Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:19 pm

What could possibly go wrong?

The Obama administration is accused of having suppressed scientific information on what the worst-case scenario might have been in the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.

So how’s that “more open, more transparent government” thingie workin’ out for ya?

Truth is, there wasn’t much to suppress. Everyone knew the worst-case scenario was an Earth-extinction event. That’s because the worst-case scenario is always an Earth-extinction event, whether you’re talking about an oil spill, nuclear war, a rogue asteroid or the mysterious deaths of the honeybees that pollinate our crops. Duh.

Actually, that’s not quite precise. The worst worst-case scenario would be an Earth-extinction event preceded by a global shortage of beer.

Saturday, September 25, 2010 5:55 pm

Playing catch-up

As blogging goes, I have been slackeriffic of late, so let’s see what I can do to get caught up here.

Damn. Maybe I should just stop now.

Ah, well, like the man said, I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

  • But we’re not giving it up without a fight: Barack Obama believes he has the power to order American citizens executed without charge or trial. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are fighting that.
  • Some of America’s greatest leaders? Would be considered terrorists today.
  • They’re everywhere: Government at multiple levels in this country is blurring the distinction between dissent and terrorism. In Pennsylvania, where activists are opposing new oil drilling (entirely understandable, if not ultimately a good idea, in the wake of Deepwater Horizon), opponents are being monitored by the state Department of Homeland Security, and when the governor was asked about it, he at first defended the program.
  • And it ain’t just government: Monsanto hired Blackwater to monitor activists who oppose genetically modified seeds, despite the risks they pose.
  • Double standard: When the Democrats nominate someone who’s insane for the U.S. Senate, they disown him. When the Republicans do it, they embrace her and give her lots of money.
  • But, no, we’re not racists: The National Federation of Republican Women has Sen. Glenn McConnell attend dressed in a Confederate Army uniform and pose with African Americans dressed as slaves. In 2010. For reals.
  • Enthusiasm gap: If Democrats and the White House wonder why their base is so much less motivated to turn out in November than the GOP base, they might consider issues such as this and conclude that warning against “the return of George W. Bush” is pretty pointless when you’re going Bush one better.
  • In deep: How could the Deepwater Horizon disaster happen? When Interior Department regulators are being bullied by the industry they oversee and undercut by their managers, I’d say anything is possible.
  • Risk assessment: Emptywheel poses a very good question: Is the greatest danger to our financial system really terrorism?
  • Well, at least he’s honest: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R- Okla., tells the American people to, quite literally, eat shit.
  • Scheduling an election is not rocket science. So would it be too much to ask that states get ballots to troops overseas in time for those ballots to be cast? Sheesh. (h/t: Fred)
  • Questions of ownership: GMAC, one of the nation’s largest home-financing firms, tries to foreclose on a home whose mortgage has been resold only for a judge to conclude, quite reasonably, that, hell, no, it can’t foreclose on something it doesn’t own; further investigation suggests GMAC may be executing 10,000 fake documents a month related to mortgages. As a result, GMAC foreclosures are on hold in 23 states. But the real fun, not obvious at first glance, is that dealing with this issue is going to make it harder for a lot of insolvent banks to hide the fact that they’re insolvent.
  • Maybe somebody should have shot the deputy: Charlie Munger, populist billionaire Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway, recently suggested that America’s unemployed and underemployed should “just suck it in” and added, “Thank God for bank bailouts.” Why would he say such a thing when BH took no bailout money? Uh, because companies in which BH is invested took $95 billion, maybe?
  • You will know him by his trail of dead: Howard Fineman, one of the most relentlessly conventional journalists in American history — and, therefore, a guy who has whiffed on most of the significant political stories of the past 15 or so years — is deserting the sinking ship at Newsweek to go work for the Huffington Post. Conservatives everywhere should be of good cheer; if he does there what he did at Newsweek, HuffPo will be dead inside of three years.
  • Who broke the Senate?: Something called “Gingrich senators.” That’s a very short way of describing what is actually a pretty well-documented phenomenon.
  • Apparently we need another war on poverty. Sigh.
  • Fight the police state: Reason magazine offers tips on how.
