes of airtime:

1. Rand Paul does not personally believe in discrimination
2. Rand Paul believes that institutionalized discrimination on the part of any government should be illegal
3. Rand Paul believes that discrimination on the part of individuals, property owners and businesses, as it relates to their own person, property or business, is a seperate and more complex issue


This is, of course, completely ideologically consistent with American libertarianism. As a matter of fact, I would posit that this is one of the very foundations of the current state of American libertarianism. It is the perhaps boldest line that divides my political philosophies from those of my libertarian friends.

Paul's firearms analogy is ideologically consistent as well. If you own a coffee shop, and you don't want people to come in with their legally purchased firearms, do you have the right, as the proprietor, to refuse them entry or service?

Another analogy could be your right, as a proprietor, to allow smoking in your coffee shop. If you want to allow smoking, shouldn't you be able to do so? It is your business, after all, and anyone who doesn't like it need not patronize your business.

Paul's philosophy makes no distinction between business owners who discriminate based on legal carrying of firearms or smoking, and business owners who discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender, etc. The proprietor is the owner of the property so they make the rules that govern the establishment, and they do so without government interference.

Because when does the expression of any individual's personal liberty infringe upon the expression of another individual's personal liberty? In libertarianism, the government should not erode one individual's personal liberty at the expense of another - the individuals should interact as individuals, making their own decisions. Government is only allowed to step in when one individual's person or property is injured by another.

And no, simply refusing you service at a lunch counter or refusing to grant you a loan based on your skin color or membership in a club does not usually count as an injury to adherents of this philosophy.

Here's how it is supposed to work:

To Paul and other followers of current libertarianism, the free-market and freedom of association will diminish desegregation naturally, and more effectively than any intrusive government regulation.

Yes, there may be lunch counters that refuse to serve black people (or Jews, or Catholics, or homosexuals, or whatever group the owner does not like), but that's OK. That unwillingness to serve will create a market of customers who have no lunch counter to patronize. All someone has to do to end the discrimination is to open their own lunch counter that does not discriminate.

In addition, people who disagree with the discrimination displayed by the proprietor of the first lunch counter, because of their liberty to associate or not associate as they so choose, will be able to express their opinions with their feet and patronize only lunch counters that do not discriminate. People who don't care either way (and who belong to demographics allowed at both lunch counters) will benefit by having two lunch counters competing for their business. Because the pool of potential patrons is larger for the second, non-discriminating lunch counter, that business has a better chance to succeed in the free-market.

Through this mechanism, the free-market diminishes discrimination more effectively than any intrusive government regulations.


Of course, believing that requires a substantial dismissal of several dynamics essential to the understanding of American history.

I didn't say it was rational, or even realistic. Remember, I think current libertarian philosophy is based on a worldview dominated by a free-market capitalist version of utopia as fantastic as any Marxist's wet dream.

But real people believe this stuff, so I'm going to pay attention. I'm not going to dismiss it as some crazy fringe movement. These are valid points, and serious questions regarding the role of law and government in relation to our lives and property. This is one of the oldest political questions our civilization wrestles with.

So let me reiterate the big news, before a philosophical thought excercise concerning the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became headline news: Rand Paul just won the nomination for the US Senate seat for a state likely to send him to Washington in November.

November 2010.




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Falcons Want SECCG & Peach Bowl Out of Atlanta?

Maybe.

The Falcons organization wants a new stadium. Without a roof.

First of all, what? I mean, I know the Georgia Dome is more like the world's biggest tent, but I'm confused as to why they're building a new stadium in the first place.

And what about college football? Per Tony Barnhart:

If Atlanta is dumb enough to be a part of building an open air stadium without a retractable roof, then the champagne corks will start popping in Birmingham. Because you can bet that they’ll figure out a way to build a ball park to get the SEC championship football game to come back (the first two games were played in Birmingham in 1992 and 1993). And you can bet that New Orleans would be putting together a bid and sprucing up the Superdome.


