Sunday, May 30, 2010

Obama's Memorial Day Commemoration

"Of all the presidents since World War II, only President Clinton paid a Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery every single year of his presidency."
Apparently the usual right-wing bloviators are expressing outrage in all the media over the fact that President Obama is visiting the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on Memorial Day and not Arlington National Cemetery. This is "unprecedented," the wingnuts are claiming.

(Sigh.) It's merely the usual uninformed noises coming from the habitually uninformed sources. Still, it's depressing to be so frequently reminded how little Obama's most peremptory critics know about our nation's history, modern or otherwise.

As Steve Benen said Saturday, the president's decision to visit a national cemetery other than Arlington is "without precedent, except for all the other times."

Anne Kornblut and Ed O'Keefe pointed out in Friday's Washington Post that Ronald Reagan twice missed visiting any national cemetery on Memorial Day, once when he went to his California ranch and again when he opted to give a speech at West Point. George Bush the Elder never went to a national cemetery while in office. His errant son, George W., missed two years in a row.

The Post writers might have gone back a bit farther, as we did on a lark, through archived press reports from small town newspapers around the country:
  • In 1947, President Truman "spent a quiet day 'catching up on his work' at the White House, aides said, and his wreath was laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in
    Arlington National Cemetery by Col. Don E. Lowry of the President's staff." ["Nation Pays Tribute to Soldier Dead," Associated Press report, Bradford (PA) Era, May 31, 1947 (p. 1)]

  • In 1960, President Eisenhower spent the weekend golfing at his Pennsylvania farm ["Ike Gripes as His Golf Drives Fail to Obtain Much Distance," Associated Press report, Racine (WI) Journal, May 27, 1960 (p. 35)]

  • In the first year of his presidency, 1961, John F. Kennedy spent the holiday weekend in Massachusetts speaking to "about 5,000 New England Democrats who chipped in $100 each against the party deficit" and preparing to leave for a European trip. ["President in Paris Stop, Then Vienna," UPI press report, Eureka (CA) Humboldt Standard, (p. 1)] He sent Senator Richard Russell and Defense Secretary McNamara to lay a wreath at Arlington. ["Memorial Wreath at Arlington for Nation's Dead," id.]
  • In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson "observed Memorial Day at his Texas ranch" over a four-day stretch and wasn't expected to fly back to Washington until mid-week, where he met with his cabinet and later in the week with Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. ["LBJ Observes Memorial Day At Texas Ranch," UPI press report, Lebanon (PA) Daily News, May 30, 1967 (p. 6)].

  • In 1972, President Nixon spent his "Memorial Day holiday" meeting for 90 minutes with his cabinet, then flew to "his bayside villa" in Key Biscayne where he "relaxed after launching an apparent White House counteroffensive to diminish the impact of the Watergate scandal." ["Watergate Publicity Criticized By Nixon,"], UPI report, Weirton (WV) Daily Times, May 26, 1973 (p. 16)].

  • In 1974, Nixon spent the early part of Memorial Day weekend meeting "with his two Watergate lawyers — James St. Clair and J. Fred Buzhardt — on current legal technicalities involving the efforts of the House Judiciary Committee to get tape recordings of presidential conversations they subpoenaed." Then he taped for radio broadcast "an economic speech" and another about Memorial Day before flying to Key Biscayne where "Nixon expects to remain... until Monday evening." ["Nixon Expected to Deliver Pair of Radio Addresses," Associated Press report, Columbus (NE) Telegram, May 25, 1975 (p. 8)]

  • In May, 1980, President Carter commemorated Memorial Day aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz, which was returning from a six-month assignment at sea. ["Carter Issues Memorial Aboard Carrier Nimitz," Chicago Daily Herald, May 27, 1980 (p.1)]
One more historical fact: Of all the presidents since World War II, only President Bill Clinton paid a Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery every single year of his presidency. So it seems what the extremist conservatives are fulminating over is that Obama isn't enough like Clinton!

What we would like to know is why more presidents haven't visited other national cemeteries around the country like the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. That would be a great deal more patriotic than golfing, and certainly more so than meeting with your impeachment lawyers.

Memorial Day began, of course, as Decoration Day. It was "the occasion," as the New Jersey Suburban Intelligence put it on May 15, 1869, for "decorating the graves of the Union dead."

