Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 1, 2010

Obama’s Katrina?

Filed under: Ecology,oil,Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:54 pm

Barack Obama statement on April 2, 2010:

I don’t agree with the notion that we shouldn’t do anything. It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.

John McCain statement on June 17 2008:

As for offshore drilling, it’s safe enough these days that not even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage from the battered rigs off the coasts of New Orleans and Houston.

But according to the official report prepared for the US Government by a Norwegian firm:

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Caused 124 Offshore Spills For A Total Of 743,700 Gallons. 554,400 gallons were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and pipelines, and 189,000 gallons were refined products from platforms and rigs. [MMS, 1/22/07]

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Caused Six Offshore Spills Of 42,000 Gallons Or Greater. The largest of these was 152,250 gallons, well over the 100,000 gallon threshhold considered a “major spill.” [MMS, 5/1/06]

If 100,000 gallons is considered a “major spill”, what are we to make of the discovery that the BP platform has been dumping 210,000 gallons per day since April 20? Furthermore, unlike the Exxon-Valdez this spill is impossible to quantify since the oil is coming from the ocean bottom rather than the innards of a ship.

Even at this late date, Obama has not backed off from the idea of offshore drilling as the McClatchy news service reported yesterday:

President Barack Obama on Friday appeared unwilling to scrap plans to expand oil and gas exploration, but promised that the administration will carefully study what mistakes led to the explosion of an oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

As is the case with just about every other Obama policy, his commitment to offshore drilling is portrayed as transcending traditional divides:

Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place. Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.l

Not surprisingly, this very same speech proposed a renewed commitment to nuclear power. Despite his insistence on avoiding “tired debates”, Obama manages to repeat the same talking points as John McCain about Hurricane Katrina and oil spills. Looking back at the 2008 election, frightened liberals urged a vote for Obama since a McCain victory would amount to a 3rd Bush term. If they had the capability to think honestly, they’d have to admit that this is what we got anyhow.

Like the slasher villain who refuses to die in a Halloween or Friday the Thirteenth movie, Halliburton turns up in this oil spill catastrophe. Not content to have ruined Iraq, this energy tools and technology company that Dick Cheney ran from 1995 to 2000 now appears ready to commit homicide on the U.S. itself as yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports (the news section of the paper has not been completely tainted by Rupert Murdoch, the new owner, at least not yet.)

An oil-drilling procedure called cementing is coming under scrutiny as a possible cause of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico that has led to one of the biggest oil spills in U.S. history, drilling experts said Thursday.

The process is supposed to prevent oil and natural gas from escaping by filling gaps between the outside of the well pipe and the inside of the hole bored into the ocean floor. Cement, pumped down the well from the drilling rig, is also used to plug wells after they have been abandoned or when drilling has finished but production hasn’t begun.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, workers had finished pumping cement to fill the space between the pipe and the sides of the hole and had begun temporarily plugging the well with cement; it isn’t known whether they had completed the plugging process before the blast.

Regulators have previously identified problems in the cementing process as a leading cause of well blowouts, in which oil and natural gas surge out of a well with explosive force. When cement develops cracks or doesn’t set properly, oil and gas can escape, ultimately flowing out of control. The gas is highly combustible and prone to ignite, as it appears to have done aboard the Deepwater Horizon, which was leased by BP PLC, the British oil giant.

Concerns about the cementing process—and about whether rigs have enough safeguards to prevent blowouts—raise questions about whether the industry can safely drill in deep water and whether regulators are up to the task of monitoring them.

The scrutiny on cementing will focus attention on Halliburton Co., the oilfield-services firm that was handling the cementing process on the rig, which burned and sank last week. The disaster, which killed 11, has left a gusher of oil streaming into the Gulf from a mile under the surface.

Federal officials declined to comment on their investigation, and Halliburton didn’t respond to questions from The Wall Street Journal.

British Petroleum, a European conglomerate that took advantage of American deregulation, owned the oilrig. They wanted to make bigger profits at the public’s expense just like that other scumbag corporation Goldman Sachs. In one case, you get a ruined environment and in the other ruined homeowners all for the sake of the almighty dollar.

Last night Mike Papantonio was a guest on the Ed Schultz show on MSNBC. He is an environmental attorney, lawyer whose firm has filed a class-action lawsuit in three states on behalf of the shrimpers, fisheries, oystermen and business owners. Here’s the exchange between host and guest that demonstrates the clash between social needs and private property:

SCHULTZ: Where`s the liability? Where`s the culpability here? What`s the call for the lawsuit?

