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Posts Tagged ‘BP’

DONALD TRUMP AND THE OOBLECK

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2017 at 12:01 am

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) published over 60 children’s books, which were often filled with imaginative characters and rhyme.

Among his most famous books were Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Honored in his lifetime (1904-1991) for the joy he brought to countless children, Dr. Seuss may well prove one of the unsung prophets of our environmentally-threatened age.

Image result for images of dr. seuss

Dr. Seuss

In 1949, he penned Bartholomew and the Oobleck, the story of a young page who must rescue his kingdom from a terrifying, man-made substance called Oobleck.

The story is quickly told:

Derwin, the King of Didd, announces he’s bored with sunshine, rain, fog and snow. He wants a new kind of weather.

So he calls in his black magicians and gives them the order. The magicians assure him they can create it.

“What will you call it?” asks the king.

“We’ll call it Oobleck,” says one of the magicians.

“What will it be like?” asks King Didd.

“We don’t know, Sire,” the magician replies. “We’ve never created Oobleck before.”

The next morning, Oobleck–a greenish, glue-like substance—starts raining.

The king orders Bartholomew, the royal page, to tell the Bell Ringer that today will be a holiday. But the bell doesn’t ring—because it’s filled with Oobleck.

Image result for Images of "Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Bartholomew warns the Royal Trumpeter about the Oobleck, but the trumpet gets stopped up with the goo. 

The Captain of the Guards thinks the Oobleck is pretty and sees no danger in it—until he eats some.  Instantly, his mouth is glued shut.

The Oobleck rain intensifies. The falling blobs—now as big as buckets full of broccoli—now break into the palace, immobilizing the servants and guards.

At the climax of the story, Bartholomew confronts King Derwin for giving such a rash order: “If you can’t do anything else,” says Bartholomew, “at least you can say you’re sorry.”

King Derwin refuses, and Bartholomew says, “If you can look at all the horror you’ve caused and not say you’re sorry, you’re no sort of king at all.”

In real-life, such a king would have instantly ordered Bartholomew’s execution. But this is a children’s story.

So, overcome with guilt, King Derwin utters the magic words: “You’re right, this is all my fault, and I am sorry.”

Suddenly the Oobleck stops raining and the sun melts away the rest.

With life returning to normal, King Derwin mounts the bell tower and rings the bell. He proclaims a holiday dedicated not to Oobleck, but to rain, sun, fog, and snow, the four elements of Nature—of which Man is but a part.

* * * * *

Flash forward to the following Donald Trump tweets:

November 6, 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” 

December 6, 2013: “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” 

January 1, 2014: “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”

On May 5, 2016, as a Presidential candidate, Trump pointed to signs being waved at a rally in Charleston, South Carolina:in the crowd: “I see over here: ‘Trump digs coal,’ That’s true. I do.”

Donald Trump

Upon becoming President, Trump picked Scott Pruitt, a leading climate change denier, as director of the Environmental Protection Agency: “So no, I would not agree that [human activity] it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,”Pruitt said on CNBS’s program, “Squawk Box”

On March 16, 2017, the Trump administration released a budget proposal to eliminate $100 million in funding for the EPA’s climate work, including scientific research.

On March 28, 2017, Trump ordered his administration to rewrite the Clean Power Plan.  His objective: To gut former President Barack Obama’s landmark restrictions on power plant emissions.  

On June 1, 2017, Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate-change agreement deal.

There are forces in Nature far more powerful than anything Man and his puny strength can defy—or harness. And we invoke the wrath of those forces at our own peril.”

In the world of children’s stories, it’s possible for a king to undo the terrible damage he’s unleashed by finding the courage to say: “I’m sorry.”

In real-life, tyrants almost never say “I’m sorry,” no matter how enormous their mistakes and/or crimes.

From 1936 to 1938, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin slaughtered the cream of his own Army and Air Force. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin blamed his remaining generals for the massive defeats inflicted by the Wehrmacht.