  • The Washington Post’s problems in just three words: It. Can’t. Think.
  • Funniest line ever posted at PowerLine, by Paul Mirengoff on Christine O’Donnell: “It’s great to hear that O’Donnell learned from her experiences dabbling in witchcraft. You wouldn’t want a U.S. Senator who dabbled in witchcraft and learned nothing from it.” Heh. Indeed.
  • Genetically, we’re not only close to apes, we’re pretty close to jackals: Nancy Nall on scrapping, physical and financial.
  • Corruption in Afghanistan: Not that big a deal after all, the administration decides.
  • When was the last economic recovery that WASN’T jobless?: Oh, about 20 years ago.
  • Question for everyone who still believes in “the liberal media”: What do you think would happen if DEMOCRATS had filibustered a defense appropriations bill? And, naturally, John McCain lied about the reasons for it.
  • He is the egg man: Austin “Jack” DeCoster, whose company was implicated in the recent problem with salmonella-tainted eggs, may have been the guy responsible for introducing salmonella into the U.S. egg supply in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
  • Larry Summers gone: The problem is, unless his replacement is named Warren, Krugman, Bakker Baker, Shiller or DeLong, we’re going to have the same problems we have now.
  • Fannie and Freddie weren’t the ones who broke the economy: So said Barry Ritholtz a while back; so says the FHFA now.
  • Alternatives to bank bailouts: Let me show u them. We did, in fact, have some, which is worth remembering two years on.
  • Chain of command: I’ve got little but contempt for Bob Woodward’s “reporting” these days, but if he has accurately reported that Gen. David Petraeus told colleagues that President Obama “is f—ing with the wrong guy,” then Obama should fire Petraeus and thank Woodward for bringing that insubordination to his attention.
  • The Tea Party isn’t just about deficits and taxes and spending: Whether it started out this way or not, it is rapidly being taken over, if it has not already been, by the Christian Taliban. (More here.) Despite already having called for Obama’s impeachment, I’m not under any illusions about what else is going to happen next year if the GOP regains control of Congress in November. Nobody else should be, either.
  • Kidding themselves: Even such normally sensible outlets as Zero Hedge are buying into this silly-assed notion that businesses aren’t hiring because of an “atmosphere of uncertainty.” No. There’s always uncertainty in the business world, not least every election year. The problem this time isn’t uncertainty, it’s that no one is buying anything because no one has any money because they’re in debt up to their eyeballs, unemployment/underemployment is at its highest level in three-quarters of a century and even the people who have jobs are afraid they’re going to lose them. Moreover, consumers are afraid, probably with good reason, that things will get worse before they get better.
  • Stop the presses!: The new version of the GOP Contract on America was written by a former lobbyist for Exxon and AIG.
  • Pre-emptive strike: Is a newly discovered super computer virus the means by which Iran’s nuclear threat will be nullified? And did the virus originate in Israel?
  • Apparently neither a joke nor an urban legend: Good news, ladies! Having unprotected sex, although it can put you at increased risk of sexually transmitted disease if you’re not really careful and picky and can, of course, get you pregnant, also can render you significantly less likely than your latex-dependent friends AND your chaste friends to suffer from depression. And there’s actually a chemical reason for this!
  • Even Napoleon thought the third time was enemy action: Glenn Fine, inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department, expects us to believe that three separate FBI investigative efforts of the Thomas Merton Center’s anti-war activities during the Bush administration were isolated, coincidental and in no way politically motivated. He also expects us to believe in unicorns, too, I guess.
  • On the road to recovery: Uh, not so much, says well-known liberal Paul Volcker.
  • Here’s the thing about Republican congresscritters and stimulus spending: The most offensive thing isn’t that they’re hypocrites for criticizing the program while still trying to land some of its money for their districts. It’s that they’re lying when they say it doesn’t work.
  • Good news, bad news, Internet edition: Radio spectrum being abandoned by TV as it moves to hi-def could be made available for next-generation WiFi at little cost to the public or, in the alternative, be auctioned off for that purpose at huge benefit to the Treasury. But that’s not going to happen.
  • I want to play Roy Blount in poker: The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri challenged Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan to six debates … and then backed out of four of them after she took him up on it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 11:35 pm

