Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rich: Don't Get Mad, Mr. President. Get Even, Microbes eat Oil

Hi. I just watched this youtube production. I don't know enough
to endorse the product/proposal, but it surely merits quick testing,
if that hasn't been done already. At least, someone, please pass
this on to Rachel Maddow. Everything else has failed.

From: bob zoell
To: Ed Pearl
Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2010 8:30 AM
Subject: Fwd: Oil & Microbes.

Ed, have you seen this?


bob zoell

This is amazing!! I've been on top of the news and this method has NEVER
once been mentioned!


Pass it on....




Don't Get Mad, Mr. President. Get Even.

By Frank Rich
NY Times Op-Ed: June 6, 2010

IT turns out there is something harder to find than a fix for BP's leak:
Barack Obama's boiling point.

The frantic and fruitless nationwide search for the president's temper is
now our sole dependable comic relief from the tragedy in the gulf. Only The
Onion could have imagined the White House briefing last week where a CBS
News correspondent asked the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, if he had
"really seen rage from the president" and to "describe it." Gibbs came up
with Obama's "clenched jaw" and his order to "plug the damn hole." (Thank
God he hadn't settled for "darn.") This evidence did not persuade anyone,
least of all Spike Lee, who could be found on CNN the next night begging the
president, "One time, go off!"

Not going to happen. Obama will never unleash the anger of the antagonists
in "Do the Right Thing" or match James Carville's rebooted "ragin' Cajun"
shtick. That's not who Obama is. If he tried to go off, he'd look
ridiculous. But the debate over how to raise the president's emotional
thermostat is not an entirely innocuous distraction. It allows Obama to duck
the more serious doubts about his leadership that have resurfaced along with
BP's oil.

Unlike his unflappable temperament, his lingering failings should and could
be corrected. And they must be if his presidency is not just to rise above
the 24/7 Spill-cam but to credibly seize the narrative that Americans have
craved ever since he was elected during the most punishing economic downturn
of our lifetime. We still want to believe that Obama is on our side, willing
to fight those bad corporate actors who cut corners and gambled recklessly
while regulators slept, Congress raked in contributions, and we got stuck
with the wreckage and the bills. But his leadership style keeps sowing
confusion about his loyalties, puncturing holes in the powerful tale he
could tell.

His most conspicuous flaw is his unshakeable confidence in the collective
management brilliance of the best and the brightest he selected for his
White House team - "his abiding faith in the judgment of experts," as Joshua
Green of The Atlantic has put it. At his gulf-centric press conference 10
days ago, the president said he had "probably had more meetings on this
issue than just about any issue since we did our Afghan review." This was
meant to be reassuring but it was not. The plugging of an uncontrollable oil
leak, like the pacification of an intractable Afghanistan, may be beyond the
reach of marathon brainstorming by brainiacs, even if the energy secretary
is a Nobel laureate. Obama has yet to find a sensible middle course between
blind faith in his own Ivy League kind and his predecessor's go-with-the-gut

By now, he also should have learned that the best and the brightest can get
it wrong - and do. His economic advisers predicted that without the stimulus
the unemployment rate might reach 9 percent - a projection that was quickly
exceeded even with the stimulus and that has haunted the administration ever
since. Other White House geniuses persuaded the president to make his
fateful claim in early April that "oil rigs today generally don't cause
spills" - a particularly specious (indeed false) plank in the argument for
his spectacularly ill-timed expansion of offshore oil drilling. The Times
reported last week that at the administration meetings leading to this new
drilling policy the subject of the vast dysfunction at the Minerals
Management Service, the agency charged with regulating the drilling, never
even came up.

Obama's excessive trust in his own heady team is all too often matched by
his inherent deference to the smartest guys in the boardroom in the private
sector. His default assumption seems to be that his peers are always as
well-intentioned as he is. The single biggest mistake he has made in
managing the gulf disaster was his failure to challenge BP's version of
events from the start. The company consistently understated the spill's
severity, overestimated the progress of the repair operation and low-balled
the environmental damage. Yet the White House's designated point man in the
crisis, Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, was still publicly reaffirming
his trust in the BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, as recently as two weeks
ago, more than a month after the rig exploded.