As it happens, Illinois lost more civil war soldiers loyal to the nation than all but two of the Union states (Massachusetts and New York). President Lincoln, himself, after whom the Elwood, Illinois national veterans cemetery is named, also was a casualty of that war in the fullest sense of the word. If anything, President Obama may be trying to bring us back from the beach parties to appreciate the original meaning of the commemorative holiday.

To be sure, after World War II "Memorial Day" became the more commonly used, and soon thereafter the official, name for the commemorative holiday. Now we honor all deceased veterans, North as well as South, who fought for the United States.

But we're old enough to remember many older folk, especially in the Midwest where we grew up, who stubbornly continued referring to it as "Decoration Day." Many regretted that the former name was fading, and for good reason:
The name Decoration Day was of itself a reminder to young and old alike that the season had come for setting out spring flowers and small flags on the graves of the nation's heroes, that the occasion was one not exclusively for picnics or a visit to the local ball park.
-- New Castle News (PA) May 26, 1956 (p. 4)
If nothing else, here's hoping Obama's visit to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery educates Americans a
little bit more about the history of Memorial/Decoration Day. Let's hope, also, that Americans inside as well as outside the Beltway wake up to the fact that they, too, can visit a national veterans cemetery other than Arlington. There's bound to be at least one near you:

City State Entity
Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Elwood Illinois VA
Alabama National Cemetery Montevallo Alabama VA
Alexandria National Cemetery Pineville Louisiana VA
Alexandria National Cemetery Alexandria Virginia VA
Alton National Cemetery Alton Illinois VA
Andersonville National Cemetery Andersonville Georgia NPS
Andrew Johnson National Cemetery Greeneville Tennessee NPS
Annapolis National Cemetery Annapolis Maryland VA
Antietam National Cemetery Sharpsburg Maryland NPS
Arlington National Cemetery Arlington Virginia Army
Bakersfield National Cemetery Bakersfield California VA
Balls Bluff National Cemetery Leesburg Virginia VA
Baltimore National Cemetery Baltimore Maryland VA
Barrancas National Cemetery Pensacola Florida VA
Bath National Cemetery Bath New York VA
Baton Rouge National Cemetery Baton Rouge Louisiana VA
Battleground National Cemetery Washington D.C. NPS
Bay Pines National Cemetery Bay Pines Florida VA
Beaufort National Cemetery Beaufort South Carolina VA
Beverly National Cemetery Beverly New Jersey VA
Biloxi National Cemetery Biloxi Mississippi VA
Black Hills National Cemetery Sturgis South Dakota VA
Calverton National Cemetery Calverton New York VA
Camp Butler National Cemetery Springfield Illinois VA
Camp Nelson National Cemetery Nicholasville Kentucky VA
Cave Hill National Cemetery Louisville Kentucky VA
Chalmette National Cemetery Chalmette Louisiana NPS
Chattanooga National Cemetery Chattanooga Tennessee VA
City Point National Cemetery Hopewell Virginia VA
Cold Harbor National Cemetery Mechanicsville Virginia VA
Corinth National Cemetery Corinth Mississippi VA
Crown Hill National Cemetery Indianapolis Indiana VA
Culpeper National Cemetery Culpeper Virginia VA
Custer National Cemetery Crow Agency Montana NPS
Cypress Hills National Cemetery Brooklyn New York VA
Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Dallas Texas VA
Danville National Cemetery (Illinois) Danville Illinois VA
Danville National Cemetery (Kentucky) Danville Kentucky VA
Danville National Cemetery (Virginia) Danville Virginia VA
Dayton National Cemetery Dayton Ohio VA
Eagle Point National Cemetery Eagle Point Oregon VA
Fayetteville National Cemetery Fayetteville Arkansas VA
Finn's Point National Cemetery Salem New Jersey VA
Florence National Cemetery Florence South Carolina VA
Florida National Cemetery Bushnell Florida VA
Fort Bayard National Cemetery Bayard New Mexico VA
Fort Bliss National Cemetery Fort Bliss Texas VA
Fort Custer National Cemetery Augusta Michigan VA
Fort Donelson National Cemetery Dover Tennessee NPS
Fort Gibson National Cemetery Fort Gibson Oklahoma VA
Fort Harrison National Cemetery Richmond Virginia VA
Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery Fort Leavenworth Kansas VA
Fort Logan National Cemetery Denver Colorado VA
Fort Lyon National Cemetery Las Animas Colorado VA
Fort McPherson National Cemetery Maxwell Nebraska VA
Fort Meade National Cemetery Sturgis South Dakota VA
Fort Mitchell National Cemetery Fort Mitchell Alabama VA
Fort Richardson National Cemetery Fort Richardson Alaska VA