And as Soviet forces finally closed on Berlin in April, 1945, and Adolf Hitler prepared to commit suicide in his underground bunker, he blamed the German people for losing the war he had started.

Saying “I’m sorry” cannot reverse decades of rampant environmental abuse. To believe that it can is as ridiculous as believing that self-righteous tyrants will ever take responsibility for their own crimes and follies.

SCIENCE VS. SUPERSTITION

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on April 22, 2013 at 12:01 am

Bureaucracies are not made up of robot-like machines. They are comprised of flesh-and-blood men and women.

That includes even the most important bureaucracies–such as those of the House, Senate and White House.

And as much as Americans like to believe their elected leaders always behave rationally and intelligently, they don’t. In fact, they can’t.

In a democracy, those who hold public office reflect the values of those who sent them there.

Consider the following:

On the eve of the 2012 Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, a Public Policy Poll survey revealed a series of startling truths about the voters in those states.

Among the Republican voters of Alabama:

  • Only 26 percent believe in evolution.
  • Sixty percent don’t believe in it.
  • Thirteen percent aren’t sure about it.
  • Twenty-one percent still think interracial marriage should be illegal.
  • Twelve percent aren’t sure whether it should be.
  • Forty-five percent believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
  • Fourteen percent think he’s a Christian–although he’s always attended a Christian church.
    •Forty-one percent aren’t sure.

Among Republican voters in Mississippi:

  • Only 22 percent believe in evolution.
  • Eleven percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-four percent think interracial marriage should be legal.
  • Twenty-nine percent believe it shouldn’t be.
  • Seventeen percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-two percent think President Obama is a Muslim.
  • Only 12 percent think he’s a Christian.

These are among the voters who vilified a black, Harvard-educated, rationalist Obama–first as a Presidential candidate, and then as President.

And they aren’t going to change. It’s easier–and more comforting–to believe we are fallen angels instead of risen apes.

Just as it was easier for Germans in 1920s Germany to deny they had been defeated on the battlefields of World War 1.

It was far more satisfying to believe–and assert–that they had been “stabbed in the back” by Jews and “slackers” and Communists at home. Out of this denial of reality came the Final Solution.

Now, fast-forward to the 21st century.

The winter of 2011-2012 was the 4th warmest winter on record, behind 2000, 1999, and 1992. Winter temperatures have increased by about 1.7°F per century.

Despite ever-mounting evidence that global warming is indeed a reality, millions of right-wing voters refuse to accept it. The largest portion of these are concentrated in the South.

In April, 2010, America suffered its worst oil-spill disaster. For the next three months, 4.9 million barrels worth of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP oil rig.

BP tried one oil-capping method after another–and the country feared that nothing might work. Those who had cheered on Sarah Palin in her chant of “Drill, baby, drill” during the 2008 Presidential race suddenly fell silent.

The second anniversary of America’s worst environmental disaster–April 20–is fast approaching.

And the country’s oil- and coal-producing conglomerates are flooding the airwaves with billions of dollars’ worth of lying propaganda.

“Clean coal” ads promise that America can meet its needs for energy and protect the environment. These ads never mention that the technologies for supposedly doing this are still in the experimental stage.

But most of the people watching these ads take them at face value. They want to believe they can have all the cheap gas they can get–and not feel guilty about destroying the world for their children.

Once again, millions of Americans–including those who live in the still-damaged Gulf of Mexico–are loudly demanding that President Obama “unleash America’s energy resources.”

President Obama is easily one of the best-educated men to occupy the White House. Like John F. Kennedy, he believes in rationalilty as a problem-solving tool.

But smarts at the top cannot make up for irrationality at the bottom.

During the 2008 Presidential race, Obama made a near-fatal mistake: He said that many Americans “cling to their guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The fact that this was–and remains–absolutely true did not help Obama.  In fact, it threatened to cost him the election.

When an educated leader who believes in rationality must persuade a largely uneducated and irrational electorate, he must reshape his message accordingly.

That strategy must be the product of rational planning.  But the arguments aimed at such an audience must appeal to emotions rather than reason.

