A Hollywood Republican

This blog is for an open discussion on politics. My views will be to the right as will be most of the posters. But, we are willing to post alternative viewpoints as lons as they are well thought out. I started this in response to the Obama election and will continue it as long as it feeds a need.

Jun 25, 2010

Slight of Hand by Ira Scwhartz

"Scientists say they have developed a car that can run on water. The only catch is, the water has to come from the Gulf of Mexico." -Jay Leno
That was the way Jay Leno opened the “Tonight Show” several weeks ago. He continued..

"Well, folks, here's the latest update. I guess this is good news. BP officials say the 'top kill' plan is working. The bad news — BP officials are a bunch of lying weasels."
It appears that even the entertainment industry can see through the smoke screen BP has put up and by the level of applause from the crowd most of us do also. So why is it so hard to get a straight answer out of BP? The only thing I can think of is the BP spin machine is working about as well as their Deepwater Horizon drill rig. Here are the latest figures from the Gulf.

As of June 15th scientists estimate that around 60,000 barrels of oil a day is spilling into the gulf from the remains of the BP Deepwater rig Horizon. That’s 2.5 million gallons. It is estimated that 25,000 barrels a day is being captured by BP which still leaves 35,000 barrels left to pollute the American gulf and southern east coast.

So what really happened out there in the Gulf of Mexico? It appears, according to an AP report by an oil pipeline safety expert, a methane bubble escaped and made it to the surface. The expert explained that deep beneath the sea floor, methane gas is in a slushy, crystalline form. As the workers removed pressure from the well and introduced heat, the cement seal around the pipe destabilized, creating a gas bubble. It intensified and grew, breaking through the rig's various safety barriers. Once it reached the surface it ignited and exploded. A device called a “Blowout Preventer” was supposed to protect the rig from just this kind of an accident. So why didn’t it? A “60 Minutes” interview with a survivor of the explosion, Mike Williams, sheds light on that story.

Mr. Williams told “60 Minutes” that the Blowout Preventers seal was damaged in an accident weeks before the explosion. When a Transocean supervisor (Transocean owns the Deepwater rig run by BP) was told of the problem he said it was “no big deal” and operations continued. Mr. Williams continued that BP and Transocean managers had been arguing over who was in charge in the hours before the spill, disagreeing on how to seal the well.

Dr. Bob Bea, a UC Berkeley engineering professor interviewed by “60 Minutes,” told them that the pre-accident problems with the blowout preventer should have been fixed immediately. He continued that when BP won the argument about how to seal the well, the methods they decided on, while faster, were more dangerous than Transocean’s, and may have caused the blowout.

But while BP is assuredly the organization who pulled the trigger let’s just see who it was that loaded the gun.

The organization that is responsible for regulating all off shore drilling of oil and gas in US waters is the Minerals and Management Service, a section of the Department of Interior. This departments duel responsibility was:

1) To entice companies to drill for oil and gas in United States waters, then collect the royalties from the minerals, oil and gas, they extracted.

2) To insure that said industry followed the regulations established for off shore drilling by the United States.
I don’t know about you but that sounds like a huge conflict of interest to me. Is it any surprise that several disturbing stories about the MMS have begun surfacing since the Gulf disaster happened? One article published in the Wall Street Journal lists a number of instances where the MMS had pointed out potential safety problem in the industry, urged the industry to consider doing something about it, but in the end gave in to the industry's decisions and in many cases ignored the recommendations it was given by the independent experts commissioned to study the problems. One of those problems involved “Blowout Preventers”. The very piece of equipment whose failure lead to the explosion and death of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon.

So it comes as no surprise that the Minerals and Mining Service Director, Elizabeth Birnbaum, decided at the end of May to resign from her position. Soon after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced, in a press conference, that Ms. Birnbaum’s department, the MMS, was going to be broken up into small, more manageable sections. It appears that Ms. Birnbaum will now be made the scapegoat for the last two administrations failure to properly monitor one of its major departments. Damage control at its best.

BP has also been doing some damage control of its own. Tony Hayward, Chief Executive of BP and until recently the face of the Gulf oil spill, has been replaced by Robert Dudley. BP hopes that Dudley, an American and Mississippi native, will be able to repair some of the damage the cold and uncaring Hayward caused. Somehow I don’t see that happening.

