Saturday, May 08, 2010

Donate clean up supplies at the Aquarium 

Here's a helpful link, via GO.
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Back 

Had some Bloogle problems in recent days, but I was able to lower a big box on them, so hopefully they'll go away. Bloogle said my account had been compromised, and I told'em that was impossible because after you remove the sarcasm, the low humor, the indulgent personal trivia, and the faux erudition from YRHT... there's nothing left to compromise.

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Anyway, while I was dealing with that the Daily Beast excerpted and linked to YRHT about the macondo oil gusher. So belated thanks to them.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

No deep well valve, exceeding drilling depth permits? 

The always-intrepid Sophmom links to an interview at Rick's blog that contains some significant allegations which should be verified:

I interviewed [attorney] Mike Papantonio and Bobby Kennedy, Jr. about this disaster.
...
Kennedy said that their team discovered last night that the BP well not only didn’t have the acoustical, emergency valve that could have shut it off, but was also lacking a deep-hole valve that would have also been able to stop the leaking of 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

“The acoustical valve is a device required all over the world,” says Papantonio. “In Norway, you can’t drill in the ocean without one.”

The acoustical valve allows operators to remotely shut off the flow of oil from the well. Senator Bill Nelson told locals at press conference in Pensacola on Friday, April 30 that he was calling for a U.S. Senate probe to find out why regulations were relaxed to allow BP to not install the acoustical valve.

Papantonio also said that the Deep Horizon well was only permitted to be 18,000-ft. deep, but BP was drilling the well to 25,000-ft.

“This screwed up all the permutations on how to deal with this problem,” says Papantonio. “The engineers were thinking the well was only at 18,000 ft.”

Papantonio explained that a deep-hole valve is one valve that is installed 200 feet under the sandy bottom.

When asked why BP wouldn’t install a deep-hole valve, Papantonio says, “Because the deep-hole valve when deployed could cause BP to lose the well site and redrill. They were cutting cost to save money.”

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Games of risk 

Ezra Klein:

As Lisa Margonelli told me yesterday, "every gallon of gasoline contains a tremendous amount of risk we don't account for. The American Lung Association estimated that every gallon of gas costs us 50 cents in the asthma rate for children. You have the greenhouse gas question, leakage, spills, explosion, cancer risk from benzene, economic risk from the volatility of the prices, the military cost, and we do not account for all this."

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Perhaps something exciting and unregulated can come from this tragedy 

Jim Jelter at CBS MarketWatch writes a good short piece:

In a world of unintended consequences, BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill could set the stage for Wall Street's next derivatives bonanza.

Well that's good. Wouldn't want Wall Street to be left high and dry when there's blood on the streets, or oil in the water.

It's all about bundling risk. And no one understands it better than big banks and big oil.

That sentence would be even better if it said: no one understands better how to accrue and manage high yield risks (read: profitable opportunities) while "bundling" (read: repackaging and off-loading) the black swan risks on to oblivious others.

After the Exxon Valdez spill, an Alaska jury demanded $5 billion in punitive damages from Exxon.

They "demanded". Wasn't that cute?

The thinking at the time was that the giant oil company should forfeit roughly a year's worth of profits.

Exxon moved to protect itself by raising a $4.8 billion credit line from J.P. Morgan.

J.P. Morgan, to protect itself in turn from an eventual default by Exxon, came up with a novel financial instrument called the credit default swap. Now a $30 trillion international marketplace, credit default swaps were also at the core of the global financial market's biggest blowout in decades.

Who knows what Wall Street's wizards might whip up to protect BP?

About the only safe guess at this point is that whatever they cook up, it's not yet regulated. And by the time someone realizes it should be, its inventors, like a bunch of mad Frankensteins, will claim they really had no idea what they were doing when they brought their monster to life.

But, really, they know what they're doing. Private profits, public risk... until something "unprecedented" happens. Then repeat.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

"Be unbowed and unbroken New Orleans." 

Wow. Mitch Landrieu's inaugural speech was soaring and inspiring. I'm sorry I missed it when it was televised. Granted, I'm a sucker for unifying, visionary rhetoric, but man, that speech actually got my heart rate up, and put me in a better mood. Nicely done, Mitch.

It's not a profound thing to say that the journey towards positive changes begins with one step. But that doesn't make it less true. One step? Sure, let's take it together.

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Nagin email 

A trusted YRHT source found this conversation in the ex-Mayor's email dump. Kind of a candid little peak at handicapping amongst politicos. A couple things stick out to me, but I'll hold my tongue until the comments get rolling. Nagin's reply to Brazile's message comes first.

====
From: Ray Nagin
To: Journal <'donna@brazileassociates.com'>
Subject: Re: Happy New Year!
Date: 12/30/2009 4:43:19 PM

Donna:

Happy New Year to you also. My take on the upcoming race is the lead horses are Mitch, Ed, and John. Mitch has slipped badly in the polls and may fall some more as hit ads start and he is the common enemy for all the candidates.

He can hold on but ill be pretty bloodied if he makes the run off.