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery San Diego California VA
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery San Antonio Texas VA
Fort Scott National Cemetery Fort Scott Kansas VA
Fort Sill National Cemetery Elgin Oklahoma VA
Fort Smith National Cemetery Fort Smith Arkansas VA
Fort Snelling National Cemetery Minneapolis Minnesota VA
Fredericksburg National Cemetery Fredericksburg Virginia NPS
Georgia National Cemetery Cherokee County Georgia VA
Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery Schuylerville New York VA
Gettysburg National Cemetery Gettysburg Pennsylvania NPS
Glendale National Cemetery Richmond Virginia VA
Golden Gate National Cemetery San Bruno California VA
Grafton National Cemetery Grafton West Virginia VA
Hampton National Cemetery Hampton Virginia VA
Hampton VA National Cemetery Hampton Virginia VA
Hot Springs National Cemetery Hot Springs South Dakota VA
Houston National Cemetery Houston Texas VA
Indiantown Gap National Cemetery Annville Pennsylvania VA
Jacksonville National Cemetery Jacksonville Florida VA
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery St. Louis Missouri VA
Jefferson City National Cemetery Jefferson City Missouri VA
Keokuk National Cemetery Keokuk Iowa VA
Kerrville National Cemetery Kerrville Texas VA
Knoxville National Cemetery Knoxville Tennessee VA
Leavenworth National Cemetery Leavenworth Kansas VA
Lebanon National Cemetery Lebanon Kentucky VA
Lexington National Cemetery Lexington Kentucky VA
Little Rock National Cemetery Little Rock Arkansas VA
Long Island National Cemetery Farmingdale New York VA
Los Angeles National Cemetery Los Angeles California VA
Loudon Park National Cemetery Baltimore Maryland VA
Marietta National Cemetery Marietta Georgia VA
Marion National Cemetery Marion Indiana VA
Massachusetts National Cemetery Bourne Massachusetts VA
Memphis National Cemetery Memphis Tennessee VA
Mill Springs National Cemetery Nancy Kentucky VA
Mobile National Cemetery Mobile Alabama VA
Mound City National Cemetery Mound City Illinois VA
Mountain Home National Cemetery Mountain Home Tennessee VA
Nashville National Cemetery Madison Tennessee VA
Natchez National Cemetery Natchez Mississippi VA
National Cemetery of the Alleghenies Cecil Township Pennsylvania VA
National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona Phoenix Arizona VA
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Honolulu Hawaii VA
New Albany National Cemetery New Albany Indiana VA
New Bern National Cemetery New Bern North Carolina VA
Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery Rittman Ohio VA
Philadelphia National Cemetery Philadelphia Pennsylvania VA
Poplar Grove National Cemetery Petersburg Virginia NPS
Port Hudson National Cemetery Zachary Louisiana VA
Prescott National Cemetery Prescott Arizona VA
Puerto Rico National Cemetery Bayamon Puerto Rico VA
Quantico National Cemetery Triangle Virginia VA
Quincy National Cemetery Quincy Illinois VA
Raleigh National Cemetery Raleigh North Carolina VA
Richmond National Cemetery Richmond Virginia VA
Riverside National Cemetery Riverside California VA
Rock Island National Cemetery Rock Island Illinois VA
Roseburg National Cemetery Roseburg Oregon VA
Sacramento Valley National Cemetery Dixon California VA
Salisbury National Cemetery Salisbury North Carolina VA
San Antonio National Cemetery San Antonio Texas VA
San Francisco National Cemetery San Francisco California VA
San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery Gustine California VA
Santa Fe National Cemetery Santa Fe New Mexico VA
Seven Pines National Cemetery Sandston Virginia VA
Shiloh National Cemetery Shiloh Tennessee NPS
Sitka National Cemetery Sitka Alaska VA
South Florida National Cemetery Lake Worth Florida VA
Springfield National Cemetery Springfield Missouri VA
St. Augustine National Cemetery St. Augustine Florida VA
Staunton National Cemetery Staunton Virginia VA
Stones River National Cemetery Murfreesboro Tennessee NPS
Tahoma National Cemetery Kent Washington VA
Togus National Cemetery Chelsea Maine VA
U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery Washington D.C. Army
Vicksburg National Cemetery Vicksburg Mississippi NPS
Washington Crossing National Cemetery Newtown Pennsylvania VA
West Virginia National Cemetery Grafton West Virginia VA
Willamette National Cemetery Portland Oregon VA
Wilmington National Cemetery Wilmington North Carolina VA
Winchester National Cemetery Winchester Virginia VA
Wood National Cemetery Milwaukee Wisconsin VA
Woodlawn National Cemetery Elmira New York VA
Yorktown National Cemetery Yorktown Virginia NPS
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery Louisville Kentucky VA

