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Thursday News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!! As usual these days, there isn’t a whole lot of positive news out there.

After watching Anderson Cooper last night, I wondered if anything the President said was more than “just words.”

I learned that many in New Orleans still think Obama is completely out of touch with events on the ground. The clean-up effort is still completely disorganized and ineffective, and parish leaders are still calling for the President to cut the red tape. And this is day 58 of this crisis. Why doesn’t Obama see that it is, in fact, a national emergency?

I learned that Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser thinks Thad Allen should be removed as point man in charge of supervising BP’s efforts to stop the leak as well as the clean up effort. From an AP story at NOLA.com:

“He’s not the right man for the job,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. “If the president of the United States does not make some drastic changes it’s going to give him a bad rap that he doesn’t deserve.”

Nungesser’s comments came Wednesday after workers under his direction resorted to sucking up oil from delicate marshes with ordinary shop vacuums.

He was furious after he said the Coast Guard shut down oil-vacuum barges while paperwork was being processed.

“Not only is the leadership not there, they’re standing in our way. They’re crippling us,” Nungesser said.

I also learned that $20 billion probably is only a down-payment on what the true cost of the BP gusher will be. I saw BP CEO Tony Hayward smirking as he walked out of the WH with President Obama. And I saw Hayward and the other BP execs practically high-five-ing each other as they walked away from the question and answer session. They apparently think they rolled Obama pretty good. And to back up that conclusion, BP’s shares surged after the agreement was announced.

This morning, I decided to go to the horse’s mouth so to speak, and see what they are saying at NOLA.com. Here are the latest updates from ground zero. I’m sure Dakinikat will have more to add later on. It seems that the $100 million that Obama has said he’ll set aside to help oil workers who have lost their jobs is woefully inadequate. On that amount, the lead editorial says:

The $100 million fund is a drop in the bucket. The losses for laid-off rig workers alone could range from $150 million to $300 million a month.

More significantly, the president’s statement fails to acknowledge the moratorium’s wider damage. To be sure, rig workers are the first in line to lose their livelihoods while exploratory rigs shut down in compliance with Mr. Obama’s moratorium. But the devastation to the economies of Gulf Coast states will be broader than the loss of rig worker jobs. The boat operators, contractors, caterers and myriad others who service the drilling platforms will also lose out, with an estimated loss of 20,000 jobs in Louisiana alone. This narrowly targeted fund doesn’t begin to address the true impact of the drilling shutdown, which could result in idled rigs quitting the Gulf long term.

President Obama surely realizes that this money doesn’t solve the problem. Instead of pushing forward with a broad moratorium he should listen to those pressing for a more nuanced approach that addresses safety concerns without threatening a vital industry that affects the lives of so many people.

Another op-ed, by Stephanie Grace: “Another president, another set of promises,” compares the responses of George W. Bush and Barack Obama to Katrina and the BP gusher, respectively:

Here was Bush in September 2005, 17 days after Katrina: “Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.”

And here was Obama Tuesday night, 57 days after the Deepwater Horizon exploded: “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.”

There’s one more similarity: In addition to offering hope to a besieged region, each president tried to use his speech to recast his own role in the tragedy — to hit the restart button, to get ahead of the story, to finally appear in control of the situation, not at its mercy.

Grace goes on to say that she is willing to give President Obama a chance to fulfill his promises, but cautions:

The problem is that the longer the oil gushes, the more gunk creeps into the marshes, the more loudly local officials vent their frustration over poorly deployed resources, the larger the gap between the Obama administration’s ambitions and reality grows.

When you raise expectations, it’s always harder to live up to them.

Both James Carville and Paul Begala are now praising Obama in the wake of the Best Oval Office Speech Evah!

Carville: Oil response critic concedes Obama’s getting it right

Obviously, I was not in the meeting that President Obama had with the BP officials. I suspect I’m even less welcome at the White House these days than Tony Hayward, given my heartfelt and vocal criticism of how Obama was handling the Gulf crisis.

But it looks as if President Obama applied a little old- school Chicago persuasion to the oil executives, because BP’s chairman not only agreed to the full $20 billion that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu asked for, he also pledged to suspend quarterly dividends immediately. Paying victims before shareholders — what a concept.

