It would be easy, after yesterday's "more drama than actual insight" grilling of Tony Hayward, to write some liberal boilerplate about bad corporations and the greedy people who run them. The stuff kind of writes itself, and the outrage I tend to find is rather manufactured - much like Elliott Engel's table thumping shoutfest during the hearing (thank G-d he's not my Congressman).
Thankfully, we can ignore Hayward (and apparently, almost everyone did)... because Joe Barton managed, in one spectacular moment, to remind everyone that Republicans are the ones with the problem.
One of the basics of politics and our party system is being able to find a group of people who share one's point of view on political issues. Ideally it's a proactive formulation of shared ideas for solutions to problems we face... but at the very least it's a shared opposition and disdain for the other side.
Since I started this blog - conveniently, I've since discovered, timed to the decline and fall of the GOP in the next two election cycles - the one thing I've been convinced of is that Republicans are in a disastrous position because they lack, just now, the kind of central organizing principles that a Party needs. I've long argued that the lack of a thoughtful, positive, unified agenda for action on problems we face - whether it's healthcare and its costs, or education, or immigration, or, as we find now, the environment and energy policy. Wherever one looks, Republicans have a terrible time articulating what it is, really, that they are for, what they would do as an alternative to what others (say, Democrats) propose.
(Don't worry... I've got some choice observations for those of us on te left, too.)
Barton's ham-handed - and incoherent - apology to BP, and his accusation of a White House shakedown, though underscore what I think is the Republicans more fundamental problem: never ind what they're for... what are they against? In thinking about it, I'm coming around to the idea that Republicans falter not just for lack of a positive agenda, but because they can't even organize themseves coherently enough to figure out what they oppose. And nothing, really, has made this as apparent as the oil spill and its aftermath.
As critical as I am about various aspects of the Obama Presidency, I think this moment where he's getting slammed is just a bit unbelievable. From the "I don't like his response to the oil spill" to the "he should be doing more/getting angrier" to the "why couldn't they have done more to prevent this", I just can't see the logic behind the criticism.
Of course... I wasn't that impressed to begin with, so I think my disappointment gauge is set to a different level than many.
So, on one level, I'll agree: the perceptions of mistakes and missteps and how bad all of this is have everything to do with the Obama team's initial setup of a false expectation. He was sold as too much to too many with too few specific benchmarks, and he's paying, in no small measure, for unrealistic standards he helped to create. And a good bit of the unrealistic expectations he helped create are damaging fantasies that Americans need to have confronted if anything, really, is to be changed or improved in the short run.
Also, in the short run... nothing will change if, well, nothing changes.
More than anything, what mystifies me about the supposed genius of Obama and his team is their resistance, even defiance, in the face of missteps. With each setback, each negative response... they seem determined to retreat further into the insular circle. This is one reason I've thought lately, and really all along, that the real overselling of Barack Obama wasn't the vague descrption of hope and change everyone could glom onto... but selling a two year Senator with little real world business experience as a capable executive able to adapt quickly and intelligently to ever changing circumstance. More than anything, when Obama talked about "what it takes to be President," I'd think, that man is talking through his hat. It sounds good... but it doesn't have the weight of actual knowing what it's like when bad things are unfolding and hard choices have to be made.
I don't feel let down, as a Democrat or an Americna generally, by President Obama. I do think he's not doing things as well as he could, or solving problems as creatively as I'd like, but I'm not sure it's fair to expect more on that. What I find disappointing though is that an Administration which seemed to have some sense of PR and advertising and messaging seems incapable of changing its own.
And that's why, yet again, I find myself saying... is anybody watching Mary Landrieu?
I haven't been writing about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of main reasons: I'm generally on the sidelines when it comes to environmental issues, and frankly, I have no idea what to do about oil spilling out of a giant hole in the ground. And I don't like to write a lot about what I don't know.
That latter point, though, is apparently no reason not to write something: since the spill "I don't know anything about how to deal with a giant hole under the sea where oil is spilling out" appears to be the main qualification many writers and TV personalities share when discussing it.
There's a profound sense of helplessness watching the oil spill disaster unfold; though I don't necessarily agree with Rachel Maddow's high dudgeon on the subject, I do agree with the point she made last night: there just isn't much known about dealing with the risks posed by oil spills, and we've made a bad compromise worse by "improving" drilling technology so it can be done in deeper, more risky areas.
I share the frustration of many, if not most, people watching the horror unfold: this is a spectacular disaster, one cannot avoid feeling helpless in the face of it, and I wish, heartily, that something could be done to stop the leak and catch the oil before it does serious damage. I do also wish we didn't engage in wildly risky exploration for oil... but I'm also realist enough to say they'll stop drilling when we stop needing it.
And if we really loved this planet... we'd be trying harder to end the addiction to oil. All of us.
So yesterday, into last night, was for me the last straw. Being tired of listening to a rondelay of similar complaints, I just have to point out a few of the things that are just not worth saying and repeating as this mess unfolds... becaiuse someone should. These are my faves:
Watching the oil spill unfold has been like moving through glue - or like oil following the move of the tides - everything moving in some odd, slow motion, the actual contours and dimensions of disaster only just beginning to come clear.
If nothing else, Barack Obama somehow looks like a genius of timing in announcing his plans to expand drilling last month; after carefully constructing an offshore drilling compromise that pleased basically no one, but managed to look like "doing something" on energy policy, the Administration now gets to put all those plans on hold in the name of environmental safety, and returns the oil industry to "evil, bad polluter" status.
