The Talking Dog

May 1, 2010, Harumph! Harumph!

The Grey Lady joins what I guess must be a chorus wanting to know why the Obama Administration "didn't do more... and faster..." with respect to the disastrous Gulf Coast oil rig disaster and mega-spill. At least we already know why the oil company involved, BP, didn't ask for more help sooner and take decisive action sooner: because it is a profit-driven enterprise, with every incentive to cut corners to maximize profits, damn the human and environmental costs. That's capitalism folks: we're supposed to admire that attitude. Indeed, we're supposed to admire it when the Government behaves the same way... that is, to use public money to advance private profits... Blackwater, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin anyone?... , because the Government's function (at least as perceived by the dysfunctional and sick mentality that has taken over the put-upon, yet still largely deranged, American populace) is that the Government (which is too big and costs too much) must still magically make all our problems go away, preferably before they even happen, while helping its clients make money. Got all that?

And so, we see comparisons of the Obama Administration's reaction to the Gulf Coast mega-spill to the Bush Administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina. Maybe there's a point in that, but I'm hard-pressed to see what it is. After Katrina, thousands of Americans were simply left for dead, for days and in some cases, weeks... they were, of course, largely poor and swarthy. While 11 men working the oil rig are missing and presumed dead, there will not be comparable loss of life from this event (let alone loss of life that was easily preventable by anything other than callous government inaction). And unlike Katrina, where the Government could have rescued people from drowning in a flooded city... it's clear that efforts at boom containment, burning off the top and so forth... were hampered by the weather, and were unlikely to succeed all that well in a spill of this magnitude... So....

There will, of course, be a probably unprecedented-in-the-lower-48 environmental disaster, possibly devastating to Gulf fishing and tourism, but we're talking literally about the life-blood of American society: the holy elixir of petroleum. Given that choice, let's face it: we will opt for the oil every single time, and you know it. We simply lack the societal discipline to do without-- to not issue the permits for the McMansion subdivisions on farmland 30 or 40 miles outside of city centers, to turn down the plans for road expansion, to bite the bullet and develop public transit, or to require that auto-makers sell only state-of-the-art-efficient vehicles, or be prohibited from access to our markets... No... we won't do that. ANY of that. And so it's... drill baby drill.

Look... we have to recognize that without a steady diet of oil, not merely our economy would come crashing to a halt, but, given how much we depend for our food, between fertilizer and operating farm machinery and transit for those grapes from Chile and apples from New Zealand and all... many of us would probably die of starvation if we cut off our oil supply... and hence, the ambivalence that led a foolish Democratic President hellbent on pissing off every single person who voted for him to propose offshore drilling himself just a few weeks ago... a proposition he has immediately put on freeze.

It seems to me that oil rigs that have the capacity to malfunction, crash and burn and release millions of gallons of crude oil into an environmentally sensitive marine environment should have been subject to tight government regulations and thorough inspections... I haven't seen any accounts, of course, that this was the case. (See above re: Government's role as assisting "its clients"... not the fools who pay for it, i.e., taxpayers like you and I... but the smart money, literally, that pays a micro-fraction of what we pay in taxes to lobbyists and campaign contributions to see to it that the rules don't apply to them.)

The fact is, BP is one of the most profitable corporations in the world: it will be sued for this spill, and it can probably absorb the costs of containing and remediating more easily than the overstrapped governments (federal, state and local) can... but just you wait, 'Enry 'Iggins: NO. WAY. WILL. IT.

Like the Exxon Valdez case, BP will fight this out in the courts, and like the toxic waste in the financial system, the toxic waste floating around the Gulf Coast now will ultimately be the subject of a federal bailout. BP will pay a pittance, of course... but that's it. And capitalism will be served: because, you see, the Government's job is to help the rich and powerful stay rich and powerful, while the rest of us remain stressed out, without security, dignity, or preferably, hope, so that we will eat what we are served, work for the pittance we are offered, and most importantly, not complain about it... all remediated somewhat by ready access to antidepressants.

And without oil, we won't be able to get you those antidepressants on time, so you kind of see why we need the oil, right? This has been... "Harumph! Harumph!"