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Monday News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians! Sorry to be so late with the news today. Today is Flag Day.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national flag.

As usual, the BP oil gusher is the top story in the news. As you know, the Coast Guard issued an ultimatum to BP to “contain the spill” by last night. It’s not clear what will actually happen now that BP has failed to do so. I suppose there will be another sternly worded letter from someone or other.

The U.S. Coast Guard gave BP Plc 48 hours to find more capacity to contain its leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico after scientists and researchers doubled their estimates of the spill’s size.

BP’s efforts don’t “provide the needed collection capacity consistent with the revised flow estimates,” said Rear Admiral James A. Watson, the federal on-scene coordinator, in a letter dated June 11. It was sent to Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, and was released today.

BP did release a new plan to “speed oil containment.” But who can believe anything they say at this point?

Under the revised schedule, BP claims it can capture between 40,000 and 53,000 barrels a day by the end of this month. BP wasn’t expected to reach that capacity until mid-July under the earlier plan. The new estimate, detailed in a letter to the Coast Guard dated Sunday, also claims the energy giant will be able to capture as much as 80,000 barrels a day by mid-July.

The Obama administration said BP was responding to its order from Friday, in which Coast Guard Rear Adm. James Watson told the company that “every effort must be expended to speed up” the rate of containment.

“After being directed by the administration to move more quickly, BP is now stepping up its efforts to contain the leaking oil,” an administration official said Monday, adding that the new plan has enough backup in place to account for bad weather and “unforeseen circumstances.”

Bla, bla, bla…. whatever.

President Obama told Politico’s Roger Simon that the gusher is going to have a similar impact to that of 9/11.

“In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11,” the president said in an Oval Office interview on Friday, “I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come.”

And then he went golfing for four hours.

At least one relative of a 9/11 victim is unhappy with the comparison. And the Brits don’t care for it either.

Today Obama will go back down to the Gulf for a two-day visit.

Barack Obama flies into the Gulf tomorrow to try to take charge of an environmental disaster that is spreading beyond human control, with a stinking tide of oil from BP’s ruptured well now advancing on the white sand beaches of Alabama and Florida.

Obama’s visit is his fourth since the gusher began, but the first so far to Mississippi, Albama, and Florida, which are now joining Louisiana on the frontline of the spill. Several miles of Alabama’s beaches were splattered with a thick sludge of oil at the weekend, with a slick now three or four miles off the Florida resort of Pensacola. Two barrier islands off Mississippi were also covered in oil. In Panama City, Florida, 190 miles from the ruptured well, a steel tank was discovered, oozing oil, that appeared to come from the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig.

Obama’s two-day visit is the latest attempt by the White House to assert the president’s mastery over the spill crisis – a difficult case to make given that BP and his administration admit the oil will continue to spew until at least August.

Rick Klein at ABC News writes that President Obama is now trying to do all the things he previously said he didn’t need to do in response to the BP gusher.

The White House is beginning to realize that the political fallout of the oil spill is very real — and holding office for a year and a half makes it harder to blame the previous administration for evident shortcomings.

Just as the president and his top aides didn’t fully grasp the scale of environmental fallout, they didn’t comprehend the degree to which the response to the incident has evolved into a test of presidential leadership.

IMNSHO, Obama has already failed the leadership test, and my guess is he will never be able to demonstrate any real empathy for the people and animals who have been and will be hurt by the BP gusher.

Finally, Canada has canceled deep water drilling licenses.

Canada has called a halt to issuing more licences for Arctic drilling and other countries bordering the vast white waste are taking a closer look at environmental regulations.

The Arctic, after the Gulf and offshore Brazil, was in line to become the next big battleground for Big Oil in the search for the world’s remaining accessible oil and gas fields before the US reacted to the risks linked to drilling more than three miles below the surface of the Gulf.

Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and the rest of the club have been queuing for US and Canadian licences to extend the search in a region that could contain 50bn barrels of oil and up to 1,000 trillion cubic feet of gas. The US Geological Survey estimates there could be a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas under the vast Arctic area and Russia is claiming ownership of most of it.

In other news and views, here are some miscellaneous non-oil gusher links. Please feel free to post more in the comments.

At Open Left, Paul Rosenberg defends Helen Thomas:

I’m Jewish, if you can’t tell. And I’ve seen the video in which she made her so-called “indefensible” remarks. And I’ve just got to say it plain: there was no “there” there. She was being interviewed by a rabbi. She was friendly and smiling. She was asked “”Any comments on Israel”, and she said, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.” This in itself is ambiguous, of course, since it could refer to all of Palestine previous to the arrival of any modern Jews, or it could refer to occupied Palestine (since the 1967 war). Either way, though, it’s simply a political opinion–one you may disagree with, but nothing even close to the expression of group animus, and American political figures express group animus all the time without being forced to apologize, much less end their careers.

When asked where they should go, she said, they should “go back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else,” and here I can certainly understand why some people would very angry. Doesn’t she know what happened to the Jews in Poland and Germany? But, of course, she didn’t say it should happen again.

The New York Times has an interesting piece on how childhood is being extended so that an in-between phase is developing between adolescence and adulthood. I find this idea fascinating, because it wasn’t until the early twentieth century that adolescence emerged in response to the industrial revolution. The study of adolescence as a separate stage of development only began in the 1940s.

From the Obama administration’s new rule that allows children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance to the large increase in the number of women older than 35 who have become first-time mothers, social scientists say young adulthood has undergone a profound shift.

People between 20 and 34 are taking longer to finish their educations, establish themselves in careers, marry, have children and become financially independent, said Frank F. Furstenberg, who leads the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood, a team of scholars who have been studying this transformation.

Also from the NYT: U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

It figures. That’s probably the reason we went there in the first place. Now we’ll never leave.

I really liked this reader blog at FDL: What If the US Didn’t Join the Race to the Bottom? The author “letsgetitdone,” argues that the U.S. should take the FDR route (full employment) toward solving the financial crisis, rather than sticking with the failed Hoover solution (deficit cutting). It’s a great piece. Unfortunately, as some of the commenters point out, our government *wants* to eliminate the middle class and turn us all into serfs.

Ultra-right-wing icon Ted Olson is campaigning to end the ban on gay marriage.

Olson took the microphone, and began to describe his crusade to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and establish a constitutional right for same-sex marriage. The two gay families he represents are “the nicest people on the planet.” He believes to his core that discrimination because of sexual orientation “is wrong and it’s hurtful, and I never could understand it.” He knows some worry that the lawsuit is premature, “but civil rights are not won by people saying, ‘Wait until the right time.’ ”

This fight, Olson told the law students gathered on a spring evening in the luxe D.C. offices of his firm, Gibson, Dunn and Cruthcher, “is the most compelling, emotionally moving, important case that I have been involved in in my entire life.”

So what are you reading today? Please share, and have a marvelous Monday!