And all it took was the largest oil spill in US history.
Like the volcanic ash moment across Europe, the oil spill probably best reflects how feeble our best efforts can be in the face of nature. The "moving through glue" quality of the response of to the spreading oil slick headed for the Gulf Coast has everything to do with not having, really, anything more than "try to surround it with big plastic barriers" as much of a solution. There's an inevitability to all of it that both amazes and awes.
I've been kind of ambivalent about energy policy; I think a lot of the energy vs. environment argument on the left is more than a little naive and surely unrealistic in a world that seems determined to consumer resources at enormous, even alarming rates. You can't stop progress, and if that progress needs fuel for... well, fuel, then people will be to make a lot of compromises for the desired result; whether we feel bad for the trees and the water and the animals, or not.
"Deep Water Drilling" has always struck me as an accident waiting to happen. It's getting oil from very far away, reaching into places we can't otherwise necessarily reach, a hole in the ground with a really long pipe. Breaking, leaking, the explosion of volatile material in the pipe... that all seemed likely. Stopping it, never quite so clear.
But the question of not doing the drilling strikes me as answered: we will keep drilling, for a long time. All the pushing for "green energy" - faith that wind and solar can deliver prodigious results - won't change that. And the other alternatives - nuclear and coal, essentially - are accidents also waiting to happen. Two mine disasters in two weeks underlines the coal dilemma, and living near Indian Point always reminds me that brave talk about massive nuclear plant expansion will always meet hurdles about risks and safety, with safety tending to prevail.
Environmental policy is where the cynicism in my liberalism wins out - all the talk of green things and conservation and Honor the Earth make lovely bumper stickers, but aren't likely to win political arguments. If environmentalism was winning, I think the Green Party would havemore to show for it, just for starters. And in the end we have this compromise, which we pretend to be fine with: the drilling happens, mostly without us looking... and God forbid anything happens to go wrong. That seems pretty close to the definition of "wing and a prayer". And for it, we get oil, lots of it, spreading out in all directions on top of the Gulf of Mexico. Just the cost of doing business... when you don't really have a Plan B.
As I wander around the intertubes, looking for something, anything to distract me and change my mood, I find this - and when I find myself nodding in vague agreement with Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO, and find myself shaking my head at the "Ask Professor Foxy" segment at Feministing... I'm either getting too old... or too conservative. But seriously... is it just me?
Update: In addition to confirming it's not just me (Thanks, Mom!), I also found that Lopez posted the link to Feministing as a follow up to this post, which is more in line with K-Lo's usual embrace of macho nonsense and traditional male/female gendered expectations (she was one of those "9/11 reminded us that manly men are firefighters and policemen" types, which even she now admits pretty much didn't take)... all of which makes rejecting her gendered expectations pretty easy; I'm all for revising the notion of being a man to include the actual expression of emotion and uncertainty. It's called being human, K-Lo, which seems like something to value, not ridicule... even in bisexual boy hustlers with queers cis girlfriends.
As you may have guessed, I am on a little beach holiday with my friend J, yes, the J in a certain Maryland city with the roving camera and an eye for color.
Long ago, when I first started this blog, I mentioned my criteria for a beach town, and Rehoboth still fits the bill. Walking around today - on a weekend on the line between "in season" and "off season" - I was reminded of the charms of the beachfront houses, the length of sandy beach, and the relaxed feel of a beach town. In my mind, when I am here, I am always thinking about what it would take to make this my eventual home - I believe it takes one trilogy of phenomenal bestsellers, adapted into a hit TV series, followed by a short, but successful career writing feature films. Still totally doable. :)
J says I should stick to political writing. :)
The other thing J and I discussed - aside from all the permutations of double edged follow-ups to "I've Missed You" - is the sense that the gay resort scene has gotten les... "look specific." It's something that could be said more generally of the gay male community, and of gay enclaves all over. The body conscious, perfect specimen notions of male beauty still exist of course... but the whole feel, these days, I find far more "real." Real guys who let it go a bit, who don't live their lives only at the gym, who see more of themselves than their abs, their hairstyles, and their quest for perfect looks in others.
... damn these cheap rifles
... and you'd think, with a tire iron...
... where's my lariat?!
... most haven't
... but my lawyer says it could still mean prison time
... there must be a hole in this net
... many many times in the past
... and please send my regrets to your twin
... stand up
... stand still!
... Dorothy's House won't.
... but the ravages of time have not.
... but then, as you say, I throw like a ...
... and now *sigh* Grandma's in a wheelchair
... which isn't so bad, but my henchmen have too, and they shouldn't have. Not at these prices.
... the hair on the belly under my nipples isn't gray.
...wait... let me try again
I missed ewe... have you?
- weboy and j in b, together again
As previously announced, the NYC Weboy will be on a hiatus from blogging here for the rest of August. Please scroll down, as it's likely that J in Baltimore and RedStar may fill in the gaps with musings, links and photos of their own. You may also find me blogging some critical things over at newcritics. I will not be checking this blog on any kind of a regular basis, but I can be reached via e-mail (nycweboy at nycweboy dot com)... and I do welcome correspondence. I will resume blogging the Tuesday after Labor Day. Yes, that means I will not blog about the Democratic Convention... but just assume I liked Hillary's speech, that the VP selection is not my favorite choice, and I wasn't all that impressed with Obama's speech.
Have a great summer. Enjoy.
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