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Top Kill Fails; BP 'Moving On' - Overnight Spillcam

"This scares everybody — the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing."
--BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles
(Los Angeles Times, May 29)

New York Times:
In the most serious setback yet in the effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers said Saturday that the “top kill” technique had failed and, after consultation with government officials, they had decided to move on to another strategy.
Los Angeles Times:
In the new strategy, BP engineers would first sever the crumpled riser pipe, then attach a cap over the lower-marine riser package that sits atop the blowout preventer. A new pipe would direct the oil to a surface ship. It will take at least four days to install, Suttles said, and could capture "a great majority" of the oil spewing from the well.

Oil is now flowing from the crippled well and would continue until the maneuver is finished, Suttles said. Last week, a government panel estimated the flow of oil at 504,000 to 798,000 gallons a day.

Suttles cautioned that the new maneuver would be "a very complex operation." As with earlier efforts, it has never been tried at 5,000 feet below sea level using robotic submarines.
Watch here:

BP Top Kill 'Not Working' Tech Says

Kraus and Kaufman of the New York Times report at midday Saturday that an anonymous "'technician working on the project" says all attempts at a 'Top Kill' of the BP oil leak have failed so far. So, too, have three attempt with a "junk shot."
The technician working on the project said Saturday pumping has again been halted and a review of the data so far is under way.

“Right now, I would not be optimistic,” the technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the effort. But he added, that if another attempt at the junk shot were to succeed, “that would turn things around.”
* * *
The technician said Friday that despite all the injections, at various pressure levels, engineers had been able to keep less than 10 percent of the injection fluids inside the stack of pipes above the well. He said that was barely an improvement on the results Wednesday, when the operation began and was suspended after about 10 hours.
* * *
The technician
also said that there were disagreements among engineers about why efforts had been unsuccessful so far, but that those disagreements were based on a lack of a clear understanding of what was happening inside the pipes on the sea floor.

Meanwhile, anticipating that the top kill may not succeed, BP began preparations to try to place a second containment vessel over the leak. Mr. Suttles said BP was also preparing to replace the damaged blowout preventer.

Since early this morning, public views of BP's 'spillcam' have been showing mostly black, heavy clouds of what appears to be oil and gas leaking at a rate comparable to that seen earlier this week before the latest efforts to stop the leak were commenced.

Meanwhile, the satellite photo analysts at Skytruth say today that their analysis of the latest satellite images "shows deep entrainment in the Loop Current." (For detailed view, click here or on picture to the left.)

They add:

Disturbingly, we see signs of thin surfactant - possibly oil from this spill - in the Loop Current where it moves past the Dry Tortugas and toward the Florida Straits (dashed orange line)."
The analysts, however, are careful to emphasize the word "possibly." Although they say sufficient time has passed for oil to pass this far south in the loop current, the source cannot be verified without "water sampling in the eastern Gulf."

Gay Weekend: May 29 BP Oil Spill Update

1. Memorial Day Weekend.

The annual crowds are arriving, beach weather looks fairly good, and the SRIA's Bob West says, "No oil is expected on the beach today or anytime this weekend."

If your sandals or flip-flops pick up any tar, however, pack 'em in ice, deliver them to BP America Corp., % Bob West, 1 Via DeLuna, Pensacola Beach, and demand a refund on your weekend expenses.