Republicans learned the lessons of emotion-driven politics decades ago.  Consider the words they routinely use to describe their political opponents:

Liberals…radicals…traitors…subversives…terrorists…socialists…communists.

In Mein Kampf–“My Struggle”–Adolf Hitler outlined his principles for the effective use of propaganda:

“…All effective propaganda must be confined to a few basic essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in sterotyped forumulas.

“Those slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Rationalistic politicians like Barack Obama believe they can attain their goals by appealing to the rationality of voters.  They forget–or ignore–the bitter truth that most people decide with their emotions, not with their intellect.

Until Obama and other Democrats learn this invaluable lesson–and start applying it–they will continue to lose to their Republican enemies.

WATCH THEIR HANDS, NOT HER LIPS

In Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2012 at 12:05 am

Secret Service agents will tell you: Watch the hands.

If someone’s going to assault you, he’s going to use his hands.  Don’t worry about his mouth–unless he’s using it to distract you from his hands.

Or, as in the case of Ann Romney, her mouth.

Consider Ann Romney’s address on behalf of her husband at the Republican National Convention on August 28.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): It’s the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • “The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • In short, re-criminalize abortions. 
  • Imprison doctors who perform them and patients who receive them.  
  • Allow businesses to refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive use.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): You can trust Mitt.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.” 
  • In short: Let’s retain the system that allows the Presidential candidate with the lowest number of popular votes–like George W. Bush in 2000–to assume office.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): And I want us to think tonight about the love we all share for those Americans, our brothers and sisters, who are going through difficult times, whose days are never easy, nights are always long, and whose work never seems done.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Despite the growing disparity between the richest 1% and the rest of the population, refuse to accept any tax increase on America’s most privileged individuals and corporations. 
  • In fact, their taxes should be vastly reduced, if not eliminated.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): We were very young. Both still in college. There were many reasons to delay marriage, and you know? We just didn’t care. We got married and moved into a basement apartment.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • If you’re gay, forget about any marriage rights for you. 
  • Affirms the rights of states and the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriage.
  • Backs a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): You know what those late night phone calls with an elderly parent are like and the long weekend drives just to see how they’re doing. You know the fastest route to the local emergency room and which doctors actually answer the phone
when you call at night.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Radically change Medicare and Medicaid. 
  • Turn Medicare into a voucher healthcare system–where elderly patients must go shopping among insurance companies hoping to find an affordable plan.  
  • Raise the age of eligibility so that patients must wait longer to begin receiving treatment under this plan.
  • Transform Medicaid services for the poor into a block grant program where states could use as little of those monies as they wanted to provide sub-minimum care. 
  • Monies not used for medical care could be used to cover other politically-oriented costs, such as filling potholes.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): No one will work harder. No one will care more. No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live!

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • “We will end the EPA’s war on coal and encourage the increased safe development in all regions of the nation’s coal resources.”
  • In short: Despite rapidly escalating evidence of fluorocarbons as the cause of global warming, let’s make full use of the filthiest source of energy available.
  • Demand that Congress prohibit the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations “that will harm the nation’s economy and threaten millions of jobs over the next quarter century.”
  • Forget about the wholesale environmental pollution triggered by BP’s oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. 
  • Set up similar rigs along the fragile Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a “storybook marriage.” Well….those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Gut the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. 
  • Allow insurance companies to once again discriminate against patients for pre-existing conditions.  
  • Allow insurance companies to once again place caps on lifetime coverage. 
  • Allow insurance companies to once again be able to arbitrarily cancel your coverage. 
  • Re-impose insurance company barriers to getting emergency service–if a hospital lies outside your plan’s network, that’s your tough luck.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): Tonight I want to talk to you about love.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Provide unlimited magazines for assault weapons–and the would-be mass murderers who wish to possess them. 
  • End background checks on those wanting to buy weapons designed entirely for military use.

* * * * *

Of course Ann Romney loves her husband.  Fine.  Let’s congratulate her for the happiness she’s shared with him and wish her well in the future.

