Category Archive 'BP Oil Spill'
04 Aug 2010

Wikileak’s Military Logs Leak, Britain, and Julian Assange

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Julian Assange

The Pentagon is scrambling desperately to protect hundreds of Afghan informants whose names and locations were exposed in leaked military logs published recently by Wikileaks.

ABC News:

The Pentagon is adding workers to a team that is working around the clock sifting through the thousands of leaked secret documents on the Afghan war to determine whether sources have been compromised, ABC News has learned.

Sources also told ABC News that measures are being taken in Afghanistan to protect sources who may have been unmasked from Taliban revenge.

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DEBKAfile, in an article in its subscription-only version, is contending that Britain leaked the military reports published in Wikileaks.

Their arguments are that only US reports were leaked, indicating that the US was specifically being targeted. The (British) Guardian played the lead role in coordinating publication of a prefabricated storyline leveling several damaging accusations against the US and casting Julian Assange as a persecuted victim. The Guardian, New York Times, and Der Speigel all agreed to run the story as proposed and accepted the July 25 publication deadline without having actually read more than 2% of the documents.

DEBKA notes that all the leak documents cover six-year period ending in December 2009, their interval terminating at the point at which President Obama announced his new Afghanistan War strategy. DEBKA contends that the end point is deliberate, sparing Obama specific association with accusations arising from the leaked documents, but also implicitly warning that the next batch could be aimed his way.

The British motivation, according to DEBKAfile, would be Barack Obama’s systematic downgrading of the British-American special relationship on the basis of personal and ideological anti-colonialist resentments, specifically exacerbated by the administration’s vilifying BP over an unfortunate accident followed by accusations in the US Congress that BP played a role in securing the Lockerbie bomber’s release. Retired senior official from MI5 and MI6 are rumored to hold positions on BP’s board of directors.

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Meanwhile, despite MacRanger’s report that a US BOLO (“Be on the Lookout for”) had been issued for Julian Assange last week, Assange was not difficult to find.

He was quite recently delivering a self-congratulatory speech to journalists at the Frontline Club, at 13 Norfolk Street in London, in the course of which he revealed that sympathizers working inside the White House were sharing with him details of discussions about whether or not he should be arrested.

Assange previously boasted to Der Spiegel that he “enjoy[s] crushing bastards.”

23 Jul 2010

“Letting the Days Go By”

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Amusing animated anti-Obama commercial from RightChange.com and Pajamas Media. 3:34 video.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

22 Jul 2010

Gulf Soon to Recover From Oil Spill

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The London Times recently made its content subscription-only (instantly losing 90% of its readership), but Matt Ridley put up his own editorial here (unfortunately, in one of the ugliest blog formats I’ve ever seen), advising readers not to believe all of the media’s environmentalist gloom and doom.

[D]o not underestimate nature’s powers of recovery. After most big oil spills, scientists are pleasantly surprised by how quickly the oil disappears and the marine life reappears. This is true even in Alaska, where the sheltered waters, low temperatures and abundant wildlife conspired to make the slick damaging and persistent. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says on its website: `What scientists have found is that, despite the gloomy outlook in 1989, the intertidal habitats of Prince William Sound have proved to be surprisingly resilient.’ A scientist who led some of the research into the Exxon Valdez says that `Thoughts that this is going to kill the Gulf of Mexico are just wild overreactions’.

When the Braer went aground off Shetland in 1993 and spilled 85,000 tonnes of oil, storms quickly dispersed the oil, so the effect on most of the local wildlife was barely measurable. As one scientific report drily noted, after running through a list of undetected effects on birds, shore life and seabed creatures, `five otters were found dead in the oil spill area. However, three of these were killed by vehicles, one was recovered before the oil could have reached it and the cause of mortality of the fifth did not appear to be oil contamination.’ (One of the road kills was allegedly caused by a television crew’s car.)

