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!!!

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!

BP’s Oil Mess: How Could This Happen?

That’s the video of the geyser of oil shooting out of the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana. How on earth could this happen? Isn’t the government supposed to protect our country from disasters like this? Yeah, I know. Any thoughts like that should have gone out the window after Hurricane Katrina.

But isn’t this a Democratic administration? Wasn’t Obama an environment-friendly candidate? Well he gave a lot of speeches in which he claimed to care about the environment. And aren’t speeches what really counts after all?

So how did it happen? First, as you’ve probably all heard by now, Obama got lots of campaign money from BP employees.

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.

We thought we got rid of the oil men when Bush and Cheney moved out. But no, the new occupant of the WH is seemingly just as oil-friendly as those two.

Josh Green tells it like it is in The Boston Globe: Even an oil spill won’t move Washington

For months, a group of senators — Democrat John Kerry, Republican Lindsey Graham, and Independent Joe Lieberman — worked to craft an energy and climate bill that fell apart last week before it could even be introduced. Then came the Deepwater Horizon oil rig collapse. This should have prompted the Senate to look anew at the energy bill, which steers the country toward a cleaner, safer energy future.

But that’s not what has happened. Many early responders in both parties have defended, not condemned, offshore drilling….there’s no indication the disaster has prompted Obama or anyone else to reconsider his position. In the past, major disasters shifted the terms of debate. This time, nobody is budging. But the support for offshore drilling that the White House was willing to trade for reductions in carbon emissions — the crucial achievement in any climate bill — is no longer feasible. As Florida Senator Bill Nelson put it, any bill that includes drilling is “dead on arrival.’’

Perversely, the Gulf disaster has had the short-term effect of weakening the already tepid support for a Senate climate bill.

Because it’s all out in the open now. The elitist freaks in Congress couldn’t care less what we think about all this. It’s all about the money they will get from corporations looking to profit from cap and trade. I don’t believe for one minute the bill would have had any teeth. John Kerry, who worked on the bill with Leibermann, even wrote a sob-sister book about environmentalism. I don’t know how these people can live with themselves. The only explanation is that they are psychopaths.

Did Obama and his buddies care that BP had a long history of oil rig accidents and spills? Apparently not, because he “sheltered BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig from regulatory requirement”

Last year the Obama administration granted oil giant BP a special exemption from a legal requirement that it produce a detailed environmental impact study on the possible effects of its Deepwater Horizon drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico…

…the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) gave BP a “categorical exclusion” on April 6, 2009 to commence drilling with Deepwater Horizon even though it had not produced the impact study required by a law known as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)….

The exemption came less than one month after BP had requested it in a March 10 “exploration plan” submitted to the MMS. The plan said that because a spill was “unlikely,” no additional “mitigation measures other than those required by regulation and BP policy will be employed to avoid, diminish or eliminate potential impacts on environmental resources.” BP also assured the MMS that any spill would not seriously hurt marine wildlife and that “due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected.”

In addition, according to the World Socialist Website,

In 2009, the Obama administration intervened to support the reversal of a court order that would have halted offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has long had close ties to the industry, specifically cited BP’s Deepwater Horizon operation as one that should be allowed to go forward, according to a group involved in the court case.

A Washington DC Appeals Court ruled in April 2009 that the Bush administration’s five-year plan for offshore oil and gas drilling (covering 2007 to 2012) was not based on a proper review of the environmental impact of the drilling. Only days before the ruling, the Obama administration had granted BP a “categorical exclusion,” exempting it from an environmental impact study for the Deepwater Horizon project.

Unbelievable!

According to a lengthy article posted today by science writer John McQuaid, this spill was An Accident Waiting to Happen

When such catastrophic mechanical failures happen, they’re almost always traced to flaws in the broader system: the workers on the platform, the corporate hierarchies they work for, and the government bureaucracies that oversee what they do. For instance, a study of 600 major equipment failures in offshore drilling structures done by Robert Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 80 percent were due to “human and organizational factors,” and 50 percent of those due to flaws in the engineering design of equipment or processes.

Bea has worked as an engineer on offshore drilling operations and was also one of the leaders of an independent engineering study of the New Orleans levee failures during Hurricane Katrina. And the Gulf spill has some similarities to the 2005 flood, which was caused in large part by faulty floodwalls approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. The common threads between Katrina and the current oil spill, Bea wrote in an email, are “hubris, arrogance, ignorance… combined with a natural hazard.” [....] “The danger has escalated exponentially,” he said. “We’ve pushed it to the bloody edge in this very, very unforgiving environment, and we don’t have a lot of experience.”

Wouldn’t you think when there is this much danger of an accident and so little experience in this type of deep water drilling that our government would make sure to get a detailed, realistic environmental impact report and specific plans for what would happen if the worse happened. But the Obama administration not only laid down the red carpet for BP, it went to court to fight for BP’s right to despoil the entire Gulf coast of the U.S.!

We’ve heard about what the oil spill will do to birds, fish, and sea mammals; what about humans? Well it’s dangerous for humans in the vicinity of the spill too.

The list of potential threats runs from minor nuisances such as runny noses and headaches to nausea. While waiting to see how bad things will get, public health agencies are monitoring air quality, drinking water supplies and seafood processing plants and advising people to take precautions. [....]

In a possible hint of things to come, a foul stench drifted over parts of southwestern Louisiana last week. The oil probably was the culprit, said Alan Levine, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, whose office heard about dozens of complaints – even from state legislators in New Orleans, some 130 miles from the leaky undersea well.

If we can’t get the government to deal with BP, maybe their own shareholders will do it. The LA Times is reporting that some shareholders have already filed suit.

Tomorrow morning at 10, executives from BP, Transocean (the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig), and Halliburton (they were involved in setting up the equipment) will begin testifying before various Senate Committees. There will be another hearing tomorrow at 2:30PM, and another at 10AM on Wednesday.

From an environmental blog, Earthjustice: Will Oil Execs Gush As Much As Their Gulf Oil Spill?

A gusher of information about the oil spill might explain a lot about how the accident occurred and how the federal government was convinced by British Petroleum that the risk was “insignificant.” The hearings may also help determine whether the Obama administration’s oil/gas leasing program — including exploratory drilling this summer in the Arctic — now on hold can go forward.

Earthjustice will be blogging live tomorrow when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds its hearing.

I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll probable say it again multiple times, but even though I knew Obama was going to be an awful President, I really had no idea he would be this bad. I guess this is what happens when an inexperienced, but ambitious, narcissistic man is put into the most powerful job in the world.

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