Catchin’ up on stuff; or, Odds and ends for Aug. 22

  • Questions more people need to be asking about the deficit, answered.
  • Why, if I lived near DC, I might be tempted to burn a Confederate flag at Glenn Beck’s upcoming rally.
  • I think the F-bomb has become a highly convenient excuse to keep adolescents from seeing a movie that shows how the American government screwed over an American hero and lied to his family.
  • Apparently it’s OK for American journalists to write highly inaccurate articles as long as they do so in the right (pun intended) way. Relatedly, these days, a DC journalist, given the choice between giving a deserved screwing to a colleague and giving an undeserved screwing to the American people in general, will screw the American people every time.
  • Governmental foot-dragging has its intended effect: Tom DeLay walks free. There are no consequences. There is no accountability. Rule of law? Ha.
  • The Internet will be the death of the music bidness as we’ve known it. Of course, no one who has known it will shed a tear, but that doesn’t mean the bidness is going down without a fight. Now they’re partnering with the National Association of Broadcasters, another powerful lobby, to try to get the government to mandate the inclusion of FM radio in future cell phones. Good luck with that. Oh, and die already.
  • The question isn’t why “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger “quit” her radio show after dropping about 11 N-bombs. The question is why any responsible broadcaster ever allowed someone with such obvious mental problems on the air dispensing advice in the first place.
  • Despite rising wheat prices caused by Russia’s drought-driven ban on exports, U.S. wheat farmers aren’t sure they should plant more wheat. Why? They’re pretty sure the wheat market is rigged, just as it was a few years ago. Now someone explain to me again what social utility investment bankers serve. Relatedly, Harper’s makes the case that they’re just playing games with the world’s food supply.
  • August: Stupid American Month.
  • If The New York Times or CNN had contributed $1 million to the Democratic Governors Association, do you think the country would have responded with such a yawn? Me, neither.
  • So will all the Wikileaks critics shut up now that the Pentagon’s own evidence shows Wikileaks tried to work with the Pentagon to redact sensitive information but was rebuffed? Yeah. I thought not.
  • The oil from BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster? Government reports to the contrary, it’s mostly still out there.
  • When it comes to protecting our rights and our privacy, those commies in Europe are eating The Land of the Free’s lunch.
  • You know how the government has always claimed Guantanamo detainees are “the worst of the worst”? In fact, the government lacks enough evidence to charge 3/4 of them with any crime at all.
  • The $75 billion Home Affordable Mortgage Protection Act is a bust … because Congress, after approving the money, did nothing to ensure that bankruptcy judges would use so-called “cramdown” provisions to make sure the money would do what it was supposed to do. What has happened instead has left a lot of homeowners even worse off than if the government had done nothing and has hampered the recovery of the housing market. And the administration hasn’t bothered to try to get Congress to do the right thing. Heckuva job all the way around.
  • Memo to Army Maj. Gen. Charles E. Chambers: Your punishing soldiers who opted not to attend a concert by an evangelical Christian rock band should carry punishment of its own: loss of your stars and your pension. You violated your oath to protect the Constitution, General, plain and simple.
  • Robert Frank has an interesting proposal that could help both government and consumers: The government should buy up consumer debt, on which consumers are paying 20% and up, and charge consumers 8%. This would put more disposable income in consumers’ hands and give the government a substantially better return on its investment than the 2.8% or so that 10-year bills currently are paying. It makes so much sense that there’s zero chance Congress will pass it because it would hurt deny banks their current flow of blood money.
  • Shorter Paul Volcker: Lending deregulation was bad because allowing higher interest payments on risky sub-prime loans encouraged banks to make more risky loans.
  • Barry Ritholtz: We’re good at saying “What if we had done nothing?” about the bailout, but an even better question is, “What if we had done the right thing?”
  • COOL (as it were): Scientists are working on a way to use carbon dixoide and certain kinds of bacteria to convert crude oil into cleaner-burning methane — while the oil is still in the ground. A separate effort is working on using solar power to convert CO2 to carbon, or carbon monoxide to, in turn, synthesize hydrocarbon fuels.
  • I have found my Official Anthem for the Summer of 2010. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too R-rated to link to, but I’ll give you a hint: It’s by Cee-Lo, from his forthcoming album.
  • Colombian Supreme Court to U.S. military: Don’t let the sun set on you in Bogota. Oops.
  • Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, leaves the Wall Street Journal and tears U.S. news media several new orifices on the way out the door (whether he also grabbed a beer is not clear).
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has apologized for a blog post suggesting that the male-female wage gap and the glass ceiling aren’t real problems, which might actually mean something if it would apologize for everything else it has said and done in that same vein for the past several decades. But it won’t, so it doesn’t.
  • The American Family Association apparently believes our soldiers in Iraq died for nothing. Actually, so do I, inasmuch as that war was illegal from the git. But you know why the AFA believes it? Because Iraq is not a Christian nation.
  • Would someone who considers him/herself a deficit hawk and supports extending George Bush’s tax cuts for millionaires please explain to me how we can afford to do that but cannot afford to put people to work?
  • And, finally, this week’s tasteless joke, from D. Aristophanes at Sadly, No!:

A priest, a rabbi and an imam walk into an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero. The bartender says, ‘What’re you drinking?’ and the imam orders him beheaded because sharia law dhimmitude Allahu Akbar alalalalalalalalala flabberty jabberty jabber etc. etc.*

You’ve been a great crowd! We’re here all week!

*Also the priest molests the bartender’s kids and the rabbi drinks their blood.

Thursday, August 12, 2010 7:49 pm

An observation regarding BP

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 7:49 pm
Tags: , ,

I think at this point we should assume that BP is not going to do anything it ought to do except at gunpoint … and we should proceed accordingly.

It is lowballing estimates of the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, which is significant because the amount of fines and damages it ultimately will have to pay depends on the amount spilled.

And — funny thing! — its agreement to pay up to $20 billion in damages may depend on whether or not it gets to keep its Gulf oil leases … even though forfeiture of those leases (or other assets) may be found by a court to be an appropriate criminal or civil penalty. (Remember, it may face criminal charges not only for the spill but also for the deaths of 11 workers and related acts.)

It is running an expensive PR campaign intended to get people to think it intends to make whole everyone harmed by its criminal negligence. Only a fool would believe it … and guess what we’re governed by.

Friday, June 25, 2010 7:58 pm

Are we having fun yet?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 7:58 pm
Tags: , ,

Entertaining new info about the Deepwater Horizon oil eruption:

  • BP has publicly stated that the size of the reservoir under the blown-out well is 50 million barrels. In fact, says Tadeusz Patzek, the chairman of the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas, “I would assume that 500 million barrels would be a more likely estimate. I don’t think you would be going after a 50-million-barrel reservoir so quickly. This is just simply not enough oil to go after.” So — surprise! — BP lied again.
  • In fact, the reservoir actually could be anywhere between 2.5 billion and 10 billion barrels. Indeed, according to Wayne Madsen, one of the reasons the Obama fast-tracked this project was that its holdings were projected at between 3 billion and 4 billion barrels, enough to supply U.S. oil needs for up to eight months should political unrest of military action shut off oil traffic through the Straits of Hormuz.
  • Fact: The bigger the reservoir, the longer oil will continue to erupt unless the well is capped.
  • Fact: The reservoir contains about 40% methane, compared with 5% in most such reservoirs. Because gas can be compressed while liquid cannot, that means the reservoir may be under higher natural pressure. This could mean 1) the possibility of accelerating oil/gas flow from the leak; 2) continuing erosion of the well casing by sand and other material under high pressure.
  • Then there’s this: “Finally, the more oil and gas in the reservoir, the higher a priority the government may consider it to produce the well at all costs. See this and this.” So, yet more reason not to trust either BP or the government.
  • More shenanigans:

