Fools' Errand: Time to Remove the Cap from the Well Head!

Updated July 19, 3:45 PM EST
It is time to ask why on earth the Obama administration and the Coast Guard are allowing BP to continue keeping a tight lid on the top of the run-away, damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico. Leaks from the sea floor are appearing and growing in number, making it clear that the BP Deepwater Horizon well is gravely damaged. That being the case, it is obvious that any effort to restrict the flow of oil from the top of the well, by increasing the pressure inside the 2.5-mile long casing that runs down to the oil reservoir will only make any breaches in the casing worse, allowing oil and gas under high pressure to move into the surrounding concrete liner and the geological formations, where they will force their way up to the surface in an uncontrollable way.

Why would anyone want this to happen?

Well, clearly BP doesn’t care. The company is financially on the ropes anyway, and so its executives may well be figuring they have nothing to lose by making a long-shot bet (the company doesn’t even mention the leaks of gas from the seafloor in its Monday afternoon press release on its public information site).

Hold on to Your Hats: This Thing's Gonna Blow!

What the hell are they thinking in Washington, and down at the “Unified Command” in New Orleans, letting BP try to close off the oil volcano spewing out the top of the damaged Blowout Preventer (BOP) stack?

And what the hell is the mainstream press doing not asking about the clear evidence of oil or gas spewing out under pressure from cracks in the seafloor around the base of the BOP? (See the image of oil spewing from the sea floor here.)

Sure the initial partial closing of the valves is working, but they haven’t built up much pressure yet–just to 6000 lbs/square inch, which isn’t much above the 5000 lbs/square inch at that depth of the ocean–and a lot could go wrong. seriously wrong, and good reason to think it will.

I made a call to the media office of the Unified Command, the office set up to respond to public and media inquiries about the disaster, which is supposedly composed of people from the US Coast Guard, other federal agencies, and BP. When I mentioned the videos taken by BP’s own remote operating vehicles (ROVs) of the oil and/or gas spewing from cracks in the sea floor, I was told I had to call the press office in Houston, “because you’re asking us a question about the sub-surface well.”

If You're Going to Do Something Illegal in America, Do Something Spectacularly Illegal

If you want to avoid facing a tough prosecution for malfeasance, be a banker, not a biker.

That appears to be the lesson of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, where the lead story was about how Bank of America repeatedly hid its massive bad debt holdings from regulators and investors through a creative accounting device called “repurchase agreements.” A second story just above the fold told how US Food and Drug Administration prosecutors are “Casting a Wider Net” investigating the use of steroids by competitive cyclists.

According to the BofA story, the bank, during a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the real financial condition of the nation’s biggest financial institutions, admitted that at the ends of all the quarterly reporting periods from 2007 through 2009, it had used repurchase agreements, or “repos,” to temporarily shed bad debt before drawing up and releasing its required public filings. That is to say, the bank lied about and hid from view its weakened liquidity position all through the financial crisis. 

 bikers who dope themselves, or bankers who dupe us?Which is the bigger crime: bikers who dope themselves, or bankers who dupe us?

South Africa: The Ugly Underside of World Cup Soccer Mania

Soweto, South Africa – Less than seven miles from the carefully crafted glitter of Soccer City, the host complex for the World Cup, two legendary South African football players told fascinating often fearsome stories that powerful people want suppressed.

Two days before the recent World Cup championship match won by Spain “Smiley” Moosa and Nkosi Molala spoke at a community center in Soweto discussing their lives under apartheid and that ugly era’s lingering legacy on South African society.

Moosa and Molala both made their marks on South African soccer in the 1970s.

Under apartheid’s rigid racial categories Moosa carried the classification of Indian while Molala was African – designations barring these talented players from South Africa’s then whites-only national team.

Wanted: Some Journalists With Guts to Take on the Government and BP!