OK wait a minnit. There is usually only one SEC game played indoors in any given year: the SECCG. In the Georgia Dome. SEC fans will watch games outside with no problem. There's as much chance that Atlanta in December will be 70 and sunny as it will be blowing snow and sleet. That's why we live in the South.

But the idea that Birmingham will get it together to build its own domed stadium based on one absent from the ATL is folly. Maybe they might if they had a chance to land an NFL franchise, but that ain't happening. Maybe if Alabama didn't just bump Bryant-Denny's capacity to over 100,000. And if the choice is outdoors in Birmingham vs. outdoors in Atlanta, the game stays in Atlanta.

Though this leaves the only domed stadium in the South in New Orleans, and as much fun as it would be to host an SECCG in the Crescent City, it just wouldn't work as well as hosting the game in Atlanta. (It would work, especially the first year, but not as well as the current setup.)

Stop your hate, there are real reasons.

Atlanta is a megalopolis with thousands upon thousands of alumni from all SEC schools living in the metro area. The majority of SEC schools are within easy driving distance from Atlanta (the only real outliers being LSU, Arkansas and Kentucky). Finally, hosting the SECCG is one of the highlight events for Atlanta's year, and it shows. This is the biggest reason the SECCG is such a success based on location. It would not matter if the SECCG were held outside in December, it will sell out.

New Orleans is a destination city that requires hours of driving from any schools not named LSU, or a plane ticket. An SECCG would be a big event, but there are a lot of big events in NOLA. There's also the Sugar Bowl issue. One participant of the SECCG usually ends up in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. It is not a good idea to have your championship game in the same stadium where your bowl game is played, especially when that stadium is far away from the main population center of your fanbase (please see also: ACC).

So, I don't see the the SECCG moving locations any time soon, the stadium's roof or lack thereof will not be a factor. The Peach Bowl will still sell out as well, and the Sugar Bowl will continue to be the SEC tie-in to the BCS.

The only thing the roof will affect is college basketball and Super Bowl hosting. But if Atlanta wants to make it easier on NOLA to host future Super Bowls, y'all go right ahead.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Senate Bill a Victim of EFT

That's "Epic Fail Timing."

Don't worry, special interests, once this underwater oil gusher thing is forgotten by the easily distracted "what's on American Idol tonight?" crowd, you'll have a better chance to pass it. A good political move would have been to quietly put the legislation on hold until the air over New Orleans no longer smelled like butane crayons and the folks in the coastal parishes weren't wondering about all the cancer that could be caused by several hundred thousand gallons of possibly toxic (and expensive) BP chemical dispersant.

I mean, I know you might have had to wait 20 - 30 years to reintroduce the thing, but you can tie most litigation up for that long on appeal these days.

Right now, the Louisiana senate bill to prohibit university law clinics from suing government agencies or chemical companies isn't going to make it out of committee. And I have to grudgingly give props to Scott Cowen.

But despair not, special business interests, this gives you plenty of opportunity for other avenues! Now is your chance to prove how progress-prone and altruistic your motives really are!

If you're really worried about the business-friendliness of Louisiana, take this time to examine the institutional effectiveness of your state bureaucracy and that of your largest cities. Pool your resources to modernize those mechanisms. Worry less about taxation and litigation and more about how the near-feudal system of well connected folks in this state are able to monopolize fat government contracts and use red tape to stifle innovation, outside investment and badly needed competition.


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This Is Your Republic on Oil

The following items are covered in this American Zombie post:

1. The Department of the Interior or the Department of Justice may (or might already) open a criminal investigation into the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

2. BP continues to use more toxic, less effective, and more costly dispersants when biodegradable oil cleanup is available from smaller businesses. Several former BP and Exxon executives sit on the board of the company that produces the more toxic, less effective and more costly dispersant.

3. Coast Guard officials, acting under "BP's rules" threaten a CBS camera crew with arrest.


Next up, Maitri has a Day 30 roundup that illustrates where we are with this after a month. The short: not very.

She includes this article which discusses the current popular confusion over "natural" and "man-made" disasters.

Finally, Lukovich responds to oil on Gulf beaches.

