The Oil Spill – PR Spin vs. Reality?

   BP now says that small pipe (one report says it’s 4 inches in diameter, another puts it at 6 inches) they inserted into the bigger pipe that’s dumping oil into the Gulf, is sucking up all of the 5 thousand barrels (210,000 gallons) a day they initially estimated was leaking into the ocean.  However, some oil they say, is still leaking.  Really?  Applying simple logic this means they underestimated the amount of oil that’s flowing into the Gulf, right?  Underestimated it by how much?  Some experts who have seen the video BP has agreed to release, think the real number is closer to several million gallons a day.

Of course, all of it is based upon nothing more than estimates.

On May 4th, the Los Angeles Times reported:  “BP officials said the spill rate could be as much as 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) a day – far above the 5,000-barrel daily rate estimated up to now.”

Ten days later, on May 14th, McClatchy Newspapers reported:   “The latest video footage of the leaking Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico show that oil is escaping at the rate of 95,000 barrels — 4 million gallons — a day, nearly 20 times greater than the 5,000 barrel a day estimate BP and government scientists have been citing for nearly three weeks, an engineering professor told a congressional hearing Wednesday.”-McClatchy Newspapers

That’s a considerable difference of opinion.

How much of what they’ve been saying is PR “spin?”  If it is PR spin, why is the Coast Guard buying into it? And why in the world does BP get to decide which snippets of video outside experts are allowed to see?  Could it be because BP is paying the bill for shooting the video?  That argument doesn’t hold water because BP isn’t paying all the bills.

Who’s paying for Coast Guard and Navy deployment and the work of other federal agencies in the Gulf and the committee hearings  in Washington?  The American taxpayers, that’s who.   Congress needs to put a real-time clock on all the assistance BP is getting so that we can send them a tab once this is over.  If Congress and BP have already reached an agreement I haven’t heard about that entails BP paying for everything, including Coast Guard deployment, then my apologies to both the oil company and the Congress.  But I don’t think they have.  At least, not in writing.  And if it isn’t in writing, then it isn’t.   Nothing personal, it’s just business.

The spill has now hit the Louisiana wetlands.  The other end of the spill is heading for the Florida Keys and from there, possibly up the east coast.

BP says it may be able to stem the flow with a so-called “top kill” by Sunday.  That’s where they pour heavy mud down into the hole followed by cement.   As I’ve said before, it sounds like it might work.  Sounds better than anything they’ve tried.  So why did they wait so long to try it?

Was their priority to seal the leak or was it something else, like seeing how much of the oil they could recover by tapping all or part of the leak first, and then worrying about stopping any flow that might remain later?

A “green” company like BP wouldn’t do that would they?  With all that oil flowing into the Gulf?

A Little Street Music

   Stopped by a Ralph’s Market after my workout today to pick up something for dinner.   Nothing unusual about it.  I often stop at this particular market as it’s across the street from my gym.   However, this time as I exited my car and approached one of two entrances, I noticed a young lady on the sidewalk playing a violin.   I was struck by her skill.  She was no hack.  She was obviously classically trained.

Street musicians aren’t uncommon in Venice Beach or Hollywood, but you rarely see this kind of thing in front of a supermarket in the San Fernando Valley.  At least I don’t.  People asking for money for one cause or another aren’t uncommon.  But a young lady playing the hell out of a classical piece on the violin?  I haven’t seen that before.

I made a mental note to throw some money in her violin case when I left the market.  But when I finished shopping and came out the doors, the violinist was gone.

It made me feel bad, not being able to toss a couple of dollars her way.

I’ll let you know if she reappears.

Police Raid Blogger’s Home – Press Club Says First Amendment Rights Violated

Los Angeles Press Club Stands Up for the First Amendment rights of all Journalists

Blogger Jason Chen’s First Amendment rights were trampled when police raided his home last month

Hollywood, CA.  The Los Angeles Press Club joins in the strong statement issued by the Newspaper Guild/CWA that blogger Jason Chen’s First Amendment rights were trampled upon when authorities raided his home on April 21.

