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Template sows confusion in understanding spill responses

Unfortunately, because federal government competence, particularly in emergency management, was a campaign issue for Democrat Pres. Barack Obama, politics continues to interfere with and distort understanding of the Louisiana oil spill response put in by all levels of government. As Obama’s response has become increasingly political, there has been a major pushback by his supporters and fellow-traveling institutions to impose a template absolving him of the placement of ideology over competence in his administration’s reaction. In turn, this has attempted to create a template attempting to define the state’s and particularly Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s reaction as precisely that. Parsing fact and fiction in the situation helps us to prevent the templates from interfering with a valid understanding of the situation.

One template asserts that Obama has done all that reasonably the federal government could regarding the spill. In fact, in part, Obama dawdled from the start because his brand of politics rests upon the idea that America is a deeply and inherently flawed nation that needs an infusion of transformative liberalism for its repentance. Thus, he had little interest in dealing with this ordinary question of government management – until the escalating crisis began to have political ramifications for his larger ideological agenda.

Indeed, he set the tone in the earliest days of the crisis when repeated offers of foreign assistance were turned down by him as a sop to his union allies. Unlike Pres. George W. Bush who immediately waived the Merchant Marine (Jones) Act in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to allow for such help, Obama refused to allow foreign built, owned, or operated vessels (with the necessary manpower and equipment to start containing the spill) to ply U.S. offshore waters. This postponed not only cleanup but prevention measures as the only ones undertaken were by fewer American workers and ships than could have been deployed and only after training that crucially delayed that response

Then, as Jindal and Louisiana became increasingly assertive not only in demanding that a way be found to cap the leak (aimed at BP) but also in asking for preventive measures to keep oil from damaging the state’s coast, for two reasons the Obama Administration began to resist the state’s efforts. First, the mere fact of the state’s moving forward would make the federal government look clumsy and immobile. Second, the state’s preferred strategy of using sand berms that in essence would create six-foot-high barrier islands simulating those that once existed raised concerns among a key Obama constituency, the leftist wing of the environmental movement. (It also appears that environmental laws played a role in refusing foreign cleanup assistance.)

Thus, the next phase has seen another template propagated, that Jindal and Louisiana were rushing into reactions out of a combination of panic and desire to score political points against Obama. The major offensive in this regard involved questioning of the use of the berms, the operative meme being that they would be ineffective.

But as far as a short-term solution, joining many experts both domestic and foreign the federal government itself acknowledges that, unless some very unfortunate chance event occurs (such as a large hurricane that could overtop and perhaps degrade the berms), the berms will be very effective tools in keeping oil from washing into tidal marshlands. In the long term, their construction and existence may, without any certainty, cause some environmental degradation. So it becomes a balancing act: Jindal argues correctly that these will have an immediate salutary effect on the ecosystem (and won’t cost taxpayers a cent because BP is footing the bill) and he doesn’t even add that after the oil is gone they can help to conserve the coastline, while opponents point to vague threats that may never materialize, and do not address the fact that if any future damage ever even results that it is likely to be less extensive and costly than what destruction will be wrought now with certainty by failing to inhibit as much as possible the spreading oil.

The Obama Administration itself admitted as much the rectitude of Jindal’s view when it finally approved of the building of the berms about a month after the state first requested them, but it kept a rear guard action going against them that manifested when it cut off dredging the sand to build them out of environmental concerns. Again, that move was all based upon contingencies and was of dubious legality, as the state was dredging in the permitted area and the state pointed out the environmental concerns seemed dubious on face. Even if there was a possibility of damage by the dredging, halted since then, prudence should triumph over ideology: the faster they get built with certainty one the more reduction in damage happens now, as opposed to very nebulous, uncertain, and almost certainly far less in cost damage later.

Regrettably, this latest incident shows the Obama Administration continues to keep putting special and political interests ahead of good policy. Subconsciously unable or consciously unwilling to understand the subtext as if holding up a mirror in trying to paint Jindal and Louisiana as too eager to do anything out of political concerns, fellow travelers end up reflecting the essential truth that it is Obama who does too little in order to comport to his ideology and political considerations.


Unknown said...

