Saturday, May 15, 2010

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It sounds a bit like the script of a Hollywood blockbuster, but I'm pretty sure Bruce Willis will not be joining this team.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu signaled his lack of confidence in the industry experts trying to control BP Plc's leaking oil well by hand-picking a team of scientists with reputations for creative problem solving.

Dispatched to Houston by President Barack Obama to deal with the crisis, Chu said Wednesday that five "extraordinarily intelligent" scientists from around the country will help BP and industry experts think of back-up plans to cut off oil from the well, leaking 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) below sea-level.

Members of the Chu team are credited with accomplishments including designing the first hydrogen bomb, inventing techniques for mining on Mars and finding a way to precisely position biomedical needles.

In the wake of the unsuccessful "dome" effort, Chu has tasked this team to develop "plan B, C, D, E and F," while looking for solutions to stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf.

Looking over these scientists' backgrounds, they look like a pretty creative bunch. Here's hoping for the best.

On a related note, Chu has also crafted a plan to use gamma rays to better understand the geologic nature of this specific leak. The Energy Secretary was asked yesterday how in the world he knew about gamma rays. He replied:

"Because I'm a physicist. And I dabble in many areas of physics. I did experiments when I was a graduate student on weak interactions, which are the forces of nuclear decay. And so I kept in my brain certain nuclear sources and what their energies were and I knew what the ranges were for how penetrating gamma rays could be. Very high-energy gamma rays can penetrate several inches of steel."

This is the latest installment in the "This Isn't The Bush Administration" chronicles.

The politics of corporate loopholes May 14: Senator Bernie Sanders talks with Rachel Maddow about how to rein in energy corporations that will go so far as to register in the Marshall Islands, the Cayman Islands and Zug Switzerland to exploit loopholes to avoid taxes and regulation and maximize profits.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Can MMS restructuring save regulation? May 14: Rachel Maddow talks with Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, about efforts to clean up the disasterously corrupt Minerals Management Service by restructuring the whole agency.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Maine Republican Party raised a few eyebrows this week when it endorsed a right-wing party platform combining "fringe policies, libertarian buzzwords and outright conspiracy theories." Almost as interesting was the Maine GOP's behavior at the meeting where the platform was adopted.

Republican activists held their annual gathering at the Portland Exposition Building, near a local middle school. GOP members used an eighth-grade classroom for a caucus meeting, and took it upon themselves to start making some changes. (thanks to several alert readers for the tip)

"We allowed them to use the space and I'm appalled that they would go through a teacher's things, let alone remove something from a classroom," [School Committee member Sarah Thompson] said Wednesday. "We want the public to use school spaces, but they need to respect that it's a school and understand that they should leave it the way they find it." [...]

When [studies teacher Paul Clifford] returned to school on Monday, he found that a favorite poster about the U.S. labor movement had been taken and replaced with a bumper sticker that read, "Working People Vote Republican."

Later, Clifford learned that his classroom had been searched. Republicans who had attended the convention called Principal Mike McCarthy to complain about "anti-American" things they saw there, including a closed box containing copies of the U.S. Constitution that were published by the American Civil Liberties Union.

There's just something oddly spectacular about Republican activists describing a copy of the U.S. Constitution as "anti-American" because they didn't approve of the group that distributed the copy.

Party officials later apologized for the members' misconduct.

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