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Monday, May 24, 2010

Get the velvet boot off BP's neck and plant a cement one on its butt

How to clean the oily pelican feather in the administration's cap

Five weeks into the worst eco-disaster in US history, and things are getting worse. For the first few days after the April 20 explosion on the Deep Horizon vessel/rig/platform, bloggers and pundits were already criticizing the administration, hyperbolically calling the looming problem "Obama's Katrina."

It was early then, and there was still some hope Washington, DC, could stem the black tide before it reached the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf Coast, so comparisons to W's reaction to the 2005 hurricane were certainly overstatements - at the time. Now, the only thing that separates this terrible event from the Katrina catastrophe is that after the hurricane, Bush and Cheney were purposely delaying aid, trying to find ways that their deep pocket special interests could make money on the deal. Obama and company are not on that agenda - they are simply at a loss.

The fountain of oil flowing at a diarrheatic pace from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is washing up on Louisiana shores, killing fish and particularly rare pelicans. The governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal (R), is complaining, the people who earn their livelihood from those waters are frustrated and environmentalists are seething. They are all wondering, what is the federal government going to do?

Keeping its "boot on the neck of BP" is an expression of policing - not a course of action. Look, I know Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is not just picking up the phone to BP CEO Tony Hayward every couple of hours asking, "Are we there yet," but these are extraordinary circumstances requiring the quicker than the tortoise-like, business-as-usual approach for which Washington is infamous.

What are they waiting for?

My thought is that BP feels like as long as it is getting some oil out through the bendy-straw thing and into its tanker, then it will wait to cap the leak until after the tanker is full. Even the hose - which has not even been able to slow the gusher - "began sucking up oil at a slower rate over the weekend," AP reported. Once the tanker is full, I conjecture, BP will make an effort at capping, which is why I believe the action was delayed until the middle of this week. (I admit I have no evidence for this. It's just a scenario that makes some sense to me.)

So what to do? It seems all we can do is wait until BP pays what it says will be "all reasonable claims" stemming from the unstemmed flow - whatever they (and the courts) decide "reasonable" means. To hold them to it, I propose the following, until BP cleans up the mess:
  1. seize the full tanker, and put the oil in the Strategic Oil Reserves;
  2. fine BP - retroactively - the rate they were paying Transocean for the lease on the platform, which is reported to be $500,000 per day (definitely not a typo!); and
  3. ensure that no federal fleets use BP/Amoco petroleum based fuels.

Additionally, Congress should enact new legislation that charges an additional cleanup insurance fee on top of the offshore leasing royalties, which could go down in time if the operator has a clean record for a particular number of years. Also, re-examine the entire royalty process - it is an obvious conflict of interest.

Maybe if we keep our foot up Big Oil's ass, it will be harder to kiss it.


Friday, May 21, 2010

The Perils of the Marginalizing of Rand Paul

Out of the Mainstream, into the Teapot

Let's start with this number: one-third. Depending on which question you go by, according to recent polls, around one of three American voters sympathize, empathize or otherwise endorse the efforts of the Tea Party. Granted, NBC points out in its poll with the Wall Street Journal, released this week, that of the 41% of voters who say they support the Tea people, 75% get their news from Glenn Beck and FOX News. An AP-GfK poll released last weekend says that one quarter of potential voters "called themselves supporters of the conservative tea party movement."

Enter Rand Paul, the new Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky, with his election victory "message from the Tea Party," saying, "We have come to take our government back." The message goes even deeper than that. The Tea Party movement thrives on its marginalization by the "establishment," and we dismiss the group at the peril of all that is civil about America.

Before the sun was even cracking the horizon in Appalachia Wednesday morning, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had issued a press release critical of what it called Paul's "out-of-touch views to the general election electorate in Kentucky." It seems to me, that is exactly what got him elected - his out of touch views. Even his missteps with Rachel Maddow the next night only made the revolutionary tea baggers appreciate him even more.

Compare the DSCC's attempt to thwart Paul's momentum with that of his challenger in the GOP primary race, the McConnell backed Trey Grayson. Grayson issued one television ad accusing Paul of wanting to "hide his strange ideas." Senator McConnell issued an ad saying, "I know Trey Grayson and trust him." Trust from someone as inside Washington as the Senate minority leader doesn't go very far in an election where there is a pervasive, irrational loathing of incumbency. Despite the fact that Grayson even had the endorsement of Dick Cheney, he was just too "establishment."

"A lot of the things we [in the Tea Party] talk about are a chastisement to both parties," Paul told CBS News on Tuesday, before the polls closed, and both parties - like Wall Street before the collapse - are blind to the threatening rhetoric from those who walk in lockstep with Glenn Beck.

They would be wise to heed the words of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D), who told CNN, "It was an anti-incumbency vote across the nation. If you ran against Washington, you did well."

That anti-Washington sentiment, and telling voters their candidates are outside the mainstream, will only embolden and strengthen their willingness to confront the status quo, now that the Tea Partiers have a face in the race.


Monday, May 17, 2010


The Passion of Political Partisanship

Partisan Politics requires three kinds of actions to thrive: to exist, through blind faith and bottomless financing; to replenish its adherents, luring them with passionate, serotonin inducing rhetoric, and fear of what happens if the other side gets control, that makes their hearts beat rapidly and their palm sweat in hungry anticipation; and to define the behavior of the adherents, so that everyone understands the amount of tunnel-vision necessary to maintain their roles, and the stubbornness required, to the survival of the dogma (which ups the passionate responses).

In the communities where political opinions are given more weight than they are probably worth, they are represented by three targets: money, passion and a strong belief in the moral high ground. In that way, the pervasive political partisanship assures adherents to their respective sides and gridlock in the political process.

As for passionate partisanship, it is further defined as the enjoyment of feeling that you sound, look, smell, feel and pray better than those whose politics you choose to despise, for they are your unholy adversary. Particular to this passion is the relationship between the talking point and the myopic mind, and the consciousness of pleasure from that contact, which is called partisan politics.