Ed is uninspiring and many have noticed. He is hoping to be the only legit black candidate and black folks will in the end gravitate to him. He may be mis reading as he will have a tough time running "black" as he endorsed Mitch against me.

Georges has lots of money and will spend it. His ads will be good but he has under performed in debates.

The long shot is Troy Henry. His is smart and articulate and has the best tv ads. The politicos don't like him and the Morial gang is mad at him for stiffing them on a business deal. They will attack him soon.

Bottom line is it looks like either a Mitch vs Troy or Georges vs Ed or Troy.

Interesting times. Will try to keep you posted.

C. Ray Nagin - Mayor
New Orleans Rated
Model for Economic Recovery!
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Device


-----Original Message-----
From: donna@brazileassociates.com
To: Ray Nagin
Sent: Wed Dec 30 11:50:45 2009
Subject: Happy New Year!

Mitch Landrieu is pressuring me to sign on to a fundraiser in DC.

Now when it comes to the Landrieu's, I worked for Mary.

What's your take on the upcoming race? This is off the record, but will you
endorse?

Please excuse the typos. This message is sent from my Verizon Wireless
BlackBerry
====

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Good News! Updated: not so good 

Update: Nevermind. Update to article says flow of oil has not been decreased.

Oil flow has been "significantly cut".

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Like Double Hulls, Double Relief Wells? 

Frequent YRHT commenter GO suggests forcing oil companies to drill an extra safety line for every rig, just in case, so so that we're never again in a situation where we sit helplessly for months waiting to implement the only guaranteed (but still highly complex) solution to a runaway oil gusher polluting our seas and coasts. Would this be highly expensive? Yes. Probably an extra $100 million per rig. Would the Oil companies squeal like stuck pigs? Yes. But the current helpless situation is intolerable. After the Montara blowout last year, and the Macondo blowout this year, I think the onus is on the oil companies to reduce catastrophic blowout risk.

Simply put: we need another guaranteed failsafe. If drilling a safety relief well for each rig is too "expensive", then the oil companies need to find another solution to mitigate the catastrophic risk of unstoppable oil gushers after blowouts. Because black swans are "expensive", too.

We need to take more of an "excessive" chaaaa...aaance on the side of safety.


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Free Festival tickets 

I think Michael wants to give away his tickets to the upcoming 75th annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival.

"This is an event that will prove that oil and water really do mix.... The festival... emphasizes the unique way in which these two seemingly different industries work hand-in-hand culturally and environmentally in this area of the 'Cajun Coast.'"

I'd take him up on it, but it conflicts with Southern Decadence, which is why we're having all these disasters in the first place.

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Update: Michael makes a slam dunk proposal for the Fest that I think would be a big draw.

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FYYFF rant on Treme 

For you epigones, here's the incandescent text that inspired the nolablogosphere after the storm/ff.

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Update: Hey Chief, when you finish dinner we have a crack in the ocean floor that needs tending to.

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Tyranny of the precedented 

Precedent Obama came to South Louisiana with some well-worn disaster response lingo:

Calling the expanding plume of oil rising from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico a disaster that could set records, President Barack Obama told Louisiana oyster farmers and the country that the full force of the federal government was focused on assisting southeast Louisiana.

Record-setting! That's important. The federal gubmint is here, and perhaps we'll soon be reassured that it's impossible to imagine America without New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, even though such a thought experiment seems to be made easier with each passing year.


"We are dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster," he said. "The oil that is still leaking from the well can seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf states and it could extend for a long time. It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home.

"That is why the federal government has launched an all-hands-on-deck, relentless response to this crisis from day one."

At least he didn't sugarcoat the scope of the disaster, but once again the subtle and exculpatory use of "unprecedented" bristles our oil-matted coat. What if this was only a "precedented" catastrophe that didn't set records... how much better would that make it? (Update: Leaping to the defense of oil greedheads precedent, someone at Redstate recalibrates the disaster comparison model so that the new standard is the biggest spill of all time [Iraq's purposeful dumping during the first Gulf War]. By that new standard, this Macondo thing is on the "paltry" side. A job creator, really, if you think about it. So yes, I'm in a cranky mood. Update #2: Deeper analysis of this at Hurricane Radio. )

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen said the volume of crude oil spewing from the damaged well could climb to 100,000 barrels a day, with 60 days to 90 days needed for BP to drill relief wells to stem the flow. He spoke to the obvious urgency of stopping the flow of crude.


Alright! Now we're cooking with gas. I asked for worst-case scenarios and-- voila!-- the Coast Guard at least enters the ballpark. So, if nothing can stop the "Gloops of Erl" until a relief well is drilled, then we're looking at (roughly) the volume equivalent of twenty to thirty Exxon Valdez disasters. How will that affect the wildly productive and important ecosystems of the Gulf Coast, short and long-term? I'm no scientist, but my guess is... pretty badly. What happens if an early tropical storm takes an inconvenient path? Should we try to ignore that possibility, or just wait until it happens and call it "unprecedented" afterwards? How did we get put in this position, where a catastrophic environmental disaster unfolds in front of our eyes while the technological expertise of 21st century humanity can't likely plug an underwater gusher for months on end? How many things had to go wrong for us to get to this hideous situation? And would one or two more safeguards or regulations or procedures have made all the difference?