Then let’s elect a President–and a Congress–who oppose everything stated within the Republican platform.

IRRATIONAL? NO PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 16, 2012 at 2:09 am

Bureaucracies are not made up of robot-like machines.  They are comprised of flesh-and-blood men and women.

That includes even the most important bureaucracies–such as those of the House, Senate and White House.

And as much as Americans like to believe their elected leaders always behave rationally and intelligently, they don’t.  In fact, they can’t.

In a democracy, those who hold public office reflect the values of those who sent them there.

Consider the following:

On the eve of the 2012 Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, a Public Policy Poll survey revealed a series of startling  truths about the voters in those states.

Among the Republican voters of Alabama:

  • Only 26 percent believe in evolution.
  • Sixty percent don’t believe in it.
  • Thirteen percent aren’t sure about it.
  • Twenty-one percent still think interracial marriage should be illegal.
  • Twelve percent aren’t sure whether it should be.
  • Forty-five percent believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
  • Fourteen percent think he’s a Christian–although he’s always attended a Christian church.
  • Forty-one percent aren’t sure.

Among Republican voters in Mississippi:

  • Only 22 percent believe in evolution.
  • Eleven percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-four percent think interracial marriage should be legal.
  • Twenty-nine percent believe it shouldn’t be.
  • Seventeen percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-two percent think President Obama is a Muslim.
  • Only 12 percent think he’s a Christian.

These are among the voters who vilified a black, Harvard-educated, rationalist Obama–first as a Presidential candidate, and then as President.

And they aren’t going to change.  It’s easier–and more comforting–to believe we are fallen angels instead of risen apes.

Just as it was easier for Germans in 1920s Germany to deny they had been defeated on the battlefields of World War 1.

It was far more satisfying to believe–and assert–that they had been “stabbed in the back” by “Jews and Communists” at home.  Out of this denial of reality came the Final Solution.

Now, fast-forward to the 21st century.

The winter of 2011-2012 was the 4th warmest winter on record, behind 2000, 1999, and 1992. Winter temperatures have increased by about 1.7°F per century.

Despite ever-mounting evidence that global warming is indeed a reality, millions of right-wing voters refuse to accept it.  The largest portion of these are concentrated in the South.

In April, 2010, America suffered its worst oil-spill disaster.  For the next three months, 4.9 million barrels worth of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP oil rig.

BP tried one oil-capping method after another–and the country feared that nothing might work.  Those who had cheered on Sarah Palin in her chant of “Drill, baby, drill” during the 2008 Presidential race suddenly fell silent.

The second anniversary of America’s worst environmental disaster–April 20–is fast approaching.

And the country’s oil- and coal-producing conglomerates are flooding the airwaves with billions of dollars’ worth of lying propaganda.

“Clean coal” ads promise that America can meet its needs for energy and protect the environment.  These ads never mention that the technologies for supposedly doing this are still in the experimental stage.

But most of the people watching these ads take them at face falue.  They want to believe they can have all the cheap gas they can get–and not feel guilty about destroying the world for their children.

Once again, millions of Americans–including those who live in the still-damaged Gulf of Mexico–are demanding that President Obama “unleash America’s energy resources.”

President Obama is easily one of the best-educated men to occupy the White House.  Like John F. Kennedy, he believes in rationality as a problem-solving tool.

But smarts at the top cannot make up for irrationality at the bottom.

During the 2008 Presidential race, Obama made a near-fatal mistake.  He said that many Americans “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The fact that this was–and remains–absolutely true did not help Obama.  In fact, it threatened to cost him the election.

No doubt Obama knows there are millions of Americans who will rabidly hate him until he leaves office.  And many will hate him long afterward.

But he may believe this is another problem that lends itself to rational solutions.  It isn’t.

If he’s to win re-election, he’ll have to pursue a strategy that aims to:

  • Neutralize some portion of those voters who hate him–that is, persuade them to sit out the election; and
  • Persuade independents to vote for him.

The strategy must be the product of rational planning.  But the arguments aimed at these audiences must appeal to emotions rather than reason.

