Saturday, May 29, 2010
Whose Blowout Is It, Anyway?
by Charles Krauthammer
Heres my question: Why are we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?
Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production. (President Obama's tentative, selective opening of some Atlantic and offshore Alaska sites is now dead.) And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, weve had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
So we go deep, ultra deep -- to such a technological frontier that no precedent exists for the April 20 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
There will always be catastrophic oil spills. You make them as rare as humanly possible, but where would you rather have one: in the Gulf of Mexico, upon which thousands depend for their livelihood, or in the Arctic, where there are practically no people? All spills seriously damage wildlife. Thats a given. But why have we pushed the drilling from the barren to the populated, from the remote wilderness to a center of fishing, shipping, tourism and recreation?
Not that the environmentalists are the only ones to blame. Not by far. But it is odd that theyve escaped any mention at all.
The other culprits are pretty obvious. It starts with BP, which seems not only to have had an amazing string of perfect-storm engineering lapses but no contingencies to deal with a catastrophic system failure.
However, the railing against BP for its performance since the accident is harder to understand. I attribute no virtue to BP, just self-interest. What possible interest can it have to do anything but cap the well as quickly as possible? Every day that oil is spilled means millions more in losses, cleanup and restitution.
Federal officials who rage against BP would like to deflect attention from their own role in this disaster. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, whose departments laxity in environmental permitting and safety oversight renders it among the many bearing responsibility, expresses outrage at BPs inability to stop the leak, and even threatens to "push them out of the way."
"To replace them with what? asked the estimable, admirably candid Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander. No one has the assets and expertise of BP. The federal government can fight wars, conduct a census and hand out billions in earmarks, but it has not a clue how to cap a one-mile-deep out-of-control oil well.
Obama didn't help much with his finger-pointing Rose Garden speech in which he denounced finger-pointing, then proceeded to blame everyone but himself. Even the grace note of admitting some federal responsibility turned sour when he reflexively added that these problems have been going on for a decade or more -- translation: Bush did it -- while, in contrast, his own interior secretary had worked diligently to solve the problem from the day he took office.
Really? Why hadn't we heard a thing about this? What about the September 2009 letter from Obama's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration accusing Interior's Minerals Management Service of understating the "risk and impacts" of a major oil spill? When you get a blowout 15 months into your administration, and your own Interior Department had given BP a "categorical" environmental exemption in April 2009, the buck stops.
In the end, speeches will make no difference. If BP can cap the well in time to prevent an absolute calamity in the Gulf, the president will escape politically. If it doesn't -- if the gusher isn't stopped before the relief wells are completed in August -- it will become Obama's Katrina.
That will be unfair, because Obama is no more responsible for the damage caused by this than Bush was for the damage caused by Katrina. But that's the nature of American politics and its presidential cult of personality: We expect our presidents to play Superman. Helplessness, however undeniable, is no defense.
Moreover, Obama has never been overly modest about his own powers. Two years ago next week, he declared that history will mark his ascent to the presidency as the moment when "our planet began to heal" and "the rise of the oceans began to slow."
Well, when you anoint yourself King Canute, you mustnt be surprised when your subjects expect you to command the tides.
Death of the Postmodernist Dream
As crises mount abroad and voters’ anger grows at home, Obama’s dream of a new world order has died a quiet death. In just a few months the brave new dream world as we knew it has died — but with a whimper, not a bang.
There will be no more lectures on soft power and a Baltic-to-Mediterranean postmodern culture. Suddenly European Union expansion is dead in its tracks. The question of Turkish membership, after a decade-long controversy, has been settled without so much as a demonstration. The Europeans don’t want another Greece in their midst; the Turks don’t want German bankers running their sagging finances. A soaring Euro was supposed to reflect the sobriety of socialism; instead, it hid its profligacy, but only for a while.
So the welfare state is discredited. In the past, we used to be warned that static population growth, vast public-sector employment, early and generous retirement benefits, and high taxes were not sustainable. In recent years, those lectures were caricatured as partisan or hypothetical. No longer. The Greek meltdown — with Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain on the brink — has shown that European socialism does not work. Bankruptcy, not politics, is the final arbiter: Individuals, firms, and nations either buy particular bonds or they don’t. And a nation like Greece, in turn, either pays what it has borrowed or it doesn’t. All the op-eds in the New York Times cannot change that fact.
Al Gore will continue to channel from his Montecito hilltop the latest green consensus of the international academic community. But fairly or not, neither he nor it will be listened to all that much: He has made one too many millions off his hysteria, and professors have fudged one too many publicly funded studies. The result is that almost at once both have lost the people’s trust. A volcano, not hot weather, shut down European air travel. The Sierra Nevada is still buried under snow in late May. At least this year, a wet, cold state of California is not going to blow away, as Energy Secretary Chu warned not long ago.
It is fine and good to invest in wind and solar power, and other alternative energy sources — if for no other reason than to drain the swamp of the oil-rich Middle East — but soon Americans will be paying a fortune for gasoline and electrical power. As gas hits $4 a gallon, they will want more oil drilling, more coal mining, and more nuclear, hydro, and natural-gas energy, not less. Green mongering is not what it was just a few months ago.
