The Disasters

Begin with the oil spill in the Gulf. As this is written, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the public and the press cannot make much sense of what happened and what is happening (in spite of some smug attempts to answer the many questions — see hyperlinks below). Whether blame should or can be assigned to a number of individuals and groups is hard to determine; this newsletter believes it likely that a large dose of Bad Luck was involved. Virtually all commentary on these issues must be considered conditional.

The latest news — which will be old news when you read this — is that the federal government has ordered a halt to dredging and berm construction intended to protect the coast of Louisiana. The most upsetting aspect of this decision is that now the final say on whether to resume dredging as before is up to the president.

Once again the nation faces a crisis with a mere lawyer — and a bad one, at that — in a position to make a policy decision.

This newsletter has complained in past months that it is a terrible idea to assign virtually any and all tasks, however technical and specialized, to people who are unqualified by training and experience. The horrible examples of Jamie Gorelick and Barney Frank should prove the point. A law degree does not qualify anyone to accomplish whatever task might come along. The principle applies to hundreds, possibly thousands, of government employees who are generalists doing specialists’ work. Obama, for example, is a failed law instructor. He will have to depend on the advice of others, yet he cannot be expected to rise above political considerations if doing the right thing means agreeing to the wishes of Gov. Jindal.

How the public can have any confidence at all in the people in charge is a puzzle. The revealed wisdom regarding the financial collapse is that the nation must plunge deeper into debt and spend its way to prosperity, a policy that only the ideological antiques (the Keynesians) in the ruling elite consider practical. The public knows that sheer greed, botched regulation by incompetent lawyers, and the lunatic ideology of powerful members of Congress caused the financial system to fail, yet there is no indication that significant change has been made in the system. The federal government has twice blundered in its attempts to contain the oil slick in the Gulf, and stands accused of incompetence in pre-spill regulation. In a parallel crisis, Obama has had to remove an idiotic general and replace him with a man the current secretary of state publicly denounced as a liar.

It is clear that the nation is in the wrong hands. The public can see that events have a terrible momentum and that those in power are not leaders. This is a crisis of confidence in personalities, principles and policy. If one could point to a single figure as the linchpin of the problem, something could be done, but the Congress, the executive branch of the government (including, it is tragic to say, the Department of Justice), the entire banking/financial community and the journalistic establishment have all failed spectacularly — and show no realistic prospects of reversing themselves. Democracy itself has been and continues to be mocked.

This is too broad and deep a crisis for a dozen issues of this newsletter. This issue will attempt to shed some (necessarily filtered) light on just one problem, and mention a few others. That does not mean that problems like Holder, the bankers, the press, that loon who is the titular head of the Foggy Bottom circus, the bigoted Middle East policy of the USA and the worst Congress in US history should not concern you. If you wish to see representative democracy and common sense prevail, you must attend to the basics. Roll up your sleeves, Pilgrims — there is a huge housecleaning to be done.

Was It A Shakedown?

When GOP Congressman Joe Barton told the world that he wanted to apologize to BP for the way Obama & Co. demanded twenty billion dollars, he bought a lot more trouble than he ever figured he might. The world does not agree with him. All right. Now step back, Pilgrims, and look at what happened.

Begin with a review of some facts, such as these: BP did not own the (destroyed and sunk) oil rig, was not running the drilling operation, and would not have taken all the profits if the well had come in properly. BP is the major shareholder in the operation, and US companies are involved at every level. Source here.

For a scattergun attack on BP — carried off as if the above-linked article did not exist — there’s this commentary. Meanwhile, here’s a proposal to help protect the most sensitive areas of the Gulf coast.

Congressman Joe has backed down and withdrawn his apology to BP, but some folks still agree with his original statement. The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel quotes Financial Times Deutschland on the former’s website, “The oil company could be prosecuted by shareholders for paying billions upon billions into a fund for damages without being legally required to do so.” BP management was aware of this grim truth. In setting it aside, the White House must have been very persuasive.