Now a Federal judge has blocked the White House’s six month moratorium on off shore drilling. Martin L.C. Feldman, U.S. 5th District Court in New Orleans stated in the text of his injunction that,

“The court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium,” Feldman said in his 22-page decision. “The blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.”
I guess Judge Feldman has yet to watch the news or simply look out his window at all the fishing vessels sitting in the harbor growing barnacles on their hulls. Or is it the Judge is more concerned about keeping “Big Oils” money in Louisiana then the death of 12 people and the continued destruction of the gulfs eco system.

This moratorium is needed until the Federal Government can get the proper safeguards in place to insure this will never happen again. To those that say, “The big oil companies will just leave and drill somewhere else” I say let them. There is still a lot of oil under the Gulf of Mexico and those greedy, bloodsuckers that run the big oil companies will be tripping over each other to file their permits as soon as the moratorium is lifted.

While all the world is distracted by the Gulf disaster BP is quietly preparing to begin drilling off the Alaska Coast. A NY Times article explains that BP is about to start drilling “two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.”

How is this project allowed to continue while all others have been temporarily halted? It appears that BP is exempt, federal regulators have decided this is an “On Shore” drilling project despite the fact it is located three miles off the coast of the Beaufort Sea. The regulators explanation is it is “on Shore” because it sits on an artificial island — a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water — built by BP.

But this irresponsibility goes even further than semantics.

I now quote the article, “Rather than conducting their own independent analysis, federal regulators, in a break from usual practice, allowed BP in 2007 to write its own environmental review for the project as well as its own consultation documents relating to the Endangered Species Act, according to two scientists from the Alaska office of the federal Mineral Management Service that oversees drilling.

The environmental assessment was taken away from the agency’s unit that typically handles such reviews, and put in the hands of a different division that was more pro-drilling, said the scientists, who discussed the process because they remained opposed to how it was handled.

“The whole process for approving Liberty was bizarre,” one of the federal scientists said.

The scientists and other critics say they are worried about a replay of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because the Liberty project involves a method of drilling called extended reach that experts say is more prone to the types of gas kicks that triggered the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon.”

So the cast has now increased as the “slight of hand” continues and for all intent and purposes it appears that the right hand of the Federal Government “still” doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Or does it?

© 2010 by Ira Schwartz. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been intently following this situation since it's inception and I applaud you on your accuracy of the details. The only discrepancy I can see is the story surrounding Ms.Birnbaum's resignation. From what I have read this was more the administration's decision than it was hers. We should all be familiar with the rampant stories of corruption and collusion that had been taking place for years. That aside, I agree with every thing that is written,both factually speaking and your interpretation points. BP is working harder to clean up their image than they will ever do to restore the eco-system in that area. I note they will not even allow the persons who are working on the clean-up efforts to don hazmat garb for fear that it will have a negative impact on their image. To hell with human safety and precautions, protect their image at all costs. Those poor souls who perished the day of the explosion is a glaring reminder of that.

Thanks Ira, I'm going to start thinking of you as our "man on the street". Your investigative and journalistic stylings are really apparent in this one.

June 25, 2010 at 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Ira said...

Thanks Deb...I appreciate the compliments.

June 25, 2010 at 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is so much more than we see. The BP connection to this administration is, I believe really large! And how much further does it go? How is it impacted with offshore of Brazil? And what other groups connected to BP? I feel that other groups not related to BP should not be punished, but I do think we need safeguards we can count on. Don't feel it is just Bush - Clinton did some things to impact this drilling in his time that played in this. Not sure how much but that is another factor needing looked at! It feels like the iceberg, and we are only seeing the top!
Gammy Sparkles

June 26, 2010 at 2:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article is littered with truths, half truth, and some facts that maybe, certainly will, turn out to be just plain wrong, but they benefit the argument so lets just go ahead and use them. It reminds one of the time when we honestly, seriously, with the pain of heresy and/or excommunication, believed that the earth was flat. But the terrible wrong that is done here is that “lies”, well intended or not, intentional or not, the consequences of honest mistakes made in the moment of passionate debate, are half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on.” There are those who will never change their minds, there are those that just don’t know enough for an “informed decision” and there are those listening, trying to learn. This blog misses, squanders a magnificent opportunity.

