Is incompetence an impeachable offense?

June 29, 2010

I ask that only half-tongue in cheek, because right now I am ready to put the whole Executive Branch on trial, from Obama down to the night janitor. Time and again in the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster, we’ve been treated to one mind-boggling example of hitherto unimaginable ineptitude after another. First there was the overall lackadaisical response. Then we learned of miles of containment boom sitting in Maine, unused and unwanted, even though the scale of the disaster called for every square foot of it and more.

Now comes the capper. Word has been going around for weeks that foreign governments had offered their expertise and equipment to help deal with the crisis. As I said at the time:

When your neighbor offers to help put out a fire on your property, don’t you say “yes, thanks?”

Hell yes you do!

But, we were told, the situation wasn’t quite as it seemed. Not as bad as it looked. The Dutch weren’t being blown off and, by the way, Sarah Palin is an idiot.

Guess what? It’s worse than we thought and the idiot lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

Avertible catastrophe

(…)

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.

Funny. I thought it was the American instinct to “dive into action” in an emergency. I guess it goes dormant whenever we have a President who’s “too cool to care.”

Meanwhile, the Gulf states are seeing their beaches destroyed and economies ruined in a disaster that could have been prevented, all because we first turned down the best available help and then dragged our feet after accepting it to appease labor unions. This lack of urgency and initiative and any sense of priorities falls squarely at the feet of President Obama, who could have set relief efforts in motion much faster had he actually kicked some bureaucratic tail, instead of just talking about it.

But that would interrupt tee-time, wouldn’t it?

Tell you what, Mr. President. You go golfing, but, before you leave, how about putting someone in charge of this who actually knows what to do to clean up the mess?

After all, she was right about the Dutch.

(via Ace)

LINKS: More from Fausta, who brings us the news that the Feds have finally asked for help, and Allahpundit, who links to this beauty.

Pardon me, but I need to pull my hair out.  At wits end


More proof missile defense works

June 29, 2010

Good thing Obama is cutting funding for missile defense; otherwise he might be forced to face the fact that it works:

The test involved the intercept of a short-range unitary target in the endoatmosphere (inside the earth’s atmosphere). The target, representing a short-range ballistic missile threat, was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform located in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii. Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the THAAD system developed a fire control solution and launched an interceptor missile, which acquired and successfully intercepted the target missile. The intercept occurred at the lowest altitude to date for the THAAD interceptor missile, which has the capability to engage targets both inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere.

Here’s video of the test in action:

McKittrick at Closing Velocity provides some more fun facts for skeptics. Here are a couple:

  1. It was a nighttime intercept, which has been touted by skeptics to be some sort of impossible challenge.
  2. The target SCUD was launched from the decommissioned USS Tripoli, mimicking the oft-referenced scenario of a sneaky, rust-bucket freighter lurking off the coast of a major city.

Click through to read the rest.

Now, you’d think that with potential ballistic missile threats from Iran and North Korea, any American president would want to put in place systems to shoot down single missiles or small-scale attacks. You would be wrong. Let me remind you of then-Senator Obama’s promise, which seems to be one of the few he plans to keep:

I’m certain missile defense has plenty of technical challenges remaining to be dealt with, and no one believes it’s close to being a shield for North America in case of a massive attack, but it strikes me as more than a bit irresponsible for the administration not to pursue this for defense against smaller attacks when the technology seems so promising.

UPDATE: Hot Air relates the disturbing news that the Obama administration may be open to killing missile defense via a treaty.


Transparency Watch: Oh, that 40-grand!

June 29, 2010

Somewhere in my memory, way back around the time Obama was elected and a new era of Hope and Change had dawned for America, the then-candidate promised us a new era of transparency in government.

That was then, this is now:

White House aide failed to disclose $40K payout

President Barack Obama’s political director failed to disclose that he was slated to receive a nearly $40,000 payout from a large labor union while he was working in the White House.

Patrick Gaspard, who served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199, received $37,071.46 in “carried over leave and vacation” from the union in 2009, but he did not disclose the agreement to receive the payment on his financial disclosure forms filed with the White House.

In a section on his financial disclosure where agreements or arrangements for payment by a former employer must be disclosed, Gaspard checked a box indicating that he had nothing to report.

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, told POLITICO Monday that Gaspard was in the process of correcting his disclosure form to reflect that he did in fact have an agreement for severance.

“We have made the small administrative change to this year’s and last year’s forms to indicate that part of the final payment to Patrick reflected their typical severance of one week of pay for each of his nine years of service at Local 1199 of SEIU,” Burton wrote POLITICO in an e-mailed statement.

Such financial disclosures are governed by federal law, but Stan Brand, a former House general counsel and ethics expert, said the Justice Department is unlikely to pursue an investigation unless they suspected a “knowing or willful” intent to deceive.

Call me a paranoid, racist, dangerous right-wing potential extremist (and don’t forget “Nazi!“, too), but I find it hard to believe that someone could just forget $40,000 paid out to him by his former employer, especially when he needed the money to pay down nearly $80,000 in debts.  Hey, it happens all the time, right?

Oh, and the former employer happens to be a powerful union allied with one’s new boss and his political program. And that union’s then-head was and is a frequent visitor to the White House.

What a coincidence.

They must be using the Tammany Hall definition of “transparency.”

(via Ed Morrissey)