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Some Suggestions For America's Inert President

by danps Sat May 29th, 2010 at 07:49:38 AM EST

The president, along with some of his defenders, have been protesting that his ability to address the environmental meltdown in the Gulf is limited.  Not everyone agrees his hands are tied so tightly, though.

Cross posted from Pruning Shears.

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

We are in the midst of what is probably the worst environmental catastrophe in our nation's history, and it looks like the damage will continue to worsen for the next few months.  Barack Obama may not know this yet, but his credibility and leadership are being destroyed along with the ecosystem of the Gulf Coast.  He has come under heavy criticism even from Democratic strategists and analysts in the capitol, usually among his most reliable allies.  It has gotten so bad that even wingnut welfare shops have started getting off tough but fair commentary.

When the geyser erupted the right wing half heartedly pushed a "this is HIS Katrina" line, on the anemic logic that both were crises in the Gulf states.  As the weeks have gone on the comparison has started to become apt, though.  As then, our president pays lip service to the magnitude of the problem but does not seem to truly comprehend it.  Bush had his "tidal wave of compassion for hurricane victims," Obama has his "plug the damn hole."  Bush had an empty, ostentatious announcement from the scene and now Obama has his.  It is almost an invitation to reprise Stephen Colbert:

I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.
(Speaking of mockery, the following is still on the official White House web site (via): "President Obama will keep the broken promises to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He and Vice President Biden will take steps to ensure that the federal government will never again allow such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response to occur.")

Some of his supporters have been frustratingly eager to excuse his lethargic attitude.  There has been a sort of defensive "oh yeah?  Well why don't you tell us what he should do" response from bloggers like Jed Lewison and John Cole that show an entirely inverted understanding of how politics is supposed to work.  I generally enjoy their writing, but really: It isn't my job to think up the answers!  It's the job of our leaders to think up the answers!  That's what they are there for!  That's the fucking point of representative democracy!  I've already got a job, I'm kind of busy here; I'm certainly willing to toss out any suggestions I have, kick in a few bucks for various relief efforts, and generally do what I can given the distance - but coming up with effective policies is what we elect people for!  (To John's credit his commenters pointed out an excellent list from Rayne and he addressed it in a separate post.)

There are longer term items the president could do that wouldn't help right now but would be enormously helpful going forward.  Dan Froomkin reported some other options, including using supertankers to suck in seawater and oil.  And if we don't have supertankers, buy some at above market price, goddammit.  God knows we bought above market from Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, and we don't have a scrap of infrastructure to show for it.

Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines parish in Louisiana offered this suggestion:

we have a company right here in Plaquemines parish, Versabol (ph), that has a plan to put an upside-down barge over the oil, when it fills up, move it aside, put another one, lift that barge up. They have the equipment.  They have the ability.  My beliefs is this company wants to do it.  They want to put that technology, and that would capture the oil.
We spend over half a trillion dollars every year on the military; why not get the navy in there and have them monitor and document everything they can?  Even if they cannot get to the gusher, they could help us understand what exactly the hell is going on.

Maybe all these suggestions are harebrained Rube Goldberg fantasies that don't stand a chance of succeeding.  But you know what?  The existing brain trust has repeatedly, spectacularly failed.  So try anything.  Try Nungesser's dome today.  If it doesn't work, try supertankers tomorrow.  If that doesn't work, try something else again.  I and a lot of people are angry right now because they want to see this issue receive the attention it deserves.  The government ought to be throwing absolutely everything it has at the problem.  If it was, that would be abundantly clear without bland assurances and stage managed displays of irritation.