This rapid recovery was also a signature of the last big Gulf rig spill, the Ixtoc 1 disaster off Mexico in 1979. Although the number of turtles took decades to recover, much of the rest of the wildlife bounced back fairly rapidly. `To be honest, considering the magnitude of the spill, we thought the Ixtoc spill was going to have catastrophic effects for decades’, Luis Soto of the National Autonomous University of Mexico told a newspaper this year. `But within a couple of years, almost everything was close to 100 percent normal again.’ The warm waters and strong sunshine of the Gulf of Mexico are highly conducive to the chemical decomposition of oil by `photo-oxidation’, and are stuffed full of organisms that actually like to eat the stuff – in moderation.

Indeed, the sea floor in the Gulf is rich in `cold seeps’ — communities of tube worms and other organisms that live off oil naturally seeping from beneath the seabed. (The annual flow of oil through such seeps is about half the total spill.) Hundreds of these clusters of clams and tube worms have been found since the 1980s in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, living off the microbes that eat the oil.

Such ecosystems are not equipped to cope with being inundated with so much oil even if it is their food, but one Texas scientist told the New York Times that `the gulf is such a great fishery because it’s fed organic matter from oil…it’s pre-adapted to crude oil. The image of this spill being a complete disaster is not true.’

Read the whole thing.

02 Jul 2010

Entering Gulf “Safety Zones” a Felony

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The Times Picayune reports that officialdom has arbitrarily created a new freedom-of-the-press-does-not-apply zone systematically excluding the public and the media from most of the Gulf waterfront impacted by the oil spill.

The Coast Guard has put new restrictions in place across the Gulf Coast that prevent the public – including news photographers and reporters covering the BP oil spill – from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches.

According to a news release from the Unified Command, violation of the “safety zone” rules can result in a civil penalty of up to $40,000, and could be classified as a Class D felony. Because booms are often placed more than 40 feet on the outside of islands or marsh grasses, the 65-foot rule could make it difficult to photograph and document the impacts of oil on land and wildlife, media representatives said.

But federal officials said the buffer zone is essential to the clean-up effort.

“The safety zone has been put in place to protect members of the response effort, the installation and maintenance of oil containment boom, the operation of response equipment and protection of the environment by limiting access to and through deployed protective boom,” the news release said.

The Coast Guard on Tuesday had initially established an even stricter “safety zone” of more than 300 feet, but reduced the distance to 20 meters – 65 feet – on Wednesday. In order to get within the 65-foot limit, media must call the Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans, Edwin Stanton, to get permission.

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Photographer James Michael Duncan marvels at the way that it has suddenly become potentially a crime to photograph the oil spill.

Volunteers can’t work on the beach, [ostensibly] for liability reasons. Only contracted employees can go work. Of course, those contracts expressly forbid talking with media. Every boat captain that signs on with the clean up is also expressly forbidden from talking to media or taking photographers out, even when those photographers can stay out of the way of people working. Chilling effects, all.

The Coast Guard says that you must call the Coast Guard captain of the port of New Orleans to get permission. If you buy the safety argument, that sounds sort of reasonable. Except for the fact that there’s no stated rules for who can get permission. The Times-Picayune article reports that AP photographer Gerald Herbert—one of the few mainstream press photographers that has been putting out incredible shots—has asked to discuss the new policy with officials. Guess what? He hasn’t received a response. …

I successfully [took several] photos without endangering any response workers, interfering with booms, or endangering wildlife. In fact, there wasn’t a response worker within miles of my location. Should I be a felon for making these images?

I ask again: Why is the government helping control the message here? Who’s interest is being served? It’s certainly not the public’s interest.

28 Jun 2010

Natural Seepage Could Be Leaking 500,000 Barrels

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Charles Simmons points to evidence that substantial natural oil seepage into the Gulf of Mexico occurs, and has been occurring from times immemorial, by one estimate as much as 500,000 barrels per annum.

Amidst the concern surrounding the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the subsequent leaks from the well it was working on, a few experts have been pointing to a far greater source of pollution. Oil and natural gas leak into ocean waters all the time.

