Monday, May 31, 2010

Oil and water.

To me President Obama’s darkest hour
came  on March 31, 2010, exactly two months ago to the day.  That was
when he announced
new offshore drilling, a move meant to bring more votes over for the climate
bill on the Hill.  With the benefit of lightening speed hindsight, it’s a
decision he most assuredly regrets — one of those “I could kick myself”
moments.  The President has never been a champion of offshore drilling, a
highly charged campaign issue that parented “drill baby drill”.  That’s
precisely why it was so troubling and painful to have seen him
capitulate.   He knew better and that makes it unforgivable.  It
was perhaps the starkest reminder of how compromised public office is these days,
and to our detriment.  Tilting in the Right wind, or caving in (which
Liberals have been doing for decades now) is never a winning strategy.
Hopefully he will draw a sharp lesson from March 31 and what followed.  If
not, it will surely cost him (and us).

It is really pathetic to hear Gulf
State politicians talk about how this still unchecked spill is in, Bobby
Jindal’s words “threatening
our way of life
”.  Hello?  Wasn’t it always a disaster waiting to
happen?  It was the decision to drill offshore, and in hurricane prone
waters to boot, that environmentalists, scientists and ordinary citizens were
certain would one day threaten not only our human but also our ecological way
of life.  That those who made those decisions while obviously under the
influence of Kool-Aid may account for the shocking level of unpreparedness now
playing out before our eyes.   Then we have the preposterous
contention of Texas’ Rick Perry that the accident could have been “an
act of God
” — don’t blame us, we’re just bystanders not deciders.  Was
this the same God who told Gulf State politicians to encourage the oil
companies to drill baby drill along their fragile coasts and to promote
enabling “wink” legislation?  And then we have Haley Barbour; the man who
got his casinos up and running while New Orleans was still under water,
actually and metaphorically.  He is obviously a betting man, sitting on
the sidelines with the assumption that his state will be spared and that he
will be the sure winner (perhaps GOP nominee) by not having cried “fire” in a
crowded theater.  Given the facts on the ground, it’s an audacious
bet.  Of course, he couldn’t let the moment pass without suggesting that,
bunch of liberal elites were hoping this would be the Three Mile Island of
offshore drilling
.”   Yes an act of God and liberal elites, the
Right is “on message”, bless them.  They have come to believe (with some
justification) that American’s will buy their words and catchy slogans while
ignoring reality.  Future offshore drilling?  Bring it on!

It’s hard not to digress a moment to
contemplate how different things might be, not to mention what these Governors
would be saying, were President John McCain in charge.  He's so deft and
cool-headed in a crisis.  Imagine the scenario.  Given her special
expertise on matters oil, he surely would have dispatched Vice President Palin
to take charge of the government’s efforts.  Need I go on?

Returning to reality, while Jindal can
be accused of posturing, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  He saw
what a lame response to catastrophe did to his predecessor and his ambition and
will to survive is no more than any other politician regardless of party. 
The point is that the Governor is absolutely right. What’s going on in Gulf
does threaten his state and the region’s way of life.   The fishing
and tourist industries might well be decimated by our national thirst for oil
and a lot of “responsible” people at all levels (not to mention consumers)
having averted their eyes from what was always a clear and present danger. 

What Jindal fears is precisely what
Americans hate most and, even in the face of those pesky facts of reality,
resist with all their might.  I see the collapse of the oil rig in the
Gulf as an integral part of, not separate from, the collapse of our financial
institutions and economy.  Both were brought about by risks that were
eminently obvious, both by disasters waiting to happen.  In either case it
wasn’t “if” but “when”.   Taken together, it’s clear that Americans,
not only Gulf Staters, are facing a threat to their way of life and, I would
add, an inevitable change in their way of life.  Band-aids might defer
that change, but it is coming perhaps sooner rather than later.

All of this, Governor Perry
notwithstanding, can be said to result from acts of humans not of God and
ultimately all are of a piece.  That’s true for financial overreach
(institutional and personal), the unchecked gusher, and the two wars.  For
Obama, successfully addressing what has landed on his desk is nothing less than
a mission impossible.  In that regard, while pundits and bloggers (myself
included) are doing their duty in taking him to task, they should do so with
some humility.  Consider how you would handle this (to use a vast understatement)
perfect storm.  Okay you and I didn’t sign up for that task, but again
think McCain or any of the contenders for the Presidency back in ’08.