PAPANTONIO: You nailed the story perfectly at the beginning of this program. Deepwater Horizon had two trip devices to use in blowout catastrophes. Both of them failed because of either human error or defect.

Now, here`s what people don`t know. BP didn`t want to spend the money for a system. It`s a fail-safe system, absolutely fail-safe. It`s a device system that`s used all over the world except in the United States, because we give them a free pass in the United States.

SCHULTZ: What system is that, Mike?

PAPANTONIO: The system`s called the acoustic switch system. It`s a relay system that blows out the bottom of the catastrophe. In other words, it stops the oil where it — exactly from the source.

Now, here`s what`s interesting. If BP has to do business in Norway, they have to use the switch. When they do it in the U.S., they don`t have to use it.

It happened because of this — during the Bush deregulation years, you had the Minerals Management Service that told companies like BP that, gee whiz, we have a new policy. It`s the closed-door Dick Cheney policy.

That Dick Cheney program allowed the industry to bypass safe systems like the acoustics switch, and there was no need to spend $500,000 with a company that was making $40 billion. It was a complete bypass of safety.

So is this Obama’s Katrina? Apparently the liberal apologists for this 3rd Bush term president reject this notion, especially since the chief outlet for such a charge is Fox News, WABC talk radio, Matt Drudge and all the other rightwing shitheads who care little for the environment or the New Orleans poor.

Media Matters, a Democratic Party website funded by George Soros, takes pain to distinguish Obama from Bush by citing the federal response the day after the oilrig explosion:

April 21: Deputy Secretary of Interior, Coast Guard dispatched to region. An April 22 White House statement noted that following a briefing with President Obama, Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, Admiral Thad Allen, United States Coast Guard Commandant, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, “Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes was dispatched to the region yesterday to assist with coordination and response.” The Coast Guard announced that four units were responding to the fire, with addition units en route.

While all this might be true, the real similarity between Katrina and the current disaster is that the two-party system—not individual presidents—bears the brunt of responsibility. In Katrina, you had faulty levees brought on by government neglect. With priorities set on destruction in Iraq, the government allowed levees, roads and bridges to become risks to humanity. It was understood by both parties that the fight to control oil in the Middle East meant much more to the future of capitalism than flooded homes in an African-American neighborhood.

That devotion to the needs of oil companies continues unabated. President Obama, just like the president who preceded him, sees the world in the same way as the men who run Exxon, BP, Chevron and all the rest. For most of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st century, wars between nations have often involved power grabs over oil resources. Some scholars explain the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as a response to an embargo on oil by the U.S.

Meanwhile confrontations with Iran threaten once more to let loose the dogs of war at the very same time that oil itself makes war on nature. Either the human race gets rid of capitalism, including its wasteful and destructive dependence on greenhouse emission fossil fuels, or the system will get rid of us.


  1. Obama you miserable prick. I tried to find something to like in you after seeing that picture with the hole in the sole of your shoe but it was probably a staged photo op you souless fuck.

    This is a disaster of epic proportions. This IS your Katrina. This will hound you through the gates of hell. And all you can do is defend big oil’s logic — to say nothing of the Greedhead Banksters, Insurance Crooks, Wall Street swindlers and Pentagon goons that you cozily buttress.

    You claim you responded immediately by “sending the Coast Guard.” What can they do? If they were really guarding the coast they’d arrange trials and summary executions of everybody responsible on the decks of ships with burlap sack burials at sea, although that’d probably be so many people it’d make for another environmental disaster, but godammit, not a political one, as people are that pissed off.

    Too bad they don’t poll registered voters for “dissapointments” as Obama would surely be the biggest in presidential history.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 2, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

  2. This story grows more emotionally devastating by the day. This morning, if it were in my power, I’d like to take every member of the ruling elite in this country and personally cut out their hearts with a fucking butter knife.

    Comment by MIchael Hureaux — May 2, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  3. Meanwhile, Obama is cracking jokes at the Correspondents dinner.

