Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our Failed Media

The Economist: How about shutting them all down?
SARAH PALIN thinks Barack Obama has taken too "doggone long to get in there". James Carville wants Mr Obama to "put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving." Maureen Dowd doinked Mr Obama Saturday with her silly-straw-like wit, faulting his "inability to encapsulate Americans' feelings." Yeah, you know who would've killed as the president facing a deep-sea oil blowout? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Or maybe Meryl Streep. Did you see them in "Doubt"?

Ms Dowd's involvement is fitting, as this may be the sorriest spectacle of content-free public hyperventilation since Al Gore's earth tones. The difference is that in this case the issue is deadly serious; it's the public discourse that is puerile. There is plenty of room for substantive critique of the flaws in governance and policy uncovered by the Deepwater Horizon blowout. You could talk about regulatory failure. You could talk about corporate impunity. You could talk about blithely ignoring the tail-end risk of going ahead with deepwater drilling without any capacity to cope with catastrophic blowouts. Precisely none of these subjects are evident in the arguments our pundit class is having. Instead we have empty-headed squawking over what the catastrophe is doing to Barack Obama's image.

Who's raising concrete critiques of administration policy? Chiefly Mr Obama. Last Thursday he laid out a series of mistakes he felt he had made. Chief among them was taking oil companies at their word when they claimed to have the capability to cope with worst-case deep-sea drilling catastrophes. Now, if we feel that the president has failed to act aggressively enough on this issue, both before and since the accident, then what course of action should we now be calling on him to take? One logical step might be for the government to immediately shut down every offshore drilling rig in proximity to America's coasts, pending the development of redundant, fail-safe capacity for capping and remediating catastrophic blowouts. Is this a good idea? I don't know. But if you wanted to argue concretely that the administration had not been acting aggressively enough in this crisis, then this is the sort of more-aggressive action you might be calling for.

But how would the American people actually feel about that? Would that really "encapsulate their feelings", as Ms Dowd puts it? Or do their feelings actually contain a bit of a soft spot for low gasoline prices? Might such a performance fail to adequately interpret the deep ambiguities of the American people's helpless crush on those handsome bad boys in the oil industry?

And how would Mr Obama's chief critics feel about shutting down offshore oil rigs until the government has the capacity to stop blowouts and clean up massive spills? Presumably the same way they reacted to his six-month moratorium on new wells and suspension of drilling on 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.

"I take issue with the President's decision to extend the moratorium on deepwater drilling should it be used to indefinitely suspend offshore drilling," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement. "The BP spill in the Gulf is a tragedy and there is no question we must conduct a thorough investigation into what led to this devastating spill, and we must take every step to stop and contain the leak. But with the needed safety measures in place, domestic drilling should be continued and encouraged."

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the plan could mean "effectively killing Shell's participation in Alaska," the Associated Press reports. "That's not acceptable to me or Alaska."

What we're seeing here is a perfect circus of media nothingball: people aggressively criticising the administration for not acting aggressively enough while aggressively ignoring the fact that they oppose anything aggressive the administration does.

But he should get on in there and put somebody in charge! What's taking him so doggone long?

  • from the comments:

    Bill E Pilgrim

    What a reasonable article. Of course, at least one of the commenters had this to say:

    would this be like spilling something in the kitchen and doing a bad job with the cleanup so you decide instead to never cook food again?

    Yes, it would be exactly like that. If what you spilled was so toxic that somehow you couldn’t figure out a way to clean it up even after decades and it made your kitchen unsuitable for habitation and killed most of the food you ever put in it so that you couldn’t use any of it. So you decided not against ever cooking again, but not to cook with whatever that particular toxic poison was.

    Oh and if your kitchen were thousands and thousands of square miles wide and fed an entire region of the country.

    I think comment sections are the oil spills of the Internet. Yes, sometimes including this one.

DougJ: Good news for Bobby Jindal

Even the liberal New Republic is impressed:

Constantly jumping in and out of National Guard helicopters and drawing up plans for additional “burrito levees” and “boudin bags” needed to stop the oil slick from flowing further into his state’s marshes, Jindal has quickly mastered the details of the issue. At a press conference in New Orleans in mid-May, the Washington Post reported that “he gave updates on the size of tar balls washing up in Port Fourchon (up to eight inches), the number of sandbags to be air-dropped (1,200) and state money spent to date ($3.7 million). He also provided a weather forecast (‘The winds continue to come out of the southeast, 10 to 15 knots’).”

This reminds me of when America’s mayor won the Battle of 9/11.

That long black cloud is coming down.

John Cole: Math for Assholes

Leave it to the NRO to go the extra mile:

“One final note on proportionality: Fifteen “peace” activists dead is a tragedy, but they represent only one one-thousandth of the death toll of a French heatwave.”

And the number killed on 9/11 was only .00012% of the death toll of Bubonic plague. I guess that makes it ok.

Anyone know how this compares to the violence in Detroit?

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