Natural seepage is believed to account for 60% of the oil in North American waters. The National Academies of Science in a 2002 report estimated that 260,000 tons of oil were input into North American maritime waters annually, 1990-1999. 160,000 tons were from natural seepage.

Oil seeps occur throughout the Gulf of Mexico. In a 1972 paper titled Natural Hydrocarbon Seepage in the Gulf of Mexico, Researchers from Texas A&M University said this about the history of this seepage:

“Archaeological reports indicate that the Karankawa Indians were using tar in their pottery making in pre-Columbian times. Survivors of DeSoto’s group used tar found along the Texas-Louisiana coast to caulk their boats.

From 1902 to 1909 heavy oil slicks were noted in an area about 100 miles south of the Louisiana coast. Oil spouting into the air was reported in the same area in 1909. Oil ponds off the Sabine area are reported in a USGS publication in 1903.

Reports of seeps in the Gulf are numerous, and the Department’s study has located several general areas of seepage within and around the Gulf of Mexico.”

A Department of Energy website details studies that estimate that there may be as many as 5,000 active seeps in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In the Green Canyon area of the Gulf, they estimated at least 900 individual seeps.

In a paper presented at the 2000 Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and titled Estimates of Total Hydrocarbon Seepage into the Gulf of Mexico Based on Satellite Remote Sensing Images, one researcher estimated that 500,000 barrels of oil seep into the Gulf each year, twice the result of the Exxon Valdez spill. (Actually, Wikipedia quotes estimates of 260,000 to 750,000 barrels for the Exxon Valdez spill) –JDZ). That seepage is not addressed by any government, and mitigation efforts are non-existent.

25 Jun 2010

“Judas Must Have Been a Republican”

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Deborah B. Sloan, at American Thinker, describes the failure of the Republican congressional leadership to rise to the challenge of educating the public and confronting the left, and their choice of cowardice and conformity to the politics of the left instead.

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” Congressman Barton said. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case, a $20 billion shakedown. … I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is — again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.”

Amen, Congressman Barton. It is horrifying to witness the constant statist attack on property rights and the rule of law while being essentially powerless to stop it. What a relief it was to hear someone who does have a modicum of power speak out against this assault on our nation.

Of course, the usual suspects on the left — most notably Joe Biden — leaped onto their soap boxes and screamed bloody murder in reaction to Congressman Barton’s statements; they regurgitated worn-out clichés about Republicans being “in the pockets of Big Oil.”

This sort of tantrum always erupts when someone takes a principled stand against the left. It was an opportunity for the Republican leadership’s response to second Mr. Barton’s concern for the enormously important principles involved, to advocate reimbursement via the constitutionally supported mechanism of due process for people who were harmed by the oil leak, and to firmly tell the Obama regime that they will not be receiving any apologies — that it is they who owe apologies to the American people for the fraud, corruption, theft, and full-blown terror they have subjected us to since January 2009.

Instead, the House Republican leadership denounced the stand taken by Mr. Barton and demanded that he apologize. This type of spinelessness on the part of the Republicans has contributed significantly to the erosion of freedom in America over the past century. Ayn Rand observed that

    [t]he uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other — until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.

With the exception of the fight against ObamaCare, the current Republican leadership have demonstrated that they are unwilling to stand up to the left. The solution to this is not a third party. Instead, the Republican establishment must be phased out and replaced with a new school of leaders who will proudly fight for freedom and capitalism with the same endurance and unapologetic fervor that the left has exhibited for collectivism and tyrannical big government.

21 Jun 2010

The Drums Are Talking, The Natives Are Restless

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We have a much larger journalism pollution problem than the current oil spill represents. Government responses, costs to government and private industry, and public interest in the matter have all been massively inflated by orders of magnitude beyond anything rational or appropriate, all for the self interest of journalists and news organizations. The American public is simply led around by the nose by people with the resources and ability to exploit and exaggerate the significance of certain kinds of unfortunate events.