Emotions such as greed, fear and pride.

Obama will do it–he wants another four years in office.  But he will hate himself for doing so.

LOVING LESS, HATING MORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Uncategorized on June 19, 2010 at 10:51 am

In his play, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare has Marcus Brutus justify his participation in the assassination of his longtime friend with the following words: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”

President Barack Obama’s Republican critics could have said something very similar during their criticism of him for setting up a $20 billion escrow account to compensate victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

That they opposed the President “not because I love the oil industry less, but because I hate President Obama more.”

On June 17, Congressman Joseph Barton offered a badly-timed apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward.

“I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is–again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown,” Barton, a Texas Republican, said. “So I apologize.”

Barton was apologizing for an announcement made by President Obama on June 16. After meeting with the President at the White House, BP’s leaders had agreed to set up a $20 billion escrow account to–in Obama’s words–“provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored.”

Barton said he was “ashamed” of what had happened at the White House and called it a “tragedy of the first proportion” that a private company would be subjected to a “$20 billion shakedown” that’s really a government “slush fund.” Barton said it was unprecedented and illegal.

Barton has received $100,470 in campaign donations from oil and gas interests since the beginning of 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The same group reported that since 1990, the oil and gas industries have given more than $1.4 million to Barton’s campaigns–the most of any House member during that period.

Barton is scheduled to become the Republican Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is supposed to oversee the actions of energy companies.

Nor was Barton the only Republican to condemn the President rather than Gulf-polluting BP. Congressman Tom Price of Georgia attacked the escrow account as an example of Obama’s “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

“These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this administration’s drive for greater power and control,” Price charged.

Yet another Republican, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, criticized the BP disaster fund even before it was announced. Bachmann–who has repeatedly damned Obama as a socialist–called it a “redistribution-of-wealth fund” during a Heritage Foundation luncheon in Washington.

Bachmann told The Washington Post: “If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there–‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be.

“They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and made chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest–they’ve got to be legitimate claims.”

Bachmann also accused the president of demonizing BP. “He makes them evil, and what we’ve got to ask ourselves is: Do we really want to be paying $9 for a gallon of gas? Because that could be the final result of this,” she said.

Bachmann made these comments 57 days after BP’s shattered Deepwater Horizon oil rig began spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Whose side is she on?” asked Tarryl Clark, Bachmann’s Democratic opponent in Minnesota’s conservative 6th Congressional District.

Putting Bachmann’s comments into perspective, Clark said she was giving “advice to the corporate honchos at BP on how to keep themselves from being ‘fleeced’ by the American people.”

Contrary to the stereotyped charge, bureaucracies are not made up of faceless cogs. They are comprised of men and women–whose loves, fears, hates and ambitions are reflected within those institutions.

Nor can bureaucracies exist in a vacumn. Every bureaucracy has a constituency–if not several constituencies. And the people who comprise that constituency expect their needs–if not their wishes–to be met.

This proves true even in dictatorships. The dictator may sit at the top of the pile. But if those who serve him–such as the secret police and the army–feel ignored or slighted, they will take appropriate action–and soon there will be a new dictator.

Adolf Hitler, for example, was careful to retain support among the top leaders of the German Armed Forces, by giving them titles and estates–and an entire continent to dominate.

Thus, it is a mistake to view statements such as those made by Barton, Price and Bachmann as separate from the views held by the constituencies these politicians represent. If the voters who placed–and keep–them in power didn’t fully support their hate-filled views of President Obama, such statements simply wouldn’t be made.

Or, if they were, the voters would quickly register their anger and turn such representatives out of office. It is because such politicians truly represent the hatreds and fears and greeds of their constituencies that they got into office. And it is because they continue to reflect those hatreds, fears and greeds that they continue to remain there.

MACHIAVELLI: SOME HELPFUL ADVICE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA–PART TWO

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on June 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm

From: Niccolo Machiavelli
To: President Barack Obama

In my last letter to you, Mr. President, I noted that Columnist Jonathan Berr advised you to “really crank up your energy level” in criticizing those responsible for the BP oil spill.

