June 26, 2010

NYT a bit confused about Obama's "financial reform"

First, contrary to its claim that he has a lot to offer Europe on financial reform, vs. their not listening to him on fiscal stimulus issues, he actually has bupkis to offer.

First, let's look at Senate dealings. Bottom line is, top Senate Democrat money-market-lusters Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer had their choice: Deal with progressive Democratic Russ Feingold to get something more reformative, or deal with faux Tea Bagger, new GOP Sen. Scott Brown.

And, they chose Brown.

And, they chose Brown with the benign, silent blessing of Obama, who claims what's coming out of House-Senate conference has most of what he wants.

If that's true, that's the clearest sign yet of his neoliberalism on fiscal policy.

If it's false, that's the clearest sign yet of his Kumbayahism on fiscal policy.

Second, because of Reason No. 1, there is not real financial reform. Bankers' taxes and other ideas like that are mainly coming from the other side of the pond, not here.

Bibi could reduce Mideast tensions more

Assuming that Hamas' price for releasing Gilad Shalit isn't way out of line with similar deals Israel has made, why hasn't Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled the trigger this time? If there's enough internal public pressure, will he?

Is Merkel in trouble?

Quite possibly. It appears the German presidential election is a de facto confidence vote on Chancellor Angela Merkel. Judging by the choice of her candidate, she deserves to lose. That said, if she does, will the Social Democrats undo old statements and agree to coalition with the New Left, aka leftover Communists, if new parliamentary elections are called?

Which is it, Obama?

Bob Herbert catches Obama clearly at cross purposes with himself on Afghanistan:
In Afghanistan, we are playing a dangerous, half-hearted game in which President Obama tells the America people that this is a war of necessity and that he will do whatever is necessary to succeed. Then, with the very next breath, he soothingly assures us that the withdrawal of U.S. troops will begin on schedule, like a Greyhound leaving the terminal, a year from now.

Couldn't have said it better.javascript:void(0)

Who died and made the WaPost media god?

The Post complains that the Rolling Stone interview of Gen. McChrystal and staff wasn't done with its pinky raised off the teacup.

No surprise that the Post is using an off-the-record "source" to move this "story." And,. that all said, it's clear the anonymous source is part of McChrystal's drunken entourage. Another "duh" there, eh?

June 24, 2010

CareerBuilder job of the day with the BSA!

Anti-gay? Check? PR-known history of sexual abusers in your volunteer ranks? Check. Having just lost a lawsuit over that, with punitive damages tacked on? Check. Yeah, I guess the Boy Scouts of America probably do need a "public relations specialist."

DNC attacks own leader, Obama, on A-stan

Here's "Irony" or more: The Democratic National Committee is e-mailing people to push Congress to vote against the titular head of the Democratic Party, President Obama, by voting NO on a supplemental Afghanistan war spending bill. Hey, Barry, are you listening?
The "war" in Afghanistan is now the longest "war" in U.S. history. For what?

George W. Bush let Osama bin Laden escape from Tora Bora way back in 2001, and then pulled troops and supplies out of Afghanistan so he could conquer Iraq.

Since then, we've been "fighting" the Taliban, not the few remaining Al Qaeda. But we're not really "fighting" them, we're actually paying them protection money to let supply trucks reach our troops.

Rather than pay extortion to the Taliban - with our tax dollars! - it's time to bring our troops safely home.

Tell Congress to vote NO on the $33 Billion supplemental for Afghanistan

Rich, indeed, in irony, if not sad.

But wait, it gets richer! First, the DNC attacks Obama on other issues.
As our national debt spirals out of control, President Obama's Deficit Commission is secretly plotting cuts in Social Security and Medicare - instead of ending the disastrous "wars."

So, now the DNC has moved to a direct attack on the leader!

Then we have this.
Under the Constitution, Congress alone has the power to fund wars. After eight disastrous years, it's time for Congress to use its power to bring our troops safely home from Afghanistan.

So, Democrats who forgot that argument about war powers and war responsibilities in fall 2002 (a majority of them voted for Iraq, and almost nobody protested when Afghanistan was first "launched" before that) have suddenly started reading the Constitution? In the face of the constitutional law scholar president and leader of the party?

The midterm elections ought to be "fun" in seeing how far the DNC tries to run away from Obama; after all, it's just June now.

Is Soros about to bet against the Euro?

In the 1998 sense of how he bet against southeast Asian currencies, that is. Based on that history, and his haraguing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her planed austerity measures, one has to wonder.

June 23, 2010

Friedman is 110 pct right on Obama, A-stan

This time, Tommy is spot-on about Obama's shirking responsibility for Afghanistan:
President Obama is not an Afghan expert. Few people are. But that could have been his strength. The three questions he needed to ask about Afghanistan were almost childlike in their simplicity. Yet Obama either failed to ask them or went ahead, nevertheless, because he was afraid he would have been called a wimp by Republicans if he hadn’t.

