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Wonkbook: EU bailout cheers markets; Washington wonders about Elena Kagan; awe-inspiring lobbying from the banks

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The White House had a good day yesterday, with the initial Kagan rollout going relatively smoothly. The day-two story is looking a bit tougher for them, however, as people begin to wonder whether we know -- or even can know -- enough about a nominee with such a sparse written record. That means we're looking at a high-stakes confirmation hearing. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast is still a disaster, and BP's latest idea is to throw trash at the leak. Seriously.

Welcome to Wonkbook.

Agenda

House: Not much happening on the floor, though they are voting on a resolution "expressing support for designation of the first Saturday in May as National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Day," which, you'll have to admit, is a pretty cool day. Lends itself to some good parties, I'd say. Over in committee land, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises will hold a hearing on: "The Stock Market Plunge: What Happened and What Is Next?"

Senate: Various financial regulation amendments coming to a vote today, starting with Sanders' modified 'Audit the Fed' amendment at 11:30. Meanwhile, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee are holding a hearing on "to examine current issues related to offshore oil and gas development" and the Finance Committee is looking at TARP.

White House: Nothing public, but after a strong first day on Elena Kagan, word is that it's back to trying to figure out the oil spill.

And! The Labor Department releases its monthly survey of turnover in the labor market and the Commerce Department posts data on wholesale inventories for March.

Top Stories

Markets leap on news of EU bailout: "Global financial markets roared back in response to the European Union's nearly $1 trillion plan to avert a public-debt crisis that has threatened to derail the worldwide economic recovery," report Marcus Walker, Charles Forelle, and David Gauthier-Villars. "Investors' apparent short-term relief was tempered by some economists' worries that in the longer term, the agreement's pledge to bail out troubled members will saddle the euro zone with gargantuan debts."

"Stocks surged in Europe and the U.S. after EU leaders agreed to a massive action to prevent Greece's financial troubles from spreading throughout the region. Assets from Portuguese and Greek bonds to oil and other commodities rose world-wide.
The euro, which has been battered in recent weeks, rose above $1.30 to the dollar before closing below $1.28. In the U.S., The Dow Jones Industrial Average logged its biggest gain in more than a year, rising 404.71 points, or 3.9%, to 10785.14."

SEIU, Campaign for America's Future, and Public Accountability release startling report on bank lobbying: "The report cites 243 government insiders turned lobbyists working for the industry. Of those, 202 used to work in Congress, and the rest served in the White House, Treasury Department or government agencies," writes Chris Frates. "The list includes 33 former chiefs of staff, 54 former staffers to the House Financial Services Committee or Senate Banking Committee and 28 former legislative directors."

"The report also estimates that six banks – Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo – and their trade organizations have spent about $600 million since the first major federal bailout of Bear Sterns in March 2008. Between 2008 and 2009, the six big banks spent about $69 million on campaign contributions and lobbying, according to the report."

Book-to-movie interlude: Cannot wait for Bill Buford's 'Heat' to hit the big screen.

Table of contents: Fannie Mae needs more money (plus more economic news); Elena Kagan appears to have lived a life free of incriminating -- or even telling -- documentation (and more Kagan commentary); fight brewing over the scope of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (and more FinReg news); BP trying increasingly nuttier things to stop the oil spill (and more environmental news); health-care premiums could rise for families who try to keep older kids on their insurance plans.

Economy

Federal Reserve joining in European rescue: "The U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to reopen swap lines with the European Central Bank and central banks in Japan, Switzerland, England and Canada puts it in a delicate political position," reports reports Jon Hilsenrath. "The U.S. Congress is in the midst of writing a financial regulatory overhaul that could rein in the Fed's powers amid sharp criticism of its actions before and during the financial crisis. The overseas lending program it reopened Sunday has been among the programs lawmakers have criticized. Some suggest it is a bailout out of foreign banks and others say the Fed is too secretive about details of the program."

Fannie Mae needs (yet more) money: "Fannie Mae asked the U.S. government for an additional $8.4 billion in aid after posting an $11.5 billion net loss for the first quarter, the latest sign that the bailout of the mortgage investor and its main rival, Freddie Mac, is likely to be the most expensive legacy of the U.S. housing-market bust," reports Nick Timiraos. "Fannie's losses reflected continuing weakness in the housing market and would have been worse without accounting changes that reduced its deficit. The quarterly loss was an improvement from the $23.5 billion loss for the year-ago quarter and marked the 11th consecutive quarterly loss for the Washington-based firm."