Next look at the regulatory record. AP had a pretty good feature on this, but took the story down (this newsletter just can’t imagine why); fortunately Google cached it, so you can find it here. Read it now.

Consider what the report tells you, but does not spell out: the decisions that may have led to an avoidable disaster could not possibly come under the scrutiny of the US agency involved, the MMS. This outfit seems to be confused and/or attempting to hide something. The frustrated citizen may be forgiven if he asks, “So how do you oversee an offshore drilling platform so the cost-cutters and the idiots don’t blunder into another disaster?” The answer is clear: no US federal agency can do that. The nation has to trust the driller.

The rational observer will quickly see that trustworthiness cannot be verified or guaranteed. That means that no study of past violations and safety awards will predict anything at all about what will happen when the crew must make choices about how to proceed — and that event happens hundreds of times a day.

Offshore drilling can not be regulated, inspected and controlled to the point where it is safe. It can be made safer, but no one can say when safer is good enough.

One can conclude that this terrible oil spill is almost pure Bad Luck. Fixing blame, finding the sloppy work, figuring out why it happened and what could be done to prevent a similar or worse incident are hopeless tasks.

Of course that has not stopped the folks who hate Big Oil. They are telling the world why Deep Horizon blew up and sank.

Consider, for example, the work done by a team of New York Times reporters. Their conclusions look impressive, and the journalists believe they caught some people with their pants down. But look again: how much of this version of events is fact, how much is supposition, how much could be wrong, and what might be missing? Answers are impossible. Looking at the whole, one cannot conclude that the tragedy was anything other than the confluence and collision of a number of factors, with the entire sequence of events more subject to chance than rational people would like to believe. It happened; it was complex, unpredictable, and the best efforts of the experienced crew could not halt it. One cannot afford to trust that events of this sort can ever be rendered impossible.

Finally, consider the political facts of the matter.

Obama has been slow, but that did not cause the two blunders committed by the US government so far (one involved rejecting the Dutch offer of help, and the second halted Gov. Jindal’s barges for twenty-four hours). Bobby is being hindered by federal naysaying, a fact that is earning him tons of political assets he’ll be able to use in the future. Washington, by contrast, seems intent on making itself look bad.

Things have gone so far that the news media are even telling some of the public that under the Bush administration, the star-crossed oil rig was six times cited for safety violations (none of which could possibly have contributed to the blowout), and under the Obama administration was rewarded for good safety practices (also unrelated to the oil spill). That’s irrelevant but still bad news for Obama.

Yes, irrelevant. A simple truth has been overlooked — work safety violations had nothing to do with why the oil rig was destroyed. If human decisions caused the disaster, they were made in areas that are not covered by safety rules. The critical decisions were dependent on judgment (will it work?), expertise (what’s the best way to do this?), and wisdom (can we afford to cut costs here?). The difference can be thought of as knowing how to make a good weld (expertise), as opposed to knowing not to try to weld open containers of flammable liquid (work safety).

Recall that Team Obama came up with the slogan about not letting a crisis go to waste. So far, the Gulf disaster has humiliated the Chicago Whiz Kidz. Do you remember “Yes we can!”? Now it seems that “We just can’t” would be more fitting.

You can imagine the dread in the White House, therefore, when it was realized that congressmen were about to make a great show of scolding the BP chief on TV. The spectacle would upstage Obama and make it seem as if the only governmental outfit doing its job were Congress. Playing to the confused and angry public is a Heaven-sent opportunity for those snake oil salesmen.

Meanwhile Obama & Co. were ineffectual and prone to all manner of pratfalls and embarrassing gaffes (golf, parties, and press briefings that went nowhere and convinced no one). The One’s minders were desperate for good publicity. They knew they had to come up with something solid. Trying to beat Congress to the punch in getting tough with the hapless Poms, the White House crew sat down with the BP bigwig and laid it on the line. Facts were irrelevant, so how could he refuse Obama’s demand?

So: you think BP put twenty billion bucks into escrow, and that the money will go to the folks who deserve it. Read this post. As charming as your naivete is, you do need to divest yourself of it.