That's why, as I blogged earlier, Obama will NOT fire McChrystal.

Anyway, Friedman then unbacks the three questions in detail. Here's Numero Uno:
The first question was hiding in plain sight: Why do we have to recruit and train our allies, the Afghan Army, to fight? That is like someone coming to you with a plan to recruit and train Brazilian boys to play soccer.

That's why you should read the full article.

That said, a teaser. The second question is obvious: Why are we still in bed with Karzai?

The third is great: What do we do if we should happen to win? Sorry, not giving the answer away, though. Read the column.

A missed shot at the League of Nations?

Just what did Woodrow Wilson's massive stroke, along with the cover-up of it by his wife and WH staff, cost the country? A shot at entering the League of Nations with the Lodge amendments, perhaps? There's more here.

Rand Paul, flip flopper

He originally said he wouldn't take money from bailout-voting Senate Republicans. And now he is. Will TPers punish him?

Afghanistan, Obama, McChrystal

It's time for Obama to act forcefully, not just on McChrystal but larger issues, as Eliot Cohen notes. Will he? I doubt it. That would require more fishing or bait-cutting.

That said, I disagree with Cohen about the firm deadline for winding down the surge. Sure, the Taliban took note. But, it put kleptomaniac Afghan President Hamid Karzai on public notice, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is likewise on public notice.

The flip side is that the one-year time for the surge was done for domestic consumption. If Obama were really making the hard choices, he would have gone a bit longer, say, 18 months.

That said, for Obama to sack McChystal would make this "Obama's war." Like Korea became "Truman's war" after he sacked Dugout Doug MacArthur.

June 22, 2010

Why do generals have entourages?

The Rolling Stone article about the gaffe-prone, image-hungry Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, raised exactly that question for me, because it made me think back to Gen. David Petraeus' testimony to Congress a week ago, where he fell a bit ill and had members of his entourage, including a de facto "agent" (like sports star or actor agents) speaking for him. Along those lines, if you don't have time to read the full RS article, in snippet posts here and here, Atlantic Monthly summarizes how the prima donna level of American brass hats has entered a whole new level.

Beyond showing McChrystal the politician, the fact that even he calls Marjah a "bleeding ulcer" shows that, well, he just wasn't right about counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Perhaps that's why he needs an entourage — to prop up his image.

That said, this whole idea smacks, if but vaguely, of Caesarism. Obama should have first, sacked McC when he first was quasi-insubordinate, and second, come up with a different plan for Afghanistan.

That said, I see one inaccuracy in the RS article right off the bat. German President Horst Koehler was not "forced" to resign over Afghanistan. Even though he was a bit outspoken for holding a ceremonial position, the whole idea of a president in a fully parliamentary democracy is that, barring something truly beyond the pale, he or she can't be forced to resign. And, Koehler chose to step down.

Obamiac cavillations hit academia

Via Greenwald:

A professor of political science who claims the office of the presidency is too weak for a president, aka President Hope, to accomplish anything, when he is contradicted not just by trends of the last 100 years, but more specfically, by eight recent years of Bush-Cheney, is full of shit.

No other way to put it. Other than to say, contra Johnathan Bernstein, the idea IS "a joke."

Like Glenn, I get both more tired of, and more disgusted by, Obamiac apologetics all the time.

Can Deepwater Horizon be closed by explosion?

Specifically, the Macondo well, whose name is just now coming into common media vocabulary.

But, yes, one commentator thinks the Navy DOES have expertise BP doesn't, and can (without nukes, either) blow the well up to "shut" it.

That said, from what I've read, there's a number of caveats.

1. The gushing may be coming from not just the well itself, but other floor fractures; trying to implode the hole itself could worsen those fractures.
2. The amount of methane involved with the leak might be exploded by implosion, or something; at the least, the Russian wells sealed by implosion were almost pure oil, not a significant gas admixture.

Illinois, don't forget to vote your Greens!

Due in part to the toxic candidacies of GOPer Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, Green candidate LeAlan Jones is polling at 15 percent in the U.S. Senate race!

Oh, how deepwater oil drilling can go wrong

With the help of the New York Times, let us count the ways it DID go wrong with Deepwater Horizon, and could go wrong again in the future, unless President Obama actually does something during the drilling moratorium. (That said, as you read further down this long, quote-heavy post, and click the story link for more detail, you may not want to hold your breath over too much "does something" happening.

As it turns out, records and interviews show, blind shear rams can be surprisingly vulnerable. There are many ways for them to fail, some unavoidable, some exacerbated by the stunning water depths at which oil companies have begun to explore.

