Friday Round Up – July 9, 2010 Edition

And The Crowd Says, “Boycott BP!”

Paul Shirley is a relatively unknown writer/former professional basketball player.  His first flirt with fame was  a blog about his time playing for the NBA’s Phoneix Suns, which then led into a book. The book was a quick enjoyable read that I’d suggest to almost any fan of basketball but wouldn’t recommend to anyone else.  His second was a poorly articulated  (and timed) column about the Haitian earthquake.  The column eventually got him fired from his gig at ESPN.com.  His new column about the BP oil spill is (for the most part) sensible and well articulated. (Bolding by me)

Really, it’s a surprise that an oil company cuts corners?  Or to take it a step further, that any sort of company cuts corners?

Blaming an individual company for trying to make money, in all the ways that companies try to make money – by increasing prices, by cutting costs, by firing workers  – is like blaming an individual mosquito for spreading malaria.  The little bug isn’t willfully trying to harm humans.  He’s just going for a snack, and he happens to be carrying a group of parasites that may or may not kill the snackee and his family.

That doesn’t mean that either entity – the mosquito or BP – should be encouraged in its indirect malevolence.  It does mean that humans being should understand reality before they point figurative fingers and start real Facebook pages dedicated to boycotting BP.

This is the reality:

Most of us would complain if we saw even the slightest hike in gas or food prices due to an increase in cost to BP or ExxonMobil or Shell because of more money spent on safety procedures.

Most of us would bemoan any significant increase in the tax on gasoline, even if the proceeds went directly to the creation of alternative forms of energy.

None of us will call our Senators, stage protests, or campaign for the opposition when a watered-down environmental bill is passed in the US Congress in a few weeks or months.

The best way to stop a mosquito?  Bug spray, or a well funded, well managed regulatory regime, with an informed populace.

Is Rolling Stone the best source of journalism in America?

Rolling Stone has gotten a lot of attention lately.  Mostly for the expose of the Iraq Commander by Michael Hastings and CBS News’ reprehensible rebuttal which included this sterling admission

Hastings also said that beat reporters — reporters, like Logan, specifically assigned to cover the military — do not publish negative pieces about their subjects in order to assure continued access…”I think that’s insulting and arrogant, myself. I really do,” Logan said, “because there are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. Michael Hastings appeared in Baghdad fairly late on the scene, and he was there for a significant period of time. He has his credentials, but he’s not the only one. There are a lot of very good reporters out there. And to be fair to the military, if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back.” Source

So essentially what she is saying is that other reporters bury stories that can and would make a difference in the political climate for the sake of their own careers.  The immortal Matt Taibai responded much more in detail than I.

As to this whole “unspoken agreement” business: the reason Lara Logan thinks this is because she’s like pretty much every other “reputable” journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she’s supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you’re covering! source

But this isn’t the reason why Rolling Stone makes the links this week.  The reason is for this scathing article essentially saying “Guess what, yea Bush was horrible.  But some of this blame needs to go on Obama.  He’s done nothing to change the culture.”

The Spill, The Scandal, and The President

Tim Dickinson writes an eviscerating critique of Obama’s handing of the oil spill.

The MMS was and is a disgrace.  In 2009 it was revealed that:

  1. The very agency in charge of regulating billions of dollars in oil drilling projects “rigged contracts, and engaged in illegal moonlighting, drugs, sex and gift-taking from oil company representatives.”
  2. Inspector General Earl E. Devaney stated the agency was”wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards.”
  3. Nearly 1/3 of the staff had received gifts from oil companies.
  4. The guy in charge was a coke head and routinely had sex with his staff and the oil companies’. (source)

Al Capone was was essentially Pablo Escobar of the early 1900s.  He murdered and extorted people while bootlegging his way to riches.  He was never charged with any of these crimes, rather he was charged with tax evasion.  Why?  Because that’s what they could prove.   The charges are what the investigators could prove! If this is what the agency was dumb enough to document and admit too, image what they did but didn’t get caught with!  But alas, when Obama came to town, things would change.

In fact, Obama specifically nominated Salazar – his “great” and “dear” friend – to force the department to “clean up its act.” For too long, Obama declared, Interior has been “seen as an appendage of commercial interests” rather than serving the people. “That’s going to change under Ken Salazar.”

The president, for his part, praised Salazar as “one of the finest secretaries of Interior we’ve ever had” and stressed that his administration had studied the drilling plan for more than a year. “This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly,” he said. Two days later, he issued an even more sweeping assurance. “It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills,” the president said. “They are technologically very advanced.”

Eighteen days later, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Deepwater Horizon rig went off like a bomb.

“People are being really circumspect, not pointing the finger at Salazar and Obama,” says Rep. Raul Grijalva, who oversees the Interior Department as chair of the House subcommittee on public lands. “But the troublesome point is, the administration knew that it had this rot in the middle of the process on offshore drilling – yet it empowered an already discredited, disgraced agency to essentially be in charge.”

I’d highly suggest reading the entire article

Image Credit kk+

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