What we face today is the accumulated
coming to roost from years of mindless self-abuse.  And there is no
evidence that we have learned anything.  The moment gas prices dropped in
the past weeks sales of SUVs rose and those of hybrids dropped.  You can
bet that the well-educated unemployed (of which there are now many) dream at
night of restoring what had been their way of life including the excesses that
caused their current plight.  Just as there were no good options for
Afghanistan, and no instant way to wipe the slate of debt clean, the end of the
current Gulf saga is bound to be bad.  The only question is its magnitude,
duration and ripple effect.

Oil and water don’t mix.  How
often do we have to be taught that basic lesson of chemistry and the kitchen?

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Not enthused?  Shame on
us!  I have just two words for
you:  Roberts and Alito.  Elections count and turnout — our vote
— absolutely counts.  Only about
60% of Americans exercise our right of citizenship in a presidential year.  That drops to 40% in elections like the
one coming up in November.  Does
enthusiasm count?  Absolutely it
does, and most especially in these off years where an absolute minority — 4 in
10 — are the “deciders”.

Enthusiasm drives our elections these days.  It’s what got Barack Obama elected and it is what the
pundits claim will be driving Republicans, especially of the far right, to
gains in November.  If so, we will
have no one to blame but ourselves.

Do you find yourself with an enthusiasm deficit?  Get over it!  If you’re disappointed in Obama’s performance, perhaps you
were reading your own wishes, your own idea of change, into the 2008.  Is he the unabashed liberal that you
had hoped for (assumed)?  No, but
he never claimed to be that.  Did he
get the healthcare bill you wanted — and that ultimately we need?  Probably not.  I’m still for universal Medicare, but that’s not yet a
majority opinion in this highly selfish country.  “Sure I care (ha, ha) about others, but don’t you dare touch
or threaten the healthcare coverage I have.”  Let’s remember the disadvantaged/uninsured have no voice in
this great democracy, except at our discretion.  By they way many of them don’t vote which compounds the

So you’re disappointed, not enthused.  Well, given the system we have (not the one you may ideally
want, but the one in place) what would you have done about the economy, the two
wars, the healthcare and education deficits, the financial deficit etc., etc if you were in charge and had to get it trough Congress?  Talk, however idealistic or even right,
is cheap.  It’s very easy to write
one of these blogs (which is why I do it selectively), but so much harder to
govern.  If Obama had to struggle
to get anything accomplished — and don’t make light of what he has done — how
will it be in years 3 and 4 with a much smaller majority or no majority at all
on the Hill?  Again think Roberts
and Alito and what they token. 
Should I say, think President Palin and Vice President Paul?

Time to get enthusiastic. 
It’s not about defeating the tea party or right-wingers, but about
giving our President the continued mandate we so desperately need him to have.  Don’t tell me your enthusiasm attention
span lasts only one visit to the polls. 
What does that say about us? 
And of course that’s a question we could ask about the whole idea of
enthusiasm.  If that’s what it
takes to get us out, it’s reflects not only a selfish citizenry but also a
terribly immature one to boot. 
It’s hard to say which is more disturbing or scary.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Chinese are on the way to cleaning
our clocks.  It isn’t only their
overwhelming size and a system that allows for unitary decision making; it is
that they take the long view of years while we think ahead in terms of days and weeks.  And that’s on our most adult days.  They still make rice the old fashioned
way while we can hardly wait a minute for the microwave bell to go off.  They have patience and staying
power.  Sure our impatience has
worked up to this point, but perhaps, like universal home ownership on 100+%
borrowed money, it was an illusion. 
If we really voted for change in 2008, it will require follow-up.  Make no mistake; change does take time,
step by painful step.  It is also fragile and can be
aborted in an election cycle and we can’t let that happen.  Let’s stop thinking enthusiasm and
consider responsibility as an option?   That in itself would be a meaningful change, and a welcome