UPDATE 7/13: ProPublica reports that the Coast Guard, under pressure from news organizations (hey, and maybe the threat of journalistic civil disobedience?) has changed its access rules. The 65-foor rule barring all journalists from any scene of environmental mayhem is gone, and now journalists who first obtain “press credentials” from the Unified Command (that’s the Coast Guard, other “involved agencies” like the Dept. of Interior, and, troublingly, BP), will be allowed unfettered access to such sites, though the general public will still be barred. We need to know how the so-called Unified Command is going to determine who qualifies for those press credentials. Will it just be corporate organization journalists, or will freelancers and journalists from the smaller publications like this one who are issued such documents? If the latter, we may still have to challenge the law, which still makes crossing that 65′ barrier a Class D Felony with a $40,000 fine and significant jail time.

The Obama administration and BP have clearly been conspiring to hide the magnitude of the Gulf oil catastrophe from the public. One way they’re doing this is by threatening jail terms and $40,000 fines against those who go to document the fiasco.

That is ridiculous. There is not a conceivable justification for banning the media from fully covering this environmental disaster.

'Just Business': Capitalism is an Anti-Social Disease

Looking at the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, where the results of the greed of corporate executives at BP, TransOcean and Halliburton, not to mention the greed of paid-off regulators in the Minerals Management Service and the members of the House and Senate who took dirty money to water down drilling regulations are on ready display, I was reminded of a prominent business leader in New York, recently deceased.

Told by his sister of a young woman she knew who had posted a sign on her wall saying, “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have,” this executive, who had held a top position in the multinational media industry, sniffed, “Ugh! That’s terrible. If people thought like that, no one would strive to do anything.”

Oil-Soaked Congress Tries to Clean Its Plumage in Time for Election Day

The way the Washington Post reported the story, Congress has finally pushed through “tougher” off-shore drilling regulations for oil companies. 

Two key Senate committees approved legislation before the July 4 holiday that purport to change the way the federal government regulates offshore oil drilling and that penalize companies for oil spills. Both measures passed on bipartisan voice votes. One approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee would raise the civil and criminal penalties for a spill, require more safety equipment redundancies, boost the number of federal safety inspectors and demand additional precautions for deep-water drilling. The other, passed by the Environment and Public Works Committee, would remove a $75 million limit on oil company liability and would retroactively remove the liability cap for BP and the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

The Post article stated that these measures ”demonstrat[e] lawmakers’ eagerness to respond to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.” The writer ought to have more accurately said that the measures demonstrate lawmakers eagerness to look like they are responding to the disaster. In the real world, the proposed measures will serve mostly as election-year greenwashing, with little genuine impact.
New Congressional oil-drilling regs are about looking clean, not about real limits on drillingNew Congressional oil-drilling regs are about looking clean, not about real limits on drilling

Long wars, violence and change in America

It’s tough these days being a non-violent peace activist. Many see the notion of “peace is the way” as laughable, and the government equates peace with military domination.

The bi-partisan War Party in America won’t budge from its imperial wars despite majority polls and protests urging they do so. The right-wing base continues to narrow its range of toleration on everything. And the courts come down on the side of corporations, state power and a culture that has elevated guns into a religion.

I’ve worked in the peace movement for 30 years, and I believe in non-violently speaking truth to power. But the prospects for peace have never seemed gloomier or the situation more absurd.

Obama warns corruption erodes faith in government: Hillary Clinton Blasts Steel Vise of Government Crushing Dissent

Finally, a politician has stood up and boldly denounced the creeping fascism that is gradually crushing democracy and political activism.

Not mincing her words, or trying to justify the jackboot, Secretary of State and 2008 presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton roundly condemned government actions that she said are “closing in the walls” on unions, rights advocates and organizations that press for social change or that shine a light on government shortcomings.

“Democracies don’t fear their own people,” she declared in ringing tones. “They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate.”

Clinton even got the normally taciturn President Obama to join her, releasing a statement in which he said he was concerned about “the spread of restrictions on civil society, the growing use of law to curb rather than enhance freedom, and wide-spread corruption that is undermining the faith of citizens in their government.”

Does this mean that the US government is finally going to reverse course?