Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blog # 147: Wrapping Gov. Palin in Oil

BP, A Mountain of Incompetence

The most troubling aspect of BP’s gigantic and ongoing oiling of the Gulf of Mexico, is the extent that incompetence guided BP’s actions. The list of BP’s citations in it’s refinery incidents is far greater than any other oil refinery company. Below we quote from a report a Washington based watchdog group, Center for Public Integrity, entitled, "Renegade Refiner: OSHA Says BP Has Systemic Safety Problem."

BP received a total of 862 citations between June 2007 and February 2010 for alleged violations at its refineries in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio. Of those, 760 were classified as "egregious willful" and 69 were classified as "willful." Thirty of the BP citations were deemed "serious" and three were unclassified.

Virtually all of the citations were for alleged violations of OSHA's process safety management standard, a sweeping rule governing everything from storage of flammable liquids to emergency shutdown systems. BP accounted for 829 of the 851 willful violations among all refiners cited by OSHA during the period analyzed by the Center.

What’s with this industry favoring system which allows oil and coal mining companies to contest regulatory fines in court, and then if they lose pay the fines rather than correct the conditions which brought on the fines? To any sensible observer such a system bolsters the power of the industry at the expense of the safety of its workers, and in the case of BP’s latest faux pas, the health of the entire Gulf of Mexico.

The occasional mine explosion testifies as to the ongoing danger of this policy, which in the case of BP, has its safety record coming under intense scrutiny ever since the blowout and resulting explosion at its Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig which led to the deaths of 11 workers, injuries to others, and the still uncontrolled spewing of tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico every minute of every day and night with no end in sight.

Any person looking beyond the surface could not help but ask the inevitable question: how could an oil company with such a contemptuous attitude toward the safety of its employees ever be allowed to drill a well 500 miles below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico?

What kind of regulations control this industry, and what records do the regulators look in the approval process to allow an oil company to drill in the Gulf of Mexico? BP’s well ingrained penchant for cutting corners on safety procedures was well known. Why this did not raise flags in the approval process is unimaginable? And when the Obama administration takes the scientifically logical step of putting a moratorium on new deepwater wells being drilled until a study has been made for why BP’s well malfunctioned, a federal judge whose stock portfolio is filled with energy stocks, arbitrarily brings and end to the moratorium.

Poor nation. How can we possibly have success in solving our many basic problems when Republican appointed judges, and Republican legislators are working full time against doing what is necessary to solve these basic problems? We certainly identify with President Obama’s problems, and wish him the very best of luck, for the country’s and your’s and our sake, in solving them.

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Preparing for Dressing Down

Gen. Stanley McChrystal arrives at the White House to meet with President Obama. Obama removed McChrystal as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and replaced him with Gen. David H. Petraeus, saying he was acting to maintain cohesion in the war effort and civilian control over the military after McChrystal and his top aides disparaged administration officials. Photo: Nicholas Kamm-AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, 12:00 CDT. The fate of General McChrystal was still unknown officially at 10:41, although the fact that the President had met with Gen. McChrystal for only 30 minutes, and the General subsequently left before the Situation Room meeting on the Afghanistan war was pretty telling. The President is expected to make an announcement some time during the noon hour about his decision in the McChrystal case.

Of course, it does not help that the war in Afghanistan is going poorly. However, in military tradition an officer surviving such a high level criticism of his civilian superiors is unprecedented. And so any outcome other than relieving the good General of his position as leader of American forces in Afghanistan would be pretty much out of the question.

Meantime the Rolling Stone article which has brought on this firestorm is a really compelling read. It paints an indelible portrait of the General, not all of which is negative, but there is certainly enough negativity in it, and particularly among McChristal’s advisors, with which to get him in what George H.W. 41 might have described as “deep doo doo.” The article, which can be read in its entirety, may be found here!

Andrea Mitchell ended up hitting the jackpot, on this entire McChristal, Petraeus take over. Killing time with her were Hardball’s Chris Matthews as well as former Congressman and Defense Department head under Clinton, William Cohen. Plus White House correspondents Chuck Todd and Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.

The big question of the hour was whether General McChristal would survive the Rolling Stone article. Of course, the fact that Gen. McChristal had a 30 minute meeting with the President, after which he left before the strategy meeting on Afghanistan was to be held was a pretty good indication that the good General was undoubtedly dead meat.

By 12:08 CDT Chuck Todd had confirmed the General’s firing, and within minutes Miklaszewski announced that General David Petraeus was to be his replacement. All of those lined up to fill the time did well with interesting speculations and observations.

It was 12:42 before President Obama opened the door to the Oval Office and stepped up to the microphone surrounded by Vice President Biden, General Petraeus, Defense Department head Robert M. Gates, and Joint Chief of Staff Head Admiral Mike Mullen, all privy to the Situation Room meeting on Afghanistan.

Obama minced no words. He said that McChristal’s words as reported in the Rolling Stone article had created a situation that was untenable, pitting military leadership against its civilian counterpart. Announcing that General Petraeus had agreed to take over the leadership from General McChristal seemed to win approval from experts of every stripe, from Senators McCain and Leiberman to the experts that Ms. Mitchell had lined up to help her fill the delay before the President finally made his announcement.