The Los Angeles Press Club does not endorse “check book” journalism, but the fact that Gizmodo paid for the prototype iPhone that Chen wrote about is not relevant. The California Shield law protects all journalists from revealing sources and unpublished notes

While Chen was away from home, police forced open his front door and took away his computers, hard drives and cameras. Chen works for a legitimate media organization-and since he works at home, his entire newsroom was seized.

The seizure occurred all because he wrote extensively about Apple’s misplaced next generation iPhone and authorities told a judge the property may be related to a possible felony. The phone was promptly returned to Apple when the company belatedly asked for it.

However, since misplaced property is not stolen property, there may have been no illegal activity in the first place by the person who found the iPhone.

Even if the finder of the lost iPhone acted illegally, as Los Angeles Times media reporter James Rainey points out, the Supreme Court has ruled that a source’s illegal activity doesn’t “remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern.”

We’re also troubled by the fact that Apple has a representative on the San Mateo computer crimes task force that initiated the search.

In any event, Chen should have been issued a subpoena and a chance to argue his position in court. That’s the law in California. And we expect the courts to enforce it.


Russian Journalists Under Attack

 photo: Fanghong  Clifford J. Levy reports in the NY Times, that Russian journalists are being beaten for doing their jobs.  Russian prosecutors and police are apparently of little use when it comes to arresting the perpetrators.

“One editor was beaten in front of his home, and the assailants seized only copies of his articles and other material for the next day’s issue, not his wallet or cellphone. Local officials insisted that he sustained his injuries while drunk.

Another journalist was pummeled by plainclothes police officers after a demonstration. It was all captured on video. Even so, the police released a statement saying that he had hurt himself when he was accidentally pushed by the crowd.”-NY Times

Connecting The Gooey Dots

   This is going be a kind of “stream of consciousness” thing today, so please hang with me as it could take some time to get to the point.  About the oil.  Again.  Down in the Gulf, where things appear to be even worse than anticipated, with as much as 210,000 gallons a day gushing from that hole in the ocean’s floor and giant clouds of oil forming beneath the surface in addition to the slicks up above.  One of the “clouds” is reported to be 3-miles long, 300 feet thick and 3-miles wide.  Big cloud.

So what do they do?  They stick a 4-inch pipe into the 22-inch hole that’s gushing oil, and the oil doesn’t stop gushing.  Golly.  I’m no engineer, but isn’t that kinda like sticking a straw into a malt glass, then tipping it upside down and thinking all the malted milk will magically be drawn into the straw instead of falling all over the floor?

Relax, America.  The pros from Dover have arrived.  They say their straw in the big hole method is capturing 15-20% of the leaking oil.   That’s 15-20% of 210,000 gallons a day.

First they tried a giant dome with a pipe on the top, which, theoretically, would have given them the ability to funnel the oil up through the dome, into the pipe and then up to a tanker on the surface.    Didn’t work.  Now they tried the little pipe in the big hole method, again in an attempt to channel the oil through a pipe up to a tanker on the surface.  That’s capturing 15-20%, which means it isn’t working well.  Even if it had worked, how much oil can one of those tankers hold and how rapidly would they be able to switch the pipe from one tanker to another?

Any of this bother you?

A couple of other methods are still under consideration.  One, is the so-called “junk shot.”  Dropping a bunch of golf balls and pieces of old tires and what-not on the leak, which I really can’t comprehend, but please understand, I’m no scientist.  Another technique, would involve dumping a combination of cement and mud on the leaky pipe, which sounds as though it might just overwhelm the oil flow and stop the leak.   The macho oil guys call it a”top kill.”

So why didn’t they try that first?  Before worrying about inserting some kind of a pipe that could direct the “product” up to tankers on the surface?

Is the objective to stop the leak, or to seal the leak AND recover some or all of the oil through a pipe running to the surface?   Who’s setting the agenda out there, the Coast Guard or BP?

