Oil Spill Coverup: What the President Knew and When He Knew It

Clueless or Criminal?

Good Morning, Conflucians!! I shut down my computer early last night and watched the Dateline story on the Gulf, followed by Anderson Cooper. When I logged onto TC this morning, I read Dakinikat’s heartbreaking report from the Gulf and then started surfing around to find the latest news.

Right away I found an article that shook me to my core. I still feel as if someone punched me in the gut. I don’t know why it affected me so strongly–I kind of knew everything in it already. But to see it spelled out in plain English, and by this author just shocked me:

Obama Knew the Spill Was Hopeless, by Richard Wolffe.

The president was not only briefed on the real-time events of the spill, but also on just how bad it would be—and how hard it would be to plug the hole.

Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, told Obama at one of the earliest briefings in late April that the blowout would likely lead to an unprecedented environmental disaster, senior White House aides told The Daily Beast. Browner warned that capping a well at such depths had never been done before, and that they ought to expect an oil spill that would continue until a relief well was drilled in August, the aide said. [....]

The fact that Team Obama was warned of the extent of the disaster so early on suggests that White House officials were aware of the environmental challenge long before they decided to demonstrate concern via presidential visits to the Gulf.

So what did the White House decide to focus on?

Given the lack of technical capabilities on the sea floor, there’s not much the White House can do to plug the hole. And there are limited options for effectively preventing the oil from reaching large stretches of coastline. Instead, Obama’s team is focusing on the options at their immediate disposal—methods of news management and presidential communication.

Unbelievable! Did the administration somehow think they could conceal the extent of the catastrophe? In the first place effects of the disaster are visible to people who live near the Gulf. Did they imagine somehow they could prevent the press from covering it by getting BP and the Coast Guard to keep them out? Or did they think they could influence the press coverage to prevent most Americans from understanding the true national and even global effects of BP’s malfeasance? Did they think the oil might not spread to Alabama and Florida beaches where there would it would affect more tourists?

If the administration really did this, they have far outstripped Nixon and Watergate. Did they not understand that everything would eventually come out and the American people would see them as criminally negligent and in the pockets of BP just as much as they are in the pockets of Goldman Sachs? Did they not realize that the media would ultimately rebel against efforts to limit their access to a compelling national story?

Wouldn’t it have been better in the long run to be open with the American people and explain how bad a crisis we were facing? And then they could have mobilized every resource available–government experts, scientists, private businesspeople, as well as experts from other oil companies–to clean up the oil and prevent as much of it from coming ashore as possible. Instead, as Wolffe writes, the administration responded with passive fatalism.

Even more unbelievable to me is the fact that Richard Wolffe seems to have written his article in an effort to defend the administration’s response to the BP-created ecological catastrophe. Wolffe explains that the reason the administration is angry with James Carville is that Carville didn’t return a phone call from Thad Allen after his (Carville’s) first public outburst. Did they really think they could soothe Carville somehow? Or did they think they could buy him off?

Wolffe concludes by saying that for now the administration is watching the polls, and they think Americans are more worried about the economy than the oil spill. I guess either Obama and his handlers don’t understand how much the events in the Gulf will affect our economy, or they are just trying to postpone the explosion of public anger as long as possible. Either way, they are criminals.

What are you reading this morning? Post your links in the comments as always. And your weekend as best you can despite all the bad news.

Friday News and Views

Good morning Conflucians!!! TGIF!!!!!

BP Chief Tony Hayward has finally decided that the oil spill his corporation caused is an “environmental catastrophe,” CNN reports. And the “junk shot” has begun:

Also Friday, engineers in the Gulf tried the “junk shot” method in an attempt to stop a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward said.

The procedure involved shooting debris such as shredded rubber tires, golf balls and similar objects into the blowout preventer in an attempt to clog it and stop the leak. The goal of the junk shot is to force-feed the preventer, the device that failed when the disaster unfolded, until it becomes so plugged that the oil stops flowing or slows to a relative trickle.

The company plans to resume its “top kill” method, pumping heavy mud into the leak, later Friday, he said.

President Obama flew to Chicago last night, as planned; and will drop in on New Orleans for awhile today.

where he will get a briefing on the BP oil spill that on Thursday officially became the worst ever in U.S. waters. Obama will deliver a statement on the spill, following up on Thursday’s press conference at the White House.

As the president listens and speaks, BP and other experts will be continuing their efforts to cap the well with a “top kill” procedure involving mud and, hopefully, cement. If they succeed, the gushing well could be dead, 38 days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.

