Lakeview gusher, 1910

When a spill is not a spill

| For over a month now a blown deep-sea oil well has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP, owner of the well, is unable to stop it. Nothing has worked, and it's painfully obvious that everybody's making it up as they go along.

The media have uniformly referred to this catastrophe as a "spill." A spill is when your toddler knocks over the glass of milk on the tray of his high-chair and it spills on the floor. When you spill your coffee, there's a finite amount of coffee. When the Exxon Valdez spilled its oil, the oil had previously been contained in the ship. What we have in the Gulf is not a spill — it's an old-fashioned gusher. An oil gusher was certainly cause for jubilation when the well was on the surface and could be dealt with. This gusher is on the seabed, a mile below the surface where the pressures are ginormous and the temperatures gelid.

All the deregulators got their wish — they got government out of the affairs of big business. In return, we face an ecological disaster. To be sure, Mother Nature is resilient, and no doubt she will heal herself eventually. But in the meantime, the wetlands along the Gulf coast are imperiled and whole industries and ways of life are devastated. Want seafood? Want a warm, sandy beach? Good luck with that.

The whole incident has illuminated once again the schizophrenic nature of the American people. On the one hand there are the Tea Partyites braying about government takeovers — and also braying that government should take over and stop the leak. Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) who not long ago was lamenting that government was doing too much is now whining that government is not doing enough to stop the leak and protect his coastline. Can't have it both ways!

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Then we have the idiots who immediately branded this oil disaster "Obama's Katrina" — evoking the haplessness of George W's administration who didn't know New Orleans was destroyed even though the rest of us had been watching it on TV for days. Katrina was a natural disaster. This gusher is a man-made disaster resulting from too many shortcuts taken, too much lax (I'm being generous) oversight, too much risk and failure to plan for a worst-case scenario.

Poor Obama. He didn't make the problem, but everybody seems to think he should solve it. The danger for him is that the crisis goes on and on but there remains little that can be done any time soon. In that respect, it is much more like Carter's Iranian hostage crisis — the mullahs had the US government tied in knots, making it look impotent.

And a word about those who complain that the president isn't showing enough emotion, enough rage. Excuse me, but that's one of the reasons I voted for him: I don't want someone (like W) who made every decision by his gut; I want someone who is cool, calm, and collected in the face of adversity.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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