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Lincoln Wins Republican Nomination

Update 11:30am: Talk about home-field advantage! The Tribune altered a photograph to show Lincoln reading their paper! How can we trust the media to report stories correctly when they are so obviously biased?

------------------Original Post-------------

Sorry I didn't post about this yesterday, y'all, horse threw a shoe and I had to go to the blacksmith to see to it. I missed most of the big political news from the wires yesterday until almost dark. Big day, especially for the Republicans.

They picked the new guy? So much for the Third Party going to their well of former-Whig experience.

I can understand that they wouldn't go with Seward and his ties to the New York political machine, but to bet it all on the tall man from Illinois? Color me stunned. I guess they're more worried about the Union's stability than I am.

This will certainly make things interesting in November. I still don't think the Democrats can get their crap together to field a unity candidate, but now they'll get to use the "inexperience" card.

Hopefully, the Dems can find a candidate with balls big enough to stand up to all the anti-government, "taking our country back," secessionist talk from the Fire-Eater wing of the party, but I couldn't name for you who that would be right now.

Anybody but Douglas.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Wit

If my brother cannot abide my junior-varsity attempts at witty and sarcastic commentary, I wonder how he might ever wrap his head around this masterful analogy.

HT: Oyster.

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Specter's Moment of Truth

My 2010 Prediction #3 is on the line today as Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak face off in the Democratic Primary. So far, none of my predictions have bombed though 1 and 11 are on shaky ground. If 3 fails me today, 4 will also be lost (sort of an Arlen Specter 2fer). On the plus side, I have 8 and 15 already in the bag.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Food Budget

How much does the average New Olreans household spend on food? It is above the US average, with a slightly higher percentage of eating out.

Atlantans spend more dining out than any other population, by percentage, and folks in Hialeah mostly cook at home. I'm stunned that the average Austin, Texas household spends so much on food every year, but I'm not shocked that if Manhattan were its own city, they would have the top spot.

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Winning Combination

Guns, horses, cowboy hats and talk so tough I thought I was gonna have to do some push-ups. Now, this is a political campaign ad. I would vote for this guy just to see more of the miniseries.

Camera angles are awesome, like the close up on the horse when he's talking about his opponent. And hearing a deep drawl calling someone out for Facebook tomfoolery is full of win. The most over the top point is when he pulls out the Winchester. WTF? He's on a manicured lawn frontage of a family farm in Alabama. Do they have a problem with bears? One can only wonder what he's off to do with that rifle while wearing a pressed shirt, but don't that throw you off. The awesomeness here is self-evident.

I was born in Birmingham, and if I still lived there I would vote for Peterson.

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Primary Sources

Oyster has video links to the 60 minutes reporting on the Deepwater Horizon.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

French Cowboy

Not since Jean Reno was The Professional has a Frenchman been such a badass. Sarkozy says that Europe is helping Greece or France is out of the European Union. And I completely get his point. You guys are sharing currency. Failure of one means the failure of Europe. Germany is reluctant since they'll have to front a lot of money but so will France. A Union isn't just a union-when-things-are-going-well. It's a union-when-things-are-going-bad as well. I'm throwing up a little in my mouth as I'm typing this, but we could learn quite a bit about being a nation from France's example here. Those European nations are either a Union or they're not, and Sarkozy wants no part of it if they're not.

Ramifications of Drill, Baby, Drill

It occurs to me that, as in so many things involving government, you don't need new regulations as much as you need to actually enforce the ones you have.

Because if you ain't enforcing the ones already on the books, and you ain't listening to the scientists already on your payroll, new regulations will be ignored as a matter of course, as will any new individuals or groups you hire to study your problem.

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You Mission, Should You Choose to Accept (and you will)...

If you're reading this, stop and follow the link. I'll wait....



I would've picked an NKotB song, but as long as we're all in agreement I'm ok with Baby. Remember, vote early and vote often.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Cassandra Effect

Oversimplified political cliches have real consequences. When you boil your energy policy objectives down to "Drill, Baby, Drill" and dismiss historical reality by furthering a "Not. One. Drop." mythology, all you do is increase the likelihood that shit is going to hit the fan in a catastrophic way.