What about the Republican proposal to dismantle Fannie and Freddie? "Housing market experts describe the Republicans’ proposal as disastrous," reports Annie Lowrey. "Analysts from both sides of the aisle contend that the proposal would unwind Fannie and Freddie so quickly and precipitously that it would destabilize the entire housing market: pushing mortgage prices up, pulling support from low and middle-income Americans and ending the nascent — if at all extant — housing recovery."

A new study looks at the motivations for strategic defaults: "It turns out that many of the Americans defaulting on their mortgages are doing so out of anger, fear or despair," reports James Hagerty, "rather than making a purely sensible decision about their best financial interests, a new study found. Though small—covering just 350 people—the study spotted a notable trend. Some of these people have stopped paying because they are anxious about their financial situation; others are furious that banks or the government won't help ease their load while other people are getting assistance."

Kagan

A look at Kagan's political path: Just after Election Day the fall of her senior year at Princeton, Elena Kagan published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper recounting how she had wept and gotten drunk on vodka at a campaign gathering for a liberal Brooklyn congresswoman who had unexpectedly lost a race for the Senate," report Amy Goldstein, Carol Leonnig, and Peter Slevin."

"Ronald Reagan was heading to the White House, and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman -- a champion for women's causes for whom Kagan had toiled 14-hour days as a campaign press assistant -- was leaving Capitol Hill. Kagan, then 20 and imbued with the liberal principles on which she had been raised, said she was flirting with despair that 'there was no longer any place for the ideals we held'...Her piece for the Daily Princetonian on Holtzman's 1980 defeat was a rare moment, then and since, in which Kagan publicly described her emotions and politics in such strikingly personal tones."

Kagan's lack of written record comes to dominate talk of her record: "Ms. Kagan’s paper trail is scant, her academic writings painstakingly nonideological," report Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Katharine Seelye, and Lisa Foderaro. "And while Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a fellow New Yorker and Princeton graduate, has written and spoken extensively about her childhood, Ms. Kagan, the daughter of a lawyer and a schoolteacher, the granddaughter of immigrants, is more private. During her academic and public life, she has rarely spoken of her political beliefs. When Mr. Dellinger interviewed her recently for a forum at Georgetown Law, he prodded her to talk about her past, and the influences that shaped her. She obliged, somewhat reluctantly, serving up only some bland details about her admiration for her parents."

Liberals confront their 'Scalia envy.' "Liberals have had Scalia envy for nearly a quarter-century," reports Peter Baker, "only to be let down. They considered President Bill Clinton’s selections of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer to be satisfactory but not satisfying, much like the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor last year. While Justice Ginsburg came closest to what they were looking for, given her record of advocacy for women’s rights, she does not go far enough for them on capital punishment and other issues."

"Richard Primus, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, said conservatives did more to influence Republican nominations because the energy on court advocacy is on the right, which still resents rulings that barred school-sponsored prayer, legalized abortion and upheld some affirmative action programs. 'It still lives off of that anger, and nothing of that sort of fire has really taken hold on the other side,' Professor Primus said. The left, by contrast, focuses on guarding the status quo, a less animating mission. 'The quote-unquote liberals are defending the New Deal and Warren court inheritances,' said Bruce Ackerman, a constitutional scholar at Yale Law School."

David Brooks can't get a read on Kagan: "One scans her public speeches looking for a strong opinion, and one comes up empty. In 2005, for example, she delivered a lecture on women and the legal profession. If ever there was a hot-button issue, it’s the mommy wars, the tension between professional success and family pressures. Kagan deftly summarized some of the research showing that while women do well in law school, they are not as likely to rise to senior positions at major firms. But she didn’t exactly take a stand. 'What I hope to do is start a conversation,' she said.

"Kagan’s sole display of passion came during her defense of her decision to reinstate a policy that banned the military from using Harvard Law School’s main career office for recruiting. But even here, she argues that her position was not the product of any broad opinions. She was upholding the antidiscrimination regulations of Harvard University. She told the Senate in written answers to questions during her confirmation hearings for solicitor general, 'The position I took does not entail a view on the exclusion of R.O.T.C. from college campuses, and I never expressed a position on the exclusion of R.O.T.C. from Harvard.'" http://nyti.ms/9nET8R

Linda Greenhouse has a question for Kagan: "Last October, in her second appearance before the Supreme Court, she defended the federal government’s position on the validity of a Congressionally authorized land swap in the Mojave Desert that left a Latin cross standing on land that had once been federal property, but was now privately owned. The question in the case, Salazar v. Buono, was whether this extremely odd real estate deal was a proper response to a decision that a private citizen had won in a lower court, which ruled that it was unconstitutional for the cross to be displayed on federal land."

