Archive for May 2010

If Your Plans Require an Apollo 13 Effort, You are Doing it Wrong

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Over a month into the Gulf Disaster a rising wave of desperation may be easing somewhat as the risky ‘top-kill’ procedure appears to be proceeding well.

And the media is noticing that there are a lot of smart, amped-up people working long hours in offices and control rooms to pull off this fix.

For our dumbed-down pop media culture, iconifying the people in those rooms is a least confusing assumption. We have come to expect a world where a few redemptional heroes brandish a simple and immediate fix, just as the timer clicks down to zero. Pumping them up as a “dream team” and invoking NASA heroics during the Apollo 13 crisis are just ways to fill out roles in a pre-packaged narrative. But that is an ephemeral fantasy.

Today a variety of experts are being called upon to come up with an instant fix for an increasingly catastrophic problem. For the moment they are being listened to, for the time being their voices and opinions are granted effectual weight in the halls of power. And if they manage to pull it off, to supply the fix, cap the wellhead and stop the Gulf Gusher they (at least the top tier) will be feted with the appropriate 15 minutes of LUV.

A few days later they will go back to being mostly ignored and barely tolerated. The annoying little twerps who keep the gas in the pumps, cell phones running and the lights glowing. I have news for you; the terms “geek” and “nerd” are NOT terms of affection but rather dominance and submission.

Because a distressingly large proportion of America has somehow become infected with a ravenous, cancerous anti-intellectual mindset. Education and intellectual displays are tolerated only to the extent that they catalyze the generation of large amounts of money. And never mind the existential sideshow of ecosystem destruction, fixing the Gulf Gusher is associated with lots of money. So open up that cellar and fish out the gimps smart people who can jump into the panic.
For the legions of the Proudly Dumb (and their imitators) there simply is no downside. If the leak gets stopped you buy some cookies to sugar-off the the dorks until the next panic. Otherwise it’s a magnificent affirmation of the uselessness of education and the ascendency of Fate and Divine Control. Win baby, Win.

As a descendant consequence we replace planning and preparation with corporate-political exigency and a patch-up kit. This panic-by-design approach will no doubt characterize our eventual tackling of the Really Serious Consequences of disruptive climate change. Not much of anything will be done until the last possible moment, right as the abyss opens and existential doom throws out a claw. Then a fire-fight and a patch.
But no preparation, indeed keep to sociopathic priorities. No education; cut the school budgets! Fire some more teachers! Keep the prisons full and the taxes low. If all else fails we’ll just nuke anything dangerous that comes our way. Like asteroids, or deepwater oilwell blowouts. It works in the movies.

Because Apollo 13 had a happy ending. Smart, dedicated people came through in the nick of time, under total pressure to save the day.

But those Apollo heroes did not just get delivered from a temp agency. They were there all along, working long invisible hours for Wall Street cab fare salaries. And they would want no part of being called “heroes”. They made their magic because they practiced for routine. If your planning depends upon crisis mode heroics you are Doing It Wrong. You are also an idiot.

We want the magic but absolutely nothing to do with the routine. The entire magic supply chain, from early-childhood education to post-doctoral positions is beaten down, denigrated, downsized, ostracized. Wages and salaries are cut and cut and cut again. Teachers are in the front ranks of the expendable whenever local or state governments get themselves in a budget bind. They are easy to dump because any consequences will mostly arrive years later. Certainly after re-election time.

So, slowly the pipeline supply of potential magicians runs thin and you should not be too surprised when you find that there is an insufficient supply in-house. And then you will rent and you will pay and you will do whatever the market demands. Which is a shame because Peak Magic, unlike Peak Oil, is a voluntary condition. And the future does not care.


Written by nullsequence

May 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

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Top Kill Spill

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Sometime late this weekend BP is planning to begin the ‘top kill’ procedure on the damaged MC-252 well site. Success with this procedure will, according to BP,  stanch the outflow of oil completely and provide a kind of temporary cap until one or other of the in-progress ‘relief’ wells intersects. The damaged well, followed by the relief well(s) will then be filled with cement and abandoned forever.

The recent images and video of new, gushing leaks in the bent-over and kinked riser-BOP junction no doubt add a measure of urgency to get things under control ASAP. Any qualms about mucking-about with the possibly fragile BOP-riser junction may have been overrun by PR pressure as well as technical assay. A solid month of firehosed oil pollution is building up as ugly blobs in the deep water, and oozing sludge across some coasts and marshes.

And now that the oil has hit land people (and the press) are getting irate.

Indeed, the next week may determine whether BP remains alive and intact. A failure of the top kill, or even worse, a more comprehensive wellhead blowout, would incite all manner popular and political rage. And after 30 days of this travesty even BP must see that Something Must Be Done, Now.

After all, even once the gushing has stopped, the Gulf of Mexico region will still have to clean and deal with one of the largest oil and ecosystem disasters in US history.

Written by nullsequence

May 21, 2010 at 5:16 am

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5 Minutes

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Television and other traditional media sources have certainly degraded dramatically over the last decades, so it’s refreshing to see an old-school incumbent like CBS News delivering some meaty reportage.

On Sunday, the 60 Minutes program aired a dramatic interview with  a survivor of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. There were a lot of shocking facts and claims that will be no doubt debated (and litigated) for years to come.  So good work there.

Tonight’s regular CBS Evening News program also delivered a couple of choice bits of news, including new video clips of the gushing well site.