The Cassandra Effect is predicting future disaster based on your visions while no one believes you. We are in a more dangerous spot, because today our society refuses to acknowledge the possibility of future disaster based on actual disasters that are already in the history books. I don't know what the hell to call that.

Maybe we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel during every single catastrophe we experience if we could conceptualize the concept of "historical precedent." Oyster fires off a broadside I-Warned-You-This-Would-Happen.

But does Brown even acknowledge that he was part of the vast right-wing chorus minimizing the catastrophic risks of oil drilling in 2008? Hell no!


But remember, our positive thinking, utopian-land-of-make-believe society would rather mock and marginalize individuals who attempt to inject a dose of reality into any situation. Because that's the way our media and political classes roll, and the decision-making voters roll right along with them.

Why prepare and plan for worst case scenarios*? Mistakes are inconceivable.



* (HT: Jeffery)

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Cause & Effect

Cause: media undercovers environmental catastrophe of epic propotions.

Effect: 53% of Americans polled by NBC/WSJ think expanded offshore drilling is economically worth the environmental risk.

I wonder how many Americans would support extremely punitive damage claims against oil companies found liable for environmental catastrophes? I wonder how many Americans would support higher taxes to clean up after our self-regulating corporations who make messes?

Lord knows, it may hurt business to hold them accountable.

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Fantasy Land

Maitri reminds us that the idea of a self-regulating free-market is the capitalist version of utopia.

She's absolutely right.

As if once we accept the true principles that businesses can and should hold the final word in regulating themselves because they know best, we will live in a happy place with unicorns and faeries, raining gold dust down on adherents' foreheads, where oil spills never happen and the market value of your stocks always goes up, just like the value of your home.

Mistakes are inconceivable in fantasy land.

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What Cliff Said

It is a short post, but you'll want to read it.

A short teaser:

Every time something bad happens to people in this country there’s the standard hearing in Congress for them to ask questions about problems they should have been aware of in the first place.


Yup.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oil Platform Destroyed by Giant Mouse



Oyster points us to this NOLA.com article on residual risk.

Bottom line? We're doing it wrong:

BP fell into the same damn trap*, and they were not engineering; they were 'imagineering,'


I highlight that quote because it pretty much explains everything going on in the United States of America. It's like we "won" the Cold War, went to Disneyland, and liked the place so much we decided to start making policy and business plans based on what we saw there.

From "we will be welcomed as liberators" to "mission accomplished" to "you can afford this flexible rate mortgage" to "Dow 30,000" - we have become a nation of people who believe only the things we want to hear and only those things we agree with. Any sort of warning that things can go wrong gets ignored as negligible risks affecting the bottom line. We put our hands over our ears and yell "LA-LA-LA" until the adults go away. People giving the warnings are viewed as unhinged, nagging spoilsports attempting to ruin everyone's good, old fashioned American fun.

Mistakes are inconceivable.

You know those cats who said that "positive thinking" was destroying civilization? They were right.

Then when something does go wrong, and goes wrong catastrophically**, we ignore the reasons for the failure. We obtusely and proudly refuse to learn anything from it because what happened is obviously someone else's fault, even if the blame game requires incredible logical acrobatics. That, or catastrophic failures are dismissed out of hand because, shit happens, after all.

Then those pesky, unhinged, nagging spoilsports that tried to warn us before start up again. They attempt to refute logical acrobatics that sheild us from blame, accountability, and self-examination. But you know how we react to that. No one likes hearing "I told you so's."


* Context: As the engineers who built New Orleans levee sytem.

** Is there any other way? If we can attempt to summarily dismiss two wars and the destruction of an American coastline (twice), are there any mundane problems that even bear mentioning? Oh, yeah, ACORN.

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Lake Lieberman

Another elected official chimes in with a "shit happens" policy position. I'll just point you to Jeffery's opinion on this matter.

Maitri breaks it down for Droopy from Connecticut.