I haven’t heard anyone raise the question, but it may be too delicate an issue for our leaders to handle.  Could be another one of those “too big” issues.  Like the banks that are “too big to fail.”  So big, their failure could threaten the country’s future.   So they’re holding that over our heads.  “Leave us alone, or we’ll bring you all crashing down!”

Be kind us, Mr. big banker man.  Please be good to us.  It’s all way over our heads, and we really need you to run the world for us.

Thank you,  Mr. Bush.  Thank you Mr. Clinton.  Thank you “shotgun” Cheney.   Thank you for this new world order.  Government of, by and for the multi-nationals.

If you think the banks have power, do a little reading about the oil companies.  If you’re over 40 or 50, you may remember a time when there were independent gas stations all over town that actually competed with one another.    Any number of independent refineries too.  Pretty much all gone now, aren’t they?

A couple of years ago, when gas prices were approaching the ability to attain an independent orbit, a guy who runs a service station just up the street here in the beautiful San Fernando Valley, begged me to do a story about the high gas prices.   “Somebody” he said, “has got to tell people that the price is being set by the refinery, and that the refinery is owned by the oil company, not me.”  Poor guy was tired of people chewing his head off.  Can’t blame him.  He was only making a couple of pennies on each gallon he sold.  The real profits were going to the oil company that owned the operation.

Control the supply and the distribution, and you control the price at the pump.   Come to an unspoken agreement with your competitors about what that price at the pump should be (what the disinformation experts are now referring to as “letting the market seek its own level”) and you can pretty much  just sit back and let the money roll on in.  Unless a big oil spill happens.  And all the fish and oysters and shrimp die, putting thousands of people out of work.

And now our nation’s leaders are attempting to get BP to agree to pay for the cleanup and other damages associated with the spill.  Oh, they’ve already said they will, but apparently there’s nothing in writing and federal legislation puts a cap of $75 million on how much the oil company is obligated to spend.   Why did our government geniuses agree to that when the oil companies are pulling in billions and a bad spill can easily go above $75 million?  Why did Senate Republicans, just kill a bill to increase the cap to $10 billion?

Maybe they weren’t all that worried?  In the words of British Petroleum CEO, Tony Hayward,  “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” 

Oh well, then.  That makes it all okay, doesn’t it?   “No,” you say?  Tough darts, Bubba.   The oil and gas industry has purchased our government, just as the  health insurance and pharmaceutical industries have.  And that brings me to the point.

Yesterday, a voter’s guide for our state election arrived in the mail.   It got me to thinking about the mid-terms and all the noise the pundits are making about incumbents being booted out of office regardless of party affiliation because “the government is broken and America is fed up.”

Fine.  Let’s get rid of everyone regardless of party affiliation, even if it means reverting to a Republican majority in the House and Senate.  Let’s go back to those 8 impossibly miserable, ignorant, mind numbing years of the neocon Bush/Cheney Administration.

Now there’s a really bad idea.  But the oil companies would love it.  Why?

“Over the past 20 years, the energy industry has pumped more than $500 million into the coffers of candidates and party committees, $334 million in the past decade, with three-fourths of it going to Republicans” –Texas on the Potamac

Here’s video of the oil flow, from CBS News-

Watch CBS News Videos Online

16-Year-Old Completes Sailboat Trip Around The World

Need something to make you feel good?   Here it is.  Jessica Watson, a 16-year-old from Australia, has completed a trip around the world in a 34 foot sailboat.  She did it alone, making her the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted.

Watson, refused to be discouraged, even after a collision with a coal tanker took out her mast on a 10-day solo trial prior to her round the world voyage.  Metaphorically speaking, she got back up on the horse (or in this case, back up on deck) and headed back out to sea, undaunted by naysayers and critics calling for her to abandon her dream.

Following 210 days at sea, she stepped back on terra firma near the Sydney Opera House on Saturday to the cheers of thousands.   Her next move, she says, will be to get a driver’s license.  Shouldn’t be much of a problem.