Mary Landrieau told Politico

“The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this, and he’s going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately,” Landrieu told POLITICO. “But he’s going down tomorrow, he’s made some good announcements today, and if he personally steps up his activity, I think that would be very helpful.”

Don’t hold your breath, Mary.

At an oil hearing in the House yesterday, Charlie Melancon (D-LA) broke down crying while talking about the damage to the coastal wetlands. Watch:

From Politics Daily:

Melancon began by citing the string of natural disasters — including Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike — that have beset his constituents and all Louisianans. With his voice quavering and eyes filling with tears, he said of this latest “slow-motion” catastrophe: “Our culture is threatened, our coastal economy is threatened, and everything that I know and love is at risk. . . .Even though this marsh lies along coastal Louisiana, these are America’s wetlands.”

The three-term congressman, who is running for the Senate seat held by Republican David Vitter, could not go on, and asked that the remainder of his written comments be submitted for the record.

Some veterans are angry with Obama for blowing off a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day–an event that is traditional for U.S. Presidents.

Instead of speaking at Arlington, as he did last year and as most presidents have done, Obama will appear at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago, the White House said. Vice President Biden will take his place at Arlington, the most prestigious military cemetery in the country and home to Section 60, a large burial ground for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, expressed disappointment at the White House move. “Arlington is hallowed ground, and the center of our nation’s attention on Memorial Day,” Rieckhoff said. “Unfortunately, President Obama and his family will not be there with us.”

Fox News is also critical, of course, asking whether Obama is “stressed out or tone deaf.”

Presidents are never really off the clock, even when they go on vacation. But President Obama’s decision to skip the traditional Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington while on his second vacation since the BP oil spill began has some wondering what the schedule says about his priorities.

On “vacation,” Obama still holds staff meetings, occasionally attends local events and often gets his “relaxation” time swallowed up by pressing national and international business — his vacation to Hawaii in December coincided with the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing. The retreat this weekend is marked by a side-trip to Louisiana to inspect the damages from the oil spill.

But some conservatives, still smarting over the criticism George W. Bush fielded for his frequent trips to Crawford, Texas, say Obama’s trip to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend is conspicuously poor in its timing.

Joe Sestak’s brother (and political adviser) has spoken to the WH about Sestak’s claims that he was offered a job if he would drop out of the PA Senate Democratic primary race against Arlen Specter. Sestak won the primary even though the Democratic party machinery and the WH supported long-time Republican Specter.

Richard Sestak, who has served as his brother’s top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got ahold of my brother on his cellphone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with his brother.

Joe Sestak first alleged the White House offer in February, but the matter has caught fire since the upset victory over Specter, Pennsylvania’s senior senator, in last week’s primary. The White House has refused to explain its version of events; press secretary Robert Gibbs has said legal aides have reviewed the situation and have declared that nothing “inappropriate” occurred.

Congress is making some progress on the DADT “compromise.”

After a heated Thursday night floor debate, House members voted 234-to-194 to approve a repeal amendment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy. [....]

Earlier Thursday evening, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a companion amendment by a 16-12 vote in a closed-door session.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the lone Republican on the committee joining 15 of her Democratic colleagues to approve the measure as an attachment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia was the only Democrat to vote against it.

If signed into law as part of the Defense funding bill, the measure would not immediately repeal the law. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” would continue as the official policy of the military until two events occur: the Pentagon completes an implementation study due in December; and the secretary of Defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and President Barack Obama certify that repeal will not weaken military readiness. Once those two requirements are met, a 60-day waiting period will begin before the policy is finally lifted.

That’s all I’ve got for now. What are you reading this morning? Please post your links in the comments. And have a fabulous friday!!!

Oilpocalypse Update: Top Kill Setback

Marsh choked with oil

The New York Times reports:

BP had to halt its ambitious effort to plug its stricken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday afternoon when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid they were injecting into the well was escaping along with the leaking crude oil.

A technician at the BP command center said that pumping of the fluid had to be stopped temporarily while engineers were revising their plans, and that the company hoped to resume pumping by midnight, if federal officials approved.

The technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said the problem was not seen as serious. “We’re still quite optimistic,” he said, but cautioned: “It is not assured and its not a done deal yet. All of this will require some time.”

It’s so nice to know that BP is still optimistic.