There’s a difference, senator, between Accidents Happen and The Accident Is Still Happening 21 Days After And Nothing Can Stop It.



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Monday, May 10, 2010

Hopelessness

What else can you call it when a major ecological catastrophe is ongoing, with no signs of stopping any time soon, caused by the marriage of compromised government regulation and unaccountable business practices on the part of giant corporations, who display no intention to change, while government displays no intention to make them change, where half of the body politic in your representative republic deludes themselves into thinking necessary changes are an unnecessary (or conspired) plot by political rivals to force change just to piss them off.

This goes so far beyond epic fail, I don't know what to call it. I mean, there is a hole in the earth literally spewing rust colored, creeping death into the biosphere above, and all the advanced technology of man has so far been unable to staunch the flow.

Like we drilled too close to Hell, and the Devil ain't happy.

Just what will the world look like when every liter of ocean water is covered in oil? Because that is the Old Testament plauge scope of the current issue. No more beach. No more seafood. Consider that for a minute.

How many stories have been written through the millenia, warning of the hubris of man to build high towers or dig holes deep enough to rouse the Balrog? Though I like Oyster's description of this as the oil kraken. What Biblical or Mythological metaphor truly sums up this apocalyptic teachable moment?

I'm a glass half full kind of guy. There is nothing broken that cannot be fixed. But sometimes you have to consider what, exactly, you are breaking. Sometimes you have to consider how much the repair man is going to cost.

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Perspective

Maitri posts some apocalyptic images of the Macondo oil gusher in relation to other places in the United States. It is only a size comparison, but with the push to open up other coasts to drilling, it gives the viewer something to think about.

If you live anywhere near the water, this could be you. Just so we're all clear on the costs of oil drilling and the price of deregulation.

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Talking College Football

The Senator has a new dictionary. Georgia Bulldawg specific, but other fanbases can probably relate.

And nothing demonstrates the cultural difference between New Orleans and Atlanta than the differing masculinity ascribed to the "Flag Boy" based on location.

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The People's News Weekly

American Zombie figures out how to do it.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Burning Bounty Hunters With Butane

Last night, I said the air in New Orleans smelled like burning crayons. Jeffery has a better description, and is starting to convince me that people should be arrested for the Macondo. Stunning incompetence, corner cutting for increased profits and insufficient regulation have combined to make this "shit happen." Despite all warnings.

I still don't think any arrests could be made, however, so I'm hoping the civil suits against all the responsible parties nail their balls to the wall.

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Football Fan Psychology

The quotes from this post at Dawg Sports delves deep into the complex psychology of Georgia Bulldawg fans.

Believe that with all your might, my friends. Our ultimate hope lies in our utter hopelessness. Recite the litany the Bene Gesserit would have recited, had their initials been reversed and served as the abbreviation for our favorite football team:

I must not hope.
Hope is the mind-killer.
Hope is the little-death that brings total obliteration.



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Truer Words

A must read article. The money:

"Good management is, sadly, neither a government specialty nor a priority for either political party.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Slippery Slope

What slippery slope?

1. Eliminate probable cause and reasonable suspicion. Because of security risks, your papers can be checked by officers of the law at any time and for any reason the officer deems appropriate.

2. Because we can always trust officers of the law, and never need invasive oversight to handle local matters.

3. If you do not have the papers deemed appropriate, you can be detained until your information is verified, or until you are transported to a Federal facility.

4. Because your information is guaranteed to be verified quickly. Detention facilities and proceedures are always clean and efficient where one finds only legal and humane treatment of detainees and prisoners. The liklihood of mistaken identity, cruel and unusual punishment, and systematic failure is very small. Due process is rarely required to address such issues, as the system is self correcting.

5. Because of the inconvenience of due process, we can now look into stripping crime suspects of their citizenship upon being charged with a crime.

Not "convicted," charged. Mistakes are inconceivable.

6. Acheive perfect safety.

Please send Thank You notes to Governor Jan Brewer and Senator John McCain of Arizona, and Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. And remember, health care reform is a plot of tyrants and totalitarians to take inalienable rights away from you and your helpful for-profit insurance company agents.