More selections from Obama's speech (H/T Jeffrey):

So I want to emphasize, from day one we have prepared and planned for the worst, even as we hoped for the best. And while we have prepared and reacted aggressively, I'm not going to rest -- and none of the gentlemen and women who are here are going to rest -- or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil on the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of this region are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.

Currently, the most advanced technology available is being used to try and stop a leak that is more than 5,000 feet under the surface. Because this leak is unique and unprecedented, it could take many days to stop. That's why we're also using every resource available to stop the oil from coming ashore and mitigating the damage it could cause. And much of the discussion here at the center was focused on if we, and when we have to deal with these mitigation efforts.
...
But every American affected by this spill should know this: Your government will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to stop this crisis.

President Bush, four and a half years ago, making promises in front of a church: "Tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.... This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis, which demonstrates the compassion and resolve of our nation." Alright, back to Obama:

This is one of the richest and most beautiful ecosystems on the planet, and for centuries its residents have enjoyed and made a living off the fish that swim in these waters and the wildlife that inhabit these shores. This is also the heartbeat of the region's economic life. And we're going to do everything in our power to protect our natural resources, compensate those who have been harmed, rebuild what has been damaged, and help this region persevere like it has done so many times before.

That's a commitment I'm making as President of the United States, and I know that everybody who works for the federal government feels the exact same way.

A few years ago, after tornadoes struck a city still reeling from a flood, I was playing cards with some old-timers when this exchange occurred:

A: This place is snakebit, and will always be snakebit.

B: But my problem is, I don't want to live anywhere else.

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Skytruth: Macondo Oil gusher surpasses Exxon Valdez spill disaster 

Hellz yeah! First the Saints win the Super Bowl, and now it looks like we set a new American benchmark in leaked oil. Just think of it: future oil spills will be relentlessly compared to us, until one breaks our "record".

I don't want to sound like a socialist, but, given the remote but inevitable risk of massive oil gushers being unleashed, should drilling rigs be required to have more safeguards to prevent catastrophic blowouts? Or would that be too expensive since oil companies would only pass the costs on to the consumer? (It's been a while since the Federal Flood, so I can't recall: are preventable disasters expensive?)

How does Big Oil view the consumer, anyway? Oh, here's a darling BP commercial that might be an illuminating window into their marketing philosophy.



Drive, babies, drive! Never mind the risks, you're wearing seatbelts and there's not another car in sight. What could possibly go wrong? Plus, if something unprecedented should happen, Big Oil has equipped your representatives with iced tea and pudding metaphors to soothe you. Lick 'em up, up, up. But things like long term impacts and black swan risks... those aren't for your happy heads, you little babies.

T-P:

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen said Saturday that the federal response to this unprecedented incident has always assumed a worst-case release.

If true, that's good. Note the exculpatory use of "unprecedented". That's always an encouraging sign. But what is the real worst case scenario?

T-P:

Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer for exploration and production, said it was impossible to know just how much oil was gushing from the well, but said the company and federal officials were preparing for the worst-case scenario.

Fine. Y'all have "always assumed" and now you are "preparing" for the worst-case. Heckuva job. But, again, I implore you: what is the REAL WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Oil industry experts and officials are reluctant to describe what, exactly, a worst-case scenario would look like--

Spill it, you cowards! (Pun intended.) At least have the balls to say Ixtoc.

but if the oil gets into the Gulf Stream and carries it to the beaches of Florida, it stands to be an environmental and economic disaster of epic proportions.

Oh, so if Florida's tourist beaches and coral reef get spoiled-- that's when this becomes an "epic" disaster? Because Floridians will make an unholy fuss when something goes awry with their coast, and they have political leverage? That's the best we can do right now for a worst case scenario? Throw us a bone. Give us an image we can wrap our minds around, like a floating ball of ants.
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Update: More at Toulouse Street.

Thanks, Katrina has a link exposing BP's modus operandi: Sign the settlement, rubes!

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Calvin "Bo-rail" does it again. 

We saw that has the video. Congratulations to Louisianans Calvin Borel for winning his third Derby in four years on Super Saver, and to Kent Desormeaux who guided Paddy O' [Ricky?] Prado to show.

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In the words of Laura Bush, "We've been poisoned" 

Long term.

Oyster beds could be spoiled for decades.

I sense that if Ashley Morris were alive to rage against this crude reality, he'd write a post containing the word "Biafra".

There will always be a moon over Macondo.




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Update: The metaphors have gone from "iced tea" to "chocolate milk". What's next? Floating pudding? Baked Alaska? Do us all a favor and lose the food metaphors when you're talking about toxic spewage. Democrats are telling us not to panic-- "let nature take its course". Are you f-cking kidding me? Bob Marshall says the "terror is justified". I'm gonna side with him.

There's some appropriately incendiary words on Toulouse Street. Previously, Wet Bank guy (mf) has said "It's simple. Private profit, public risk."

Quite right: It's the wanton Socialism of black swan risks, for the enrichment of a cartel, defended with the rubric of free market capitalism.

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