Who cares about those oh-so-terribly-fragile, fishy-smelling, mosquito-infested marshes? What about the impact of all the journalism pollution on energy costs, people’s jobs, American due process, the rule of law, our political decision-making processes, and the ever-expanding role and power of government and the immense regulatory burden we all have to pay for?

Take sensationalist reporting out of the equation, and we have an unfortunate industrial accident with some serious economic costs and a few seasons of regional environmental impact. Add in the media and we have a circus of emotional Sturm und Drang fueling stupid policy choices and lawless governmental behavior, with devastating long-term costs to every consumer in the country, the entire economy, and the trajectory of American government.

My understanding is that there are something like 4000 oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The last major accident was in 1979. One oil spill every 30 years, one serious problem in a generation, strikes me as a pretty decent record.

Exactly how many gazillion dollars of extra energy cost would it be worth to reduce by some undefinable percentage the itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, remote possibility that every so many decades there could be an accident, fouling so many miles of beaches and inconveniencing the fishing industry (and a certain number of pelicans) for several seasons?

Perfection, of course, is unobtainable, even if regulations and costs are piled to the sky, there is always going to be
happenstance, human error, and acts of God.

What happens in America when something goes wrong is that the press sees an opportunity to run with the story and to play heroic watchdog of the public interest. A scapegoat is always required for our civic religious ritual. The press gets to identify some business entity as heartless, irresponsible, and greedy, and one or more public officials as incompetent or corrupt. The press can do whatever it pleases with the data. Words are easy. Capping leaking wells is hard. There is always the same moral. We need bigger and more active government. We need to spend more in taxes and regulatory costs. Then, once we have punished the scapegoat(s) and made due sacrifice to Leviathan, all will be well. The Great Big Nobodaddy Government will see to it that life will be perfect and nothing will ever go wrong again.

20 Jun 2010

“Worst Environmental Disaster?”

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The New York Times wonders if the Dust Bowl, the Johnstown Flood, and even the Lakeview Gusher might not have been worse.

I’d be inclined to nominate the New Madrid Earthquake of 1812, but I think the inevitable winner would have to be the 19th century California Hydraulic Mining for gold that moved millions of tons of earth, silted up entire river systems, washed away entire mountains, and rearranged the topography of a gigantic area of land permanently.

In the southern end of California’s San Joaquin Valley, an oil rush was on in the early decades of the 20th century. On March 14, 1910, a well halfway between the towns of Taft and Maricopa, in Kern County, blew out with a mighty roar.

It continued spewing huge quantities of oil for 18 months. The version of events accepted by the State of California puts the flow rate near 100,000 barrels a day at times. “It’s the granddaddy of all gushers,” said Pete Gianopulos, an amateur historian in the area.

The ultimate volume spilled was calculated at 9 million barrels, or 378 million gallons. According to the highest government estimates, the Deepwater Horizon spill is not yet half that size.

The Lakeview oil was penned in immense pools by sandbags and earthen berms, and nearly half was recovered and refined by the Union Oil Company. The rest soaked into the ground or evaporated. Today, little evidence of the spill remains, and outside Kern County, it has been largely forgotten. That is surely because the area is desert scrubland, and few people were inconvenienced by the spill.

That sets it apart from the Deepwater Horizon leak. The environmental effects of the gulf spill remain largely unknown. But the number of lives disrupted is certainly in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands; the paychecks lost in industries like fishing add up to millions; and the ultimate cost will be counted in billions.

Even with all that pain, can it yet be called the nation’s worst environmental disaster?

“My take,” said William W. Savage Jr., a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma, “is that we’re not going to be able to tell until it’s over.”

20 Jun 2010

Obama Replaced the Court System With Extortion

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Robert Eugene Simmons Jr. observes that last Thursday’s $20 billion settlement by BP was forced by the White House without anything resembling due process, the color of law, or Constitutional authority.