    Comment by purple — May 2, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

  4. Are Michael and Karl the same person? they both seem to have an unhealthy blood lust.

    Comment by Jenny — May 2, 2010 @ 10:53 pm

  5. Karl, who do you think we should be giving summary executions to and dumping into the sea? And does this now annul the whole anger about the issue of us torturing people when you think summary executions are the way to go?

    Comment by TA — May 2, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

  6. I think that those responsible for the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico should be buried up to their neck in the ground and power lawnmowers should be driven over their head.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 2, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

  7. Apparently we should answer torture-presiding tyrants with tender carresses, if TA’s post-modern brand of the old christian “turning the other cheek” ever gets its way. That’ll show the murdering bastards!

    Now, in the Greek version of Turkish shadow theatre, Hacivat (Hadjiavatis in Greek) is the sort of character who is quick to quarrel with the wretched poor Karagoz, but is equally quick to bow down to the Pasha, or anyone in power, all the way down until his forehead reaches the theatre floor.

    Which is what TA and his ilk are, real-life Hacivats thumping their foreheads to the floor in front of the ruling class crying “Yeeeeeesss efendi!”

    Comment by Antonis — May 3, 2010 @ 1:13 am

  8. Jenny, why on earth do you troll here and at American Leftist? This is obviously not your kind of politics here. Get a life.

    You may feel as Michael and Karl do about the elite once the effects reverberate through what’s left of our economy, not to mention the Gulf.

    Comment by Jeanne — May 3, 2010 @ 2:22 am

  9. TA (probably an acronym for Always Trolling) — It’s not all that complicated as this bourgeois culture has working people believing. After all, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, “there’s a big hole in our culture.” It just needs the right vacuum to fill it.

    Modern college poly sci textbooks will typically fill a whole big page of small type defining a simple word like “politics” — so that students will be intimidated. Lenin thought that was ridiculous. He said the definition of politics can be summed up in 3 small words: “WHO GETS WHAT?”

    So in my script, from the bottom up, an extremely popular organization arises (just as they regularly have before in human history — Frank Zappa called them “periodic eruptions of historical undesirables”) that has as one of its primary aims the nationalization of the oil companies, as well as making public property everything else under our ground that shouldn’t belong in private hands.

    That’s really not that hard a sell when you get down to it, although in a culture with a hole as big as ours it’s hard even for the masses to understand that free 24/7 health care as good as the Mayo clinic, not to mention free dental or free child care, should be the unalienable right of any sentient being.

    Simultaneously, in my scenario, all the big cruise lines operating out of Miami will be nationalized (where a bunch of other seagoing pollution practices will be dealt with too).

    Peoples’ tribunals are then elected, on paper ballots, whereby delegates are assigned & sent to a big floating convention that’s held as an enormous Regatta of ships floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico whereby one really big ship is designated & converted as “The New Congress” ship, really a floating convention hall, wherein the session delegates will get tendered back and forth from all the other ships, being made comfortable of course as their reward for being such popular delegates, where they remain for as long as it takes until they hash out exactly “who gets what” and who, if anybody, needs to pay for their crimes.

    Of course if, being one of the delegates, my proposals for speedy trials and sentences of burlap sacks catapulted over in depth chargers are voted down then so be it. I’m just making the proposal in advance. After all, in the event my scenario plays out in my lifetime, I’ll probably be able to parlay that foresight into a seat at said convention wherein my proposals will undoubtedly carry some weight.

    Like old Eugene V. Debs in his powerful book “Wall & Bars” said, “if one person can make in a day enough bread to feed a hundred then why should anybody go to bed hungry?” As convict #9653, Debs got almost a million votes while in Atlanta Federal Pennitentary back in the day when only white men could vote. That’s right, 960,000 odd votes behind bars, without any women or brown people voting. That’s less than 100 years ago, within a person’s lifetime, which only further illustrates the possibilities.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 3, 2010 @ 3:47 am

  10. PS: All those “papaer ballots” will be recycled from junk bonds, junk mail, & foreclosure notices until a trustworthy digital system can be agreed upon. The ships, including the tender vessels, will of course will be multifuel converted to solar, hydrogen, wind, & kinetic wave power. The sacks will be made of hemp instead of burlap, and the catapults will be thrusted by the hot air of the punditry.