She blogged about the voyage as she sailed along in her boat, “Ella’s Pink Lady,” weathering storms, a motor that had to be jury-rigged, extreme cold, seven “knockdowns” (when the mast is nearly parallel to the ocean’s surface) and other ordeals.  She was running out of food when she sailed into Sydney Harbor.  You can read her blog by clicking here.

“People don’t think you’re capable of these things — they don’t realize what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of.  It’s amazing when you take away those expectations what you can do.” -Jessica Watson

Below, is Jessica’s video diary message as she rounded Cape Horn, on the 13th of January.


Insurance Companies Refuse To Withdraw Support For Iran

California State Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner is getting some ink for coming down on big insurance companies that refuse to stop making new investments with companies doing business with Iran, a country identified by the U.S. Government as a sponsor of terrorism.

Marc Lifsher, reports in the Los Angeles Times, that nearly 300 companies are involved, including State Farm, Geico and Prudential.  According to the Times, the insurance companies question Poizner’s authority to impose sanctions.   Poizner, says more than one-thousand companies have indicated they will comply with his request.

True, Poizner is running for Governor.   The upcoming election notwithstanding, it would seem to be just common sense, and a good business practice,  that U.S. companies should refrain from making any new investments with companies that support the fascist military/theocracy of Iran.

Arizona Legislators Need A Reality Check

   To borrow from Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?”  The good folks over in the great state of Arizona are piling on….themselves.  First they pass anti-immigrant legislation, signed by their woman who would be Governor,  Jan Brewer (R), infuriating the Latino community (and others) and essentially turning AZ cops into an anti-immigrant police force.   It’s also prompted bans on doing business with AZ, from a few small burghs like the City of Los Angeles.  But why would Brewer and her fellow rednecks care about a little thing like that?

Now the piling on part.  Their next move was to introduce another bill, this one threatening to pull state funding from schools with ethnic studies classes.  Schools stand to lose funding if they offer classes that “promote resentment of a race or class of people,” or “promote the overthrow of the United States government.”

Governor Brewer, have you lost your mind?

It is not possible to teach history without promoting some resentment.  Do you really think  African-Americans are going to feel all warm and fuzzy after studying the history of slavery in the U.S.?   Or Native-Americans with regard to the “settling” of the west?  Are Armenians supposed to feel okay about the Turks after studying the genocide?  Likewise, the Jewish community and Nazi Germany?   Does teaching about the War of 1812, promote the overthrow of the U.S. Government?   Of  course it does (in the minds of wacko extremists).  Wipe if from the books!  Pretend it never happened!

Just how dumbed down and totally ignorant of history do want the American people to be?  Or maybe that’s your plan?  An ignorant populace is oh so much easier to control.

So let’s do it!   Dumb and dumber we go, with our freedom slipping away as we set aside the First Amendment and ignore history to avoid any “resentment” or free thinking of any kind.  God forbid.   Can’t have any of that.

Ohio State Still Doesn’t Get It

 Alex Kotran - photo: The Lantern  An update on that recent story about Alex Kotran, a photographer for the student newspaper, “The Lantern” at Ohio State and the incident involving demon cows.

A first year student, Kotran was out taking pictures of campus cops and others, trying to round up a couple of cows that escaped from the agriculture department.   One of the cops decided Kotran shouldn’t be there and he ordered him to go away.  First Amendment be damned, I guess.  Maybe he just doesn’t know about it?

Long story short, Kotran, who reportedly never got closer than 50 yards to a cow, refused to stop doing his job.  He moved to a different location but kept shooting pictures.  The cop didn’t like that and slapped on the cuffs, taking him into custody under suspicion of criminal trespass.  This guy was going to charge an Ohio State Student, a photographer for the campus newspaper, with criminal trespass for taking photos of something that was happening on the campus of Ohio State?   What nonsense.

Today, the Lantern reports that the “university does not believe that the situation warrants the filing of criminal charges.” How big of them.  How magnanimous.  However, they still want Kotran to meet with the police for a discussion of how “his actions put him in harms way and caused danger to others.”  Unbelievable.