You might wonder why the money will arrive in payments that are spread over almost four years. Never mind; it’s money, it’s going into government hands, and it’s guaranteed. Smelly voters won’t be able to cut it off.

Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh, long-time heavyweight in the California legislature: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

Good luck with checking on how that BP money is spent, and with whom.

Note to those who blame Uncle Sam for the disaster: articles like this make a fairly convincing (but unintended) case against governmental competence in general. Too often, turning something non-military over to the government pretty well messes it up (remember the old saw that government is good only at making war and inflating the currency). The private sector has different goals, motives, and incentives, and often outperforms government tax-supported agencies. Those who want to make the health care of all US citizens and residents a government monopoly take note, please. If you are upset with Washington’s monitoring of Deep Horizon, why do you think things will be better after Washington takes over one-sixth of the US economy?

In fact, your view of politics and economics can be predicted by anyone who knows how you feel about the Gulf blowout. This newsletter, for example, asserts that the enterprise was never approached properly. Everything should have been left totally in the hands of the private sector (see the next item), with government playing no role once the right to drill had been sold. When this newsletter says that BP is in trouble because of Bad Luck, that claim goes hand in hand with a total lack of faith in government regulation and a clear understanding of what drives big corporations. It’s also a flat statement that the public is best served by a free market.

Collectivists, by contrast, favor more and bigger government that regulates, controls, oversees and directs the individual, while keeping corporate pirates and wealthy parasites on very short leashes. This is reflected in the view that corporations necessarily corrupt governments. According to this thinking, BP, a loathed for-profit corporation, got away with putting the world at risk due to imprudent cost-cutting because it can hobble and ignore necessary regulatory agencies. The collectivist mantra is that the profit motive worked against the public welfare because that’s what it always does.

TLB insists, of course, that the profit motive was prevented from working for the greater good because government intruded, brushing aside the possibility of making offshore drilling practical and benign as regards the environment.

Yes, it’s an endless argument — but not because this newsletter cannot make the superior case. The howling will go on as long as collectivists are able to lie, deceive, and propagandize on a massive scale. Which means forever.

Well, having reviewed the above facts and opinions, you are now able to decide whether the twenty billion dollar commitment Team Obama got from BP is a shakedown. Over to you.

Offshore Drilling

Should the USA continue to allow drilling for oil off nation’s the coastline? Unless the states and federal government use existing technology to implement means of containing a number of simultaneous oil spills well enough to prevent damage to the environment, no. If preparations for disaster are comprehensive, yes. How to prepare? Learn from the Dutch.

How to enforce the concept? Insurance. Require all drillers to have enough to indemnify all possible victims for the maximum possible damage. If containment is adequate, the insurance will be cheap. If containing a huge spill and preventing losses due to that spill cannot be achieved with existing equipment, crews and expertise, premiums will be impossible to pay.

Links

Just about everybody loves anti-discrimination laws, but they don’t always make sense to libertarians. Can the rights of the individual survive the push to make everybody equal? It’s a very important question that often is overlooked. Begin thinking about it after reading this informed commentary.

This nonsense has to stop. Filming (videoing) police as they do their jobs is often the only way a person can obtain evidence that he can use to win a deserved acquittal.

Yet more on popular participation in the USA’s political process: this opinion piece contains a few trenchant thoughts that will anger some people who are too smug too much of the time. Examples: “…a graduate degree is all too often an elaborate exercise in the avoidance of common sense.” “Tea Partiers are objecting because they fear that Washington is caught in a vicious circle (cycle – Ed.) of reckless spending and political payback that will cripple our economy and harm all Americans, rich and poor.”

Jew-hatred is working its way deeper into the mainstream of “progressive” politics — where it appears to be quite welcome. As this phenomenon becomes more obvious, more Jews will be walking away from their traditional political haunts. It’s long overdue.

This video makes an interesting point: if you think Obama’s kid-vid propaganda pieces are embarrassing today, think what they will look like in ten years. The passage of time will improve perspective, and the zealots’ abuse of tiny tots will be even more obvious than it is today. There will be a lot of incredulous shaking of heads at the moronic — “naive” is far too weak a word — way in which the electorate resonated to stereotypical fascistic (“Orwellian”) propaganda. “Were people really that simple, only a decade ago?”