I do not share Berr’s opinion that losing your temper in public would prove helpful. On the contrary, as I stated in my book, The Discourses, which outlines how to preserve liberty within a republic:

A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.

On the other hand, your countrymen are long overdue for a White House history lesson–conducted directly from the Oval Office–on who is truly responsible for the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Consider the following examples:

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.

• Halliburton–a market leader in the energy sector–gave its former CEO, Dick Cheney, a check for $34 million after he was nominated as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in 2000. Had this happened in any other country, the American media would have denounced it as a bribe to influence public policy.

• 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 have a history of working for Halliburton. Their job: To oversee 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.

• The Cheney policies of environmental pillage recieved strong and widespread support from influential Republicans, such as Columnist Ann Coulter, who said: “The lower species are here for our use. God said so: ‘Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet–it’s yours.’ That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars–that’s the Biblical view.”

• And Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin gave her own blessing to oil drilling–off-shore and on-shore–when she coined the now-infamous war-cry, “Drill, baby, drill!” It was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at Republican rallies. For some reason, however, it has now completely vanished from Republican political events.

In presenting this history, Mr. President, you should boldly place blame on where–and whom–it lies. Your predacessor, Bill Clinton, had such an opportunity in 1994, at the funeral of his predacessor, Richard Nixon. And he blew it.

He could have reminded his countrymen how lucky they were that this hypocritical arch-criminal had been forced to resign from office. He could have spoken of the triumph of a free press and judiciary and Congress over a power-crazed felon.

Instead, Clinton’s eulogy resembled one that might have been given for Adolf Hitler–had he died of natural causes 20 years after the Third Reich collapsed. Imagine Hitler’s surviving henchmen gathered at his gravesite and calling up fond memories of “the Fuhrer’s great heart” and speaking reverently of what he “meant to do” instead of the infamy and death and suffering he left as his legacy.

Finally–for now–Mr. President, you must take heed of the warning I gave you in my earlier book, The Prince:

“Men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others.”

In short, Mr. President, you must abandon your instinctive trait of turning the other cheek when attacked by arrogant and ruthless enemies. As I have earlier advised you:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. And therefore it is necessary for a [leader], who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”

BUSH’S BP IS OBAMA’S KATRINA

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.

BP AND THE OILBLECK

In Bureaucracy, Politics, Social commentary on May 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) published over 60 children’s books, which were often filled with imaginative characters and rhyme. Among his most famous books were Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Honored in his lifetime (1904-1991) for the joy he brought to countless children, Dr. Seuss may well prove one of the unsung prophets of our environmentally-threatened age.

In 1949, he penned Bartholomew and the Oobleck, the story of a young page who must rescue his kingdom from a terrifying, man-made substance called Oobleck.

The story is quickly told: Derwin, the King of Didd, announces he’s bored with sunshine, rain, fog and snow.  He wants a new kind of weather.

So he calls in his black magicians and gives them the order.  The magicians assure him they can create it.

“What will you call it?” asks the king.

“We’ll call it Oobleck,” says one of the magicians.

“What will it be like?” asks King Didd.

“We don’t know, Sire,” the magician replies.  “We’ve never created Ooleck before.”

The next morning, Oobleck–a greenish, glue-like substnace–starts raining.

The king orders Bartholomew, the royal page, to tell the Bell Ringer that today will be a holiday.  But the bell doesn’t ring because it’s filled with Oobleck.

Bartholomew warns the Royal Trumpeter about the Oobleck, but the trumpet gets stopped up with the goo.

The Captain of the Guards thinks the Oobleck is pretty and sees no danger in it–until he eats some.  Instantly, his mouth is glued shut.

The Oobleck rain intensifies.  The falling blobs–now as big as buckets full of brocolli–now break into the palace, immobilizing the servants and guards.

At the climax of the story, Bartholomew confronts King Derwin for giving such a rash order.