2. Avoiding a Crowded Beach.

Bob West also expects crowds to be so large he's predicting "Via de Luna from just west of Portofino to be closed by mid morning to anyone trying to get to Park East." In that event, you might try an end-around: head east to take the Navarre Beach Bridge, cross the Sound, then head west through Navarre Beach tothe U.S. Park Service's "Opal Beach." "X" makes the spot (click on map, left).

Both are free to use - the Navarre Beach bridge and Opal Beach (this weekend only). Yet, they're probably less crowded.

3. Hurricane Oil.

The National Hurricane Center has posted a FAQ sheet [pdf alert] describing what effects on the BP oil we can expect from a hurricane. As we read it, a west wind blow us no good.

4. Spill cam.

Apparently, BP's spillcam went dark again for a time overnight. Something may have happened. Early Saturday morning a number of people glued to the internet live stream are reporting the familiar gusher has turned dark brown [update: pitch black] and seems to be flowing even worse than before Top Kill began. It's not your eyes that may deceive, though. It's BP itself.

5. Coast Guard Hearings.

Memorial Day weekend or no, the U.S. Coast Guard hearings into the Deepwater Horizion disaster, which are taking place in Louisiana, continue today. After today's testimony, the hearings will adjourn until July.

Click here or on the photo, left, to watch the hearings live on Cspan. Unlike BP's spillcam, this evidence is under oath.

Yesterday, "tool pusher" Miles Ezell gave "dramatic testimony" of the last minutes before the Deepwater Horizon platform blew up. Times-Picayune reporter David Hammer has the details.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Overnight BP Top Kill - Live

"Watching the plume is not an indication of how the job is going."
-- Doug Suttles, BP public relations, about 5:10 p.m. CDT, May 28, 2010

Falsehoods Friday May 28 BP Oil Spill Update

"No one will ever go broke betting against BP's integrity."
-- see below

1. Pensacola Beach Forecast.

Wind and wave forecasts for the Memorial Day weekend on Pensacola Beach remain almost as good as it gets. The National Weather Service pegs the chances of rain as no worse than sixty percent a couple of days, which probably translates into isolated thunderstorms popping up here and there on the mainland in the mid-afternoon or evenings. Our experience is offshore winds usually keep the beach itself much sunnier and drier than the mainland, unless the rain forecast calls is at 65 percent or higher.

As for the oilcast, light, gentle breezes from the north and northwest are expected to predominate inland through the long weekend, with more southerly breezes possible in late afternoon. According to, southerly winds off the Gulf won't freshen much until Tuesday.

All of which means the chances of oily odors wafting our way are no worse than they've been for the last week. These days, that passes for really good news.

2. BP Oil Falsehoods.

For all of you who were glued to BP's live streaming of the underwater oil gusher yesterday, be warned that what you thought you were seeing wasn't what BP knew was happening. The oil corporation is playing fast and loose with the facts, again, as the New York Times makes clear on the front page today:
BP officials, who along with government officials created the impression early in the day that the strategy was working, disclosed later that they had stopped pumping the night before when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid was escaping along with the oil.
* * *
Robert Dudley, BP’s managing director, said on the “Today” program on NBC that the top kill “was moving the way we want it to.” It was not until late afternoon that BP acknowledged that the operation was not succeeding and that pumping had halted at 11 p.m. Wednesday.
If there is one, single lesson for life you can take away from this entire oil spill fiasco it is that oil companies have an amaranthine aversion to telling you the truth about anything. No one will go broke betting against BP's integrity.

3. Top Kill-Junk Shot.

Speaking of lies and the lying liars who tell them, CNN reports today that BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, has adjusted his assessment of the environmental damage being caused by the oil gusher:
Hayward, who had previously said the environmental impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill would be modest, upgraded his assessment Friday to an "environmental catastrophe."
Hayward also said early today that the company won't know if the Top Kill maneuver can shut off the undersea oil gusher for another 48 hours, according to Reuters News. In addition, he disclosed for the first time that "late Thursday afternoon and into the night BP pumped a "junk shot" -- more solid materials like shredded rubber and golf balls -- into the blowout preventer to add heft."

4. Comic Relief.

Which brings us to what is, perhaps, the funniest on-going joke about the oil spill. We never imagined we'd ever say this, but thank the goodness for Twitter.