Then there is Arizona. Over 70 percent of the American people support the state’s efforts to stop illegal immigration, which amount to nothing more than enforcing currently unenforced federal laws. The hackneyed charges of racism and nativism are ignored. The Left can cite California’s Proposition 187 and warn the Republicans that they will lose the Hispanic vote, but 70 percent margins reflect angry citizens of all races and ethnicities, who are tired of seeing laws ignored, their state governments bankrupted, and Mexican presidents shaking fingers at them.
That Mexico treats illegal aliens far less humanely than does the United States, and that it deliberately encourages its own citizens to break U.S. immigration law (to the extent of publishing a comic book advising on how to illegally cross the border) reminds us that Barack Obama knows as little about Mexico as he does about Arizona’s law when he talks of an age to come without borders.
I do not think the word “reset” will be used much longer to characterize American foreign policy. Reset from what to what? After all, is Iran closer to getting a bomb or further away than it was a year and a half ago? Are terrorists more or less likely to attack and kill inside the United States? Is Syria now a more or a less helpful player in the Middle East? Is Israel safer or less safe, more or less a U.S. ally? Are Putin and Chávez now more helpful players on the world scene, in appreciation of Obama’s olive branches? Does a North Korea or an Iran feel more or less emboldened to run risks in testing the status quo? Is China more or less provocative in the Pacific?
The more provocation is ignored in one region, the more it is pursued in the other. The new audacity is predicated on the universal notion that the new United States either cannot or will not fulfill its retrograde function of deterrence — or might even privately sympathize with the assorted grievances that serve as pretexts for ignoring the sanctity of the border, selling missiles to terrorists, pursuing the bomb, or aiding in uranium enrichment.
The new world order as envisioned by Obama in January 2009 was, I think, supposed to look something like the following: A social-democratic America would come to emulate the successful welfare states in the European Union. These twin Western communitarian powers would together usher in a new world order in which no one nation was to be seen as preeminent. All the old nasty ideas of the 20th century — military alliances, sovereign borders, independent international finance, nuclear arms, religious and cultural chauvinism — would fall by the wayside, as the West was reinvented as part of the solution rather the problem it had been in its days of colonialism, imperialism, and exploitation. A new green transnationalism would assume the place of that bad old order, a transnationalism run by elite, highly educated, and socially conscious technocrats — albeit themselves Western — supported by a progressive press more interested in effecting social change than in merely reporting the tawdry news.
Obama can still push that story, but more and more Americans disagree with his 21st-century vision. Stuck in the past, they instead believe that capitalism, not socialism, brings prosperity; that to reach a green future we need to survive for now in a carbon and nuclear present; that all, not some, laws must be enforced; that our country is different from others and needs to maintain the integrity of its borders; and that there are always going to be a few bad actors abroad who must be deterred rather than appeased.
We will hear all sorts of angry charges as these dreams die, but that will not mean they are not dead — even if we are lucky and they go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
The European financial crisis very cogently explained here by two Australian comedians. The best comedy has a lot of truth in it
A nice story here about not underestimating people, particularly deaf and doddery old guys.
No End To Freddie And Fannie Red Ink: "Taxpayers will continue to shoulder losses by mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac, (FRE) their regulator told a House panel Wednesday. Democratic lawmakers continued to show no interest in taking up their reform. The testimony by Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, elaborated on an FHFA report to Congress released late Tuesday. It stated that Fannie and Freddie would be "unable to serve the mortgage market in the absence of the ongoing financial support."
Line item veto: "President Obama wants Congress to give him the line-item veto — that is, the power to veto specific parts of Congressional bills, rather than the whole thing. That way, supposedly, the president can just cut out the waste. … On its face, it seems like a good idea. It may cut down on useless pork like bridges to nowhere. But the suggestion that it will help control spending is laughable. … It would be nice to eliminate pork, but it’s chump change compared to the big picture. Even now, Congress and the president are pushing for $200 Billion in new spending.”
Leaked: Admin plan would lock up 13 million acres: "A leaked partial document produced by the Bureau of Land Management and obtained by Fox News suggests the Obama administration is considering a plan to lock up 13 million acres of land — and the Department of Interior is refusing to answer questions. First, a little background: The federal government owns about one-third of the land in the United States — most of it in western states. For example, 84 percent of Nevada is owned by Uncle Sam. But the government leases large parcels of federal land for all sorts of things — grazing, mining, exploration, recreation. Those commercial activities create jobs and tax revenue for the states. Tax revenues from commercial activity on federal lands often pays for local schools. However, with the single stroke of his pen, President Obama can use the Antiquities of Act of 1906 to turn federal land into National Monuments.”
“Death panels” were an overblown claim — until now: "During the debate over ObamaCare, the bill’s opponents were excoriated for talk of rationing and ‘death panels.’ And in fairness, with a few minor exceptions governing Medicare reimbursements, the law does not directly ration care or allow the government to dictate how doctors practice medicine. But if President Obama wanted to keep a lid on that particular controversy, he just selected about the worst possible nominee for director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the office that oversees government health care programs. Obama’s pick, Dr. Donald Berwick, is an outspoken admirer of the British National Health Service and its rationing arm, the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness (NICE).”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:19 AM