16 June 2010

The One asserts his claim to divinity

In a nationally televised address yesterday, Obama said he would meet BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg today and 'I will inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.'

In other words, it is his intention to force BP into bankruptcy and to seize control of the liquidation of its assets. No possibility of politically-driven corruption there, of course.

Now, unlike Obama, I did not go to Harvard Law School; but it appears to me that he has so thoroughly prejudiced the case against BP that there is no longer any possibility of a fair trial. How can he assert that the accident was a product of 'recklessness' unless, being God's annointed, he can dismiss the possibility that it was an act of God? His divinely granted wisdom also permitting him to establish, in advance, the amount of the company's liability.

My understanding is that he has no legal power to do any of this - although his supporters in Congress will presumably have to grant it to him retrospectively or else destroy his authority. Even then, I cannot see how they can redeem his having made himself so publicly and irrevocably parti pris to the matter. Offhand, assuming the courts act in accordance with the law, I suspect that all he has done is create the greatest ever bonanza for the US trial lawyers, who just happen to be the largest contributors to his party's electoral coffers after the (mainly) state employee unions.

It will be intriguing to see if the idea of the divine right of kings is to be revived by the 'progressives' in a country that was formed in rebellion against monarchy; and if the separation of powers will survive this astonishing attempt by the executive, presumably soon to be backed by a partisan majority of the legislature, to preempt the judiciary.


  1. Obama's inflated rhetoric at this stage is designed to be a reassuring response to the criticism that he is not 'tough enough.' As a factual matter, however, if it turns out that on the BP drilling platform in question, no one was actually 'in charge' or in command, then one might think that such a lack of responsibility could accurately be described as 'recklessness.'

    If it is also the case as has been argued that inferior seals were preferred to more expensive and effective ones - by BP as well as most of the other oil companies, then should not this sort of corporate arrogance be called to some account?

  2. Putting it another way, whose is the real hubris here, Obama's 'grandiose narcissism' or Big Oil's accustomed need to write all their own 'regs' and then submit 'emergency plans' which take little account of any real emergency, read totally alike, and refer you for further information to the phone number of a man dead for the last five years? What would GW say, "This is totally unacceptable," followed by (off camera)" Gee, Dick, please take care of this."

  3. Is this a case of differing viewpoints based on a question of whose ox is being gored? From all reports so far, it is obvious to those of us in The Colonies that this disaster finds causation in the testosterone-filled determination of BP to make obscene profits by cutting production costs,no matter the threat to lives, ecology, resources conservation. Those of us living on the Gulf coast have seen this before in BP's refinery sloppiness, recently.

    Some feel Obama is being too soft in an attempt to salvage BP,to avoid its bankruptcy. (And the ugly specter arises that it may be because corporations, not lawyers as stated above, fatten political coffers the most effusively.)

    Not have the power? Those who wrote the Constitution could not possibly have conjured this sort of possibility, even in nightmares after an evening of bad Tex-Mex dining. Damned if he does as being royal, damned if he doesn't as being a limp-dick GW, many of us prefer the former.

    BP does not have in its coffers sufficient funds to repair the damage already obvious. Bankruptcy for the corporation would not be enough. We need to strip away the protection of corporate-ladder distance and teach in criminal courts that those decision-makers are not sacrosanct.

    We need reparations now.

  4. It would indeed be better if decision-makers (political as well?) were held accountable in criminal courts. But prejudging the issue, as The One did, is not what the nation's premier law-enforcement authority is supposed to do. Katrina was an act of God compounded by bad decisions over many years, many by the Democrat regime in Louisiana. Yet Bush got blamed because FEMA's response was poor. The oil spill was an accident that may or may not have resulted from negligence by the rig's operator, compounded by a number of other long-tail political factors. Once again FEMA has failed, but this time The One is not to blame. How so?

  5. Once a critical point has been triggered - by whatever confluence of 'long-tailed' decisions and short-run negligence, and a major disaster is on its way, such as e.g., Chernobyl or the attack on the Trade Towers, what sort of FEMA-style remedy is available? Especially when BP is 'taking care' of the problem?

    Bush got blamed for a number of reasons including his sublime indifference, not to mention that, like the 'Emergency Plans' of the Big Oil producers, FEMA was not geared up to actually deliver much, or even to coordinate adequately with local authorities.

    Americans always like quick fixes to complicated problems which is why Obama is getting a lot of
    discontent right now. An election is coming up and he is trying to be presidential but what Big Lever do you (or anyone)want him to throw? There isn't one.

  6. "but what Big Lever do you (or anyone)want him to throw? There isn't one. "

    We'd actually rather like him to accept this, to be honest. That would be a start.

    BP has bent over backwards from the moment this disaster happened to get people on the ground, get plans into action, and do as much as it possibly can to stem this problem. I think we've all had managers at one time or another who have stood breathing down our necks while we're trying to solve a problem telling us to fix it, fix it, fix it, all the while explaining the dire consequences come review time for our monumental cock up. I think we've also all thought that they were shit managers.

    Meet Obama.

  7. See my subsequent post. It may have all been for show while a deal was done. None of these people got where they are by being straightforward.