Thursday, August 12, 2010

Excellent article on the BP Oil Spill, but why am I reading it in a "music" magazine?

Now that the BP spill is mostly under control ("mostly" being the keyword) it seems that the news cycle is moving on to other things. However, the problems are just beginning, and I am not referring just to the environmental disaster or the fact that BP is going to be paying damage claims for a long time, even as there are problems with the claims process and seems to be trying to weasel out. It is in the context that I finally managed to read this article, "The Spill, The Scandal, and The President," out of Rolling Stone that came into my feed reader a while back. The article is a bit lengthy, so I had to take the time to read it in full. I finally managed to get it read, and it is worth it. This is the kind of investigative reporting that should be happening at the major news outlets. So, I am asking, why am I reading it in the "music" magazine?

It may be popular for the current administration in Washington D.C. to blame the previous one. The previous administration does have a lot to answer for, and the article points it out. However, the current administration also has a lot to answer for, and they are continuing a pattern of inertia, negligence, and just plain incompetence that could lead to other catastrophes.

Here are some choice lines:

  • "Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency's culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP – a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company – with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years." 
  • "It's tempting to believe that the Gulf spill, like so many disasters inherited by Obama, was the fault of the Texas oilman who preceded him in office. But, though George W. Bush paved the way for the catastrophe, it was Obama who gave BP the green light to drill." 
  • "In reality, MMS had little way to assess the risk to wildlife, since a new policy instituted under Bush scrapped environmental analysis and fast-tracked permits. Declaring that oil companies themselves were "in the best position to determine the environmental effects" of drilling, the new rules pre-qualified deep-sea drillers to receive a "categorical exclusion" – an exemption from environmental review that was originally intended to prevent minor projects, like outhouses on hiking trails, from being tied up in red tape." Talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
The article looks at the federal government and at BP. It gives a good overview of the MMS and the many ways it failed, placing the blame on Ken Salazar, the Interior Secretary who pretty much allowed business as usual in the MMS, namely staying in bed with companies like BP. In the end, this is the result: "The failure of the Obama administration to crack down on BP – and to tackle the crisis with the full force of the federal government – is likely to haunt the Gulf Coast for decades to come." The other bummer is that a lot of people will not read articles like this, get more informed, and then demand substantial reform and accountability from the government and the companies who caused the disaster.

And therein lies the real problem.The politicians will do their best to do damage control so they can go on with business as usual. BP may have lost some reputation and money, but as long as agencies like MMS remain an incompetent clusterfuck mostly in bed with corporations it is supposed to regulate, BP and others will move on as well with their corner cutting and other criminal behavior. Then again, I leave my two readers with the question I posed when I began writing: why am I reading this in a "music" magazine? Clearly the news media is failing miserably in its job to investigate, demand answers, educate the public, and hold the powers that be accountable.

A hat tip to Radical Vixen. (Warning: some content in RV can be little risque for some readers).

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