WMR’s sources on the Gulf coast report that BP Security personnel are being augmented by off-duty Alabama state troopers and G4S Wackenhut private security guards. The BP Security personnel ensure that no observers are present on Gulf coast beaches during night time hours when BP contractors scour the beaches and pick up and covertly dispose of dead dolphins, turtles, birds, and other sea animals that wash ashore covered with oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

BP is secretly disposing of the dead animals in order to avoid paying fines and compensation for killing endangered and protected species like turtles, dolphins, and brown pelicans. The sharp drop off in oxygen levels in the Gulf is forcing many sea animals into shallower waters in order to breathe, however, sharks are also following the easier prey into coastal rivers and inlets.

(I’m sorry, but from where I sit it’s a conflict of interest for Alabama law enforcement to be providing off-duty security for some of the same people they may later have to arrest.)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers emergency planners are dealing with a prospective “dead zone” within a 200 mile radius from the Deepwater Horizon disaster datum in the Gulf.

A looming environmental and population displacement disaster is brewing in the Gulf. The oil dispersant used by BP, Corexit 9500, is seen by FEMA sources as mixing with evaporated water from the Gulf and absorbed by rain clouds producing toxic precipitation that threatens to continue killling marine and land animals, plant life, and humans within a 200-mile radius of the Deepwater Horizon disaster site in the Gulf.
Adding to the worries of FEMA and the Corps of Engineers is the large amounts of methane that are escaping from the cavernous grotto of oil underneath the Macondo drilling area of Gulf of Mexico.

On a recent visit to the Gulf coast, President Obama vowed that the Gulf coast will “return to normal.” However, federal officials dealing with the short- and long-term impact of the oil disaster report that the “dead zone” created by a combination of methane gas and Corexit toxic rain will force the evacuation and long-term abandonment of cities and towns within the 200-mile radius of the oil volcano.
Plans are being put in place for the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Mandeville, Hammond, Houma, Belle Chase, Chalmette, Slidell, Biloxi, Gulfport, Pensacola, Hattiesburg, Mobile, Bay Minette, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Crestview, and Pascagoula.

The toxic rain from the Gulf is expected to poison fresh water reservoirs and lakes, streams, and rivers, which will also have a disastrous impact on agriculture and livestock, as well as drinking water, in the affected region.

  • Meanwhile, the commission looking at the causes of this disaster is being housed in the land of the blind: “From my review of their published bios, I cannot discern that any named member possesses any direct training or experience with the technology and practices of offshore drilling, a field that in its own way is every bit as complex as aviation, terrorism, or other past subjects of similar commissions.” By comparison, the commission that examined the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger “was packed to the rafters with figures of national prominence and deep expertise in aviation and space technology and operations.” That wasn’t the commission staff; that was the commission itself.

And, naturally, this will have bankster economic ramifications: Moody’s says that of all the collateralized synthetic obligations it has rated, BP stock figures in 117, or 18%. BP bankruptcy, should it happen, would create systemic financial problems. I’m reasonably sure this wouldn’t affect Blog on the Run readers directly — how many of you have a position in any CSO? — but I could be wrong.

Monday, June 21, 2010 1:30 pm

Concern troll is concerned

Oh, dear. The normally level-headed folks at the Economist have taken a gander at some of the anti-BP sentiment in the U.S. and are concerned that President Obama is not doing enough to squelch it. Strictly speaking, they don’t call for Obama to pull a Joe Barton, but they worry that he is “cementing business leaders’ impression that he is indifferent to their concerns.”

I, being concerned that their concerns mainly seem to be composed of wanting BP to be able to kill 11 people and do hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of damage to people’s property and livelihoods, also am worried about Obama’s being indifferent to their concerns. Because what he ought to be is actively hostile to their concerns.

Sunday, June 20, 2010 10:38 pm

Have I mentioned lately that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a bunch of whores?

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 10:38 pm
Tags: , , , ,

First, they want you, the taxpayer, to help pay to clean up BP’s mess.

That’s bad enough. But to add insult to injury, here’s their logic:

“It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game,” said Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “. . . Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it.  We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that.”

Uh, Tom, what was that you guys said about changing the laws after the game back when the telcos were in danger of being charged and held civilly liable for their roles in Bush administration violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

Oh, yeah, this:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly supports S. 2248, the “FISA Amendments Act of 2007,” as passed by the Senate on February 12, 2008. The Chamber believes that this bill, in its current form, provides necessary, appropriate, and targeted relief commensurate with the threat to national security that arose in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

The Chamber represents companies across various industries which own or operate vital components of the nation’s critical physical, virtual, and economic infrastructures. The federal government continually depends upon such industries for cooperation and assistance in national security matters, including homeland security programs and activities. The government also turns to these companies in times of crisis, when the speed, agility, and creativity of the private sector can be critical to averting a terrorist attack.