    Res Ipsa Loquitur.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 3, 2010 @ 4:00 am

  11. Antonis, if you ever bothered to read what I write about Christianity or religion in general, I don’t think there’s anyone in that faith who would consider me a supporter or fan, but doubtless anyone could see the correlation between being a turn-the-other-cheek pacifist and wondering aloud how we can advocate things like summary executions. After all, we could just send them to GITMO and conduct repeated simulation drownings on them, like we did to countless victims at the hands of our government since 9/11. Or we could remotely bomb them from the sky and joke about it. I mean, it’s only a bad thing when a government we dislike does it, not us. Surely, that will teach them to be environmentally conscious. Maybe we could complete the pathology by coming up with even more inventive ways to murder people so to pretend how much more violent and manly we are (I mean, supportive of a working class that few of you are a true member of), and all of this from a group of posters who have no concept of what it is like to actually kill anyone. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was conversing with a bunch of teenage video gamers. Alas, I don’t favor mowing over heads or lobbing off body parts. Crazy me.

    Comment by TA — May 3, 2010 @ 4:00 am

  12. “TA (probably an acronym for Always Trolling)”

    Putting aside the inverted false acronym of an ID based on my real name, no worries. You prove yourself an enemy of the workers in your following quote.

    “So in my script, from the bottom up, an extremely popular organization arises (just as they regularly have before in human history — Frank Zappa called them ‘periodic eruptions of historical undesirables’)”

    So, you’re a Marxist opposed to bourgeois culture, while affirmatively citing a musician who was a libertarian (a man who was an unapologetic part of the culture you claim to oppose), but I’ll allow you to digress from your divorce from political orthodoxy, at least in the bourgeois musicians you take a liking to. Who knows, maybe you have a quote from de Maistre or de Lagarde to show us why chopping people up into little bits is perfectly acceptable.

    Comment by TA — May 3, 2010 @ 4:17 am

  13. You got it backwards TA. I’m not opposed to bourgois culture per se. I’m just opposed to that hole in it that’s compelled to reward incompetent finaciers with bonuses, military blunderers with bigger budgets, and oil drilling contracts without snuff switches.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 3, 2010 @ 4:59 am

  14. TA I hope you never undertake a senior position in regards to the criminal justice system. Anyone who idly fantasized about killing their boss or ex would be arrainged on attempted murder. God where would all those millions go? Btw you get a cliche award for the ‘You care about workers but your not one’ jibe, I am a worker by the by.

    Comment by SGuy — May 3, 2010 @ 6:02 am

  15. Well, you all certainly showed me!

    Comment by Jenny — May 3, 2010 @ 6:53 am

  16. I’d really like it if I had time to go back and forth with TA and Jenny over the question of whether it was semantically or morally correct for me to express a desire to cut out the hearts of the elite with a butter knife, but since the sentiment was one expressed in a moment of heat and frustration, I think the discussion is ridiculous.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — May 3, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

  17. How typical of liberals to find a cry of anger and frustration at injustice more offensive than the injustice itself.

    Comment by Jeanne — May 3, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  18. I think a more fitting punishment than execution would be to put each of the criminals on the shore with a bucket and spade and get them to do cleanup. And leave them on cleanup duty until they have each cleaned up at least a day’s worth of the spill — 210 000 gallons. If they never reach that total, leave them at it indefinitely. Make them shovel litter on sidewalks or highway verges or whatever.

    Australia had a similar incident, on a smaller scale, not too long ago in the Timor Sea. It is unbelievable what these companies can get away with. If it happened in a city and it was kids on the way to school who were being found suffocated with crude oil, you can imagine the outcry. Not that sea animals are equivalent to kids, but the environment is clearly just an externality, as they say, if this sort of scandal can occur. Nationalisation of BP would be the minimum one would expect as a fair response. And of course a national mobilisation to stop the spill and clean up. What a tragedy.

    Comment by Ben Courtice — May 3, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  19. [Not that sea animals are equivalent to kids]

    I dunno? There’s so much hullabloo & overprotection of kids in the US these days it makes me sick. There’s constantly the hassel of some worker asking another other worker to cover for them for the last 2 hours of a shift because of some dumb kid excuse. Some are of course legit excuses but many are just plain burdensome, like soccer practice or some other extracurricular chickenshit. All these kids are a huge social burden on society that’s rarely discussed honestly. But they just keep popping out like kittens and nobody complains, yet stopping school busses snarl up traffic everywhere and the Christian Right just loves the idea of more souls to save.