There is no doubt that the oil spill produced by the Deepwater Horizon rig and BP is a disaster of monumental ecological proportions. There is no doubt that the spill has caused the loss of livelihood for fishermen, hotel owners, beach surfboard renters and millions of other people on the gulf coast. There is also no doubt that it is the responsibility of BP to get the well shut off and pay for the cleanup. Finally, there is no doubt that a full investigation should be conducted into how the spill happened, the role of BP and of the government in the spill and the mistakes made in the cleanup. It is important that we find out what caused the blowout, how it could have been prevented, why the cleanup was so slow in getting started, why foreign experts were not allowed to help, why the EPA is blocking applications of products as simple as hay which could soak up oil, and why Governor Jindal and others were disallowed the means to protect their shore lines by government bureaucracies.

However, none of these events or responsibilities gives the president the power to suspend the constitution, revoke the rule of law or demand payments from a company. In fact the $20 billion fund “demanded” of BP by the Obama administration does just that. To understand let’s review the facts around the fund.

The fund will contain $20 billion to ostensibly pay for cleanup efforts and provide compensation to those affected by the spill. Kenneth Feinberg, who is also known as Obama’s “pay czar”, will administer the fund. Mr. Feinberg, a political appointee, will have the final say so on who will receive money from the escrow funds and how much they will get paid. It is unknown what rules of evidence will be in force, what documentation will need to be provided and what the priorities and process for payout will be. Furthermore, so far there are no known constraints on what the fund can be used for; since Obama clearly views alternative energy as a long-term solution to oil spills in general, it is possible that he could direct part of that 20 billion to alternative energy research. In short, this is a huge 20 billion dollar fund under the sole direction of a single guy without even congressional oversight. Disturbed yet?

If you try to find the power in the constitution that allows Obama to do this, you will be even more disturbed. In this case the government can’t even claim the commerce clause of the constitution as legal basis because the commerce clause, even misinterpreted as it is, only applies to the legislature, not the executive branch. Where exactly in the enumerated powers of the constitution does the president have the right to “demand” money from a corporation, deem them guilty of a crime and extract a settlement amount? The short answer is “nowhere.”

Another pertinent question is what BP got out of this deal with the president. It is unlikely that they simply agreed to just drop $20 billion in escrow without agreements, legal documents or contracts specifying the use of the money. If BP obtained immunity from prosecution in exchange for the money then President Obama just violated extortion laws. Will we get full disclosure on the deal given to BP for this fund? What about the payouts themselves? Will we be allowed to be a watchdog over those funds? At this time it doesn’t look like it.

17 Jun 2010

How the Gulf Oil Spill Undermines the Cult of Statism

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Anne Applebaum points out just how ridiculous Obama looks, as he plays King Canute and tries ordering the oil to stop flowing.

Here is the hard truth: The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks. Even the combined wisdom of the Obama inner circle—all those Harvard economists, silver-tongued spin doctors, and hardened politicos—cannot prevent tens of thousands of tons of oil from pouring out of a hole a mile beneath the ocean’s surface. Other than proximity to the Louisiana coast, this catastrophe therefore has nothing whatsoever in common with Hurricane Katrina. That was an unstoppable natural disaster that turned into a human tragedy thanks to an inadequate government response. This is just an unstoppable disaster, period. It will be a human tragedy precisely because no government response is possible.

Which leads me to mystery: Given that he cannot stop the oil from flowing, why has President Barack Obama decided to act as if he can? And given that he is totally reliant on BP to save the fish and the birds of the Gulf of Mexico, why has he started pretending otherwise—why, in his own words, is he looking for someone’s “ass to kick”? I am guessing that there are many reasons for this recent change of rhetorical tone and that some of them are ideological. Of course, this is a president who believes that government can and should be able to solve all problems. Obama has never sounded particularly enthusiastic about the private sector, and some of his congressional colleagues—the ones talking of retroactively raising the cap on BP’s liability, for example, or forcing BP to pay for the lost wages of other oil company’s workers—are downright hostile.