There was a blog that railed on too many atomic bombs, not for once being distracted into the possible “positive”, “peaceful”, use of this explosive power. We, over the centuries, have learned to use the power and might of TNT for peaceful means. This product alone, the result of principled capitalism, is solely responsible for the ongoing reminder of excellence in humanity by honoring exceptional individuals, and efforts, sometimes in controversy or even off the mark, with the Noble Prize, so we can keep focused on meaningful humanitarian priorities. Our government, any administration, chose your poison, has only to pull together a group, similar to the Manhattan Project, but with a challenge less formidable, that would take one of these nuclear weapons, one of the too many atomic bombs that we have, and use it to plug that hole in the gulf. Watch the “nay sayers” come out of the wood work on that one. History would almost guarantee they could do it. The problem seems to be that the Russians thought of this solution first, and we are too proud, arrogant and, yes, ignorant, to put a “real” solution ahead of “political” advantage. We are too proud to rally around a novel idea. We are to Machiavellian to let a crisis go to waste. We are too comfortable demonizing for political cache. We are too comfortable with blame and uneasy with responsibility and accountability. We would yell, rant, rage, demonize, scream, and mob an errant driver (Deep Horizon Oil Rig) in our righteous indignation as the child (the environmental gulf coast) lies dying unattended. It just feels good. Where are our priorities.

One can see how the truth is obfuscated, twisted and tortured to fit the agenda of those on both sides of this gulf disaster. Mahatma Gandhi said “Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected.” In this blog we are missing either love or truth, possibly a little of both. Thus your message, well intended, but not well thought out, in the philosophical sense, no one will ever really know the true facts, as you pander to emotions, will gain traction with like-minded for a short time. But it will lose its bite, its following, its wisdom misused and fade rapidly, as rapidly as the furor over every environmental disaster, once it no longer serve the “means justify the ends”, for it fails the Gandhi prerequisite.

Man is fallible. Accidents and mistakes happen. Someone once said men make mistakes, mistakes don’t make them anything. One would hardly see a thread of that noble philosophy in this latest blog. And little is accomplish in a sea of angst, anger, bias, and free advice shallow in deep thought, a commodity that has earned its value, the advice of our man on the street. And yet he is worth hearing and listening to. I wonder if he ever truly, honestly, meditatively listens back.

In the final analysis it is principled capitalism that has the greatest propensity to advance the world civilization and a global culture in a reasoned and rational march to a better standard of living. It is the financial resources that flow from those who have acquired great wealth into research that holds the possibility of an answer to AIDS, diabetes, hearth disease and even cancer.

June 26, 2010 at 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That whole theory relating to the administrations connection to the spill in the gulf is as ludicrous as pondering whether the POTUS is actually a citizen of this country. It's a mess and those responsible need to grow a pair to take responsibility for it. They all didn't mind raking in the astronomical profits every day when things went smoothly. Now it's time to pay the piper for the damage which will be seen for generations to come. Those are the facts and to attempt to have this somehow look like some sort of diabolical plot on the part of those in the administration is nothing short of insanity. There are lots of areas where if one wants to, one could find fault and criticism. This is not one of those, and those who try to present it as such say more about themselves than anything else.

June 26, 2010 at 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Ira said...

Anonymous...Al Capone donated to charities too did that make him any less a cold blooded killer. Your argument is flawed on so many levels and while we're at it I would appreciate it if you could tell me what half truths and falsehoods I placed in my article? I think the readers would like to know too.

June 26, 2010 at 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Ira said...

And as far as the nuke article is concerned...please enlighten me to what form of safe, clean use nuclear energy has to offer us with todays technology? I'd like to know that one.

June 26, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


June 27, 2010 at 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Ira said...


June 28, 2010 at 5:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing this post. I appreciate your healthy dose of skeptism about the whole situation. A few things stand out for me.

"The scientists and other critics say they are worried about a replay of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because the Liberty project involves a method of drilling called extended reach that experts say is more prone to the types of gas kicks that triggered the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon.”

I understand why they have cause for concern. If they are, indeed, experts, as you have said, which I assume is true, then they are the source of the best available information at this time. Their warnings should be heeded.

"the Blowout Preventer's seal was damaged in an accident weeks before the explosion" and "BP and Transocean managers had been arguing over who was in charge in the hours before the spill, disagreeing on how to seal the well"

"Hindsight is 20-20" I suppose it is difficult to know, in an intelligent and passionate group, who has the right idea for the circumstance. They may be burdened now that they did not take action sooner.

It sounds to me like the government may be trying to reorganize their structure in order to do a better job of overseeing difficult situations. (Yes, I hope for the best, but am a fellow skeptic.)

It is my understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that Blowout Preventers have yet to be used effectively. This one was damaged, but I wonder if it would have worked properly in good condition [I'm not an engineer...changed my major to applied math] The Berkeley engineer, Bob Bea, attested that "the methods [BP] decided on, while faster, were more dangerous than Transocean’s, and may have caused the blowout" so I am inclined to believe that the weaker idea was used.

My prayers are with the families...


July 5, 2010 at 9:14 PM  

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