Therefore, the Chamber urges the House to consider S. 2248 and pass this bipartisan compromise legislation. The Chamber firmly believes that the immunity provisions in S. 2248 are imperative to preserving the self-sustaining “public-private partnership” that both Congress and the Executive Branch have sought to protect the United States in the post-September 11 world.”

Shorter Chamber: We expect large corporations to be able to do any damn thing they want. You meatsacks can just suck it up.

(h/t: Marcy)

Saturday, June 19, 2010 9:27 pm

You should totally apologize to BP

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

So go do it. Right now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010 8:59 pm

Time to fire BP?

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:59 pm
Tags: , ,

The conventional wisdom is that because BP has expertise the government lacks, BP has to stay in charge of repairing the damage at Deepwater Horizon. However, Washington’s Blog (new to me) makes a good case that the government could pull BP off the project and bring in outside expertise … on BP’s dime.

On the bright side, he CLAIMED he wasn’t speaking for any other Republicans

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:38 pm
Tags: , ,

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that 1) the $20 billion BP has promised to set aside to cover the damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon eruption isn’t guaranteed by anything at this point, 2) BP’s behavior leading up to the eruption clearly constituted criminal negligence, at the least, 3) the actual damages could well be several multiples of $20 billion before it’s all said and done, or 4) BP has retained financial counsel of the type that suggests that making whole the victims of its crimes and negligence is not especially high on its agenda. (UPDATE: BP has hired four more investment banks, for a total of seven, meaning there may well be no banks left big enough to underwrite a takeover effort. Problem is, those fees are coming out of shareholders’ pockets. But I digress.)

No, Joe Barton thinks some minimal effort to hold responsible the corporation at fault for the worst environmental disaster in recorded history constitutes a “shakedown.”

Well, at least we know for a fact whom he works for. I just wish all the other congresscritters who felt the same way had the ‘nads to say so publicly, so we’d know who they are.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:49 pm

Show me the money

When I woke up this morning, America was all abuzz over the notion that President Obama expects BP to put up a $20 billion escrow fund to cover the damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster.

My first thought: Given the ever-increasing amounts of oil flow being reported (which may not be just the results of more accurate measurement but may in fact be ever-increasing amounts), what in pluperfect hell is the basis for presuming that $20 billion will be sufficient?

My second thought? Obama needs to get the money up front. In cash:

With BP’s shares plummeting, the embattled oil company is reportedly concerned about a hostile takeover. So who’s BP turning to for help? Goldman Sachs, of course. Not to mention The Blackstone Group and Credit Suisse.

Fox Business Network’s Charlie Gasparino reported yesterday that Goldman was one of “the lead advisers for BP in trying to figure its way financially out of this mess, and it’s raising a lot of eyebrows.”

Gasparino had reported earlier that three banks had been hired to help BP develop plans to deal with its financial liabilities, and that “the top contingency plan is clearly a potential hostile takeover. If the stock keeps falling, are they basically susceptible to a hostile takeover.”

The people running BP do not care whether BP is susceptible to a hostile takeover. They care about not going to prison and getting a bunch of money. Period. And the less money gets forked over to the government and put in escrow for people harmed by the oil eruption, the more money there is for them to steal, whether or not the company gets taken over.

Because here’s the thing: You may or may not retain Goldman Sachs, the Blackstone Group or Credit Suisse to fend off a hostile takeover. But you definitely do NOT retain any of those outfits if your primary concern is protecting the interests of those physically and economically harmed by your negligence and crimes.

Quote of the day, BP edition

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 6:25 am
Tags: , ,

Athenae at First Draft: “The only problem with class warfare is that we’ve been losing it for so long.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 10:45 pm

Memo to Tom Shales

Tom, I’ve always enjoyed your TV writing. That said, not everything needs to be assessed on its merits as a TV show.

Because here’s the thing: The grownups are not talking about TV. They are talking about torture and warrantless wiretapping and an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf that was the perfectly predictable and accurately predicted consequence of 30 years’ worth of bought-and-paid for bad public-policy decisions.

There are reasons why no one asks your opinion about stuff that matters, and this column is one of them.

Monday, June 14, 2010 11:27 pm

Well, crud, I guess we have to keep drilling for oil …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 11:27 pm
Tags: , ,

… because apparently they can make antibodies out of plastic now and keep you from dying of bee stings.

I probably will feel better about this once Deepwater Horizon stops erupting.

Plus which, I don’t know what else we have in the pharmacopoeia that will save people who have tried to become clairvoyant for gambling purposes by smoking dried endangered vultures’ brains.

There’s a metaphor in here somewhere

I followed a link to a Miami Herald story, posted Saturday morning, about a piece of the Deepwater Horizon rig that washed up on a Florida beach. And I was struck by the fact that 60 or so hours after the piece was posted, there were still no comments on it. “Geez,” I thought, “have we finally run out of outrage?”

Then I tried to comment, and the Herald made me try to register in its new commenting system.

And now I know why there are no comments.

How the Exxon Valdez destroyed the economy more than two decades later

I actually read this piece when it came out a year ago but had forgotten about it until reminded by Jason Linkins.