Here is the comment thread at the Oil Drum, where they are discussing this and other developments. Dakinikat turned me on to the site.

One thing I’ve been wondering about is what will happen if a hurricane blows through the Gulf and stirs up all that oil, which the government now admits is probably way more than was released in the Exxon Valdez spill. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground wrote a lengthy piece that addresses this question. He says that

A hurricane has never passed over a sizable oil spill before, so there are a lot of unknowns about what might happen. The closest call came in 1979, after the greatest accidental oil spill in history, the massive Ixtoc I blowout. That disaster dumped 3 million barrels (126 million gallons) of oil into the Southern Gulf of Mexico between June 1979 and March 1980. Category 1 Hurricane Henri passed just north of the main portion of the oil spill on September 16 and 17, generating 15 foot seas and southwest winds of 15 – 25 knots over the spill region on the 16th….The main impact of the wind was to dilute the oil and weather it, converting it to a thick “mousse.”

Based on what happened back then, a hurricane can help clean up an oily beach, but the oil is then carried further away to foul other areas.

Consider the case of the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. The ill-fated tanker split open in Prince William Sound on March 24, and oil spill response crews were initially able to contain the spill behind booms and make good progress removing it. However, two days later, a powerful Gulf of Alaska storm with 70 mph winds roared through, overwhelming the containment booms and distributing the oil along a 90-mile stretch of coast. The oil went on to foul over 400 miles of Alaska coast, a far larger disaster than would have occurred than if the storm had not passed by. Similarly, a hurricane moving through the Gulf of Mexico spill will very likely make the disaster much worse, spreading out the oil over a larger region, and bringing the oil to shores that otherwise might not have seen oil. It is true that the oil will be diluted some by being spread out over a larger area, so some shores will not see a substantial oiling. But overall, a hurricane passing through the oil spill is likely to result in much higher damage to the coast.

What will be the effect of a hurricane on the giant plumes of oil that are being discovered just beneath the surface of the water? Masters writes:

Hurricanes act like huge blenders that plow through the ocean, thoroughly mixing surface waters to depths as great as 200 meters (650 feet), and pulling waters from depth to the surface. Thus if sub-surface plumes of oil are located within 200 meters of the surface, a hurricane could potentially bring them to the surface. However, the huge sub-surface plumes of oil found by the research vessel Pelican were at depths of 2300 – 4200 feet, and a hurricane will not affect the ocean circulation at those depths.

According to the report in the Washington Post, the recently discovered oil plume extends from just under the surface of the water down to 3200 feet and it is more than 6 miles wide. It is also invisible.

“Here is a situation where, unless you’re looking at the chemical fingerprints, [the oil] is absolutely not visible,” Hollander said. “It’s not some Italian vinaigrette or anything like that. It’s absolutely, perfectly clear.”

But, Hollander said, even this clear-looking water could contain enough oil to be toxic to small animals at the base of the gulf food chain. He said he was also worried that the oil contains traces of “dispersants,” soap-like chemicals sprayed into the oil to break it up.

What happens if a hurricane passes over that? Would it carry “invisible” dissolved oil for miles and drop it in far-away places where it won’t even be detected until it makes people and animals sick? I have no idea; I’m just asking.

What are you hearing?

Nero fiddles while Rome burns

Waves wash oil onto beach near south pass of Mississippi River

Is it me, or does this seem like just about the most amazing tone-deafness by President Obama so far? While fish, birds, animals, and people fight to survive the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama chose to fly to San Francisco to attend three political fund-raisers, one at the home of Gordon Getty, an oil heir.

President Obama, facing criticism that his administration has failed to respond aggressively to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, assured supporters in San Francisco on Tuesday that “the situation in the gulf is heartbreaking, and we’re doing everything we can.”

“Nobody is more upset than me, because ultimately,” he said, “when this happens on your watch, you are thinking, how does this get solved?”

Is this a joke? Am I still dreaming–trapped in a nightmare that won’t end?

Obama spoke to a VIP reception of about 200 people and later to a sold-out crowd of about 800 at a reception at the Fairmont Hotel, two of his three appearances Tuesday to bulk up the campaign coffers of Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who will face strong Republican competition this fall in her bid for a fourth term. [....]

After the Fairmont event, which was expected to raise at least $1.7 million from supporters who paid $250 to $2,000 for tickets, Obama was whisked to an exclusive VIP dinner at the Broadway mansion of wealthy oil heir Gordon Getty and his wife, Ann.