“If you can’t do anything else,” says Bartholomew, “at least you can say you’re sorry.”

King Derwin refuses, and Bartholomew says, “If you can look at all the horror you’ve caused and not say you’re sorry, you’re no sort of king at all.”

In real-life, the king would have almost certainly ordered Bartholomew’s execution.  But this is a children’s story.

So, overcome with guilt, King Derwin utters the magic words: “You’re right, this is all my fault, and I am sorry.”

Suddenly the Oobleck stops raining and the sun melts away the rest. With life returning to normal, King Derwin mounts the bell tower and rings the bell. He proclaims a holiday dedicated not to Oobleck, but to rain, sun, fog, and snow, the four elements of Nature—of which Man is but a part.

* * * * *

Flash forward to May 29, 2010: BP has admitted defeat in its latest attempt to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by pumping mud into a busted well. More than 1.2 million gallons of mud was used, but most of it escaped out of the damaged riser

In the six weeks since the spill began on April 20, BP has failed in each attempt to stop the gusher.

First, the company used robot submarines to try to close valves on the massive blowout preventer. But the valves wouldn’t close.

Two weeks later, BP tried to place a 100-ton concrete box over the leak. But this was soon clogged with ice-like crystals.

Then engineers used a mile-long siphon tube to suck up the gushing oil. But the tube sucked up only 900,000 gallons of oil—out of an estimated 18- to 40 million gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf.

“This scares everybody,” admitted BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles. “The fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far. Many of the things we’re trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet.”

There is a moral to be learned here—but not by right-wing fanatics like Sarah Palin and the “Drill, baby, drill” crowd. It’s only for those who are willing to confront the truth head-on:

There are forces in Nature far more powerful than anything Man and his puny strength can defy—or harness. And we invoke the wrath of those forces at our own peril.

In the world of children’s stories, it’s possible for a king to undo the terrible damage he’s unleashed by finding the courage to say: “I’m sorry.” BP’s top executives—and the government officials who refused to hold the company accountable—have been saying “I’m sorry” for the last six weeks.

It hasn’t proven enough, and the residents of Louisiana—and states well beyond it—will be living with the damage of this environmental holocaust for decades to come.

MACHIAVELLI: ADVICE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm

From: Niccolo Machiavelli
To: Barack Obama, President of the United States

I regret to inform you, Mr. President, of two unpleasant pieces of news.

First: On April 20, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank about 40 miles southeast of 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.

Second: A May 24-25 USA TODAY/Gallup Poll gives you a poor rating by 53% of your fellow countrymen in your handling of the oil spill off the Gulf.

Fortunately, you can turn this situation around–but only if you’re willing to make some hard decisions and make your enemies even more angry.

First, you should realize that you are partly responsible for the sharp drop in your popularity.

During the 2008 Presidential race, you vigorously opposed offshore oil drilling. This got you the votes of all those liberals who now call themselves “progressives.” But after you became President and the public demanded lower oil prices, you decided that offshore oil drilling was all right after all.

Remember the counsel I offered you in The Prince on how to avoid becoming despised or hated?

…The prince must…avoid those things which will make him hated or despised….He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute—which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger….

I sought to warn Bill Clinton against this mistake, but he never listened to me–and kept making it throughout his Presidency.

I also warned him to stop making constant concessions to his worst Republican enemies. Right to the end of his Presidency he thought he could charm his enemies into liking and supporting him. So he never learned:

…One ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote; but when it approaches, they revolt.

And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service.

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose–but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

I greatly fear, Mr. President, that you will share the same disappointed–and disappointing–fate as President Clinton.

I also fear, Mr. President, that you have not fully accepted the realities of your position–and the world we all live in:

Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality. For how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather learn to bring about his own ruin rather than his preservation. A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

Finally, Mr. President, you must be prepared to act boldly or cautiously, as the situation demands–and must be able to recognize which quality is called for at any given time:

There are two methods of fighting—the one by law, the other by force. The first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary for a prince to know well how to use both the beast and the man.

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this.

