Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

The Narrative

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Obama gave a speech last night to address not so much the BP Oil Crisis, but the media narrative surrounding his involvement with it, for the two have little in common. That didn’t stop the narrative from plodding right on, but then nothing Obama can do is ever remotely in the right direction (so sayeth the narrative).

a) The Oil Spill was somehow Obama’s fault. This allows opponents to draw parallels to Hurricane Katrina (because there are only two sides to every issue and every partisan move has a direct analog, right?). Yes, the government bears responsibility, but not in the way the narrative implies.

b) The government has the resources to address the spill, with the implication that it isn’t mobilizing those resources. The governor of Louisiana got the troops he asked for. The appropriate authorities have put up barriers all along the Gulf. The government leaned on BP to provide billions in an escrow account (arguably the biggest hostile government takeover of private assets in Obama’s administration to date, yet the least controversial) to pay damages, and yelled at every American oil corporation for having basically the same policies as BP. It remains to be seen whether MMS and other regulatory agencies will have cleaned house by the time all this is done, but that’s basically the extent of government involvement. The issue, after all, is not whether the government can plug the hole itself (it can’t; nobody can), but whether it can stop corporations from breaking what they can’t fix.

c) Obama’s leadership is in question due to his impotence in the problem. I voted for Obama because he was a fresh, vigorous Democrat who looked like a strong leader, sure, but also because there was no way in hell I’d ever vote for the GOP. Obama’s inauguration was historic, sure, but aside from the warm glow of that night, nobody actually believed he was Jesus and JFK rolled up into one. Indeed, such sounds more like a GOP sneer on how strongly liberals supported Obama during his candidacy rather than how liberals saw him. So, to hold him to such a standard where he’s able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and swim to the ocean floor and beat it into submission is disingenuous at best.

There’s things to get Obama on – his criminal negligence of continued illegal detentions, his hawkish stance towards Afghanistan, etc – but he’s a politician, and one with the worst job since Hoover left office, coupled with a far more hostile congress and public than FDR ever had to deal with. We’re at the point where the GOP narrative has so poisoned the well for all government (after defanging regulatory agencies, defunding legacy projects and decades of media campaigns devaluing government initiative) that we have an entire “movement” of so-called Tea Partiers who don’t know what they want except that DC should burn. We’re at the point where reaching across the aisle means liberal Dems making deals with NDC conservative Dems, because the GOP are gleefully and cynically sabotaging government – delegitimizing the current administration – rather than looking to govern.

The idea that the same pundits can criticize Obama for not doing enough (whether it’s the bailouts, the recovery plan, the health care bill, or the BP response) while simultaneously blocking his every move is insane, but that’s the current narrative.

Goodbye Gulf

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Long story short, BP can’t just cap the spill because the seabed’s cracking, implying further damage to the line below the sea floor. This means if they capped it, the back pressure would blow a hole in the sea floor that would not only send up ten times more oil but be almost impossible to stop.

Y’know, maybe the Mayans were on to something.

Consequently, 59% of those polled by Gallup/USA think that BP should be forced to pay the entirety of the clean-up costs, even if it puts them out of business. This prompts the question: What the hell does the remaining 41% think?

Obama’s Katrina

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This article makes little to no sense. The facile side-by-side comparison of the reaction to the Gulf crisis and the response for Hurricane Katrina fails because the nature of the two disasters and their respective government responsibilities are much different. That said, the lead-up to those respective disasters could be compared.

Katrina was a disaster due to two very important factors:
* The gutting of the Army Corp of Engineers (through a spending freeze authorized by Bush)
* The gutting of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (with incompetent leadership appointed by Bush)

The Gulf Oil Disaster was a failure for one reason:
* The gutting of the Minerals Management Service (with a revolving door of Oil industry appointees by Bush)

Bush’s policies were a systemic rot on the whole that reached well into Obama’s first term. Obama may have been unprepared for this sort of disaster to happen, but it was not his actions that created that unpreparedness.

Of course, the nature of the disasters are themselves different: Katrina was a record large hurricane but hurricane season is well known to the region and can and should have been prepared for. Both the preparation for and the aftermath to the hurricane are solely the domain of the US government.

The Oil disaster was a man-made disaster almost entirely created by the corruption of BP and the MMS – the company and the government agency tasked with regulating it. Responsibility for clean-up is therefore different, and such is exactly what’s happening: BP must clean up the oil and the US government is charged with cleaning the environment.

Ironic, then, that “Obama’s Katrina” is predicated upon government cronyism with corporations, when Obama is simultaneously being lambasted for being a “socialist” whose goal is to “nationalize industry.” Never mind, of course, the implicit admission of Bush’s culpability in massive policy disasters in the attempt to find parallels between the two administrations. Never mind the ignorance of more salient criticisms on Obama’s dealings with corporate interests, like the number of ex-Goldman Sachs executives working as White House advisors or Obama’s statement on off-shore drilling 20 days before the disaster – let’s get Obama on something that doesn’t even befit his character and absolutely screams Bush.

This isn’t Obama vs Bush on twin disasters. This isn’t “Obama’s Katrina.” This is Bush’s second Katrina.

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