Have a nice day!

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Hornet's Nest

In the San Francisco area, several students were sent home for wearing American flag themed clothing on Cinco De Mayo.

Because what we desperately need right now in this country is more immaturity over the immigration issue.

Think that'll get some play on talk radio?

Yep. So do I.

I'll officially nominate the principal of this school for "Jackass of the Month."

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ethanol

"Like a con man helping a victim of a brutal mugging stand so he can pick what's left of his pockets"

-or-

"Our years-long practice of befouling the Gulf is a good alternative to having it befouled all at once by an oil spill."

Just. Wow.

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Science

The minute you do not respect this it kills you.

Maitri gets all sciencey about the Macondo. It includes the glorious quotes:

half of you don’t even believe in the science behind how oil is created in the earth, but will happily benefit from its extraction.
..
If you believe in God, stop blaming him for our mistakes. (The inherent dissonance between the hardline championing of predestination and the exertion of human free will in drilling for hydrocarbons notwithstanding, but that’s a topic for another post).


But you'll want to go and read the whole thing for yourself.

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In Graphic Representation

Total consumption by state & total consumption per capita.

Keep that in mind when reading this.

(HT: Daily Dish.)

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If This Is Real

You know what makes me really angry? The idea that we have might have multiple oil spill cleanup devices, including the MOP and the fire booms, already developed and (in the case of the fire boom) planned.

But no one went ahead and built the fire booms (so they couldn't be deployed) and it doesn't sound like anyone has acknowledged the MOP's existence.

I wonder if these were considered "earmarks?"

(HT: Liprap and Greg.)

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Reality

Making People Angry Since...

I know it is difficult to realize that elections matter, and that there are literally millions of individuals with different cultures, lifestyles, beliefs and voting habits than you. This is the double edged sword of life in a representative republic, like the one we have.

Since Obama was elected, I have been trying to inform my conservative-to-right-wing friends that elections matter, and that an elected republican government is not in fact taking your country away if they were legitimately elected. It is not tyranny, it is not totalitarianism, it is not fascism. If you don't like what they are doing, there will be a national referendum (usefully called "elections") that will happen again before you know it.

You and those who believe as you do can change the government of our nation, but that is the level where you have the least individual affect. Your involvment and ability to affect change is far greater at the local level.

This has been a harder sell than I originally thought, but that's a story for another time. This story is about trying to remind my liberal to left-wing friends that there are literally millions of individuals with different cultures, lifestyles, beliefs and voting habits than them and that affects energy policy in the United States.

Because, as the Macondo disaster continues, I am apparently making people angry by suggesting in the comments section of this post that discussions concerning clean-up, redundancy, safety, and smarter production of oil are more productive than discussions regarding who should be arrested for causing the oil gusher to happen.

And as cathartic as it is to demand the arrest of the responsible parties, is there a way to make the charges stick? Even if you could get to that point, the outcome would likely be similar to any other organization facing arrests, where a few people fall on their swords to protect those at the top, and business as usual is allowed to continue.

There will be cultural shifts because of the Macondo disaster, but it will not cause the whole society of the United States to give up oil overnight, or even in a generation. We're going to keep drilling, and that's going to happen no matter who is President or Governor. Our political choices at this time are not "drill, baby, drill" vs "no drilling ever;" our choices are "drill, baby, drill" vs "drilling is catastrophically dangerous, complicated, and we'd better be very careful about how we do it, and let's see what we can do to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels."

As much as I wish we could get there quicker, I accept the terrible reality of the situation. Pragmatism and realpolitik are frustrating concepts, especially when applied to a society that is divided nearly 50/50 on every issue, and is traditionally, culturally and economically committed to unsustainable, progress-resistant and damaging development.

The long term goal is a more walkable, community-centered, train-connected society that is far less dependent on fossil fuels for power. A lot of the moves to get there will come at the local level where local citizens demand a higher standard of living and smarter development and capital improvements in their communities. That is, consequently, where involved individuals have the most power to affect change. But as that change must come culture-wide, you have to convince people it is in their best interests to make those changes.