Short version: In 1994, Exxon, initially facing fines and penalties of up to $5 billion (later greatly, and unfortunately, reduced), arranged for a line of credit roughly that size from J.P. Morgan, which turned around and sold that risk to European banks. And thus was born the credit-default swap, kind of like Rosemary’s baby.

So, what fresh hell will Deepwater Horizon unleash upon us and our children in 2030?

Cats and dogs living together

Moody’s sees the offshore-drilling industry headed for a disaster of biblical proportions: Old Testament, real wrath-of-God-type stuff, fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice … mass hysteria.*

And that’s just what they see. Given Moody’s performance in rating mortgage-backed securities, I’m even more worried about what they might be overlooking.

*Possibly not a direct quote. At least, not from Moody’s.

Shorter Mitch McConnell

We Republicans screwed up the government so badly it both allowed Deepwater Horizon to happen and was unable to respond effectively to it. So no one should trust government.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 11:05 pm

No words

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 11:05 pm
Tags: , , , ,

UPDATE: Commenter Woli: “This is how King Midas must have felt.”

How much oil has spilled in the Gulf?

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 10:55 pm
Tags: , ,

The answer is complicated. But given that the amount of the fine BP will pay — $1,100 per barrel, rising to a maximum of $4,300 per barrel in cases of gross negligence — is riding on the answer, we need to know. (Keep in mind that as I type this, a barrel of crude is trading for around $75.)

It turns out that the most recently quoted range — 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day — is only the lower bound of reliable estimates. No one knows what the upper bound might be. So we’re talking a fine of, let’s say, $13.2 million to $20.9 million per day. And, again, that’s just the lower bound. If the actual eruption rate is 50,000 barrels per day, we’re talking $55 million per day.

And if you quadruple that for gross negligence, that gets you up over $2 billion per day. For perspective, BP’s 2009 profits were $4.4 billion.

Today is something like Day 45. If the latest capping stunt attempt doesn’t work, the eruption won’t be stopped until relief wells are finished sometime in August. So, for the sake of round numbers, let’s say $2.2 billion multiplied by 100 days, or a total fine of $220 billion before the first lawsuit is filed.

So, yeah, I’d say BP has some incentive to downplay the figures.

UPDATE: Indeed, BP has even more incentive than I remembered. The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Nick Rahall, has written Attorney General Eric Holder, asking him to charge BP the usual 18.75% drilling royalty on the spilled oil, which, of course, BP will never be able to sell.

Quote of the day; or, CSI: BP

Filed under: Evil,Journalism — Lex @ 10:24 pm
Tags: , ,

Allison Kilkenny, FTW:

In a sane world, a company guilty of gross negligence that resulted in the deaths of 11 workers would be under criminal investigation, and not be parading around the coast, telling the media where they can go and who they can talk to, while forbidding their clean-up crews from wearing protective gear.

Law enforcement doesn’t handle other crimes like this. Cops don’t let serial killers tidy up their crime scenes after they’re done a’stabbin’.

Indeed, in a sane world, such a company would be in government receivership. And in a health journalism ecosystem, news organizations would be sending reporters anywhere on public property they wanted to go and taking out TROs against BP and any co-opted local law enforcement if it tried to object.

Because at this point, I don’t think it’s just the journalists who are pissed anymore.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 11:14 pm


Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 11:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

TO: Jane Lubchenco, director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
DATE: 6/2/2010
RE: Your employer

Hi. Remember us? We’re the American people. You know, your boss? Your employer?

Not BP. Us. You vile, corrupt piece of whale feces.

Apparently it has escaped your attention that everybody’s watching you on this one. Redundant layers of supervision and independent investigation have been following your every move, a fact that should have been obvious to anyone with the intelligence of navel lint. So we’re going to do you the perhaps-unmerited courtesy of presuming that you are more intelligent than navel lint and simply have gone over to the dark side.

Which is fine — it’s still a semi-free country — but in exchange, I want your butt off my payroll by 9:01 Eastern tomorrow morning.

(I also want world peace, and I ain’t getting that either, but a grump can dream.)

If you think the Mississippi Delta is in a world of hurt, check out the Niger Delta.

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 10:23 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

The Guardian:

The farther we travelled, the more nauseous it became. Soon we were swimming in pools of light Nigerian crude, the best-quality oil in the world. One of the many hundreds of 40-year-old pipelines that crisscross the Niger delta had corroded and spewed oil for several months.

Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. “We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots,” said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. “This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months.”

That was the Niger delta a few years ago, where, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.

In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP‘s Deepwater Horizon rig last month.

That disaster, which claimed the lives of 11 rig workers, has made headlines round the world. By contrast, little information has emerged about the damage inflicted on the Niger delta. Yet the destruction there provides us with a far more accurate picture of the price we have to pay for drilling oil today.

So how’s that magic of the marketplace workin’ out for ya, eh? If you’re Shell or ExxonMobil, pretty well. If you’re a Nigerian, not so much.

“A roiling, alligator-filled wall of flame.”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:28 pm
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What’s the worst-case scenario for Deepwater Horizon?


