Archive for May, 2010

BP about to take its best shot at shutting massive oil leak

dying shore bird

Thirty-six days after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 crew members and setting off a massive oil leak, BP may finally be ready to attempt to seal the drill site with a “top kill” of heavy mud followed by cement.

I’ve seen estimates of success at 60 to 70 percent, so keep your fingers crossed.

All of them. It’s a critical moment, the last best chance to stop the flow for weeks if not months. If this doesn’t work…

Here’s how BP describes the process:

“A total of 50,000 barrels of mud will be on location to kill the well – far more than necessary, but we want to be prepared for anything. Pumping capacity on location is more than 30,000 hydraulic horsepower.

The mud will be pumped down the 6-5/8 inch drill pipe (pipe is connected to the Q4000), then through 3-inch hoses, which go through the manifold on the seafloor. Then the mud moves through another set of 3-inch hoses attached to the Deepwater Horizon BOP choke and kill lines.

With the manifold, we can also pump …

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Yes, playing politics with Tomb of Unknown is offensive

On Memorial Day, Vice President Joe Biden will handle the somber duty of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, while President Obama will mark the day at a national cemetery back home in Illinois.

A few hours ago, Erick Erickson, CNN’s house conservative and founder of Redstate.org, decided that this represented a political opportunity that he should not miss.

He tweeted:

“Obama skipping the Tomb of the Unknowns this weekend for Chicago is offensive. Chicago can wait. The Commander-in-Chief has a job to do.”

Pretty quickly, it was established that President Reagan had occasionally skipped annual duties at the Tomb.

As had President George H.W. Bush.

As had the more recent President Bush.

Caught red-handed, Erickson has just responded with another tweet:

“Diff b/w Reagan and Bush not going to Tomb and Obama? No one questioned their support for soldiers and belief in American Exceptionalism.”

Man oh man.

In itself, the incident is …

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The political calendar dictates odd approach to DADT

Congress, the White House and the Pentagon have agreed to a rather complicated dance that come December should end in the abolition of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay Americans serving openly in the military.

Under the agreement, a bill stripping the policy from federal law would be put to a vote quickly, but if passed would not take effect until a Pentagon study is completed and released, a step expected to occur Dec. 1.

Then, once Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama get the report and certify that the change would not harm military readiness, the change would take effect and DADT would fade into the history books alongside Jim Crow laws and other discriminatory legislation.

But why the odd scheduling? It’s almost certainly an attempt to resolve a conflict between two timetables.

The Pentagon’s report is due Dec. 1. But a month before that, the nation goes to the polls, and even the more optimistic of Democrats acknowledge they are likely to …

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When human technology escapes human control

It takes some pretty amazing technology to stick a pipe a mile beneath the ocean, then drill another three or four miles into the Earth’s crust in search of oil. Until recently, we were told that the technology was so good that chances of something major going wrong were tiny.

Yet something did go wrong. The pipe in question has broken, and it has come as a shock to learn that it is beyond our capabilities to fix it. Thanks to incomplete mastery of our own technology, millions of gallons of oil now threaten the beauty and ecology of the Gulf.

As Lewis Mumford once wrote, when you give a 10-year-old a stick of dynamite, you don’t make him more powerful. You make him more dangerous.

Last week, as oil continued to spew from that pipe, scientists in Washington announced a major breakthrough in another area of technology. J. Craig Venter and his team announced creation of synthetic life, in this case a man-made bacteria with a chromosome designed by computer and then “built from …

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Oil industry ‘captured’ the federal agency that should have regulated it

Ever hear of the term “regulatory capture?”

It was coined to apply to agencies such as the federal Minerals Management Service, created in 1982 to oversee oil and mining on federal property, including offshore drilling. Over time, MMS became captive to the industries it was supposed to regulate, serving as an advocate for industry interests and an apologist for its excesses and repeatedly siding with the industry over the taxpayer on financial issues. With its lax enforcement, it made agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission seem like bulldogs by comparison.