But they also can be rendered powerless by the failure of a single part, a point underscored in a confidential report that scrutinized the reliability of the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer. The report, from 2000, concluded that the greatest vulnerability by far on the entire blowout preventer was one of the small shuttle valves leading to the blind shear ram. If this valve jammed or leaked, the report warned, the ram’s blades would not budge.

This sort of “single-point failure” figures prominently in an emerging theory of what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon’s blind shear ram, according to interviews and documents. Some evidence suggests that when the crew activated the blind shear ram, its blades tried to cut the drill pipe, but then failed to finish the job because one or more of its shuttle valves leaked hydraulic fluid.

These kinds of weaknesses were understood inside the oil industry, documents and interviews show. And given the critical importance of the blind shear ram, offshore drillers began adding a layer of redundancy by equipping their blowout preventers with two blind shear rams.

So, it appears, again, that some of this is BP's fault, not Big Oil's fault. But, some of it is Big Oil in general:
Last year, Transocean commissioned a “strictly confidential” study of the reliability of blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs.

Using the world’s most authoritative database of oil rig accidents, a Norwegian company, Det Norske Veritas, focused on some 15,000 wells drilled off North America and in the North Sea from 1980 to 2006.

It found 11 cases where crews on deepwater rigs had lost control of their wells and then activated blowout preventers to prevent a spill. In only six of those cases were the wells brought under control, leading the researchers to conclude that in actual practice, blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs had a “failure” rate of 45 percent.

For all their confident pronouncements about blowout preventers (the “ultimate failsafe device,” some called it), oil industry executives had long known they could be vulnerable and temperamental.

Rising five or more floors and weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds, these devices were daunting in their scale and complexity. There were hundreds of ways they could malfunction or be improperly maintained, tested and operated. Not only did they have to withstand extreme environments, they were relied upon to tame the ferocious forces often unleashed when drilling rigs penetrate reservoirs of highly compressed oil and gas.

They were also costly to maintain. An industry study last year estimated the price of stopping operations to pull up a blowout preventer for repairs at $700 per minute.

Those costs could be enough to draw the attention of Wall Street.

Ahh, the old bottom line. That said, some industries accept more regulatory costs, or trade on a safety reputation as part of their bottom-line enhancement. Given that BP's safety record was so crappy under Tony Hayward's predecessor, Lord Browne, one wonders if he ever thought of that idea.

And that's not all:
>>In 1990, a blind shear ram could not snuff out a major blowout on a rig off Texas. It cut the pipe, but investigators found that the sealing mechanism was damaged. And in 1997, a blind shear ram was unable to slice through a thick joint connecting two sections of drill pipe during a blowout of a deep oil and gas well off the Louisiana coast. ...

(And) in two studies, in 2002 and 2004, one of the industry’s premier authorities on blowout preventers, West Engineering Services of Brookshire, Tex., found a more basic problem: even when everything worked right, some blind shear rams still failed to cut pipe.

West’s experts concluded that calculations used by makers of blowout preventers overestimated the cutting ability of blind shear rams, so-called because they close off wells like a window blind. Modern drill pipe is nearly twice as strong as older pipes of the same size. In addition, the intense pressure and frigid temperatures of deep water make it tougher to shear a pipe. These and other “additive pressures,” the researchers found, can demand hundreds of thousands of additional pounds of cutting force.

Yet when the team examined the performance of blind shear rams in blowout preventers on 14 new rigs, it found that seven had never been checked to see if their shear rams would work in deep water. Of the remaining seven, only three “were found able to shear pipe at their maximum rated water depths.”<<

And, the feds are at fault, too:
>>In 2001, just as BP and Transocean were pressing the Deepwater Horizon into service, the Minerals Management Service was being warned against allowing deepwater rigs to operate with only one blind shear ram. The agency had commissioned a study that documented more than 100 failures during testing of blowout preventers.

“All subsea B.O.P. stacks used for deepwater drilling should be equipped with two blind shear rams,” said the report, written by the SINTEF Group, a Scandinavian research organization that advises the oil industry and maintains detailed records on blowouts around the world.

The agency made no such requirement. Indeed, it waited until 2003 to require even one blind shear ram. By then, the industry had already started moving to two blind shear rams — although industry and government records show that roughly two-thirds of the rigs in the gulf today still have only one.<<
And, THAT is scary. Why, during the deepwater drilling moratorium, isn't Minerals MISmanagement Service requiring all deepwater rigs with just one ram to be retrofitted? Salazar, the story, notes has "recommended" such rules, but that's it. Equally scary is no testing requirements for backups like the deadman and autoshear. And, again, why isn't MMS promulgating new regs to this end during the moratorium?