A large part of the explanation is cultural, however: Obama has been forced to take on a commanding role in a crisis he cannot control because we expect him to—both “we” the media, and “we” the bipartisan public. Whatever their politics, most Americans in recent years have come to expect a strong response—an invasion, a massive congressional bill—from their politicians in times of crisis, and this one is no exception. We want the president to lead—somewhere, anywhere. A few days ago, the New York Times declared that “he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess,” and should have started “putting the heat” on BP much earlier—as if that would have made the remotest bit of difference. …

Paradoxically, “talking tough” about this oil crisis also makes both Obama and America look weak internationally—just as “talking tough” about Iran made the Bush administration look weak. Harsh rhetoric is fine if it reflects a real will to do something, a real plan of action, and the existence of a Plan B for when the first one fails. But when angry words—anti-BP, anti-British, anti-oil-company—reflect the absence of any alternative policy whatsoever, they just sound pathetic. It’s right for Obama to be concerned about the consequences of this disaster, but wrong—and dangerous—for him to pretend he is capable of controlling it. We should stop calling on him to do so.

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Christopher Chantrill points out that conservatives have been too frequently playing along with liberal assumptions in criticizing Obama’s handling of the BP Oil Spill and predicts the myth of the ominpotent state will eventually collapse.

It is true that liberalism is cruel, corrupt, wasteful, and unjust. But one should never forget its delusion. The delusion is a simple one. It is a belief that government can be made rational and efficient. This delusion leads our liberal friends into disaster after disaster.

Liberals were shocked that President Bush failed to get everyone tucked up in bed in a couple of days after Hurricane Katrina. They knew that a rational and efficient government, run by people like them who believed in government, could do better.

Now President Obama is busy proving them wrong.

Unfortunately, conservatives aren’t helping. In pointing out the serious lapses in the president’s leadership qualities, we conservatives are missing the point. We are encouraging liberals in their delusion. Instead, we should remind everyone that of course a bunch of corporate bureaucrats, combined with a bunch of government bureaucrats, are going to be a bit off the mark. …

How does a religion collapse? During the Christianization of northern Europe, the monks would topple the idols of the pagan gods. See, they said, our true God is more powerful than your gods.

Is that how liberalism will come to an end? When the Keynesian idols are finally toppled? Most likely the end will catch everyone by surprise, like the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union.

Hat tip to the News Junkie.

14 Jun 2010

Press and Public Think Government Has Magical Powers

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“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Gene Healy describes how our popular cultural habit of demanding intervention by a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient state will produce no real results other than a larger and more powerful state. The government will not, however, develop the desired capabilities of preventing untoward events and effectuating instant solutions.

Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?” 11-year-old Malia demanded Thursday morning while the president was shaving. Poor President Obama: even his kids won’t give him a break about the Gulf oil spill.

Tough. It’s hard to feel sorry for the “Yes We Can” candidate, who got the job by stoking the juvenile expectation that there’s a presidential solution to everything from natural disasters to spiritual malaise.

But the adults among us ought to worry about a political culture that reacts to every difficulty by screaming “Save us, Superpresident!”

It’s “taking so doggone long,” Sarah Palin wailed, for Obama “to dive in there” (literally?). “Man, you got to get down here and take control!” James Carville screeched. “Tell BP, ‘I’m your daddy!'”

When Hurricane Katrina hit, liberals who had spent years calling President Bush a tyrant suddenly decided he wasn’t authoritarian enough when he hesitated to declare himself generalissimo of New Orleans and muster the troops for a federal War on Hurricanes.

Now the party of “drill, baby, drill” — the folks who warn that Obama’s a socialist — is screaming bloody murder because he’s letting the private sector take the lead in the well-capping operation. It’s almost enough to make a guy cynical about politics.