The University, by its statement, is assigning blame to Kotran, even before the meeting takes place?  These are supposed to be educators?

Rather than supporting the First Amendment, freedom of the press, and the right and need of journalists to do what they are supposed to do — getting the story, Ohio State has decided to provide cover for its campus police by forcing Kotran to go in for a wrist slapping.

This sounds like one cop was miffed because a journalist refused to respect his authority.  Never mind that his orders may have been unlawful.

Okay, fine, I wasn’t there, but it sounds like Ohio State needs a reality check.  If campus police believe the First Amendment doesn’t apply to student journalists, then the University should stop hassling this photographer and look into the possibility of problems with police procedure.

As far as putting himself and others in harms way, that’s the same old cop-out the cops use every time they overstep their bounds.  Sounds like that’s exactly what’s happened here.    Either way, OSU should conduct an investigation before issuing a statement assigning blame.

Kotran, by the way, is apparently still under the threat of a review by the University Judiciary Committee.   Apparently, he could still be expelled for photographing runaway cows for the campus newspaper.

These guys at Ohio State really need to get out of their ivory tower more often.   What an embarrassment for the University.


Late Update:  The Lantern reports the police fired eight shots at one of the cows, hitting it four times.   The newspaper reports the shots were not fatal.  The cow, a pregnant “Belted Galloway” worth around $2,800 is apparently doing well.   An initial statement from campus police indicated deadly force was not used.

I’m a country boy from Minnesota.  Lots of cattle there.  Thousands.   This is the first time I’ve heard of anybody feeling a need to open fire on a cow, or a bull, for that matter, except for some out of control hunters who were mixing alcohol with buckshot.

This is looking more and more like the campus police may have overreacted and are now looking for something (or someone) to hide behind.

The Society of Professional Journalists of Central Ohio, has sent a letter of support for Alex Kotran, to the University.

Johnny Gets A Post Office

johnny grant presents star to joe pasternak - photo: alan warren   Congresswoman Diane Watson put it in the form of a bill.   President Obama put his signature to the legislation and now the U.S. Post Office on Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood,  will be named in honor of the late Johnny Grant.

Johnny who?

Apart from a small role, playing a reporter in the movie “White Christmas,” Johnny Grant was a kind of local phenom.

When I arrived in Hollywood in 1982 to go to work for KABC-TV, one of my first assignments was to go out and cover the Hollywood Christmas Parade.  The parade’s staging area was the KTLA-TV lot on Sunset.   We arrived to find this short, stout fellow running all over the place barking orders and organizing everything.  I was told it was Johnny Grant, and that he was a “must interview.”    “Johnny who?” I asked.   “Why do I want to interview him?”

In the years that followed I moved from one tv station to another, eventually ending up at KTLA, where Johnny was a company VP.  It was rumored that his contract with the company gave him the title for life, that it was a gift from his old friend Gene Autry, when Gene sold Golden West Broadcasting.  Rumor was, no matter how many times KTLA was sold, certain of  Gene’s friends kept their jobs, that they were untouchable and stayed with the company no matter what.  I think it was probably true.  And so it was that Mr. Grant stayed on even after “the cowboy” sold the company.  And the Hollywood Christmas Parade was his big annual event.  Did you know the song  “Here Comes Santa Claus” is about the Hollywood Christmas Parade and that it was written by Gene Autry?

There were also the USO tours.  Johnny said he had flown off to do more USO shows than Bob Hope, and I believe he probably had.  He never had a problem recruiting a big military contingent for his Christmas Parade.  I say “his” Christmas Parade, because Johnny appeared to be the moving force behind it.  He had the contacts.  He was able to draw out the stars.  Thanks to Johnny I met Sammy Davis Jr., Roseanne Barr, Gene Autry and so many others.  Johnny knew them all.  When Johnny Grant died, the parade faded away.  Well, in truth, it started fading even before Johnny passed on, as Hollywood fell into decline and the stars were no longer interested in riding in floats on a parade route that might not be all that safe.   Particularly in the 80’s with the rise of cocaine use and gang warfare.