Inside the lavish home of the philanthropist son of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, some 80 donors wrote checks for $35,200 per couple to meet the president and have their photo taken with him. Boxer’s campaign raised $600,000 from the two events, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee took in $1.1 million, organizers said.

And tomorrow, the emperor is off to Chicago for a relaxing weekend, while the rest of us agonize over a global ecological catastrophe that is destroying one of the most beautiful and productive parts of our country. Is he holding a fund-raiser in Louisiana on Friday too, I wonder?

But no one is more upset than he is.

Monday News and Views: Global Ecological Catastrophe Edition

Good morning, I think. Will we see any action from the Obama administration today, or will they continue their laid back, ho-hum attitude toward the planetary nightmare taking place in the Gulf of Mexico?

The video above is just a few minutes worth of the oil gushing out of the ocean floor like a volcano. Here is the live feed of the disaster from Ed Markey’s website.

All of us need to demand that our Congresspeople light a fire under the Obama administration. This has gone on far too long. The U.S. response to this global tragedy is pathetic and nearly useless. We need action and we need it now!

As the Miami Herald points out today,
this spill is not unprecedented. A similar disaster took place in 1979. So why wasn’t BP prepared for this to happen? Why didn’t the Obama administration review every single offshore well approved by the Bush and Obama administrations to make sure emergency plans were in place? In fact, why didn’t Obama stop all off-shore drilling as he promised? From the article:

The year was 1979. The blowout of the Ixtoc I, drilled by the Mexican-run Pemex, retains the dubious record of causing the world’s largest accidental oil spill, dumping an estimated 138 million gallons over nine months. Eventually, Pemex cut off Ixtoc I with two relief wells and a cement seal.

With top BP executives, scientists and Obama administration officials searching for a solution to capping the Deepwater Horizon blowout off the Louisiana coast, perhaps they could find a blueprint in the Ixtoc I experience, observers say. They also may find lessons from the Montara oil spill last August off the northern coast of Australia, where it took five tries and nearly three months to stop the flow of as many as 84,000 gallons a day into the Timor Sea.

If some scientists, who say BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are underestimating how much oil is leaking now, are right, the current gusher could easily eclipse the demise of Ixtoc I in the Bay of Campeche. By their count, instead of the 210,000 gallons leaking per day, it’s more like 4 million.

The UK Guardian reports this morning that BP isn’t even siphoning off the 3,000 barrels a day of oil that it has been claiming. What BP has done and is doing is criminal, and they should be stopped immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The federal government should have taken over this process a month ago, and yet Obama is still dithering and putting on a show of being angry in public while scolding reporters behind the scenes for asking about BP.

BP is now delaying their latest effort to stop the leak. The New York Times reports:

The oil company has been planning to attempt a procedure known as a top kill, in which heavy fluid would be pumped into the well. Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production, said in an interview on NBC on Monday morning that the top kill would be attempted Wednesday morning. BP had previously said it hoped to execute the procedure on Tuesday.

The top kill is one of several proposed methods of stanching the flow of at least 210,000 gallons of oil a day that has been threatening marine life and sensitive coastal areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. BP officials have emphasized that none of the methods have been tried before at the depth of this leak, and Mr. Suttles noted the difficulties of working at such depths in explaining why the attempt was being delayed.

The Obama administration and Congress need to wake up and understand that when something has never been done before and could cause a global ecological catastrophe, there needs to be careful planning and there need to be plans and back-up plans for how to deal with emergencies. And if not enough is known for corporations to do those things, then they need to be sent back to the drawing table until they do know how. OR DON’T TAKE THE RISK AT ALL!

As for whether BP is really doing the best they can, via Corrente, Jefferson Parish commandeers 40 boats BP hired, then left idle

Here are a couple of links that Dakinikat posted down below:

Federal agencies must be vigilant on oil spill

Louisiana coast’s battle against drifting oil expected to last months if not years

I’m too f*cking angry to go on. What are you reading this morning? Post away in the comments, and have the best Monday you possibly can!

Thursday Morning News Brief

Good Morning Conflucians!! This will be a brief news post, because I have to get to my office at 10 to start working on my final grades for my two classes.

You won’t be surprised by this news–it’s just one more “we told you so” moment–but I suppose the progs will be mystified.

Hotline: Dem Turnout Falls off a Cliff

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections.