Ms. Kagan argued that the plaintiff, Frank Buono, no longer had standing to pursue his challenge because he had testified earlier that as a Catholic, he had no general objection to crosses, just to crosses on government property. But the cross was now on private land; ergo, ran the government’s argument, no standing...Only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with Ms. Kagan’s argument, and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s plurality opinion dispatched it in a few sentences. I would like to know what Solicitor General Kagan really thought of that argument. The answer matters because, although that case is over and done with, the question of whether to foreclose access to court for citizens seeking to vindicate their rights is very much alive and is almost certain to be a continuing pressure point within the Roberts court." http://nyti.ms/8ZgYa9

Stoner interlude: Ever wish your favorite album covers could move?

FinReg

Jeff Merkley and Carl Levin propose Volcker rule amendment: "The pending Senate legislation also would restrict proprietary trading, but it would give regulators the flexibility to waive restrictions under certain circumstances," report Damian Paletta and Michael Crittenden. "The [Levin-Merkley] amendment would essentially remove that regulatory flexibility...The amendment has the backing of the Treasury Department and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), which could make it more difficult for the banks to defeat."

Payday lenders trying to dodge financial reform: "The bill is particularly significant for payday lenders and check cashers because it could bring the bulk of their operations under the eye of a federal watchdog for the first time," reports Ylan Mui. "According to a study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. released in December, about a quarter of American households have little or no access to banks or other traditional financial services; many rely instead on payday lenders and check cashers."

What does the word "significantly" mean? "The Senate bill exempts businesses that don’t provide significant consumer financial products or services from being regulated by the new agency," reports Chris Frates. "Democrats argue that most businesses would not be hit by the regulations and have charged the GOP with misrepresenting the bill. Republicans say the bill doesn’t define 'significantly' and have used that argument to stoke fears among small businesses, like dentists and florists, that the bill will regulate the payment plans and credit they offer customers."

Olympia Snowe and Mary Landrieu propose three-part test to exempt businesses from consumer financial regulation: "1) The business must sell nonfinancial products. 2) It must not securitize its consumer debt. 3) And it must fall within the North American Industry Classification System code’s definition of a 'small business.'" http://bit.ly/azmdeI

SEC demands rules for slowing trading in markets that are crashing: "Federal regulators on Monday gave U.S. stock exchanges 24 hours to devise a market-wide plan to stop or slow trading in stocks that are falling rapidly, in an effort to avoid a repeat of last Thursday's violent swings in the financial markets," reports Zachary Goldfarb. "During a meeting Monday with the heads of six U.S. exchanges, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro demanded quick action on developing industry rules governing when trading should be stopped in markets as well as individual stocks."

How financial regulation is playing out in the Arizona Senate race: "Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln is fighting to shake off the nickname 'Bailout Blanche,' bestowed by her more-liberal rival in the May 18 primary campaign," report Stephanie Simon, Damian Paletta, and Greg Hitt. "Her main weapon: a provision she wrote in the financial-overhaul bill that would trim the sails of Wall Street banks by strictly limiting their derivatives trading."

"Ms. Lincoln's provision, unveiled in April, could transform U.S. finance. It also stripped Bill Halter, the state's lieutenant governor and Ms. Lincoln's main opponent in the primary, of a potent talking point. He had been blasting Ms. Lincoln for close ties to Wall Street. Now he found himself supporting her provision, though his campaign credited Mr. Halter for Ms. Lincoln's tough language."

French finance minister Christine LaGarde argues that financial crises require a female touch: "When women are called to action in times of turbulence, it is often on account of their composure, sense of responsibility and great pragmatism in delicate situations. Audur Capital, an Icelandic private equity fund wholly managed by women, is the only such fund to have made it through the crisis without a hitch. And in February 2009, Iceland’s citizens chose a woman, Johanna Sigurdardottir, as prime minister in the midst of the country’s financial crisis.

"At the other end of the spectrum, Muhammed Yunus first turned to women to promote micro-lending. They now account for 97 percent of his 8 million borrowers in Bangladesh. When he launched that revolution in 1976, he knew that women would use their loans to advance projects or purchase tools, while he was wary of what men might do with the money." http://nyti.ms/brxnDW

Cameo interlude: A bunch of famous chefs get a guest spot on David Simon's 'Treme.'