Soon after the oil leak began, some anonymous guy who goes by the name of "Terry" started a Twitter account called --
It's a fake, of course. It's also cynical, sardonic, derisive, juvenile, and hilarious. You can follow him by clicking here. (Mashable, "the social media guide," assures us Terry is a "him.")

Sometime yesterday, Terry had a tweet that struck our funny bone hard. When we read it over the phone to our sister-in-law in Boston -- who's rather a dour cynic -- she laughed out loud:

5. Candor We Can Believe In.

We've been as critical of the White House response to BP's oil gusher as anyone this side of Wasilla, Alaska. By no means, however, do we think this is "Obama's Katrina." That's a rock-stupid meme.

It ignores the criminal fingerprints left by the Bush-Cheney administration all over Minerals Management Service. We find fault with Obama principally because he didn't begin cleaning out that rat's nest until it was too late for the Gulf Coast.

Once the BP oil well blew up and the Obama administration started paying attention, a few more stupid mistakes were committed in the haste to catch up with events. For that, we blame Interior Secretary Salazar, NOAA director Lubchenko, and ex-MMS director Elizabeth Birnbaum.

Finally, someone has nailed those mistakes. His name is... well, Barack Obama. Peter Baker of the New York Times has the details.

In yesterday's press conference, Obama candidly criticized Obama:
He was wrong, he said, to assume that oil companies were prepared for the worst as he tried to expand offshore drilling. His team did not move with “sufficient urgency” to reform regulation of the industry. In dealing with BP, his administration “should have pushed them sooner” to provide images of the leak, and “it took too long for us” to measure the size of the spill.
That's about right. The biggie, as far as we are concerned, is No. 2: "too-slow reform of the industry." We read that to mean the MMS agency within the Interior Department, which is supposed to regulate the oil industry instead of acting like its butler.

6. Reforming Interior.

Indeed, if it's possible to look beyond the BP gusher, the president could have gone one step farther. With a few exceptions like the U.S. Park Service, under former President George W. Bush the Interior Department became one giant sump of corruption and incompetence. As Earl Devaney, the inspector general for the department, told Congress in 2006:
[S]hort of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.
* * *
Ethics failures on the part of senior department officials — taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias — have been routinely dismissed with a promise ‘not to do it again.
The "Department of Everything Else," as historian Robert Utley puts it in the Interior Department's "official history" --
for most of its life... has suffered or enjoyed (depending on one's perspective) relative anonymity among cabinet departments. Its very name, conveying only the vaguest impression of its functions, has contributed to its indistinct image.
It also has been the cauldron in which many of the nation's most egregious cases of corruption boiled over to permanently scar past presidents. Obama and whichever White House aides have responsibility for Interior should have known this.

As even the anodyne "official history" of the department admits, for most of its existence Interior has been headed by "not particularly successful executives." From U.S. Grant's ineffectual appointee Columbus Delano .... through Warren Harding's Albert Fall of "Teapot Dome" infamy.... to Bush's own former Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, who remains under criminal investigation... the Department of Interior has been a scandalously delinquent child of the federal bureaucracy.

Corruption in the largest agency inside Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), has a long and lurid history down to the present day. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the decades has cost the taxpayers at least as much as the BIA has rung up in graft and corruption. MMS, of course, is beyond hopeless; it well deserves the death sentence lately ordered for it.

Out of 50 people who have headed the department since its inception in 1849, fewer than a dozen have distinguished themselves as honest and effective department secretaries. Among these notables were James Harlan, who aggressively reformed the department (and whose only sin as we see it was firing Walt Whitman when he discovered a manuscript titled Leaves of Grass in his desk), Carl Shurz (who adopted civil service reforms), M. Hoke Smith (who took on the railroads in an effort to make them pay for land grants), James Garfield (s0n of the assassinated president), Franklin Lane (who established the National Park Service), Harold Ickes, Stewart Udall, Doug McKay, Cecil Andrus, and Bruce Babbitt.

7. The Booby Prize.

As the Times reported when the nomination was announced, Salazar was backed for Secretary only by the very industries the Department of Interior is supposed to regulate and those environmental organizations who are so smitten with Obama that they would not have objected had he nominated Albert Fall's ghost:
“[Salazar] is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks endangered species and habitat issues. “He is very unlikely to bring significant change to the scandal-plagued Department of Interior. It’s a very disappointing choice for a presidency which promised visionary change.”