Demanding low-probability-though-high-stakes arrests is far more inciteful and divisive than convincing, in my experience.

But that's just me. If you think you can start making those arrests, successfully prosecuting them, seizing assets et al without facing a highly counterproductive (and possibly violent) backlash, be my guest.


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Forget Tennessee (A Very Special Episode of Jackass of the Month)

Pat pointed out in the last post Tennessee had quite the storm roll through last weekend. While the governor was busy telling everyone to find shelter and mother nature was busy dropping tons of rain on the state and killing 29 people in the process, Vandy decided that they should hang out on the baseball diamond with UGA's team in case things cleared up enough for them to play. And somehow they did work in a few innings before the deadly storm put a stop to the game.

You see, Vandy is hard up for SEC wins and UGA isn't having its best year. So Vandy's coach decided not to just do the sane thing and call the game so they could beat up on lowly UGA. When the storm was imminent Saturday morning and the pictures of Yazoo City started filling the news cycle, they should've called the game instead of sitting both teams, the staff, and any remaining fans inside a big metal cage that was on the verge of getting flooded.

So next time you get that soft spot for Vandy because their football team is looking like it might beat Florida or they get ranked or the basketball team makes it farther than it should in the NCAA tournament or whatever the reason, remember last weekend. Fuck Vandy. They act like their tendency to be subpar at sports is because they have high standards. They have no standards. Even Urban Meyer wouldn't pull something like this. As much as that jackass will do to win, he won't gamble his players' lives for it. The Vandy fans' responses are sadness that the two remaining games were canceled when they should be happy both teams didn't get killed.

For this very special Jackass of the Month, I nominate Vandy. And that includes baseball coach Tim Corbin, the Vandy athletic department, and the fans who can't even see what their coach did in his blind desire to win.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Don't Forget Tennessee

You know it is a crappy week when a 1 in 1000 chance rain event causes widespread flooding from Nashville to Memphis, and the story takes third billing throughout the country.

During almost any regular news week, I would be all over this story, talking about levees and how flooding can happen anywhere and how terrifying floods are.

But with the Macondo disaster now spooling up into oilpocalypse territory and yet another near miss on terrorism I'm having a hard time keeping up.

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In Rhetorical News

Shocking revelation. In addition to hinting that water is wet and theorizing that the sun rises in the east, we may now suspect the following:

If you watch only Fox News or read only angry left-wing blogs, you become closed to contrary information. You lose touch with reality.


Which probably has a devastating real world effect on things like this.

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Invisible Hands

How does the free market take care of major problems where liability is at stake? Dambala has a report at American Zombie.

That's OK, I'm sure there are some obscure Federal regulations to blame for all this that makes it the government's fault. The Limbaughs, Hannity's and Becks of the world will be on the case shortly.

Oyster examines this from another angle. How will Wall Street commoditize BP's liability and make money from it?

Slate echoes Dambala's take on the relationship between the Company and the Fishermen.

Elsewhere on the site is a cold, clinical examination of why we suck at planning for and responding to low probability/high impact disasters.

After the Exxon-Valdez spill, for example, Congress passed a law that banned that ship from traveling in Alaskan waters. (For branding reasons, Exxon renamed the ship the SeaRiver Mediterranean.) At the same time, certain ports in Alaska became highly regulated, while others in Seattle and San Francisco remained lax. It's as if Congress passed a law against lightning striking twice.


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Monday, May 03, 2010

The Clear Language of the Law

You knew it was coming: Bob Barr's take on Arizona's new law.

You also already knew that I agree with him.

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Solutions

Redundancy is cheaper than catastrophic environmental damage and the lawsuits they incur.

Hopefully, this news will stand longer than this evening. (Update: It didn't.)

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28 Years Later?

Oyster deftly disects the anatomy of modern day Presidential reponse to disaster. Hint: the talking points always include the terms "unprecedented" and a promise to do "whatever it takes."