In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

But supposedly, the Dems aren’t worried. Could that be because they really want the Repubs in charge so they don’t have to take any responsibility for the passage of Republican policies? Just imagine if the Dems were in the majority when Obama repeals Social Security. The Party would be dead. Oh wait…it’s already DOA.

“We had historic increases in registration in 2008 and we are working to turn out those first time voters again this fall, and we’ll do so united behind our nominees — which can’t be said of Republicans,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said. “The real story in looking at motivation of the base from yesterday was a deeply divided Republican party that nominated deeply flawed candidates that overwhelming majorities of their own voters couldn’t support.”

Oh really? We’ll find out in November, I guess.

SoD sent me this quote from poor befuddled Chris Bowers:

“…these turnout figures paint a picture significantly worse than just the expected 2% drop-off. This is more than just a demographic problem based on age–there really is a meaningful enthusiasm gap.

And yet, despite this, there are still no public, national polls looking for answers on why Democratic turnout is so low. All it would take would be to ask a single, open-ended question to 500 people who voted in 2008, but self-identify as unlikely to vote in 2010, “why don’t you intend on voting?” Everyone has theories, but those theories lack empirical supporting evidence and invariably little more than “I speak for all unlikely voters, and they are unhappy for the exact same reasons I am.”

You’re probably right, Chris. I’m sure all those polls about how much Americans hate the forced crappy health insurance bill and the historic win of a Republican Senate candidate in ultra-Democratic Massachusetts are just outliers. Let’s wait for an empirical study and several peer-reviewed journal articles before we wake up and realize the American people wanted a Democratic President and instead you and the rest of the progs forced Bush III down our throats.

More bad news for Democrats: David Obey is Retiring

Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the third-most senior member of the House and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced Wednesday that he was retiring after four decades in Congress, a decision that reflected both a generational shift and the difficult political environment for Democrats.

“I’m ready to turn the page,” said Mr. Obey, 71. He told lawmakers and reporters crammed into the committee room where he has held sway for so long that he was “bone tired,” before adding, “And frankly, I think that my district is ready for somebody new, to make a fresh start.”

That is a very serious loss for Congressional Dems.

Lots more is coming out about the inept Times Square terrorist. It turns out he has been on the Homeland Security “travel lookout list” since 1999. The New York Times is reporting that there is Taliban involvement in the failed attempt to blow up a car in a busy area of NYC.

Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.

The London Times is reporting that Shahzad “carried out a dry run” before his failed bombing attempt.

Faisal Shahzad, who is in custody in New York on terrorism and weapons charges, drove from his home in Connecticut to the theatre district on April 28 in the vehicle that days later he would pack with explosives, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.

Mr Shahzad then returned on April 30 – the day before the attack – to drop off a black Isuzu get-away vehicle near to the target site.

But despite these preparations his escape from the scene on May 1 was hampered when Mr Shahzad discovered he had left the keys for the getaway vehicle inside the explosive laden car, the official said.

Gee, this guy sounds real sophisticated-like, doesn’t he?

The horrifying and depressing oil leak continues onward. I don’t even want to think about it. In case you haven’t heard already, President Obama was the top recipient of BP campaign cash.

While the BP oil geyser pumps millions of gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama and members of Congress may have to answer for the millions in campaign contributions they’ve taken from the oil and gas giant over the years.

BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company’s political action committees — $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals.

On top of that, the oil giant has spent millions each year on lobbying — including $15.9 million last year alone — as it has tried to influence energy policy.

As Gomer Pyle would say, “surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Greece has instituted “austerity measures” to deal with their debt.

Is this what’s coming for the U.S.?

A whole raft of measures, which include huge cuts to Greece’s public sector, have been announced since December last year, when the Greek government acknowledged the need to tackle Greece’s dire public finances.

The plans hope to achieve budget cuts of 30bn euros over three years – with the goal of cutting Greece’s public deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. It currently stands at 13.6%.

Implementing them is also a condition of Greece receiving the billions of euros in loans it needs as part of the EU-IMF rescue deal agreed this month.

The people of Greece aren’t taking government actions as quietly as we are in the U.S.

At least three people were killed Wednesday in Athens when rioters set a bank ablaze during protests by tens of thousands of people over austerity measures demanded by a multibillion-dollar international bailout of Greece.

A 24-hour national strike morphed into the strongest – and most violent – show of defiance yet over the austerity plan as millions of workers walked off the job and thousands took to the streets to vent their anger against the government.

What are you reading this morning? Please share! And have a terrific Thursday!

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