Obama and his administration have consistently avoided their obligations and responsibilities under 33 USC 1321 (c)(2) (A): "(A) If a discharge, or a substantial threat of a discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance from a vessel, offshore facility, or onshore facility is of such a size or character as to be a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States (including but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States), THE PRESIDENT SHALL DIRECT ALL federal, state, and PRIVATE ACTIONS to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the threat of the discharge." [emphasis supplied] That's SHALL, not may. BP is responsible for the co$t, not the direction.

It is obvious to me that the administration's response is pay back for Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama not supporting him in the 2008 election. For that matter, neither did the Florida panhandle although he managed to take that state. Likewise his effort to attack the oil based economies of those states with his ill advised moratorium on offshore drilling.

Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

Wow, I'm absolutely shocked that I'm not the only reader of this blog. Congratulations, Steve, that makes two of us.

I noticed that you and Jeff wear similarly-ornamented tinfoil hats. But I must say your stretch to link the administration's response as "payback" for those four states not supporting him is new ground, which is saying a lot in a conservative movement where breaking new ground on conspiracy theories and other extremist thought is commonplace. If you're willing to believe that, I wonder what other sorts of fantastic stories you believe. Care to share with us?

As for Jeff, his inner John Birch can't be tamed. According to Jeff, Mike Brown was a model of competence, expertly guiding FEMA to the rescue while receiving undue criticism. Here is Jeff shortly after Katrina: "I get the same feeling whenever I hear yet another Louisiana Democrat (and some Republicans) complain about 'FEMA' to deflect from their own inabilities to perform their jobs in a competent, impartial fashion. At the rate they blame the federal government, those outside the state are going to stop calling us 'Louisianans' and start calling us 'Iblamefemans.'"

See how that works Steve? When the federal government is tasked with saving Louisiana (Katrina), it is the state Democrats fault when the effort collapses amid Republican incompetence. But when it is literally impossible for the federal Democrat-controlled government to stop an offshore oil leak, it is nevertheless their fault.

On Sept 4 2005 he was once again praising Bush as some sort of hero for New Orleans, while blaming the Democrats(!) for "politicizing" FEMA. You see, Jeff pointed out that it was "liberal Democrats" to blame for Katrina.

Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

Naturally, Jeff can't help but trot out the ol' boogieman he loves attack: Obama's "idea" that the country is "deeply and inherently flawed." Just part of the Obama Hates America meme that you actually believe. And Obama is "panicking" in his "desire to score political points." Honestly, how could you possibly show your face in a classroom after having unhinged shrieks. I have this great image of you cowering under a blanket in your closet every night, fretting about UN stormtroopers trying to take away your guns and impose Sharia law in Shreveport.

Anyway, you're right about one thing, Jeff: Prudence should triumph over ideology, and that is exactly the change you see when liberals win elections. (Not those Louisiana "liberals" you have down there, Jeff - you're all corrupt - but the real bonafide ones that keep you awake at night). It was the LAST administration that was professionally incompetent, as evidenced by nearly every single economic data point you could possibly bring forth. It was pure cronyism, incompetence and ideology. Thankfully, it has been replaced for the most part by level-headed, prudent, intelligent, science-based, leaders. Leaders, Jeff. Not whiney, ex-TV sportscasters with Jersey Shore-level IQs.

It takes an absolute professional ideologue like you to think that it is not the last administration, but this administration that places "ideology over competence." Have you even heard of Karl Rove? Are you telling us that MIKE BROWN's appointment was competence over ideology? Please tell us that even you, Jeff, have gone too far this time.

Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

One final note:
The berm issue is purely a "politics trumping good policy" move by Jindal. If this was a liberal politician, you would see it, but you blind yourself. A not openly-competitive contract with Shaw Engineering. It is a lavish amount of money to a firm that has ripped Louisiana off before. The Times-Picayune reported on how Shaw spent more putting blue tarps on roofs than it would've cost to replace all the roofs with shingles.

Talk about throwing good money after bad. And you say that Jindal's move is scientifically sound, but the scientists are mostly against this project. This is your anti-science, pro-corruption, politics-driven, dishonest charlatan of a governor. But Jeff is here to look the other way (all while lecturing us on good, prudent governance). Don't you ever get tired of writing press releases for the Jindal administration?