Monday, June 28, 2010

Here's Some More of that 'Hope' and 'Change' We've Come to Expect from Odumbo

From the 'Financial Post' via Wizbang blog:

Avertible catastrophe

Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post 
Saturday, Jun. 26, 2010
Some are attuned to the possibility of looming catastrophe and know how to head it off. Others are unprepared for risk and even unable to get their priorities straight when risk turns to reality.
The Dutch fall into the first group. Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. "Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour," Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.
To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.
The Dutch know how to handle maritime emergencies. In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company's expense. "If there's a country that's experienced with building dikes and managing water, it's the Netherlands," says Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.
In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.
Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.
When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, "We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that." In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."
The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly. Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.
A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out. With oil increasingly reaching the Gulf coast, the emergency construction of sand berns to minimize the damage is imperative. Again, the U.S. government priority is on U.S. jobs, with the Dutch asked to train American workers rather than to build the berns. According to Floris Van Hovell, a spokesman for the Dutch embassy in Washington, Dutch dredging ships could complete the berms in Louisiana twice as fast as the U.S. companies awarded the work. "Given the fact that there is so much oil on a daily basis coming in, you do not have that much time to protect the marshlands," he says, perplexed that the U.S. government could be so focussed on side issues with the entire Gulf Coast hanging in the balance.
Then again, perhaps he should not be all that perplexed at the American tolerance for turning an accident into a catastrophe. When the Exxon Valdez oil tanker accident occurred off the coast of Alaska in 1989, a Dutch team with clean-up equipment flew in to Anchorage airport to offer their help. To their amazement, they were rebuffed and told to go home with their equipment. The Exxon Valdez became the biggest oil spill disaster in U.S. history--until the BP Gulf spill.
- Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wish I Could Vote for this Guy

Caption This

Here's a picture from the Wall Street Journal of Odumbo and Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen.

For some reason, this picture prompts all kinds of funny caption ideas. For example:

Odumbo: "I picked up this tar ball off the beach, and it was all sticky and yucky. See, look how it got all over my hands!"

Or, Adm. Allen, thinking to self: "I've just got to keep on nodding a few more moments until this ignorant dolt gets back on his helicopter and leaves; then I can get back to work."

Or, Odumbo: "I can't believe it -- the rubes down here never heard of arugula either."

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Patrick Kane's game-winning shot in OT seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Kane knew he'd scored, but even as he began celebrating, the other players seemed to be surprised the game was over.

But, it didn't take long for everyone to get the memo!

Jonathan Toews: 22-year-old MVP of the Finals and captain of the Stanley Cup champs.

It was a team win -- which means both the players and the Hawks organization which committed itself to bringing a championship to Chicago.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Here's Something ...

... to make your blood boil (from Commentary's Contentions blog)

JOHN STEELE GORDON - 06.03.2010 - 5:44 PM

When even the New York Times starts running stories on how overpaid government workers are, you know the topic is getting traction.

In this one, the Times reports that more than 8,000 employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subways and commuter railroads, made more than $100,000 last year. One conductor on the Long Island Railroad made $239,148. That’s more than the MTA’s chief financial officer made. How did he do it? Simple. His base salary was $67,772, and he earned overtime of about $67,000. And he cashed in his accumulated sick days and unused vacation days. He retired in April 2010, and his pension, of course, will be based on his earnings in his last few years.

Allowing soon-to-retire employees to rack up huge amounts of overtime in their last year is standard procedure in many government organizations. The MTA paid overtime amounting to $560 million last year and is currently planning service cuts to eliminate a $400 million shortfall in revenues. I hope the passengers who find themselves standing for long periods of time on platforms in the snow and rain next winter realize that they are doing so in order that some retired conductor can live in comfort in Florida.

There are few corporations that allow employees to accumulate vacation days. They must use them for vacations or lose them. Likewise with sick days. The whole point of sick days is to ensure that employees are not penalized financially if and when they get sick. But the public-employees’ unions and the government agencies that negotiate with them have perverted sick days into a bonus, paid at retirement, for not getting sick. This perversion is then compounded by using the payment to swell the pension received after retirement.

The Democrats are hopelessly in bed with the unions, but Republicans, who won’t get a dime of union money anyway, can earn a lot of votes by calling for reforming how pensions are calculated and for a freeze to wages and benefits until public-sector compensation is brought into line with that of the private sector.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Not Even Close

One of the most exciting things in baseball is the 'perfect' game.

I went to a Seattle Mariners game when Randy Johnson threw a no-hitter into the 9th inning before giving up a hit. People started to notice the no-hitter around the 5th inning, and by the 8th inning the stadium was electric. Fans were on their feet, screaming and cheering every pitch.

Taking a perfect game into the 9th inning had to have been an incredible experience. That's why it's so unfortunate that the Tigers "lost" the perfect game with 2 out in the 9th. But, what makes it so tough is that, not only did the umpire blow the call, it was not even close.


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