Apparently CBS, using FOIA requests, forced BP to cough up recent clips including the siphon-in-riser and of new gushing leaks in the bent-over portion of the riser-BOP junction. Those two clips demonstrated very clearly that there is a LOT of oil blasting out, from multiple well site locations and that whatever quantity captured by the siphon assembly is a minor portion of the total.

The program also included confirmation that BP has been monitoring the entire site for weeks, and a bombshell-like claim that BP would be releasing “the rest of the video” tomorrow.  Call me skeptical, but…should be interesting.

Finally CBS showed some ugly, ugly scenes of oil-fouled beaches and marshes, and amazingly,  one of their reporters being turned away from investigating a damaged area by some sort of posse comprised of Coast Guard personnel and “BP contractors”. I’m not sure what that means; perhaps if they had spent more than 48secs on that segment there would be less mystery.

Which is the whole point.  I know there are a variety of political and entertainment industry issues afoot today, but the entirety of the Gulf disaster coverage in tonight’s broadcast was rushed through in just over five minutes.  f i v e m i n u t e s . Would it really have hurt to have devoted ten?

Written by nullsequence

May 19, 2010 at 4:53 am

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How about that

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Not content to run with the herd, the Guardian’s Gulf disaster headline tonight is: BP claims to be slowing flow of oil into Mexican Gulf

It’s pretty meaty, with a few interesting quotes:

[in the Venice, LA area]…the dispersant, oil and water were forming jelly-like blobs, which were washing up on the shore…

Yummy. Didn’t NPR have live reporting in Venice today? I don’t recall hearing about the jelly blobs.

And then there is this:

A BP spokesman admitted that dispersant, which toxicologists liken to very strong detergent, is less effective if it comes into contact with oil that has already been in water for several days.

Even having followed this story fairly closely I didn’t know that, did you?

And finally, how about this:

The faulty BOP has been subpoenaed by US investigators. BP has been taking images of the device using underwater robots, which it believes will exonerate it of any blame for the accident…

Really? Good luck with that one.

That’s a single article, and there’s a lot more in it. Another great piece of work by the Guardian. Check it out.

Written by nullsequence

May 18, 2010 at 6:40 am

Posted in news, travesty

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If We Were to See

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Here’s a fun quote from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, speaking at today’s gulf disaster hearing:

She said the government was monitoring the loop current very closely and were treating it as if it were a coastline.

“In other words… if we were to see that the oil really was beginning to move toward the loop current we would begin doing some things in the way of dispersant and booming… as if the loop current itself were a piece of the coast,” she said.

Madam Secretary, you might want to take a look at this (via SkyTruth):

And while you are at it, take a look at this analysis from Dr. Jeff Masters @ Wunderground.

And this analysis from another scientist (@DailyKos).

Because the Miami Herald is now reporting this:   Coast Guard: Tar balls along shore in Key West

To see, perhaps to scream.

Written by nullsequence

May 18, 2010 at 3:59 am

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Siphon Is, As Siphon Does

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It’s as yet unclear just what proportion of the riser-end flow of the Gulf Gusher will be captured by the Riser Insertion Tube (aka siphon).  Certainly some, hopefully a lot, regretably not all. Perhaps BP will even deign to toss a few intoxicating data points to the rabble. There is tonight however, a very robust flow of PR.

Some current headlines describing the siphon insertion:

NYTimes.comBP Reports Some Success in Capturing Leaking Oil

CNN.comBP says tube successfully inserted back into Gulf leak

Washington Post.comBP installs insertion tube, begins siphoning oil

Nola.comMile-long tube finally draining oil from busted pipeline in Gulf of Mexico

Of course there is always ONE poopy-head:

BBC.comUS says BP move to curb oil leak ‘no solution’

Some dogs are less lap-able than others…

UPDATE, May 17, 2010: Teh StUpiD is in full manifested bloom on NPR, and the cable ‘news’ channels. With their breathless promotion the public-perceived efficacy of the siphon grows by the second. As for the massive skulk of the Gulf Blob, well that’s far awaaaay in the empty sea…

Written by nullsequence

May 17, 2010 at 4:44 am

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Never you mind

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So the President of the US scheduled an “angry” presser about the Gulf Disaster where he exhibited not much anger at all.  But not to worry, Statements Have Been Made, Decisions have Been Cast, cans have been kicked.

Come on Mr. Obama, I voted for something more than this corporatized nothingburger style of government.

Didn’t I?

It is still not exactly clear to me why the revelation that the White House has had access to video and other well site data for weeks has not exploded into the news media.  The short video clip finally released yesterday afternoon has already enabled a number of interesting and disturbing flow rate estimates, far in excess of the ‘official 5000 bbl/day figure cited by BP and the USCG.

Of course, that may be the whole point of the ridiculous lack of raw flow rate data on the Macondo well near-blowout. And certainly it doesn’t look good that BP is firehosing toxic oil dispersants deep underwater, thus keeping the oil extent less visible from the air.  Sure, this is supposed to reduce coastline fouling, but as a happy coincidence it reduces the efficacy of aerial and satellite spill estimations. And perhaps, just perhaps, liability.

Surely, all parties must realize how suspicious this looks. Right?

The President brandished the “trust but verify” adage today. So should we expect that one or more US government agencies will now be gathering and/or compelling release of flow rate and other data? Verify, right?

But it’s now after 6pm on Friday, which means that for the next two days the cable ‘news’ channels will be filled with rich people telling me how to save on mortgages, in-depth deliberation of the latest celebrity mating combos and prison porn.

If an oil well gushes into the ocean but doesn’t stain anyone’s yacht, is it really an emergency?

Written by nullsequence

May 15, 2010 at 3:57 am

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