    Here in Tucson abortion doctors must sit around twiddling their thumbs because they never perform any. Litterally, I’ve never heard of a single young woman in the 15 years I’ve been in Tucson have an abortion. White, Black, Hispanic, it doesn’t matter, they all have the kid, even if the father is some degenerate imbecile whose run away, and even though the mother is still a teenager for crying out loud.

    Part of the problem of course is that it’s by design. A society cannot maintain such hideous disparities of wealth without dumbing down the population. The State has an education system probably worse than in rural Mississippi, so people are exceptionally stupid here, and illiteracy rates are staggering. It’s not just that many young people cannot even read but they can hardly talk coherently. Workmans compensation is “workmans confinscation” and catalytic converters are “cadillac converters.”

    This is the South after all, so white people born in Arizona are basically just hillbillies, but there’s just way too many kids being born. They’re like a scourge of ferrell pigs. So I for one would like it if sea animals could get at least as much protection for a change.

    Come to think of it, the late George Carlin had something to say on the subject of kids:

    “Something else I’m getting tired of in this country is all this stupid talk I have to listen to about children. That’s all you hear about anymore, children:’Help the children, save the children, protect the children’ You know what I say? Fuck the children!”

    “Listen, there are a couple of things about kids you have to remember. First of all, they’re not all cute. In fact, if you look at ’em real close, most of them are rather unpleasant looking. And a lot of them don’t smell too good either. The little ones in particular seem to have a kind of urine and
    sour-milk combination that I don’t care for at all.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 4, 2010 @ 1:08 am

  20. I’m really not sure what to make of your comments about the working poor here, Karl, but I think you’d better spend a little more time getting to know those folks. Right now, you seem to be cursing them because someone encouraged them to pluck out their own eyes, and that ain’t cool.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — May 4, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

  21. But Mike, I do “know those folks” quite well. I work beside them on their cars & trucks during the week and go 4wheeling & drink beers with them every weekend — that’s why I’m as qualified to talk about them as anybody.

    Like I said, their predicaments are by design, dumbed down to maintain the status quo, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dumb. Because they’re young they don’t care about health care or bank bailouts or war (except to support the bombing of “sand niggers”) — no, for them the biggest problem is “Niggers & Mexicans” — and that’s really not cool.

    Most won’t vote, but when they do, they vote for conservatives, and like John Stuart Mill said: “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 4, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

  22. Wow! way to run over your socialist beliefs with a backhoe there, Karl! Way to go.

    Comment by Jenny — May 5, 2010 @ 1:01 am

  23. Since when does exposing the fact that there’s a deeply reactionary, racist current amidst Arizona Nativism that’s been cleverly designed & cultivated by the ruling class, undermine ones socialist credentials?

    You should talk Jenny. As somebody who voted for & still supports Obama, practically every other post of yours is something that undermines your socialist credentials, nevermind your actions.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 5, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  24. I am critical of Obama,but I don’t go into bloodthirsty rages about it.

    Comment by Jenny — May 6, 2010 @ 2:29 am

  25. A) I hardly ever see you critical of Obama Jenny, mostly just us lefties B) Why aren’t you angry? Theres plenty to get angry about.

    Comment by SGuy — May 6, 2010 @ 4:54 am

  26. I am critical of Obama,but I don’t go into bloodthirsty rages about it.

    Love me, love me….

    Comment by Lajany Otum — May 6, 2010 @ 9:03 am

  27. Did anyone see this:

    U.S. exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling from environmental impact study

    As oil leaked, Interior Dept. official rafted with wife

    Comment by dermokrat — May 6, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

  28. Turns out that we here who long for some righteous vengence against those responsible for this protracted oceanic holocaust, perhaps in the form of some human sacrifice strating with BP oil execs, are not alone.

    As the conservation chair of the “Friends of the Everglades” writes today:

    “In Mayan times the kings dealt with draught and disaster by offering human sacrifices to appease angry gods; hurling them from heights, down deep wells. There’s a volcano in Iceland that fits the bill: I wonder what BP executives and federal regulators from the Minerals Management Service will volunteer first to be helicopter dropped into that abyss if none of these technologies work and our Christian God won’t put an end to this nightmare?”


    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 24, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

  29. […] The Unrepentant Marxist, with […]

    Pingback by Obama’s Katrina? :: Climate & Capitalism — March 13, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

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