Risk assessment

John Hussman, via Zero Hedge:

While there are about 3,800 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, only about 130 deep water projects have been completed, compared with just 17 a decade ago. So in 10 years, applying a new technology, we’ve had one major oil spill thus far. Unless there is some a priori reason to assume that the technology is pristine, despite the fact that it has failed spectacularly, the first back-of-the-envelope estimate a statistician would make would be to model deep water oil spills as a “Poisson process.” Poisson processes are often used to model things that arrive randomly, like customers in a checkout line, or insurance claims across unrelated policy holders. Given one major oil spill in 10 years, you probably wouldn’t be way off the mark using an average “arrival frequency” of 0.10 annually.

From that perspective, a simple Poisson estimate would suggest a 90.5% probability that we will see no additional major oil spills from deep water rigs over the coming year, dropping to a 36.8% chance that we’ll see no additional major oil spills from deep water rigs over the coming decade. Moreover, you’d put a 36.8% chance on having exactly one more major spill in the coming decade, an 18.4% chance on having two major spills, a 6.1% chance of having three major spills, and a 1.9% chance of having four or more major spills in the coming decade. This is quite a bit of inference from a small amount of data, but catastrophes contain a great deal of information when the “prior” is that catastrophes are simply not possible.

It’s not clear even from the context what significant growth in the number of deep-water projects would do to those odds, but common sense suggests that risk increases with the number of projects.

Last week, Steve Pearlstein at The Washington Post talked about risk and government’s role in its management:

The big flaw in the business critique of regulation is not so much that it overstates the costs, but that it understates its benefits — in particular, the benefits of avoiding low-probability events with disastrous consequences. Think of oil spills, mine explosions, financial meltdowns or even global warming. There is a natural tendency of human beings to underestimate the odds of such seemingly unlikely events — of forgetting that the 100-year flood is as likely to happen in Year 5 as it is in Year 95. And if there are insufficient data to calculate the probability of a very bad outcome, as is often the case, that doesn’t mean we should assume the probability is zero.

Another challenge in thinking about regulation is that any meaningful analysis has to go beyond merely toting up the costs and benefits to a consideration of how those costs and benefits are distributed. Regulations limiting derivatives trading, for example, may add costs or reduce profit for a bank or its corporate customers every year, but the benefits of that regulation would mostly accrue to taxpayers and the economy as a whole if it saves them from the occasional financial crisis that requires a bailout or triggers a recession. From the banks’ standpoint, such a regulation may well seem like a bad idea, but for society as a whole it would be a winner.

UPDATE: David Leonhardt at the NYT also has a good piece on this issue:

For all the criticism BP executives may deserve, they are far from the only people to struggle with such low-probability, high-cost events. Nearly everyone does. “These are precisely the kinds of events that are hard for us as humans to get our hands around and react to rationally,” Robert N. Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard, says. We make two basic — and opposite — types of mistakes. When an event is difficult to imagine, we tend to underestimate its likelihood. This is the proverbial black swan. Most of the people running Deepwater Horizon probably never had a rig explode on them. So they assumed it would not happen, at least not to them.

Similarly, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan liked to argue, not so long ago, that the national real estate market was not in a bubble because it had never been in one before. Wall Street traders took the same view and built mathematical models that did not allow for the possibility that house prices would decline. And many home buyers signed up for unaffordable mortgages, believing they could refinance or sell the house once its price rose. That’s what house prices did, it seemed.

On the other hand, when an unlikely event is all too easy to imagine, we often go in the opposite direction and overestimate the odds. After the 9/11 attacks, Americans canceled plane trips and took to the road. There were no terrorist attacks in this country in 2002, yet the additional driving apparently led to an increase in traffic fatalities.

When the stakes are high enough, it falls to government to help its citizens avoid these entirely human errors. The market, left to its own devices, often cannot do so. Yet in the case of Deepwater Horizon, government policy actually went the other way. It encouraged BP to underestimate the odds of a catastrophe.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 10:43 pm

BP surrenders

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 10:43 pm
Tags: ,

Honestly, I don’t know how else to interpret BP’s retention of Anne Womack-Holton to run its U.S. PR, because when you hire Dick Freaking Cheney’s former press secretary to handle your crisis communications, you are publicly admitting that you don’t have the first clue what in pluperfect hell you are doing.

Well, I won’t say the horse is out of the barn …

… but 11 people are dead and one hell of a lot of oil is out of the ground. Still, the fact that Justice has finally gotten off its rear end and opened a criminal investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is welcome, if grossly tardy, news.

I hope they’ll throw the book at BP and Transocean, at least — for once, Halliburton might actually be blameless, although a decent investigation will tell us. At the least, someone at BP needs to be looking at 11 counts of manslaughter, and I would pile on the charges, everything from destruction of federal property to mopery. Decades from now, I want the testicles of descendants yet unborn of oil-company executives everywhere to shrivel up into their bellies when the tale of what finally happened to those responsible for this tragedy is recounted.

Yet another example of how U.S. journalism sucks

Oh, to see ourselves as others see us:

Sarah Palin thinks Barack Obama has taken too “doggone long to get in there”. James Carville wants Mr Obama to “put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving.” Maureen Dowd doinked Mr Obama Saturday with her silly-straw-like wit, faulting his “inability to encapsulate Americans’ feelings.” Yeah, you know who would’ve killed as the president facing a deep-sea oil blowout? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Or maybe Meryl Streep. Did you see them in “Doubt“?