Obama’s remarks were short and to the point, and most of the assembled pundits agreed he had handled a terrible situation in the best possible way. McChristal’s resignation read as follows: “This morning the President accepted my resignation as Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. I strongly support the President’s strategy in Afghanistan and am deeply committed to our coalition forces, our partner nations, and the Afghan people. It was out of respect for this commitment –– and a desire to see the mission succeed –– that I tendered my resignation. It has been my privilege and honor to lead our nation’s finest.

The anchor who followed Mitchell’s hour was interviewing NBC’s correspondent in Afghanistan, who announced that he had talked by phone with Michael Hastings. Hastings was the Rolling Stone writer who had written the article which had brought down the General. Asking him why he had written the article Hastings told him that his motive had been to shine the spotlight on the war in Afghanistan. Asked if he felt any sympathy for General McChristal, he said the General was old enough to know what he was saying, and Hastings further noted that in his opinion his article had been largely successful, truly turning the nation’s attention back onto the war in Afghanistan. You sure got that right, buster!

Unfortunately, candidate Barack Obama who ran against both of George W.’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is nowhere to be found these days. He is winding down Iraq, as promised, but as the Russian communists found out the hard way, Afghanistan is a situation that is simply not winnable. It’s too bad we didn’t use this bump in the road to question why the hell we are there? and when in hell we’re planning to get out?

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The Tennis Match Which Wouldn’t End

American Tennis Player John Isner celebrates winning what turned out to be the longest match in tennis history, lasting in excess of 11 hours, and stretching over three days. Pool photo by Suzanne Plunkett

’Tis the first week of Wimbledon. Tennis freaks will already be aware of this. The rest of you probably won’t give much of a damn. At my age I don’t do sports, never have except a tall hill or small mountain now and again.

But in my more sedentary age I have become quite addicted to watching sports on television. My favorite, of course, is NBA basketball. NBA basketball represents in my mind the ultimate in a team sport relying primarily on skill rather than brute force. But in spite of its being played in air conditioned gymnasiums professional basketball is notably dead in the torrid months of summer.

June, however, does bring us Wimbledon tennis, which I find interesting to watch as a background. And once in awhile I might stop long enough to follow a particular match if it indeed proves compelling.

Why tennis you might well ask? Well, it’s one of the few sports which pits one individual against another. Boxing does that too, of course, except that boxing is much too savage for an empathic milquetoast like me. I can feel the pain. Of course, doubles and mixed doubles feature multiple players battling it out, but singles is the combat I prefer to watch, matching individual against individual. And depending on their respective skills perhaps offering a memorable battle as well..

I don’t really follow the sport these days, so as a rule I have no idea who’s playing. I do know who Roger Federer is, of course, and so was surprised to read how in his opening match which because he is the reigning champion was held on centre court, he lost the first two sets and won the third by a hair, before returning to his old self and putting his opponent away in the final two sets.

However, it turned out that the most interesting match was the one between American John Isner and Frenchmen Nicolas Mahut. It was a first round match that went more than 11 hours stretched out over three days. Isner finally won the contest 70-68. The fifth set alone went over 8 hours. Isner finished with a total of 112 aces and Muhat 103. Sadly Mr. Isner lost his 2nd round match, scheduled hours after his marathon finally ended. But not before he and Mssr Mahut carved themselves quite a unique place in the lore of tennis history.

America’s Williams Sisters Take to the Court

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American sisters Venus (left) and Serena Williams play their first-round Wimbledon doubles match against American Julie Ditty and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic. The Williams sisters won the match, by the way. Photo: Hamish Blair-Getty Images

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What to Do When the Floods Come

While our transportation stalls out in high water, in more primitive lands natives ride animals which don’t stall out in high water.

A man rides his ox along a flooded street in China's Jiangxi province. Photo: Aly Song-Reuters

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The World’s Other Sport of the Moment

Argentina's coach Diego Maradona watches the Group B first round 2010 World Cup football (soccer) match against Greece in Polokwane, South Africa. Argentina defeated Greece 2-0. Photo: Daniel Garcia-AFP/Getty Images

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In Your Face(book)

Columbia Pictures has just released its very first trailer for its upcoming film The Social Network. Based in part on the book The Accidental Billionaire, it chronicles the formative days of Facebook, from its founding in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room, through its early rise to success. The film is written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, and is directed by David Fincher. The trailer has the intriguing tag line, “You don’t get to 500,000 friends without making a few enemies.” More information may be found here!

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And that was a sliver of the week that was. Like last week, this was another bad health week, one which limited our time and resources in our blog preparation. However, time marches on, and hopefully with each passing day we move closer to finding out what the hell is really wrong with us, with our upcoming bone marrow experience #3 scheduled for July 2nd at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Because the most effective drug to treat chronic myeloid leukemia (afterwards to be referred to as cml) is Gleevec, and it’s monthly dose runs $3,000, my sons have reunited me with the Veteran’s Administration as well as my regular health care provider, Texas HealthSpring, which does not list Gleevec among the drugs which it covers. The VA doesn’t list Gleevec by name either, but Joel assures me that it is listed by its generic name.

Anyway, we will take what comes and see what we will see. And if you return to anytime after next Saturday morning you will be treated to a brand new edition of our blog. We’re sorry we haven’t been more entertaining recently, but it’s hard to be entertaining when you are feeling lousy. Let’s everybody wish me luck after July 2nd, and hope one way or another I can get something to put this white corpuscle mutiny into its proper place, which is in remission. Meantime, have a good week, and remember not to give a Republican or Tea Party-er the time of day. They are just liable to strip your watch right off of your arm. Bye now.

The Real Little Eddy §

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