Ultimately, it's a legacy of Reaganism + Newtism, combined with Clinton's natural neoliberalism, shifting Democrats far enough right that Barack Obama can talk about admiring Reagan.

That, in turn, leads to lies like this from Team Obama:
Barely three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama announced that he planned to open vast new tracts of ocean for oil exploration, including environmentally sensitive areas that for decades had been declared off limits by presidents from both parties.

Environmental groups were bitterly disappointed, but Mr. Obama said he had arrived at his decision after more than a year of study by his administration, including a careful weighing of environmental risks. Yet the administration’s examination did not question the oil industry’s confident assertions about its drilling technology. The well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers and blind shear rams simply did not make it onto the administration’s radar, interviews and documents show.

Mr. Hayes, the deputy interior secretary, said senior officials were reassured, perhaps wrongly, by “the NASA kind of fervor” over the oil industry’s seemingly “terrific technology.” They took comfort in what appeared to be a comprehensive regime of regulations. Most of all, he said, they were impressed by the rarity of significant oil spills even as more of the nation’s domestic oil supply was being drawn from ultradeep wells.

“The track record was good,” he said. “The results were significant.”

Not even environmental groups bitterly opposed to expanding offshore drilling were raising concerns about the industry’s technology for preventing deepwater spills, he added. “We were not being drawn by anybody to a potential issue with deepwater drilling or blowout preventers.”

Untrue. While not getting into every detail, non-Gang Green enviro groups have long worried about whether Big Oil could deliver.

The reality of 'death panels'

If The Quitter with a Twitter™, Sarah Palin, had any brains (even more, if she had a heart), she'd see the painful cost of her lies about the quasi-national healthcare, that, instead of more and more people being doctor-technicianed to death, doctors would be encouraged to help people make end-of-life decisions.

And, if there were any "justice" in this world, one of her own parents would be stuck in a situation like that in the story.

Tiger, shut up

Here's a great post-U.S. Open column.

June 21, 2010

It's OK if you are Obama

At least on civil liberties and the "War on Terror," the old acronym IOKIYAR needs to be replaced, by real liberals, with IOKIYAO, because of stuff like this.

Byyeeeee Rahmbo!

If Rahmbo is leaving the Obama White House later this year because he's tired of the idealism of other staffers, I say, "Good riddance and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."

I then say, since you've chased away so many people, and your boss isn't that idealistic, WTF are you talking about?

As for the White House tired of h is failure to deliver on legislation, blame both him and his boss for too m any compromises in advance, and in public, starting with the stimulus bill. Any idiot who works like that should leave. That goes for his boss, too, actually.

Douthat thinks Obama is a liberal

Ross Douthat wonders why so many liberals are aggrieved at Obama as a president who seems adrift, etc.

Maybe we're aggrieved at just how illiberal he is. He's just like Bush in the "War on Terror" and civil liberties, if not worse, for example. Maybe we loathe the soon-to-depart chief of staff, Rahmbo, as a man of even fewer ideals than his boss.

Oh, and Ruos? The health care bill isn't universal, has holes in it, is subject to revision, and involved massive bribery to Big Pharma and other folks.

There's idiocy by saying dumb things, or there's idiocy of not thinking in the first place. Ross, that's you, this time.

June 20, 2010

Time to resign, Kenny Boy Salazar

Gang Green enviros remain silent, but not Wild Earth Guardians.

Louisiana asks God to end BP spill

Dear nutbars suggesting prayer in the Louisiana Legislature to stop Deepwater Horizon: If God is so omnipotent, why didn't he prevent the spill/gush in the first place?

When Friedman is good, he's good

Every once in a while, Tom Friedman can write a real, in-depth, analysis type of column that is informative. Part 2 of his Letter from Istanbul set of columns is exactly that.

Two items of note.

1. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a bit of a conspiracy theorist and otherwise, a bit troubling.

2. His party is trailing in most recent polls to more secular opponents. Not sure when the next election is, but, while it's nice to have Turkey increasing its influence at this crossroads of the world, let's hope the second wave of that growth is under more secular leadership.

Rich takes Obama to the BP cleaners

Again, Obamiacs will surely defend "their man." But, more and more mainstream liberal opinionators, like Frank Rich today, are saying that Obama, instead of just pointing fingers at BP, DOES have his share of blame for not really cleaning house at Interior in general and Minerals Management Service in particular.

That said, hiring Kenny Boy Salazar to run Interior made it clear that Obama, despite his climate change rhetoric, really wasn't that much of an environmentalist, wasn't that interested in environmentalism, and didn't really want to clean house.

Sidebar: Not a single Gang Green group has yet to even think about calling for Kenny Boy's head.