If Obama doesn't want the Macondo Oil Gusher to become his Katrina/Federal Flood moment, he's going to need to throw away George W. Bush's script in a damn hurry.

But the Macondo is on pace to overtake the Exxon Valdez spill in the race of my-natural-disaster-is-worse-than-yours oversimplifications, and this is becoming a problem. You see, the media so underestimate the average American's ability to conceptulaize multifaceted environmental catastrophes individually, they have to draw comparisons. The Exxon Valdez spill is apparently what media types consider America's benchmark for environmental catastrophe, even though it was a remote catastrophe that affected a sparsely populated state.

This one is going to be very different in terms of damage and exposure. Teeming millions of tourists don't visit the pristine beaches of Valdez, Alaska. But they do go to Florida. Wait till these folks get to the oil-soaked beaches of Panama City and Destin, unable to purchase their favorite tartar-sauce-flavored fried whitefish for under $30 an entree while awash in the stench of dead and rotting sea-life. I'd reckon we're going to find another benchmark in a hurry.

But as this begins to dawn on the narrative-writers, what is said on radio and written on blogs will have to change. Oyster has noticed that the folks over at Redstate are already in the process of moving the goalposts. This is an important part of the dismissal of catastrophe process, the unlearning of lessons necessary for society to progress.

Don't compare this spill to the Exxon Valdez, goes the thesis, compare it to the 1991 Gulf War. Compared to that episode of state-sponsored, scorched-earth, munition-driven environmental terrorism, the Macondo business is just a drop in the bucket.

Maybe not "not-one-drop," but only a few, a "paltry" sum if you're comparing apples to the sappers of defeated, retreating armies. And an accident to boot, because, as we know, shit happens. This is really the fault of liberals, anyway, who drive SUV's and live in large houses.

Be careful not to learn the wrong lessons from that post. Important ones exist.

The Macondo/Gulf War I comparison is not that these are comparable incidents, but that it is direct evidence that such an event is not "unprecedented." Our nation has seen this before, during a time of war in which we were the major participant, close to where the shooting took place. It ain't like this is some new curveball that took everyone by surprise. I'm sure there are people alive today who remember 1991, just like there are people who remember 1989. Unlike what BP has said, the Macondo is not "inconcievable." Far from it.

Also unstated at Redstate is the more important lesson: environmental catastrophes of this nature can never, ever be underestimated or marginalized. Because, despite early reports that the Persian Gulf was recovering quickly, we're still trying to clean up Kuwait.

19 years later.


Update: Intriguing national narrative roundup from the Daily Dish. If there is any demographic as out of touch with reality as politicians, it is the media.

Seriously, the left is willing to completely overlook similarities between the responses to the hurricane/flood and the responses to the oil, the right drags out their tired meme that only Blanco and Nagin failed in response to Katrina/Federal Flood. The rest of them spend more time breathlessly talking about possible future policy ramifications rather than what went wrong, how to fix it, where to pitch in, and how to stop it from happening again. Instead of reporting on what happens in the land of make believe that exists in your editor's head, why don't y'all send some reporters out to, I don't know, report on the event?

Do we have any common history left at this point?

Because only in a world where we ignore fact-based history are any of these events "unprecedented." Maybe that explains the whole damn thing.

My favorite thus far is the guy who's actually got the balls to defend the "drill, baby, drill" meme as a meme, and tell those of us juxtaposing that dangerous oversimplification that we are oversimplifying.

We may not have known much about the oil industry and energy policy, but we already knew it was waay more complex and dangerous than "drill, baby, drill." That's why we didn't like it then, and we don't like it now.

And I'm about at the end of my rope with the "shit happens" explanation for all this.

If shit happens (and we all know it does), don't dismiss, marginalize and mock individuals who try to tell you that shit can happen, shit has happened, shit does happen, and when shit will happen, you'd better have a Fing plan ready to go RTFN.

And there is an easy way to figure out who was part of the crowd who thought they could dismiss, marginalize and mock their way to an energy policy: they were the assholes chanting "drill, baby, drill."

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