What do Carville, Palin, et al. want the president to do? “Replace [BP] with what?” asks Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, commanding officer at the scene. As the president admitted Thursday, “The federal government does not possess superior technology to BP,” which is trying to clean up its mess with backup from a team of scientists and engineers assembled by the feds.

Should Obama travel back in time and institute better regulation? “He could’ve demanded a plan in anticipation of this,” Carville insists.

Perhaps, but it’s hardly surprising that a president who sits atop a 2-million-employee executive branch, pretending to run it, hasn’t magically solved the problem of bureaucratic incompetence or devised a plan to deal with every conceivable hazard life might present. …

The public’s frustration is understandable. But the unreflective cry “Do something!” usually results in policies that follow the logic immortalized in the BBC comedy “Yes, Minister”: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do it!”

In Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, that “something” was legislation (thankfully repealed in 2008) giving the president dangerous new powers to use troops at home to restore order and institute military quarantines during natural disasters or disease outbreaks. …

BP will pay dearly for its apparent negligence, ending up poorer and smaller as a result of the spill. Not so with the federal government: disasters are the health of the state.

That dynamic won’t change as long as pundits, pols and the public embrace the poisonous notion that the president is America’s daddy.

13 Jun 2010

BP Coffee Spill

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BP Spills Coffee: 2:48 video. Unfair, but funny.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

13 Jun 2010

“A Blessing, Not an Addiction”

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Jeff Jacoby, in the Boston Globe, debunks the Puritan meme of an addiction to petroleum.

The explosion of BP’s oil rig in the Gulf has been a calamity in so many ways, above all the loss of 11 human lives. With hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil gushing daily from the crippled wellhead, the environmental impacts have been excruciating. BP is responsible for a dreadful mess, one that will take years and many millions of dollars to clean up.

Awful as the catastrophe has been, however, life without oil would be far, far worse.

Americans consume oil not because they are “addicted’’ to it, but because it enriches their lives, making possible prosperity, comfort, and mobility that would have been all but unimaginable just a few generations ago. Almost by definition, an addiction is something one is healthier without. But oil-based energy improves human health and reduces poverty — it makes life longer, safer, and better. Addictions debase life. Oil improves and expands it.

“Oil may be the single most flexible substance ever discovered,’’ writes the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce in “Power Hungry,’’ a new book on the myths of “green’’ energy. “More than any other substance, oil helped to shrink the world. Indeed, thanks to its high energy density, oil is a nearly perfect fuel for use in all types of vehicles, from boats and planes to cars and motorcycles. Whether measured by weight or by volume, refined oil products provide more energy than practically any other commonly available substance, and they provide it in a form that’s easy to handle, relatively cheap, and relatively clean.’’ If oil didn’t exist, Bryce quips, we’d have to invent it.

Of course there are problems created by oil, as the Deepwater Horizon calamity so heartbreakingly demonstrates. But most things of great value come with downsides. There are 40,000 traffic fatalities in the United States each year, but no rational person suggests doing away with cars, trucks, and highways. Airplanes sometimes crash and boats sometimes sink, but air and sea travel are not derided as “addictions’’ we need to break. Deaths due to hospital infections, medication errors, or unnecessary surgery number in the scores of thousands annually, but who would recommend an end to medical care?

Someday there may be an energy source that is as abundant, efficient, clean, and economically viable as oil. But nothing today fits that bill — certainly not biofuels, wind farms, or solar power. Besides, it isn’t only energy products that we get from petroleum. Crude oil refining also makes possible plastics, synthetic fibers, lubricants, waxes, asphalt. “Other products made from petroleum,’’ notes the US Energy Information Administration, “include ink, crayons, bubble gum, dishwashing liquids, deodorant, eyeglasses, CDs and DVDs, tires, ammonia, [and] heart valves.’’

We are not “addicted” to oil. That is a metaphor based on the generally illusory notion of addiction, and it is wrong. We need petroleum or an equivalent source of energy to fuel our vehicles, heat and light our homes, and to operate our machines… to live. We also need food in pretty much the same way. Does it make sense to assert that we are addicted to food? We use petroleum because it is currently the cheapest fuel source. If there were not politicians backed by armed men with guns, at home and abroad, levying whopping extortion fees on any and all petroleum extracted from the ground, it would be really, really cheap.