This is baffling, and then some, given BP's atrocious record prior to this
catastrophe. In the last three years, according to the Center for Public
Integrity, BP accounted for "97 percent of all flagrant violations found in
the refining industry by government safety inspectors" - including 760
citations for "egregious, willful" violations (compared with only eight at
the two oil companies that tied for second place). Hayward's predecessor at
BP, ousted in a sex-and-blackmail scandal in 2007, had placed cost-cutting
(and ever more obscene profits) over safety, culminating in the BP Texas
City refinery explosion that killed 15 and injured 170 in 2005. Last October
The Times uncovered documents revealing that BP had still failed to address
hundreds of safety hazards at that refinery in the four years after the
explosion, prompting the largest fine in the history of the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration. (The fine, $87 million, was no doubt
regarded as petty cash by a company whose profit reached nearly $17 billion
last year.)

No high-powered White House meetings or risk analyses were needed to discern
how treacherous it was to trust BP this time. An intern could have figured
it out. But the credulous attitude toward BP is no anomaly for the
administration. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs was praised by the
president as a "savvy" businessman two months before the Securities and
Exchange Commission sued Goldman. Well before then, there had been a flood
of journalistic indicators that Goldman under Blankfein may have gamed the
crash and the bailout.

It's this misplaced trust in elites both outside the White House and within
it that seems to prevent Obama from realizing the moment that history has
handed to him. Americans are still seething at the bonus-grabbing titans of
the bubble and at the public and private institutions that failed to police
them. But rather than embrace a unifying vision that could ignite his
presidency, Obama shies away from connecting the dots as forcefully and
relentlessly as the facts and Americans' anger demand.

BP's recklessness is just the latest variation on a story we know by heart.
The company's heedless disregard of risk and lack of safeguards at Deepwater
Horizon are all too reminiscent of the failures at Lehman Brothers,
Citigroup and A.I.G., where the richly rewarded top executives often didn't
even understand the toxic financial products that would pollute and nearly
topple the nation's economy. BP's reliance on bought-off politicians and
lax, industry-captured regulators at the M.M.S. mirrors Wall Street's cozy
relationship with its indulgent overseers at the S.E.C., Federal Reserve and
New York Fed - not to mention Massey Energy's dependence on somnolent
supervision from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Given Toyota's recent game of Russian roulette with Americans' safety and
Anthem Blue Cross's unconscionable insurance-rate increases in California,
Obama shouldn't have any problem riveting the country's attention to this
sorry saga. He has the field to himself, thanks to a political opposition
whose hottest new star, Rand Paul, and most beloved gulf-state governor,
Haley Barbour of Mississippi, both leapt to BP's defense right after the rig
exploded. The Wall Street Journal editorial page perfectly set forth the
conservative establishment's party line on May 26: "There is zero evidence
so far that this blowout resulted from lax regulation or shoddy practices."
Or as BP's Hayward asked indignantly, "What the hell did we do to deserve

If Obama is to have a truly transformative presidency, there could be no
better catalyst than oil. Standard Oil jump-started Progressive Era
trust-busting. Sinclair Oil's kickback-induced leases of Wyoming's Teapot
Dome oilfields in the 1920s led to the first conviction and imprisonment of
a presidential cabinet member (Harding's interior secretary) for a crime
committed while in the cabinet. The Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s and
the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 sped the conservation movement and search for
alternative fuels. The Enron scandal prompted accounting reforms and
(short-lived) scrutiny of corporate Ponzi schemes.

This all adds up to a Teddy Roosevelt pivot-point for Obama, who shares many
of that president's moral and intellectual convictions. But Obama can't
embrace his inner T.R. as long as he's too in thrall to the supposed wisdom
of the nation's meritocracy, too willing to settle for incremental
pragmatism as a goal, and too inhibited by the fine points of Washington
policy debates to embrace bold words and bold action. If he is to wield the
big stick of reform against BP and the other powerful interests that have
ripped us off, he will have to tell the big story with no holds barred.

That doesn't require a temper tantrum. Nor does it require him to plug the
damn hole, which he can't do anyway. What he does have the power to fix is
his presidency. Should he do so, and soon, he'll still have a real chance to
mend a broken country as well.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 6, 2010, on

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