Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And the Game Continues....

I am sitting here listening in on the Congressional hearing featuring BP chief executive Tony Hayward. This hearing promises to be one for the books. Documents have come forth in recent days revealing BP's decisions to vary from general oil industry practices to save time and money. Some of those decisions undoubtedly led to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, the deaths of 11 men and the ongoing spill. I am not qualified to draw a firm conclusion on this, but I can read.

Before I continue, I do want to comment on BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg's unfortunate translation error yesterday. He noted that BP cared about the "small people." I knew what he meant when he said it. He did not mean small as an insult. The man barely speaks English. And a quick look at a Swedish-English translation would tell anyone that cared to look that "small people" and the media's preferred "little people" translate exactly the same in Swedish. There is plenty to be angry at BP about, but this is a media generated tempest in a teapot. If we are the gracious people we claim to be, we let this pass as what it is - an error in translation, just like the instructions that come with imported stuff.

That said, the opening statements by the committee reveal that Congress remains incapable of setting aside partisan nonsense in the face of a national emergency. Here we have a growing disaster that threatens the lives and livelyhoods of an entire region and promises economic consequences for the entire nation. That is not at question. It is a sad fact. The Gulf Coast is being slowly killed by the relentlessly encroaching oil and dispersants.

This is one of those times that we the people hope and pray that our elected leaders can set aside the politics as usual, the daily game of spitball and act as one in the best interests of the nation. It is a time when we need to look long and hard not just at BP and their actions, but at the government's amazing failure to effectively enforce the regulations that exist and the government's staggering failure to respond aggressively and rapidly to the spill.

It is not a partisan matter. It is an American matter. The oil and dispersant know nothing of party affiliation or the next election. The good people along the Gulf coast who are bearing the brunt of this are from all parties. Listen carefully to the folks in the Gulf region. They are not making partisan complaints. They are angry at BP and angry at the government for failing to do their job.

So this morning on Capitol Hill we were treated to the ugly partisanship and opportunism that dominates Congress. To them , this is just another phase of their power game.

Yesterday, the administration and BP agreed to an open ended fund to cover the victims. The fund will initially have $20 billion of BP's money in it. It is to be administered by Ken Feinberg, who did an admirable job managing the 9/11 compensation fund. Feinberg has proven himself to be fair and even handed in these matters. This is a good thing and one of the first real signs of progress from an administration that has been very slow to action.

One would think that Congress would embrace this progress in a bipartisan fashion. Not going to happen. Almost immediately, Republicans were looking for ways to spin this for the election. Perhaps none was so obvious as Joe Barton from Texas. In his opening statement this morning, he apologized to BP and called the fund a "shakedown" and a "slush fund." Even other Republicans were somewhat taken aback. It is worthy of note at this point that Barton gets a lot of campaign dollars from the oil industry. Sadly, Barton is not alone in his blind partisanship. Yesterday, Michele Bachmann from Minnesota suggested the administration was taking over the oil industry and that this fund was a problem.

Are they kidding? People in the Gulf region are getting wiped out. BP's claims process has been slow, bureaucratic, dishonest and in a lot of cases simply bad. This fund has the hope of getting the money into the hands of the people most affected more quickly and more fairly. Yet some Republicans seem incapable of setting aside their mindless quest for power in the interests of the folks that they pretend to represent.

Democrats should not take comfort here. The number of Democrats, starting with President Obama, that are using this disaster to forward their political agenda is just as bad if not worse. Waxman sees an opportunity to beat up an industry he openly despises and to end the drilling he has always wanted to stop. Obama has been beyond slow and beyond political. As I noted yesterday, Obama took the opportunity of this spill to attempt to forward his stalled energy agenda. Democrats all over capitol Hill are trying to somehow blame Bush and the GOP for a disaster that is 100 percent the responsibility of the Obama administration. the well was licensed by Obama's administration. MMS was not cleaned up at all as was promised. And the response has been laconic at best.

For shame on the lot of them. People are losing generations old family businesses to this oil. The impact of the dispersant remains unknown. The rate of oil pouring into the Gulf changes so often that it is now not believed by anyone. Yet, the entire elected government continues to play the game. Congress continues to remain blindly partisan. Gone is the hope that these charlatans in Congress could set aside the same old part bickering for the good of the people. The only people that benefit here is Congress.

As today's hearing goes on and Hayward continues to answer questions, it is important that we listen. More importantly is that Chairman Stupak call the administration to task in the same forum for their failures. While the well and the explosion are BP's doing, the lack of oversight and the poorly coordinated response is Obama's doing. Someone needs to call Thad Allen to the carpet to explain his endless failure to serve the people he swore an oath to. His job was to get things moving and clear the bureaucratic morass. He has not done so and needs to held as accountable for his failure as Tony Hayward.

If the committee stops here and does not further investigate the response (or failure to respond) then they become part of the problem. This is not a time for the party spitball game, and unless those clowns on the Hill set it aside, then they need to be replaced. If Congress cannot lay off the partisan game in the face of a massive disaster, then they serve no useful purpose.

The good people of the Gulf coast deserve better. It is up to all of us to see that they get it.

I am offering shirts with this design and will be sending the profits directly to the Plaquemines Parish Fund that is set up to help the folks most hurt by this mess.

I spoke to the good folks at Plaquemines and I have to say that for people living a horror show, they are some of the nicest and most grateful people you would ever want to talk to.

Please help out and get the message out at the same time.

You can order them here:

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