The cost of the energy we use is not really a problem. We have so little difficulty affording it, that we let our own government attach huge taxes to every gallon we consume and we let primitives in far off lands squat on top of oil supplies and accumulate trillions by charging us for oil we discovered and extract for them. If the cost of petroleum really bothered anybody, we would insist on allowing oil drilling not only in the incredibly remote Arctic howling wilderness, but in everyone’s backyard. If the cost were a genuine problem, we’d have long ago sent the marines into a number of Middle Eastern countries and put all their rulers out of the oil business and back into the sheep herding/caravan ambushing business again.

11 Jun 2010

Ruling By Decree

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We live today in a country differing from the America of the past in which the rule of law prevailed, and increasingly resembling one of the Latin American republics in which a strong man takes power and proceeds to set aside the law and his country’s constitution in order to rule by decree.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported that Barack Obama simply ordered BP to pay the salaries of all the oil workers laid off as the result of the drilling moratorium he himself had decreed. No due process, no court action, just an edict.

The Obama Administration ratcheted up its demands on Wednesday that BP PLC cover all costs stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including millions of dollars in salaries of oil-industry workers laid off because of the federal moratorium on deepwater drilling.

The sudden increase in BP’s potential liabilities—along with growing evidence that even more oil than expected is gushing from BP’s crippled well—helped send BP’s shares plummeting almost 16% in New York, to $29.20. The stock has lost close to half its value, more than $82 billion, in the seven weeks since the spill started.

A second WSJ article reported that a coast guard admiral additionally ordered BP to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to construct berms. Once again, no legal process whatsoever had occurred. There is clearly no rule of law in this country. Even coast guard officers get to rule by decree.

Construction is about to begin on miles of sand piles designed to block oil in the Gulf of Mexico from hitting the Louisiana coast, but documents show the Obama administration approved the building of sand berms despite concerns from some of its own environmental experts.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorized the berms. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard admiral overseeing the spill response, ordered BP PLC to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars that officials estimate it will cost to build the structures.

In announcing his decision June 2, Adm. Allen said the berms would “effectively stem potential damage to these fragile shorelines.”

It can be impossible to obtain redress for these kinds of wholly illegal actions by public officials, even ones many levels below the President of the United States.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Superintendent Eddie Compass simply ignored legal considerations and issued an order saying: “No one will be able to be armed. Guns will be taken. Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns.” They then used both New Orleans police and National Guard troops to confiscate private firearms refusing even to issue receipts.

When, months later, all this reached federal court, New Orleans denied having seized private firearms, then later denied having any still in its possession, and generally simply stonewalled. Only after three years of litigation, which New Orleans lost, did the city admit seizing guns and promise to return whatever private property remained in its possession.

Barack Obama lectured for 12 years at the University of Chicago Law School before running for the presidency, but that did not prevent him last year from simply brushing aside the entire body of bankruptcy law to subordinate the claims of Chrysler bondholders in favor of the interest of the UAW.

Members of his administration then proceeded to intimidate the victims with threats of using allies in the press to destroy their reputation. Most bond-holding creditors knuckled under, but three Indiana pension funds did go to court. The US Supreme Court voided a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding the illegal cramdown, but also referred the case back to the Second Circuit instructing the Appeals Court to hold the matter moot. Thus, the Supreme Court acted to prevent Barack Obama’s action a legal precedent, but refused to do justice and make the Indiana pension funds whole. The law was theoretically preserved intact, despite Obama’s violation, but not actually enforced in the Chrysler bankruptcy.

We are developing an alternative system of government by fiat fueled by press-reported crisis, in which government officials assume the powers of dictatorship. So far, the courts have proven to be not only slow, but ineffective, defenders of the rule of law.

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