Politics, Obama style…which means democracy be damned.

Related: the candidate has attracted the attention of the local chapters of the Bicoastal Elite. She’s drawing fire: “Damn woman. Damn outsider. Damn taxpayer.” “No family values.” She might win.

Only forty-eight percent? A lot of folks out there haven’t gotten the word yet….

If you are interested in Thailand’s political swamp, here’s a relatively new website.

US “progressives” have committed a great many crimes against humanity, but their most egregious single transgression may very well be their canonization of Fidel Castro. The old man is a monster, yet he inspires Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Ted Turner and the news media in general. They admire the Marxist murderer. That is just one reason this newsletter has for hating the Quislings who defile the honorable occupation of journalism.

Some folks are saying this might be the guy who faces Obama in the 2012 election. For this newsletter, the interesting question is not whether the GOP will nominate Christie, but whether Obama will be his opponent.

What’s wrong with conservatism? Its “social” variety is a huge problem for people who understand the federal constitution. Here’s a lessonin libertarianism that explains why.

The chickens are finally coming home to roost, thanks to Arizona. Here’s the story of three members of Congress who feel terribly abused by circumstances beyond their control; the voters may just toss them out of office. Why? Because none of the Solons have had the common sense and courage to say, “Arizona already has a stop and identify law. Adding this requirement to it — telling people they may have to prove their sheer presence in the state is authorized — is not racist, and should offend no one. Those who feel otherwise are actually guilty of aiding criminals, which is exactly what illegal aliens are. It’s too bad that Arizona must do what Washington refuses to do. You should ask the president why he won’t finish the fence, give us the manpower we need, and do his job in good faith. Oh, and vote for me — I could use some support, because my party has decided to tolerate and thereby encourage massive lawbreaking. I’d like to clean the mess up.”

Call it football, call it soccer — it’s dainty.

Big Sis Napolitano speaks. Her “…comments suggest an effort by the Obama administration to reach out to its more liberal, Democratic constituencies to assuage fears that terrorist worries will lead to the erosion of civil rights.”

There’s a good defense of Lieberman’s bill to give the feds power to tell the internet what to do at this hyperlink. The argument in favor of the bill is cogent and clear, but it overlooks two simple points: first, none of the Good Guys need to be ordered to do the right thing; they just need to know how to do it and when to do it. Sound the alarm, and they will respond by opening the switch. Second, this proposed legislation can be abused, extended, and inappropriately applied; this is another case of the camel’s nose poking into the tent. Meanwhile, this newsletter repeats its unanswered questions: why are the control mechanisms of so many critical utilities, agencies and industries accessible to crackers over the phone lines? Wasn’t that a stunningly stupid way to set things up, and why can’t it be undone now? Fix it, and the Lieberman bill and all other federal attempts to control the internet in any way and to any degree would be exposed as obviously malicious. — Also: see this links-rich commentary for more perspectives.

So Petraeus is back. That must be causing a lot of teeth-gnashing in the offices of the “progressive” establishment. Remember thispropaganda? You can get what purports to be an objective rehash of the rubbish here, but it’s hard to avoid letting your sentiments show when discussing this embarrassing episode, so the account is probably biased. Well, one thing is clear: by agreeing at once to take the demotion and do the heavy lifting, Petraeus tells us the kind of man he is. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Hillary. And No, TLB will never forget or forgive.

The format of this post is burdened by insider jargon and whoopsy graphics, resulting in an off-putting mess — but it’s navigable. If you persist, you will find some useful commentary on Iran in the hyperlinks. The issue centers around how and why so many in the West failed to understand what was happening and accordingly delivered themselves of predictions that make Madame Zelda look good by comparison. That’s a worthwhile subject. (Note to website designer: be kinder to your neurons and synapses. They certainly did not evolve in the chemical environment you have imposed on them.)