By Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
Normally I give politics all the close attention it deserves, which is to say, next to none; but I've been unable to avoid the thick layers of hypocrisy that have been oozing out of the Mexican Gulf since BP's blowout preventer failed to prevent a blowout.
At once, it was plain that an awful tragedy was looming. Not just the tragedies of destroyed birds, fish, marshes and livelihoods, though those are terrible in themselves, but the potential for serious reduction in the urgent task of extracting more oil from deep under the ocean. Human wellbeing worldwide depends on continually rising prosperity, and prosperity depends on continuing supplies of fuel at fairly stable prices, and a stable fuel supply depends on freedom to drill, drill, drill wherever some seems likely to be found. Freedom is always vital in all its dimensions, but few dimensions are more critical than this one. So when BP's BOP went belly-up, I held my breath.
Just imagine, that in 2008 John McCain had been elected President, and had kept at least some of his promises to encourage offshore oil drilling. The BOP then busts after a rig explodes, and the spill begins. Can't you hear the shrieking, from over there on the left, as eco-fascists strive to outdo each other, hyperventilating with rage against the irresponsible Republicans who are devastating the delicate marshes off Louisiana? The result without doubt would be a massive swing to Dems this year and in 2012, when some hero of those wealth-wreckers would enter the White House and preside over a demolition of undersea oil extraction, so making this Depression many times worse than the one FDR prolonged, and thereby interrupting the whole flow of human progress.
But he wasn't elected, and so we are very fortunate. Instead, a hero of that irrational Left is already in office, so they have nobody to shriek at but him; and faced with a major revolt about his failure to "create jobs" (just as if government ever created a single, net new job!) he cannot afford to destroy more and so he calls only for a "short moratorium" on fresh drilling, and being as how he's their hero elected to bring them Hope and Change, they are muted, or almost so. A way around the moratorium will be found, and if the reason for the BOP failure is discovered, there will be some small but valuable changes made by the drillers in their own interests, and exploration will continue at a properly urgent pace. How lucky we are that Obama was elected when he was! I hereby call for one cheer.
That's the good news. Now for the rest.
Accidents happen. This one was a shocker, and if the cause is known yet, it's not known to me. Maybe someone was asleep at the switch; perhaps there was some unusual escape of methane or of that strange substance formed at low temperature under high pressure, methane hydrate; perhaps when it was detected on the rig, someone should have turned a valve but instead he struck a match to light a cigar, or just dropped a wrench in alarm and it caused a spark... who knows, yet. Perhaps that someone perished in the resulting inferno; perhaps we shall never know. Then a second disaster: as the burning rig sank, the ultimate fail-safe device, the automatic BOP, didn't work. Apparently two separate rare events, in the same place; the probability of that is so low as to make it a negligible risk. Possibly, the BOP was badly built; possibly, BP failed to test it regularly, to make certain it would function if needed. If that should be the case, BP bears blame and heads should roll; that is, if those heads are not already burned up with remains on the ocean floor.
When you or I have an accident, what we welcome is sympathy and help, and from normal human beings, that is what we get. I've heard that in the case of road accidents, even government police on the scene may provide sympathy and help, to a degree--though not without a quick check for alcohol. But in this case, there was little help for BP and no sympathy at all.
The company has been vilified, and the vilification intensifies as I write. From Voter Joe comes the angry accusation that BP has prevented him keeping his job, as if BP's board had sat down last year and formed a plan to put Joe out of work. From Joe's elected President came immediately a threat that BP will be made to pay every cent of the cost of putting matters right; just as if its CEO Tony Hayward had not already promised to do exactly that, accepting full responsibility even though it still isn't clear that his staff made any mistake and even though the law, which the government wrote, limits such liability to $75 million. That promise is regularly repeated, but draws from the political arena no more than dark threats like Ken Salazar's, to keep his "boot" on "BP's neck," just as if BP was trying to wriggle out of its responsibility and just as if he were admitting he's the fascist that he is; I wonder why he didn't call his footwear a "jackboot" and remove any lingering doubt. He did, at any rate, repeat his nasty promise later, with all deliberate elocution, to make clear the phrase was not uttered just in the heat of an angry moment.
The media, in its deep ignorance, is parroting Joe's sentiment without having a clue what could be done to stop the gusher that is not already being done by the only experts available (BP's, and conceivably their competitors'), even to the extent, as I heard in one report, of accusing Tony Hayward of having a "snotty British accent." I happen to be British, and can recognize a snotty accent when I hear one, and can tell you that, for certain, Hayward hasn't. The Queen may be said to have one, but then it's allegedly her language, so she can presumably speak it as she thinks fit; and numerous members of the English "upper class"-- aristocrats and wannabees--may also speak as if a plum is located somewhere North of the larynx. Prince Charles and his Dad come to mind, and there are few I hold in lower regard. But Tony Hayward? Not in a million. He strikes me as a very competent, likeable CEO who affects no airs whatever. And when he says that nobody wants to solve this nightmare problem more than he does,ASAP so that he can "have his life back," I believe him. Obama sneered that he wouldn't want Hayward working for him. With almost unbelievable self-restraint, Hayward did not reciprocate.
Early in June news emerged that BP plans to spend $50 million to buy TV time to present its perspective, and in the context of having poured out 20 times that much so far to try to cap the well and clean the mess, with much more yet to spend, that seems quite a modest investment to counter the lousy publicity the company has been handed. Yet within a day, Obama was given air time (meaning, he didn't have to buy it) to say the spend was inappropriate at such a time, when so much clean-up is required. What sick, repulsive hypocrisy! With the hubris of high office, he evidently supposes he has the right to tell us all what to think, and to make us pay for the process of bringing us his words; but if someone holds an opposing view, they ought to keep quiet even though ready to pay the freight.
Only two government critters involved have earned any of my respect: LA governor Bobby Jindal, who made some reasonably balanced comments, perhaps to keep a good political distance from the Prez, and Admiral Thad Allen, the Feds’ point man in the Gulf. I dislike his manner, but he has spoken with fairness and respect for the people who are doing all of the most vital work; he is close to the action, and perhaps for that reason understands what a difficult job is being attempted--and that nobody is better able to do it than BP's engineers. In contrast, at this writing Obama has not yet even met with Hayward, despite having flown over the scene four times, and landed to peer at some unfortunate, oily birds. Not, mind, that I think he should; he would only get in the way.
One more snippet of good news in this bleak story: on June 9th, I heard Sen. Mary Landrieu--a Democrat, no less!--actually opposing the drilling moratorium on the grounds that hundreds of thousands of Louisiana jobs depend on continuing operation of the oil rigs in the Gulf. She must have counted the potential votes, associated with those jobs. Careful now, Senator! Talk like that comes perilously close to common sense, and if folk hear common sense from Washington, they might start to wonder aloud what all you expensive people are for.