Daniel R. Patterson, formerly an official of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and now southwest regional director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group, said that Mr. Salazar has justifiably become the most controversial of Mr. Obama’s cabinet appointees.

“Salazar has a disturbingly weak conservation record, particularly on energy development, global warming, endangered wildlife and protecting scientific integrity,” said Mr. Patterson, who was elected last month to the Arizona House of Representatives from Tucson and who supports fellow Arizonan Mr. Grijalva for the Interior job. “It’s no surprise oil and gas, mining, agribusiness and other polluting industries that have dominated Interior are supporting rancher Salazar — he’s their friend.”

Appointment as Interior Secretary has been called the "booby prize" of the cabinet. Perhaps so. Perhaps Obama, pleased as he should have been with his superb selection of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, treated it as such when he picked Ken Salazar to be Interior Secretary. Perhaps to be 'bipartisan.'

We on the Gulf Coast will be bearing the heaviest consequences for decades to come. Firing or forcing the resignation of the hapless Elizabeth Brinbaum is not going to change the culture of the Department of Interior. So, while Obama is in the mood to admit to his mistakes and try to repair them before more disasters befall us, let's hope -- and urge -- that he adds Ken Salazar's 'resignation' to his list.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spill Cam Overnight

If for any reason the live feed from Mobile, below, isn't working, CLICK HERE FOR THE BP LIVE FEED.

Evening news reports say BP has "temporarily" halted adding heavy mud. The highly reliable UK Guardian says in a news item with a Friday morning deadline:
Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, insisted that the operation was going to plan, but admitted: "What we do know is that we have not yet stopped the flow."

He said BP engineers would soon use additional materials to try to plug the well, suggesting heavy mud deployed so far would not work on its own. "It's quite a roller coaster," he told a reporters' conference call, adding that the disaster has cost BP $850m so far.
The usually often reliable Oil Drum is predicting cementing will begin this evening.

Hot Oil News, Thin Verification

The Associated Press claims to have breaking news this afternoon that "Marine scientists have discovered a massive new plume of what they believe to be oil deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico, stretching 22 miles from the leaking wellhead northeast toward Mobile Bay, Alabama." The scientists mentioned are from the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science.

The odd thing is that the reporters offer no quotes on the main scare in the story. Moreover, a news release by the College itself mentions nothing about Mobile Bay.

What the scientists themselves say is:
Researchers aboard the University of South Florida’s R/V Weatherbird II conducting experiments in a previously unexplored region of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have discovered what initial tests show to be a wide area with elevated levels of dissolved hydrocarbons throughout the water column, possibly indicating that a limb of an undersea oil plume has spread northeast toward the continental shelf.
* * *
The findings will undergo confirmation testing when the R/V Weatherbird II returns to its homeport of St. Petersburg at approximately 8 a.m. on Friday.
* * *
“Our concern regarding these contaminants is they have the potential to be incorporated in the food web,” said David Hollander, a chemical oceanographer who is a lead investigator in the research mission. “The first ecological impact of this spill is the effect on coastal habitats, including marshes, beaches and estuaries. The second threat to nature would be the impact on the food webs. That is what’s at risk.”

Based on what's been seen today from the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press, we have entered the "Hysterical Press Season." That's the time that frequently follows a widely publicized crisis that has a painfully prolonged denouement.

Some reporters get itchy and restless. They want to wrap this thing up. Readers beware.

Closer to home, the Pensacola News Journal is reporting, responsibly, that a hundred or so pieces of what appear to be "tarballs" -- but may be anything, including old storm-damaged road material left from 2004 -- were found on the beach Wednesday. County neighborhood services deputy Keith Wilkins and SRIA general manager "Buck" Lee are being suitably cautious. They --
said most of what has been found on the beach so far has been pieces of asphalt from beach roads destroyed in Hurricane Ivan, charcoal, old tar balls from ships or oil spilled during Hurricane Katrina or from unknown sources.
The material has been sent to a lab for analysis.

Wilkins isn't being hysterical, merely realistic when he adds, "One day a tar ball will wash up here, and it will be BP's. And that will show the slick has reached this far and has impacted this area."

Meanwhile, about the last thing we need are bogeyman stories from impatient journalists at the AP or anywhere else.