Those problems peaked during the Bush administration, when top Interior Department officials ignored repeated reports from the Government Accountability Office warning that the agency was giving sweetheart deals to industry, losing hundreds of millions of dollars that ought to be going to the federal treasury. Later, investigations proved that agency officials had been accepting lucrative gifts from oil …

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The abuse of heavenly prayer for earth-bound politics

Last week, as the Texas Board of Education prepared to finalize controversial new textbook standards, board member Cynthia Dunbar was asked to offer the opening prayer.

Here’s what she said:

“Most gracious heavenly Father. We come before you today, and ask that you grant to us the ability not to be anxious for the future, wisdom and understanding for the day, and hearts of gratitude for our past. As we look to our past to guide us, let us reflect on the convictions of those who have gone before us. I believe that nobody can look to the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia, or the charter of New England or the Charter of Massachusetts Bay, or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles.”

I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of …

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To Don Blankenship, just the cost of doing coal business

On Thursday, a Senate committee took testimony on coal mine safety after the explosion last month at a West Virginia operation run by Massey Energy that killed 29 men.

From the New York Times:

In his first testimony since the accident, the worst coal mine disaster in 40 years, Don L. Blankenship, the chairman and chief executive, came out swinging. The 23 miner fatalities at Massey mines in the decade before the Upper Big Branch explosion made his company “about average,” he said, and Massey was a leader in safety innovation but had been forbidden by the Mine Safety and Health administration from making some safety improvements….

At the hearing, another witness, Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, challenged Mr. Blankenship’s assertion that Massey’s safety record was average.

“I can’t come up with another coal company that’s had 23 miners in 10 years die,” Mr. Roberts, seated next to Mr. Blankenship at the witness table, said. “This isn’t …

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At the end of a crazy week, a little travelin’ music to see y’all back home

Here’s a very nice version of a very nice song to kick off the latest chapter of Friday Night Travelin’ Music. (And while Willie wrote it, Miss Patsy owns it and always will. I don’t know if Willie wrote it specifically for her, but it was a perfect fit to that voice).

We haven’t done a night of dedications here before, probably because it might inject a taint of politics into the affair. But you sho’ could dedicate this one to any number of folks in the news in recent days. Enjoy the evening, and the weekend.

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BP finally admits Gulf spill is a lot larger than it had claimed

According to BP, it is now siphoning off as many as 5,000 barrels of oil a day from the leaking pipe on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s great news, since the company has been telling us that the leak itself was putting out 5,000 barrels a day. Problem solved, right BP?

Right?

Wrong.

The company has now been forced to acknowledge that outside scientists were right, that the leak is dumping a lot more than 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf. How much more? The company won’t say, but thanks to pressure by Congress and the administration, you can see for yourself. The company has agreed to post a live video feed from the site, which can be seen here. It isnt’ pretty. (The site can be a little balky, probably because of heavy traffic.)

Meanwhile, fresh from arguing that the Civil Rights Act was an unconstitutional imposition on business, Rand Paul is now chastising President Obama for being too hard on BP. From the AP:

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration …

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Pelosi: ‘Don’t ask’ will be ‘memory by end of this year’

From The Hill:

“The Pentagon’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will be nothing but a memory by year’s end, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared Wednesday.

Pelosi, in an interview with The Hill, stopped short of laying all of her strategic cards on the table. She wouldn’t say whether the House will take the lead on the issue or predict when the Clinton administration-era tenet would be repealed.

But she made it clear ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is at the top of her agenda.

“I don’t have any doubt that ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ will be a memory by the end of this year,” she said.”

As The Hill notes, the bill that would end DADT still has just 192 co-sponsors, 24 short of a majority. But Pelosi has shown a willingness to fight for what she wants, and if she’s willing to make statements as stark as this, she must be pretty confident that the votes will be there.

Some conservative Democrats have said they don’t want to vote on the controversial bills, especially in the wake of …

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