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BP’s Clean-Up Operations Just for Show?

July 3rd, 2010 No comments

Predicting the behavior of giant corporations is infinitely more simple than predicting the behavior of individual human beings. A person has emotions, experiences which inform his or her judgment, and in most cases a conscience. A corporation has only profit-motive. If you want to predict how a corporation will behave in any given situation, all you have to do is figure out the course of action that will affect the bottom-line in the best possible way.

If you think that cleaning up all the oil in the Gulf is in BP’s best financial interests, think again. In an interview with Keith Olbermann this week, Robert F. Kennedy junior spelled out the reasons why BP’s best move is not to clean up all the oil:

People should keep in mind, and particularly the media and the Coast Guard and federal agencies, is that BP at this point, has huge economic disincentives to actually deploying the kind of resources that it ought to deploy to clean up the site. Each barrel of oil that it removes from the ocean today costs the company approximately $100,000. But it does nothing – removing that drum will do nothing, that single drum of oil will do nothing to reduce the onshore liability, which is going to be the real liability for BP. The big liability is going to come from economic damages to property holders, to shrimpers, to fishermen, to banks, to hotels, and to small businesses onshore. In the Exxon Valdez case, Exxon removed 8 percent of the oil. They spilled 11 million gallons. They only removed 1 million. And part of the reason for that is the company really doesn’t want to remove them. It wants to appear like it’s out there trying to remove them. But every barrel it removes comes – cuts money, $100,000 from its bottom line.

And he goes on to say that BP has been deliberately under-estimating the amount of oil being spilled because they, for obvious reasons, want to be able to say this is just a minor spill. Every gallon of oil they remove from the ocean is a piece of evidence against them.

One of the things that we absolutely need if we’re going to go forward with off-shore oil drilling (and I have no doubt that we will) is to set up an organization like FEMA or the Coast Guard with the capacity to implement and fully control clean-up operations should another spill occur. The only incentive of those tasked with the clean-up should be cleaning up as much as possible. Putting a company with an incentive to not clean up as much as possible in charge of cleaning up is, to put it bluntly, stupid.

The President Can Assassinate You

July 3rd, 2010 No comments

Quiz your friends who don’t follow the news: “True or false–the president can have an American citizen killed without arrest or trial.” Doesn’t sound right, does it? Well, it’s true:

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. The evidence has to meet a certain, defined threshold. The person, for instance, has to pose “a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests,” said one former intelligence official.

I doubt anyone is surprised that Bush implemented this policy, but how about the fact that Obama is letting it continue?

Haven’t heard much about that, have you? Of course not. Most liberals go out of their way not to think about all the ways in which Obama is just like Bush, and abusing executive power is a big one. The constitution grants the right of due process to every American citizen, but the president has decided to give himself the authority to ignore the constitution when it comes to terrorism suspects and skip all that annoying trial-by-jury business. Now he can just leap straight from suspicion to execution.

But surely this only happens in very rare and extreme cases, no? According to the Washington Post article cited above, only three American citizens are on the assassination list.

But just this week, deputy White House national security advisor John Brennan said that dozens of Americans have joined terrorist groups. Presumably they are all fair game for targeted assassination.

“So?” you might be thinking. “These guys are terrorist traitors. They deserve to die.” Maybe so, but they also deserve a trial. Not because of their actions but because the right to a fair trial is a basic human right, the kind we fought and died for when we freed ourselves from monarchy two centuries ago.

Thanks to Bush, we’ve turned the clock all the way back to 1775 when the chief executive of a nation had the power to arrest, detain, torture and execute anyone he wanted to, no questions asked. Thanks to Obama, this is not just a one-off thing–a momentary lapse of principle by a single adminstration–but is now firmly entrenched U.S. policy.

As of now, the president may only be using it on terrorists on foreign soil, but it’s a clear progression from that to using it on terrorists on U.S. soil, to just plain criminals on U.S. soil, to anyone the administration sees as a threat. If we let this power go unchecked, there could very well come a day when you could be taken out by a sniper without warning just because the president doesn’t like you.

From somewhere in Hell, the spirit of King George is laughing.