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16.12.10

Obama panel voices sour grapes at Jindal berm success

Hindsight is 20/20, but politics always is in focus and dominating the behavior of the Pres. Barack Obama Administration, as Louisiana politicians have discovered.

Obama’s commission to investigate the oil spill that dominated the political environment in Louisiana for three months earlier this year, despite being packed with those sympathetic to special interests normally allied with Obama, has been an uneven tool for the president in his quest to cast blame upon everybody but his administration for the slow resolution of it (such as in its revelations that the Obama Administration politicized the drilling moratorium response). A report issued yesterday by the body reinforces this theme, making an attempt to dish out criticism of critics of Obama during this time period but doing so in a way that also in passing denigrates Obama’s leadership skills.

Most pertinent in the exercise, the panel concludes, lead by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal Democrat Obama apparently got bludgeoned into supporting the Jindal-backed idea of building sand berms to catch oil. Critics derided the idea because they were overly concerned about the environmental impact and thought the money, being supplied completely by well-owner BP, could be spent on what they asserted were more productive enterprises – even as many including the federal government thought the berms then could be very effective.

Yet Jindal argued all along that even if, after all was said and done the berms didn’t catch much oil, that the possibility that a lot could be coming onshore outweighed other considerations – that is, the harm potentially would be so catastrophic that an uncertain protective measure such as this was justified, a point lost among almost all of the critics. Nobody apparently knows how many barrels got caught, at least several hundred and if that were all then as the sole use of this money it would have been deemed cost-effective only if the potential harm had not been so great – but that was not the situation at the time.

The commission frames the series of events as Jindal and others pressuring the federal government which seemed skeptical on his plan, but then Obama himself seemed to cave into the pressure and bureaucrats followed. Interestingly, the report leaves out one crucial determinant of the decision-making process – that between the time Louisiana officials cranked up the lobbying intensity and the decision being made to go with the berm idea, the initial “Top Kill” strategy to close the leak – which would go on for two more months – failed. Thus, likely in the minds of all involved including Obama and scientists, a tidal wave of oil very realistically could have hit the Louisiana coast where Jindal and the others argued for the berms to be built.

In that respect, the commission failed to understand the gravity and uncertainty of the situation – after all, if someone is being ravaged with cancer, typically doctors go for the most aggressive treatment possible even if its cost is tremendous, it may not be effective, and even if so treatment of much reduced severity and cost may have worked just as well. If the choice was an ecological disaster or not constructing berms, at least the berms had some chance of stopping some oil whereas not building them would give no chance of that outcome, regardless of how much oil might make it to that part of the shoreline. That the report claimed the use of funds for building berms “is not a compelling cost-benefit tradeoff” is absurd on its face in any realistic assessment of the threats at the time the decision.

That enormous risk alone made the building of the berms – at no expense to the taxpayer – justifiable, which the report grudgingly acknowledges in its admission that this review is hindsight. However, for the nation as a whole and especially for Louisiana taxpayers the berm building ended up being a masterstroke by Jindal, because they were built from the beginning in mind as the initial foray into a coastal restoration project. Craftily, Jindal leveraged an emergency protection measure into one that promises long-term protection against coastal erosion, putting the state light years ahead of where it otherwise would be on this priority in these cash-strapped times.

American taxpayers and, in particular, Louisianans should be grateful at the foresight Jindal and his team had on this issue, but the report barely makes reference to this in its haste to try to make Obama look better by criticizing those who carped about his lack of leadership on the issue. And with Jindal hanging around as a burgeoning national figure that can send liberalism and Democrats further into retreat no doubt added to the myopic bluster of this exercise.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

OMG--Sadow no one outside the employ of the state or Jindal contributor Shaw thought the berms a worth project and they were not.

I can't believe you think they are worthy of Jindal taking $300 million from a private corporation to do.

Will you ever quit being an apologist for this career politician?

Landman of the Apocalypse said...

Sadow would mislead once again.

Your own link (after drilling down another level for your gloss on it) for the proposition that feds thought the berms could be very effective suggests precisely the opposite. Furthermore, both the Corps and the USGS expressed concerns that 1) the resources necessary to build berms would be out of proportion with the potential benefit and 2) that the potential benefit would be limited.

Does distorting a cited source not offend your sense of integrity, Professor?

Anonymous said...

I've got no problem with honest differences of opinion, but reading this man's blog makes me wonder if he distorts and twists information in his classes the same way he does on this blog. I hope he does keep some intellectual integrity while teaching, because this blog is a complete exercise in apologetics for the Republican positions.

Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

This is a fantastic post showing the depths of delusion of our favorite devotee of Jindal. It is hard to imagine a situation in which an unimpressive politician with the blend of corruption (anything to help a sympathetic contractor) and incompetence (willfully refusing to adhere to the overwhelming scientific community that told him exactly how it would fail) would fall so squarely flat on his face. In a sense, it's a test of Sadow's faith in Jindal. But long ago Jeff jumped into the Jindal worship thing with both feet, and he sure as hell isn't going to qualify his god with anything other than absolute praise. Which is why this post seems so forced, almost as though he's fighting such an obvious failure, and can't seem to totally convince himself. Solution: write a post in which you attribute nearly magical powers to Jindal. Tell people that he's "light years ahead"! Great abuse of the English language. Such a phrase is ideal when in the short term you look like an idiot. Saying he's light years ahead buys time and avoids the failure in front of you. Just peer far off into the distance and the present failure seems to melt away. Jindal's "masterstroke." He's "crafty." And he's so smart that even his total embarrassments are actually victories! I'm pretty sure this is what reading Pravda in the original russian is like.

Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

There is simply nothing Jindal can do that doesn't trigger Jeff Sadow to get misty and start glowing with praise. Across the country his pet project (quite obviously a boondoggle for the contractor) is seen for what it was: doomed. Nearly every scientist in the state lined up against this project and explained to the public IN ADVANCE just how it would fail. This financially irresponsible project took the lion's share of money that could have been spent on actual, effective remediation. Amazingly, Jeff presents this as "free" to the taxpayer. Note to Jeff, that money could have gone elsewhere, that is the "cost." This ridiculous puff piece of an article should have conservatives everywhere hanging their heads in shame. Jeff absolutely refuses to deal with any of the damning facts on their merits. And this from a professor of a class about incorporating science into public policy! What the hell do you do all day in class Jeff? Do you just wax eloquent about Jindal all day? Seriously, you can't help painting him as some "masterful" crafty, savant "putting the state light years ahead" by dumping $300m of available funds into the the gulf without any hope of being effective at anything? He may as well have just rowed out into the gulf and dumped $300m in hard cash into the ocean. It is totally dishonest to say that this is "at no expense to the taxpayer." The taxpayers would have had that money for real coastal protection if it wasn't for Jindal's desperate need to portray himself as the anti-obama.

This is the shame that Jindal has brought down on this state. This is the reason your kind is anti-science. You don't find any lesson to learn from this disaster. You find the one "scientist" in a million to support your crappy little project, then you whimper that you're the victim when your colossal failure is exposed for all to see. This is the reason that conservative politicians worshipers embarrass yourself everyday:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/17/science/earth/17berm.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26hp

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/12/louisiana_berms_ineffective_in.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/16/AR2010121603354.html

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/112048739.html?showAll=y&c=y

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2010/12/gov_bobby_jindal_could_build_c.html