Look, we have a long way to go before this Cajun stops ragin’. But just as I hammered the White House when I thought they were too lackadaisical, honesty compels me to praise the president for his concrete, significant — and eloquent — action today.

Begala is more enthused than Carville: Nothing But Net

His high school teammates called the future president “Barry O’Bomber” for his proclivity for launching long-range jump shots, and tonight he took yet one more high-pressure shot from downtown. Nothing but net.

The timing of when you shoot a tre is important: the later they come in a game, the more they matter. Three-pointers are the dagger that can put the game away or bring a team back from the dead. Tonight’s speech was the latter.

If Marshall McLuhan was right, then for this presidential address the setting was the message. For the first time in his presidency, Barack Obama sat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and addressed his fellow Americans. From that room presidents have sent millions of Americans to war. They have sought to heal broken hearts, to remake our government and revive our economy. Barack Obama has, at turns, done all those things — but never from the Oval Office. Even before he opened his mouth he communicated the most important message: dealing with the Gulf oil disaster is, as Joe Biden would say, a BFD.

‘Scuse me, I think I’m going to be sick.

OK, Begala really laid it on thick there. Maybe he’s trying to encourage Obama with excessive flattery? I don’t quite know what was going on in Begala’s head when he wrote that column.

At CNN, a “language guru” claims that Obama’s speech bombed because it was “too professorial.”

President Obama’s speech on the gulf oil disaster may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday.

Tuesday night’s speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor. The Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.

Though the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph, his 19.8 words per sentence “added some difficulty for his target audience,” Payack said.

You know how slow-witted we “small people” are. We just can’t understand that when the President speaks in vague generalities, he really means something very specific–if only we were smart enough to read between the lines….or something.

I suppose everyone has already seen this “worst case scenario” that was posted at The Oil Drum, but it’s worth repeating. If this is true, we could be facing a much worse disaster than anyone thinks, and let’s hope the Villagers are aware of how bad it could really get. The gist is that there is probably damage down below the ocean floor which could cause the well structure to collapse and leave us with a great big hole gushing vast amounts of oil at a rapid rate…and it would be unstoppable.

Here is a summary with commentary at Mother Jones and another one at Science Blogs.

In other news,

Bill To Help Unemployed Fails In Senate

A beleaguered bill to extend benefits for the long term unemployed stalled on Capitol Hill Tuesday, when the Senate voted 45-52 to block the $140 billion catchall bill that also would delay a Medicare fee cut, extend a hodgepodge of expiring tax cuts, and other provisions that Democrats say will help stimulate job growth.

Although the bill also included tax increases on investment managers and oil companies to help offset the cost, it has run into opposition from Republicans as well as many Democrats who are worried about adding to the burgeoning budget deficit.

All this worry about the deficit is going to lead us into Great Depression 2.0.

Administering Fund, a Master Mediator

Kenneth R. Feinberg bristled when reporters dubbed him the compensation czar for his Treasury Department job monitoring executive pay at companies that received government bailouts. The term, he lamented to ABC News last year, “makes it sound like I’m going to issue some imperial decree.”


Mr. Feinberg, named Wednesday by President Obama as the independent administrator of a $20 billion fund set up by BP to compensate victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, may not have the powers of a king. But he does seem to specialize in Solomon-like decisions.

Over the course of his long career as a mediator, he has helped settle a variety of thorny disputes, including a class-action suit by Vietnam veterans protesting the use of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, and a determination of the fair market value of the Zapruder film of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He also oversaw the compensation fund for survivors of 9/11 victims. Those victims who accepted payments had to sign away their rights to sue for damages later. I imagine that will also be the case for BP’s victims.

Prop. 8 trial: Closing arguments end as judge presses both sides

Closing arguments concluded Wednesday afternoon in the Proposition 8 trial with more pointed questions from U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who is presiding over the landmark proceedings to determine the constitutionality of California’s ban on gay marriage.

More Than 90 Banks Miss TARP Payments

More than 90 U.S. banks and thrifts missed making a May 17 payment to the U.S. government under its main bank bailout program, signaling a rising number of lenders are struggling to meet their obligations….

The number of banks missing their TARP payments rose for the third straight quarter. In February, 74 banks deferred their payments; 55 deferred last November.

That’s all I’ve got. Please post your links in comments–good news would be greatly appreciated if you can find it. Have a terrific Thursday, everyone!!!