Ms Dowd’s involvement is fitting, as this may be the sorriest spectacle of content-free public hyperventilation since Al Gore’s earth tones. The difference is that in this case the issue is deadly serious; it’s the public discourse that is puerile. There is plenty of room for substantive critique of the flaws in governance and policy uncovered by the Deepwater Horizon blowout. You could talk about regulatory failure. You could talk about corporate impunity. You could talk about blithely ignoring the tail-end risk of going ahead with deepwater drilling without any capacity to cope with catastrophic blowouts. Precisely none of these subjects are evident in the arguments our pundit class is having. Instead we have empty-headed squawking over what the catastrophe is doing to Barack Obama’s image.

Who’s raising concrete critiques of administration policy? Chiefly Mr Obama.

All American journalists can worry about is the political ramifications, which is easy for them because you can claim any damn thing you want about the political ramifications and be proven right or wrong only in hindsight — and since Americans suck at hindsight, you can have a worse track record than a three-legged thoroughbred and still enjoy near-lifetime job security in the Washington media universe. (UPDATE: Excellent comment on this phenomenon from Jason Linkins at HuffPo: “I think that when the McLaughlin Group makes predictions, it should culminate in a monthly Russian roulette competition where each correct prediction removes a round from the chamber.”)

An even more annoying subset of journalistic worrying about the political ramifications of Deepwater Horizon is the amount of journalistic energy expended on the pointless question of whether Obama has responded with an appropriate show of emotion.

After spending 25 years in journalism, I’m reminded of the anecdote attributed to the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa of California. “When I first got elected to the Senate, I thought, ‘Wow, what am I doing here with all these really smart people?'” Hayakawa supposedly said, “and then after I’d been there awhile, I thought, ‘Geez, what am I doing here with these 99 idiots?'” That’s kind of how I feel about American journalism: Most days, I feel glad to be out of it, and the American media’s (lack of) coverage of the roots of Deepwater Horizon is just one example of why. Memo to young people: Being associated, day after day, year after year, with this kind of bone-dense thinking, like “fat, drunk and stupid,” is no way to go through life.

Maybe photo of the year

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 6:43 am
Tags: , ,

Protesters in Jackson Square, New Orleans, Sunday, May 30, 2010. Photo by Matthew Hinton, The Times-Picayune.

Criminal cover-up

Former federal prosecutor bmaz rounds up some of the documented misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon case:

The failed blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had a hydraulic leak and a dead battery in one of its control pods, and testing in the hours before an April 20 explosion revealed that pressure in the well was dangerously out of whack.

While some data were being transmitted to shore for safekeeping right up until the April 20 blast, officials from Transocean, the rig owner, told Congress that the last seven hours of its data are missing and that all written logs were lost in the explosion.

Heavy drilling fluid was unconscionably replaced with lighter seawater against industry standards just prior to the blowout. Over heated objections by experts on the scene, BP management supervisors overruled drillers, and insisted on displacing the mud with seawater

The broken blow out preventer had not been inspected in over five years.

BP was in a severe economic and time crunch to finish the job quickly and were over six weeks behind schedule.

Immediately leading up to the explosion, BP used procedures that violated their own drill plan; and in spite of indications of a “very large abnormality,” kept testing until they got something they could disingenuously claim fulfilled the test.

BP management supervisors refused to run the comprehensive cement bond log test, a definitive test of the integrity of a well’s cement mandated by Federal Regulations if there are concerns with the results of negative and positive pressure tests like were clearly present.

The BP management official on Deepwater Horizon making the unconscionable decisions, over the vehement objections of seasoned drilling experts, Robert Kaluzza has refused to testify by invoking his 5th Amendment criminal right against self incrimination.

BP officials aboard the rig wanted to skip required pressure tests and tried to impose a drilling plan sent directly from BP’s Houston headquarters that had not been approved, as required, by the federal government’s Minerals Management Service.

bmaz then lays out the elements of the crimes of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act and manslaughter and adds:

It is hard, if not impossible, to find any way that the conduct of both BP and its key decision making officials responsible for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, and corresponding mass loss of life, do not fit within the ambit of the above crimes. Why has the Obama Administration and its DOJ not acted? Why is there not a dedicated criminal investigation open and securing critical evidence?

As best as can be ascertained, the only real DOJ Main [i.e., Justice Department officials from Washington headquarters — Lex] assets sent to the Gulf scene are Tony West and Ignacia Moreno, the talking heads for the Civil Division and Environmental Divisions respectively, a tasking that screams of a total coddle-the-petroleum-industry-and-manage-the-fallout move, not a get-tough criminal consideration.

The DOJ could also be using the Texas Refinery Fire probation case that BP is still under the court’s jurisdiction for from their 2007 felony conviction as an easy investigatory and prosecutorial tool; but the DOJ will not even address the thought, much less act on it.


The Obama Administration and its DOJ owes the citizens a better effort than they have mustered to date. It is funny they are out trying to prosecute Guantanamo defense attorneys for doing their jobs and are still hell bent to persecute inconsequential marijuana crimes, but have no burning desire to go hard after BP, the biggest environmental criminal in history. How can that be?

Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!

“Because Guantanamo defense attorneys and inconsequential possessors of marijuana do not make the kind of political contributions on which both major parties depend.”

Impeach the SOB.

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