Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I got my hair cut yesterday. I go to the same place because it reminds me of the barbers I used to go to in the 1960s. There's no video games, or fancy hair products. Just a barber cutting hair, telling jokes, with discussion from Peanut Gallery. I particularly enjoy the political discussions (which I don't participate in), which usually don't go much beyond the intellectual level of the backyard musings of Hank Hill and his friends on King of the Hill. Yesterday didn't disappoint.

Yesterday our conversation turned to the oil spill in the Gulf.  By the time I left the general consensus was that the damage caused by the oil spill was the fault of rules created under "Bill Clinton's EPA" and "Buckwheat's" (yeah, that's the term used) incompetence in capturing the oil. The rationale? BP was probably trying to follow stupid regulations that didn't make business sense. And besides, Obama's just "making it worse" by not letting BP do their repair and clean-up job right. Dale Gribble would have felt perfectly at home ...

Anyways, I'm writing about the conversation because it illustrates just how partisanship - and blind hatred for President Obama - can transform people, who might seem to be regular no-nonsense guys, into people who hate and don't care for the facts. Worse, it illustrates that ordinary people don't really understand how big corporations operate in a market environment where smoke & mirrors can be as big a part of a business plan as are profit projections.

For example, it turns out BP's preparation and response plans were not only unrealistic, but they've been pretty much made up since Day 1. The Associated Press did an analysis of British Petroleum's 582-page regional spill plan for the Gulf, and its 52-page site-specific plan for the Deepwater Horizon rig, and found it was "riddled with omissions and glaring errors."  How bad does it get? In BP's Deepwater Horizon plan State prisoners are "mentioned" as part of a trained response team, even though they're never considered or incoporated as part of any official clean-up plan.

Put another way, BP was stacking the deck with bogus information and wishful thinking. Here are some of BP's other wishful thinking claims ...

1. There would be no coastline problems because the site is so far offshore.
2. BP has the capability to respond to a worst case discharge resulting from their oil drilling activities, with a combined response that could skim, suck up, or otherwise remove 20 million gallons of oil each day from the water.
3. In the spill scenarios detailed in the documents, fish, marine mammals and birds escape serious harm; beaches remain pristine; water quality is only a temporary problem.

3. The Gulf's loop current, which is currently projected to help send oil hundreds of miles around Florida's southern tip, and up the Atlantic coast, isn't mentioned in either plan.

4. At least 80 Louisiana state prisoners were "trained" to clean birds by listening to a presentation and watching a video. It was a work force never envisioned in the plans, which contain no detailed references to how birds will be cleansed of oil.

In a few words, just like those who believe in Unicorn theories about markets, and market players, BP's plans were based more on rosy assumptions about the world than it was grounded in reality. They really didn't have a clue about what would happen in the event of an oil disaster, in spite of telling the world that they did.

As Sarah Palin might ask, "So how's that private-sector-knows-what-they're-doing thingy workin' out for yah?"

Today, in spite of BP promising that it could secure more than enough boats to scoop up all the oil before any deepwater spill could reach shore, we see beaches contaminated, sea and marine life threatened or dead (so much for "no adverse impacts"), and an oil slick that now covers about 3,300 square miles.

And it's all Clinton and Obama's fault ...

- Mark

No comments: