Archive for June 5th, 2010|Daily archive page


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on June 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm

President Barack Obama has been coming in for a great deal of criticism since April 20.

It was on that day that BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank about 40 miles southeast off the Louisiana coast. The resulting oil spill has pumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, with no end in sight.

From the beginning, President Obama’s enemies on the Right have relentlessly criticized everything about his handling of the crisis. Some have complained that he’s allowed BP too much leeway in trying to cap the leak.

But when he began taking a tough line with BP, Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for Senator from Kentucky, pulled out the old Joseph McCarthy chestnut and declared the President was “really un-American in his criticism of business.”

Others on the Right have slammed Obama for not showing enough anger in public. The President and his supporters have countered that anger, in itself, accomplishes nothing.

When the President attended a White House concert given by Paul McCartney, Republicans attacked him for not working round-the-clock to solve the BP crisis.

These same critics conveniently ignored the embarrassing truth that during his first eight months in office before September 11, President George W. Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time.

Obama’s detractors have totally ignored the most important truth of all: That while Hurricane Katrina–to which the BP crisis has been repeatedly compared–was created by Nature, the BP disaster was created by the secret bureaucratic maneuvers of the Bush administration.

On May 11, MSNBC Political Correspondent Chris Matthews reported: “[Dick Cheney] got…$34 million from Halliburton after he joined the ticket in 2000. He was leaving the company. This wasn’t for services, this was what, goodwill?”

Soon after Cheney took office as Vice President, Minerals Management Service (MMS), the division of the Department of the Interior responsible for ensuring safety in oil-drilling operations, got two new high-ranking appointees. Both turned out to be former employees of Halliburton. In the incestuous world of Washington bureaucratic politics, they would be overseeing their own “former” employer.

MMS declined to mandate certain safety devices required on offshore rigs in other countries and gave BP “a categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act in 2009. This allowed BP to drill in 5,000 feet of water without requiring a detailed environmental impact analysis. BP’s exploration plan called the prospect of an oil spill “unlikely.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, in 2008, Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney found that MMS employees in the division that gathers fees had sex with and accepted gifts from industry contacts while failing to collect almost $200 million due from energy companies.

In addition, Vice President Cheney created an “energy task force” whose members consisted entirely of representatives of the oil, gas and nuclear energy industries. No environmental-protection groups were invited to attend. And no members of the media were allowed to monitor these secret meetings. Energy regulations were drafted by the very companies the government was supposed to be regulating.

According to Chris Matthews, what happened on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was entirely predictable.

“I’ve talked to people in the oil industry,” said Matthews, “and they tell me that no mistake is ever new. No accident is ever new. Everything that ever goes wrong has happened before. And when it happened before…they established safety management procedures from making sure it doesn’t happen again….

“Why didn’t they follow those procedures in this case so it wouldn’t happen, what happened before? They’re acting like this is an act of God, all the right-wingers are saying, ‘Act of God, oh we can’t believe it. It’s poltergeist! Weird spirits did this! God did this!’ But at some point we take responsibility for money-making when money-making goes bad.”

The chickens, in short, have come home to roost. And–like the birds on the contaminated beaches–they have oil in their feathers.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on June 5, 2010 at 10:50 am

In the 1989 movie, Fat Man and Little Boy, the brilliant and ambitious physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Dwight Schultz) comes–too late–to realize he’s made a deal with the devil.

The same proved true for the J. Robert Oppenhiemer of history.

Hired by Army General Leslie Groves (played by Paul Newman) to ramrod construction of an atomic bomb, Oppenheimer has no qualms about using it against Nazi Germany. It’s believed, after all, that German scientists are furiously pursuing work on such a weapon.

And even though the full horror of the extermination camps has not yet been revealed, “Oppie” and many other Jewish scientists working on the Manhattan Project can easily imagine the fate of Jews trapped within the borders of the Third Reich.

But then something unforeseen happens. On May 8, 1945, the Third Reich collapses and signs unconditional surrender terms. Almost at the same time, the U.S. military learns that although some German physicists had tried to make an atomic bomb, they never even got close to producing one.

So Oppenheimer finds himself still working to build the most devastating weapon in history–but now lacking the enemy he had originally signed on to destroy. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has invested nearly $2 billion in the Manhattan Project–at a time when $2 billion truly meant the equivalent of $1 trillion today. Is all that money to go for nothing?

What to do?

Oppenheimer doesn’t have to make that decision. It’s made for him–by Groves, by Groves’ superiors in the Army, and ultimately by the new President, Harry S. Truman.

The bomb will be used, after all. It will just be turned against the Japanese, who are even more hated by most Americans than the Germans.

That the Japanese lack the technological skill of the Germans to produce one doesn’t matter. That they are rapidly being pushed across the Pacific to their home islands doesn’t matter. That American bombers are incinerating Japanese cities at will doesn’t matter. That they are desperately trying to find a way to surrender without losing face doesn’t matter.

What matters is that Pearl Harbor is still fresh in the minds of Americans generally and of the American military in particular. And that now that the Japanese are being pushed back into their home islands, they are fighting ever more fanatically to hold off certain defeat. General Douglas MacArthur, who is scheduled to command the invasion of Japan, has estimated a million American casualties if this goes forward.

Oppenheimer, who has taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley, now finds himself being taught a lesson: That, once set in motion, bureaucracies–like objects–continue to move forward unless something intervenes to stop them. And, in this case, there was no one willing to say: Stop.

So, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. An estimated 80,000 people died instantly. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000-140,000.

On August 9, it was the turn of Nagasaki. Casualty estimates for the dropping of “Fat Man” ranged from 40,000 to 73,884, as well as another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

For Oppenheimer, the three years he has devoted to creating an atomic bomb will prove the pivotal event of his life. He will be praised and damned as an “American Prometheus,” who brought atomic fire to man.

Countless Americans–especially those who would have been ordered to invade Japan–will revere him as the man who brought the war to a quick end. And countless Americans–and non-Americans–will condemn him as a man whose arrogance and ambition led him to arm mankind with the means of its own destruction.

Upon witnessing the first successful atomic explosion near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer had been stunned by the sheer magnitude of destructiveness he had helped unleash. Quoting the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, he murmured: “Now I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

Faced with the massive toll of lives taken by the device he had created, Oppenheimer became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in abolishing nuclear weapons. He insisted that they should be placed under international control. And he tried to persuade American leaders of the dangers of an unchecked arms race.

The climax of his anti-bomb efforts came when he vigorously opposed the creation of a “super” hydrogen bomb. His advice was overruled, however, and construction of this went forward at the same pace that Oppenheimer had once driven others to create the atomic bomb.

The first test of this even more terrifying weapon occurred on November 1, 1952. By 1953, just as Oppenheimer had predicted, the Soviet Union had launched its own H-bomb test.

In a famous meeting with President Truman, Oppenheimer reportedly said, “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.” Truman later claimed that he had offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief, saying, “Here, this will wash it off.”

President Harry S. Truman

It didn’t. Accused during the hysteria of the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of being a Communist traitor, Oppenheimer found himself stripped of his government security clearance in 1954.

Just as he had been unable to prevent the military bureaucracy from moving relentlessly to use the atomic bomb, so, too, was he unable to halt the political bureaucracy from its own rush into cowardice and the wrecking of others’ lives.

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