So when I started this blog, I always intended to have some posts that were about politics. But politics is a tricky thing to write about, especially for someone like me who doesn’t take criticism well. Everyone has their own opinions, and most people are convinced that their opinions are right and all others are wrong. So I prefer to write about innocuous things like video games and the internet that most people probably don’t have strong opinions about. But something has been on my mind lately and I can’t help but blog about it.
In case you’ve been living in a cave on Mars for the last two months and didn’t hear about it, there is a fairly significant environmental disaster going on right now in the Gulf of Mexico. Fairly significant, as in, easily the worst in U.S. history, perhaps even the worst in world history. And the things that I’ve been reading about it lately have made me feel… well, you read the title of this post, didn’t you?
For example, I read an article last week that was published in Rolling Stone magazine. A fairly liberal publication, right? One that might perhaps be favorably disposed towards a Democratic president, yes? Well, not in this case. The writer of the article, Tim Dickinson, spent eight pages savaging the Obama administration’s mishandling of the disaster. I strongly urge anyone reading this blog to read that article. It is disturbingly fascinating.
To those of you too
lazy busy to read an eight page article, allow me to sum up briefly. During the Clinton and (especially) the Bush years, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the government agency that is responsible for overseeing the oil industry, became astonishingly corrupt, essentially allowing the oil industry to regulate itself. When Obama was campaigning, one thing he pledged was that he would clean up the corruption that plagued MMS. Unfortunately, he didn’t. And one result of this failure was that BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig had multiple safety issues, and we all know what happened next.
In addition, the Obama administration’s initial response to the disaster was just as inept and incompetent as the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Obama did convene his Cabinet as soon as he received news of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. And in this meeting he declared that this disaster needed to be the government’s first priority. But then BP told the government the oil leaking out was just oil that was stored on the rig, and that the well itself was secure. So the government took BP’s word and basically forgot about it for several days. Obama himself went on vacation, in fact. By the time the President and his staff realized the magnitude of the disaster, the situation was already rapidly spiraling out of control.
But lest you think that things are under control now, even if the initial response was a failure, I have another article that offers a peek into how the actual clean-up effort is going. This article details how clean up workers are not being issued proper safety equipment, but they are being provided with prostitutes. Well, hey, these guys need something to look forward to after a hard day of hazardous, unprotected work, right?
And in case you think that it’s just Democrats that are clueless about how to respond to this crisis, here’s a third article. Last Thursday, when BP executives were testifying before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives, one lawmaker, Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, criticized President Obama’s attempts to make BP pay for the damage they had caused, and actually had the gall to apologize to BP, even though BP had voluntarily agreed to Obama’s plan! Now, Barton did take pains to emphasize that his views were his own and that they were not necessarily shared by other Republicans. And he did later retract his apology under pressure from Republican leaders in the House. But the fact that this happened at all seems to me to be indicative of the mindset of many Republicans. It’s almost as if Republicans are programmed with this line of thought: “Oh! Obama’s doing something! Let’s oppose it!” It’s no wonder nothing ever seems to get done in Congress.
As an aside, I’m starting to think that we’ve reached a point in this country where both parties have failed. The Republicans exist to oppose the Democrats and the Democrats exist to oppose the Republicans. Neither party stands for anything substantial anymore. It’s just an endless back-and-forth tug-of-war between the two parties, and nothing ever changes, and nothing ever gets accomplished. But on the other hand, there are more than 300 million people in this country. How would we ever come up with solutions to problems that would satisfy everybody? Everyone has their own opinion, and everyone is convinced that their opinion is right and everybody else’s opinion is wrong.
And meanwhile, oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Everything I’ve read seems to indicate that the most likely solution to the spill is drilling a relief well, something that won’t be done until August at the earliest. And unfortunately, I’ve even read that the relief wells are not 100 percent guaranteed to work. So who knows when this will be over?
One thing that does seem to be certain is that the full impact of this disaster won’t be known for many years. Right now, no one really knows how much oil has spilled into the Gulf, nor does anyone know how much more oil will spill, nor does anyone know how far it will spread. I feel pretty confident, living in New England, that I won’t have to worry about finding tar balls on my next trip to the beach. But is my confidence justified? How do I know that oil won’t make it all the way up the Atlantic coast? Only time will tell, I suppose.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the ramifications of this disaster will outlive me. Whatever happens, the Gulf of Mexico has been forever altered, forever scarred. What a tremendous tribute to human greed and incompetence.