Sparkplug that he was, Johnny fought back, side by side with the Hollywood Chamber.  He fought to restore and maintain the world famous Hollywood sign.  He did the same with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, officiating as more than 500 stars were cemented into the ground (Gene Autry has five stars – the only celebrity to have that many).     At the same time he worked behind the scenes to convince developers to invest in the area, and invest they did.   The Kodak Theater went up along with the Hollywood and Highland Mall.  It turned out Hollywood hadn’t lost its magic after all, as the area came back from the brink.

You have to understand, that when I arrived in Los Angeles, Hollywood was a kind of up-scale slum.   It was still Hollywood, but there were hookers on nearly every corner of the Boulevard.  The corner lot housing the old Director’s Guild building was among their favorite spots.   The place was a combination of hookers, the homeless and bewildered touristas, walking around in bermuda shorts and sandals with cameras around their necks wondering where the stars were and what went wrong.

Hollywood, had been neglected by the City of Los Angeles, that’s what went wrong.  Johnny Grant was a key player, or maybe the key player, in bringing it back.

I recall one day on the lot at KTLA.  “Hey Tyg!” he yelled over at me.  “Tyg” was short for “tiger.”  Johnny called you that, if he liked you.  “Let’s take a walk!”   Mr. Grant was being honored for one reason or another, and I had been tapped to do a story about it.  And so, he decided at that particular moment that he wanted to give me a guided tour of Hollywood.  So off we went, walking and talking.  No camera or anything, just the two of us , with Johnny filling me in on the history of nearly every building, street and structure we passed.  His knowledge of the area was amazing.

Say what you will about Johnny Grant, the man loved Hollywood and it was there that he lived his final days, at the old Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, home to the first presentation of the Academy Awards.  The last time I saw Johnny, that’s where he was.  Having lunch in the dining room at the Hollywood Roosevelt.   “Hey Tyg, how’r ya doin!”  “Just great General,” I replied.  In addition to all else, Johnny was a Brigadier General.   A byproduct of all those USO tours.

Johnny Grant, was Hollywood.  Hollywood, still is Johnny Grant.   Naming a building in his honor was the right thing to do.

Betty White Is Great – SNL Still Lame

 Betty White

     photo: alan light

Betty White is energetic, enthusiastic, impish and charming.  Gotta love her.   No substitute for professionalism born of experience, intelligence and talent.    She’s a pro.  End of story.

And so I looked forward to her appearance on what was billed as a “Mother’s Day Special” on Saturday Night Live.

This wasn’t a show I could watch with my mother.   Didn’t think it would be.  This was Saturday Night Live, after all.    Except for the occasional political skit, it’s a show that’s become increasingly crude and less sophisticated with age.  But this time they had Betty White and I was hoping for something more.

It didn’t happen.  It was just one more SNL, filled with humor straight out of the boy’s room at your local middle school.   Oh sure, the talent is there, but the smart writing and physical comedy that made Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Gilda Radner legendary, is overshadowed by the sensationalism of the writers trying to be as dumbed down and vulgar as possible.    Beyond that, this Mother’s Day Special” at times, appeared to be flirting with the denigration of women.

The new comedy credo appears to be: “No vulgarity, no humor.”  Or maybe it’s just so much easier to go for the kind of cheap laughs demanded by a teenage demographic?  Also of note, were the commercials for the movie “MacGruber,” disguised to look like regular segments of the show.    Flat out boring.

Perhaps my expectation of resurrecting standards that once demanded wit, sophistication and professionalism is simply unrealistic?

The vulgarity of SNL’s “Special” notwithstanding, a very happy Mother’s Day to one and all.   And to all you moms, considering the garbage the entertainment industry is feeding your children’s young minds, be afraid.  Be very afraid.

This stuff isn’t funny.  It’s just vulgar.

I still love Betty White.  SNL, as currently constituted, is beneath her.

The emperor has no clothes, other than the coattails of seasons gone by.