And with all due respect: If you don't have any ideas of your own, what the hell good are you?

by danps (dan at pruningshears (dot) us) on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 07:50:48 AM EST
You want what ... a govt. that solves problems for the general public ???  I haven't seen anything like that since the Carter years, late '70s.  The Obama crowd is just watered down Bush.  Get used to it.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 08:06:14 AM EST
As soon as something happens in the US that is larger than the "free market" (TM) or a corporate entity can handle, it is suddenly the responsibility of the government to put a band-aid on the problem. And then the American taxpayer has to pay for it. But ask for universal health care and people run around in circles screaming as if their hair is on fire. I prognosticate a dire future for this place.
by US Blues on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 09:29:41 AM EST
I'm looking forward to the US following the USSR model, for exactly the same reasons, and that will free up California to really succeed.  I'm an optimist.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 09:33:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yup, you got that right, usb.

i just read some maroon on digg, say that in his perfect libertarian system, someone would have been the owner of the gulf ecosystem, and someone else the shoreline, and they could just sue for damages!

jesus, what happened to rational thought?

what happened to the idea of the commons, or the common weal? we DO own the earth, it's all we have, and some psychos are fouling it, and telling us it's our fault because we are buying their oil at the pumps, when anyone who's done any research on the history, can tell you that the oil companies have sat on patents, squelched public transport, redesigned suburban living to be entirely automobile dependent, made an electric car then 'disappeared' it, perpetuated illegality of hemp so people couldn't be independent of pharma and grow their own fuel, sent our kids to war in hellholes the devil would shun,and now to top it all, they're spinning lies and covering tracks to avoid any accountability or effective change.

goddamn the whoring senators and congressmen in on this century old scam, sold out to Body Odour, Big Oil, and Barack Obama, Barf-Omatic.

in honour of your excellent handle i humbly dedicate this ditty to their downfall

Pay Pay Pay       2005

We're the rape-o-looters, need planets to trash
We ain't too fussy, long as you pay cash
This earth's a bonanza, we want the whole pie
All we gotta do is learn the lingo and lie

See the sheeple line up, and pay in blood
As we pipe them their crude through the sand and the mud
the children are choking, eyes streaming tears
As the media rinses out the space between their ears

Peak oil, black gold, miracle juice
You want it, we got it, turn the free market loose
Suck it up, darlin, 'cause you know that we like it that way
G-g-g-g-guzzle, and pay, pay, pay

It's progress, we told them, and they sure believed
As the cancer rates soared, and the families grieved
The CEO's got himself a getaway plan
It's a little bit of Texas jn Afghanistan
Llttle old oil-well right out the back
Big SUV, I'm all right, Jack
Don't give a toss about the future, won't be there you see
Don't you ever forget, this is all about me

Peak oil, black gold, miracle juice
You want it, we got it, turn the big boys loose
Suck it up, baby, 'cause you know that we want it that way
G-g-g-g-guzzle, g-g-g-g-guzzle, and pay, pay, pay.

Pay, pay, pay...

rap it over a fast funk beat

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 05:09:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your ditty deserves a diary in its own right!

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 06:45:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there are a couple of things that make this different from Katrina. For one thing, the oil extraction industry is deeply embedded in the American (and European) economy. Fixing the problem is going to take a lot more than a few Navy ships.

Another thing is that Katrina was a natural disaster--although obviously worsened by the poor choice of location for New Orleans and a series of bad decisions about levee design--that is guaranteed to happen again. There will be another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, regardless of government action. But the Deepwater Horizon disaster is 100% man-made. If we weren't drilling into rock formations that are under tens of thousands of PSI (thousands of bars) of pressure of explosive inflammable, they would just sit there like they have for the last few million years...

Also, there is embedded in your plea for action an assumption that there is something that can be done about this. But maybe there isn't. BP knows as much about deep water drilling as anybody (maybe they don't implement everything they know, for cost reasons, but they still know it). They're saying that they might not be able to stop the leak until the relief wells are completed. What they're not saying is that even with the relief wells, they might not be able to stop the leak. It might be unstoppable. There might be, in fact, NO WAY to stop it.

There is not a technical solution to every problem! Not even for problems that technology gets you into in the first place!

The scary thing is that Deepwater Horizon was working in a bit over a km of depth. There are plans to drill in water more than 3 km deep. Even if they do get this blowout under control, eventually there will be one that is big and completely uncontrollable. There is no regulation or policy in place that will prevent that from happening; it's just a matter of time.

by asdf on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 09:59:57 AM EST

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