Friday, June 18, 2010

What Went Wrong, What IS Wrong

The following investigative piece from Rolling Stone is a comprehensive, detailed expose of why the uncontrolled BP oil gusher happened. To be sure, there is an enormous amount that can be laid at the Cheney-BushCo doorstep. The wingnut contingent, naturally, just wants to pin the whole thing on Obama, just as they do with the economy, the deficit - in short, any and everything gone wrong. They're frantically trying to re-write history, hoping that most of us are as dense as they are, and are already forgetting the unmitigated disaster that was the BushCo years.
But it is far too simplistic to stop there, as many liberals want to do. Liberals who are now shouting down progressives and independents (true independents, not the self-styled mess calling themselves libertarian these days). A common theme being heard on commercial liberal talk radio is that complain-y progressives are always whining that nothing Obama does is ever good enough, and therefore are paving the way for the next repug administration - BushCo in spades.
Let me address that: Bullshit. We owe no allegiance, no unquestioning solidarity to any political party or movement. We think for ourselves, and question everything. When we see the public interests being utterly betrayed at every turn, in every realm of life, we speak up. Loudly. We take action. That's what citizens do. That's what individuals capable of independent, rational thought do. That's what real Americans do. We owe that to each other, to the earth and all the beings that also live here - and we owe that to future generations.
The nonsensical group-think that the liberal conformists espouse is utter hypocrisy and a cop-out. These same folks correctly observed that the Bush apologists justified everything he did, and never protested or questioned it. (And of course, NOW Bush devotees now call themselves "tea-baggers", and vehemently oppose all the exact same policies that were just fine when wingnut white guys enacted them). I would caution my democratic compadres not to fall into that same, unthinking trap. We've used up all the get out of jail free cards, folks. If we haven't already sailed way past it, we're at the environmental precipice of no return. There is no wiggle room left. We can't afford any more disastrous policies and lapses.
If the corporate takeover of the government, and the western world in general isn't halted, we can kiss life as we know it goodbye. In exchange we'll have a very toxic, (more) completely controlled life in a corpo-fascist regime, where true choice, freedom, and individual rights are but distant memories.
So this piece in Rolling Stone is also a cautionary tale, a horror story of what happens when giant corporations, whose number one allegiance is always profit, run the show:

The Spill, The Scandal, and The President
Rolling Stone
"...Salazar himself has worked hard to foster the impression that the "prior administration" is to blame for the catastrophe. In reality, though, the Obama administration was fully aware from the outset of the need to correct the lapses at MMS that led directly to the disaster in the Gulf. In fact, Obama specifically nominated Salazar – his "great" and "dear" friend – to force the department to "clean up its act." For too long, Obama declared, Interior has been "seen as an appendage of commercial interests" rather than serving the people. "That's going to change under Ken Salazar."

Salazar took over Interior in January 2009, vowing to restore the department's "respect for scientific integrity." He immediately traveled to MMS headquarters outside Denver and delivered a beat-down to staffers for their "blatant and criminal conflicts of interest and self-dealing" that had "set one of the worst examples of corruption and abuse in government." Promising to "set the standard for reform," Salazar declared, "The American people will know the Minerals Management Service as a defender of the taxpayer. You are the ones who will make special interests play by the rules." Dressed in his trademark Stetson and bolo tie, Salazar boldly proclaimed, "There's a new sheriff in town."

Salazar's early moves certainly created the impression that he meant what he said. Within days of taking office, he jettisoned the Bush administration's plan to open 300 million acres – in Alaska, the Gulf, and up and down both coasts – to offshore drilling. The proposal had been published in the Federal Register literally at midnight on the day that Bush left the White House. Salazar denounced the plan as "a headlong rush of the worst kind," saying it would have put in place "a process rigged to force hurried decisions based on bad information." Speaking to Rolling Stone in March 2009, the secretary underscored his commitment to reform. "We have embarked on an ambitious agenda to clean up the mess," he insisted. "We have the inspector general involved with us in a preventive mode so that the department doesn't commit the same mistakes of the past." The crackdown, he added, "goes beyond just codes of ethics."

Except that it didn't. Salazar did little to tamp down on the lawlessness at MMS, beyond referring a few employees for criminal prosecution and ending a Bush-era program that allowed oil companies to make their "royalty" payments – the amount they owe taxpayers for extracting a scarce public resource – not in cash but in crude. And instead of putting the brakes on new offshore drilling, Salazar immediately throttled it up to record levels. Even though he had scrapped the Bush plan, Salazar put 53 million offshore acres up for lease in the Gulf in his first year alone – an all-time high. The aggressive leasing came as no surprise, given Salazar's track record. "This guy has a long, long history of promoting offshore oil drilling – that's his thing," says Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "He's got a highly specific soft spot for offshore oil drilling." As a senator, Salazar not only steered passage of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened 8 million acres in the Gulf to drilling, he even criticized President Bush for not forcing oil companies to develop existing leases faster.

Salazar was far less aggressive, however, when it came to making good on his promise to fix MMS. Though he criticized the actions of "a few rotten apples" at the agency, he left long-serving lackeys of the oil industry in charge. "The people that are ethically challenged are the career managers, the people who come up through the ranks," says a marine biologist who left the agency over the way science was tampered with by top officials. "In order to get promoted at MMS, you better get invested in this pro-development oil culture." One of the Bush-era managers whom Salazar left in place was John Goll, the agency's director for Alaska. Shortly after, the Interior secretary announced a reorganization of MMS in the wake of the Gulf disaster, Goll called a staff meeting and served cake decorated with the words "Drill, baby, drill."

Salazar also failed to remove Chris Oynes, a top MMS official who had been a central figure in a multibillion-dollar scandal that Interior's inspector general called "a jaw-dropping example of bureaucratic bungling." In the 1990s, industry lobbyists secured a sweetheart subsidy from Congress: Drillers would pay no royalties on oil extracted in deep water until prices rose above $28 a barrel. But this tripwire was conveniently omitted in Gulf leases overseen by Oynes – a mistake that will let the oil giants pocket as much as $53 billion. Instead of being fired for this fuckup, however, Oynes was promoted by Bush to become associate director for offshore drilling – a position he kept under Salazar until the Gulf disaster hit.

"Employees describe being in Interior – not just MMS, but the other agencies – as the third Bush term," says Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represents federal whistle-blowers. "They're working for the same managers who are implementing the same policies. Why would you expect a different result?"...." Read entire article.


Blogger Dion said...

I wish I had the foresight to see the real Obama, years ago. I was naive to think Obama was different.

I could see fascism taking hold in America as the two-party system of government produced a sanctioned corporate state. With lobbyists and Congress swapping money and chairs with each passing election. I should have known better but I held out hope that Obama was different.

I believed him to be cleaner than H.R. Clinton as she was a *party insider* unlike Obama (cough, cough). Which meant Clinton was beholding to the corporate powers that be. Foolish me. Looking at Obama now, I no longer see hope and change. It's business as usual. I'm starting to think no one is able to get to Obama's position that isn't controlled by the corporations.

This thinking on my part leaves a mental void where political debate once thrived. If I live within a fascist society, what's the difference of Left or Right ideology? We're all slaves to the corporations.

If the end of the world wasn't so near at hand, we might want to organize against the Gov-Corp.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Anna Van Z said...

I know what you mean, Dion! Part of me feels great urgency to organize, and another part of me feels like it's already too late.
But I'm still going to try - what the hell, right? If it's too late, then we have nothing to lose, and if it's not, then maybe we can be a force for positive change - REAL change, not "campaign change"!

1:32 PM  

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