Oil Spill Spreads, Sweden Offers To Help

 photo: u.s. coast guard  From the morning papers:  The big inverted funnel didn’t work.  Ice crystals plugged it up.  Now it’s sitting there on the bottom while BP considers its next move.  The oil company says the idea isn’t a failure.  Even though it didn’t work.

“I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet…what I would say is what we attempted to do … didn’t work.”-Doug Suttles, BP

The other day I was talking to a friend from Finland.  I asked if he felt the Scandinavian countries would be handling the oil spill differently.  He said the Scandinavians have equipment on standby,  just waiting to deal with a problem like the spill in the Gulf.    I thought that perhaps he was being overly enthusiastic about his homeland, possibly underestimating our ability to respond to an oil spill.

Apparently, he was spot on.

This morning I read in the NY Times, that the European Union, the United Nations and 14 individual countries, like Sweden, are offering to help the big bad U.S. clean up the mess in the Gulf of Mexico.  Little Sweden, the land of my ancestors,  is offering to send three ships with the ability to skim 50 tons of oil per hour from the water’s surface with a  capacity of 1000 tons.   It could take several weeks for the ships to get here.  Swedish officials say the offer has been made and they’re just waiting for a request from Washington.

If Sweden can afford to have ships like this on standby,  why can’t we?  Why haven’t the oil companies, with their monster profits, been ordered to keep a fleet of such ships on standby in the Gulf?

Oops, sorry.  There I go again.  Letting reality slip away.  The reality of course,  is that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) didn’t require a $500,000 backup blowout valve or proper safety reports to be filed by BP.   That being the case, why in the world would this oil company cozy government agency ever dream of demanding a fleet of ships?  It would, after all, be such a terrible imposition on the oil companies.   

“The rules on what plans must be filed by exploration companies before drilling a well were relaxed in early 2008 by the Bush administration. Thereafter there was reportedly some confusion over whether the BP well qualified to be exempted, but that appears to be precisely what happened.

If so, lawmakers in Washington are likely to target the Interior Department for falling down on its responsibilities and becoming too cozy with the oil giants. “I’m of the opinion that boosterism breeds complacency and complacency breeds disaster,” said Congressman Edward Markey. “That, in my opinion, is what happened.”‘ -The Independent

 A report in the Washington Post in April of 2009, pointed to the  MMS giving BP a “categorical exclusion” from filing reports on what exactly it would do in the event of a blowout at the Deepwater Horizon.   According to the Post, the MMS, in its infinite wisdom,  concluded any blowout that might occur wouldn’t be bad enough to threaten coastal ecosystems.  So why worry?

There’s also all that wonderful money the oil and gas industry spreads around Washington.  By one account they dumped $169 million on the Dist.  last year.

The finger pointing on why the federal government has fallen behind on regulating the industry and foreseeing the possibility of a need to have a more effective response is just getting started.   First they’ll clean up the mess.  Then they’ll accuse one another of being short-sighted, cheap, and once again, putting profits way out in front of the environment.

But you should be getting used to this by now.  It’s the same thing our federal lawmakers have done with healthcare, putting profits ahead of lives.  It’s called “getting screwed.”  You’ve heard of that?

The maps they’re putting up this morning show the slick spreading out over an area of about 150 miles.  However, blobs of oil are reportedly washing up on the white sand beaches of Alabama.

Somebody better get the Swedish ambassador on the phone.

As Oil Spreads In The Gulf, Shell Prepares To Drill In The Arctic

Shell Oil is gearing up to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer and has asked a Federal Appeals Court to expedite a ruling on a challenge by environmentalists worried about the oil spill in the Gulf.   A lawyer for the oil company says Shell has spent at least $3.5 billion in preparation for drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

“But a coalition of environmentalists and Native Alaska groups who are challenging the drilling plans told the court the federal Minerals Management Service failed to consider the potential threat to wildlife and the risk for disaster before it approved the Shell project.

Christopher Winter, an attorney for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, said the Interior Department agency “simply ignored key aspects” about the possible effects of drilling operations on bowhead whales, including interruption of feeding patterns.”-AP