You are now almost 18 months into your Presidency. You have made some mistakes and suffered some setbacks–as all Presidents must. But there is still time to learn from them–and create victories that will live on in the hearts of your countrymen long after your term of office has ended.

CONSPIRACIES VS. STUPIDITIES

In Bureaucracy, Politics on May 26, 2010 at 11:04 am

In his May 24 column, “Rand Paul’s Amazing Meltdown,” conservative columnist Michael Medved poses the question: “Could it be that the media establishment wanted [Rand] Paul to win and treated him respectfully in order to preserve his chances of victory?”

Specifically, he states: “Rand Paul’s amazing meltdown in his first week as the GOP Senate nominee in Kentucky raises serious questions about media conspiracies–not because the network talking heads decided to ask him tough questions, but because they waited to pose those challenges until after he’d won his primary and the Republicans were stuck with him.”

It’s easy to make a conspiratorial argument for anything. And such thinking has huge appeal for both the Left and Right. For almost 50 years, liberals like Mark Lane and Oliver Stone have lived well off the contention that JFK died at the hands of a conspiracy.

On the Right are those who believe that members of the Nixon Administration deliberately sabotaged the President by sending burglars into the Watergate Hotel to be arrested in the act.

Indulging in such conspiracy theories is easier than accepting the brutal truth that Kennedy died at the hands of a malcontented loner, and that Nixon was brought down by his own criminality rather than traitors within the Republican party.

Both sides conveniently forget this truism to be found in Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on the gaining and holding of power, The Prince:

Experience shows that there have been very many conspiracies, but few have turned out well. For whoever conspires cannot act alone, and cannot find companions except among those who are discontented. And as soon as you have disclosed your intention to a malcontent, you give him the means of satisfying himself.

Medved, too, has apparently forgotten this. Medved cites the media’s respectful treating of Paul as evidence of a conspiracy to sabotage not just him but the Republican party’s chances of victory in the Kentucky Senate race.

But what if the media had not treated Paul respectfully? It’s a sure bet that Medved and his fellow conservatives would have then accused the media of publicly trying to derail his candidacy.

Since the media treated Paul with the same respect they showed the other candidates in the race, Republicans like Medved must shop for a new theory for Paul’s “meltdown.”

That is, they must find a way to explain his remarks that while he opposes racial discrimination, he also opposes laws–such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964–that ban it. They must also put a spin in his more recent comment attacking President Obama as “really un-American in his criticism of business” by demanding that BP be held accountable for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s certainly easier to attack the media as conspirators than to accept that one’s party has cast its lot with a man who says things that outrage a great many voters.

Consider, for example, his positions–as listed on his own website–on:

ABORTION: “I believe we may be able to save millions of lives in the near future by allowing states to pass their own anti-abortion laws….I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade. Such legislation would only require a majority vote, making it more likely to pass than a pro-life constitutional amendment.” In short, Big Government should not intrude into the lives of its citizens–unless a woman wants to control her own body.

ENERGY: “Our energy crisis stems from too much government intervention. The solution requires allowing businesses and ideas to compete.” If you like the way BP has handled the ever-spreading oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll love Paul’s attitude that “What’s good for BP is good for the country.”

HEALTH CARE: “Like other areas of the economy where the federal government wields its heavy hand, health care is over-regulated and in need of serious market reforms. As Senator, I would ensure that real free market principles are applied to fix this problem.” In short, if 31 million Americans don’t have health care, that’s their tough luck. It’s not the role of the Federal Government to protect its citizens from life-threatening illness just because they can’t afford extortionate medical fees.

For more than 50 years, Republicans have portrayed themselves as the only party worthy of trust. They have repeatedly accused their Democratic opponents of not simply being wrong, but of being traitors–of lusting for the chance to “sell out” America to whichever group seemed most frightening at the moment: Communists, criminals, terrorists or “tax-and-spend” liberals.

Those who believe themselves charged with a sacred mission are prone to see evil conspiracies at work when they slam into a roadblock–especially if that roadblock is of their own making.

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