Environment

BP is going to come out of this just fine: "Even though most investors have soured on BP, driving down its stock price by 19 percent and wiping out $36.7 billion of its market value since the explosion, the firm is still a behemoth," reports Steve Mufson. "The company has a market value of $152.6 billion, bolstered by a global marketing network, a lucrative oil venture in Russia, a promising contract to boost production in a giant Iraqi field and scores of other large interests from Angola to Azerbaijan to Alaska. It remains the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico. Measured by revenue or assets, it is among the world's five largest companies."

"Citigroup analysts said that stockholders' reactions seem 'disproportionate to the likely costs to the company.' It noted that punitive damages against Exxon for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil-tanker spill were originally set at $5 billion in 1994 but were reduced on appeal. The company in 2009 agreed to pay less than $1 billion, including interest...On Monday, BP said it spent $350 million in the first 20 days of the spill response, about $17.5 million a day. It has paid 295 of the 4,700 claims received so far, for a total of $3.5 million. By contrast, in the first quarter of the year, the London-based oil giant's profits averaged $93 million a day."

Can we stop the spill with trash? "Engineers will use golf balls and shredded automobile tires in what they call a 'junk shot' to try to clog the oil well that has been leaking crude at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico since the sinking last month of the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon," report Joel Achenbach and Steve Mufson. "'We'll be pumping pieces of tire. We'll be pumping knots in ropes,' Kent Wells, senior vice president of exploration and production for BP, said in a news briefing Monday. 'There's a little bit of a science in this, even though it sounds odd.'"

It's like Russia vs. Germany: "Top executives from BP PLC, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co. began turning on one another Monday over who bears ultimate responsibility for the April 20 oil-rig explosion that took 11 lives and is causing a huge spill in the Gulf of Mexico," report Stephen Power, Neil King, and Guy Chazan. "The question of who shoulders the blame will loom large Tuesday at the first set of congressional hearings on the disaster. Testifying will be Lamar McKay, chairman of BP America, Inc.; Steven Newman, chief executive of Transocean, which owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig; and Tim Probert, a top official at Halliburton Inc., which was brought in to cement the well."

TED talk interlude: The hidden influence of social networks.

Health care

Premiums could rise for families who keep their children on their insurance: Some families could pay a price if they seize the chance offered by the new health-care law to keep children up to age 26 on their insurance policies, regulations drafted by the Obama administration show," reports David Hilsenrath. "Until 2014, when health plans will be prohibited from charging higher premiums based on preexisting conditions, insurers in the individual market can take into account the young adult's medical condition when setting the family's premium."

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Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: University Of Chicago Law School Photo.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 11, 2010; 7:32 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reconciliation
Next: The case for, and against, Kagan

Comments

"The day-two story is looking a bit tougher for them, however, as people begin to wonder whether we know -- or even can know -- enough about a nominee with such a sparse written record."

This kind of irks me. Although I don't like holds on judicial nominees (especially for the lower courts) anymore than my Democratic friends like the gazillion holds on appointees and functionaries by the Republicans. But one of the reasons is that I'm fairly Conan-the-Barbarian old school. To the victor goes to the spoils. As Conan said, the whole point of winning election is "to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

That means (as it often did) that if Bill Clinton nominates Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets on the court without too much fussin' and fuedin'.

As such, I think of Obama wants Kagan Obama gets Kagan. And that works both ways. Even if many Democrats decide they don't like her, too bad. That's the guy you put in the top spot, and the call should be his. Maybe in the end, nobody likes it, but that's probably why it's the executives job to appoint supreme judges, rather than a 10,000 person committee to deliberate until the next century about who has the correct judicial temperament.

And I say this as someone who was not a fan of Harriet Myers and was perfectly happy to see her go. Still, when it comes down to it, if that's who Bush really wanted, he had every right to appoint her. The president is not a figurehead who announces the results of yesterdays opinion polls and acts accordingly.

But, I'm sure I'm reading too much into all of that.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 11, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

market futures are LOWER today because of concerns over the Greek debt. Some say it will enable Greece and other nations to continue to overspend. Some say its just piling up more debt and with unemployment at 15% how will they ever come out of it?


BP has also spent $350 million so far they say on the Gulf spill with no new ideas other than garbage? What is the administration's response??? After the initial week after the disaster struck sending Napolitano and Salazer down there are they doing anything??? I'm sure glad we're not giving them a pass around here!

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 11, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Followed the link to the story on Heat - and also saw a story about the cooking scene in the 5th episode of Treme. Great scene, that.

Posted by: Sophomore | May 11, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

what could be better....

dawn, a cup of coffee, watching the inimitable margaret rutherford, in an "agatha christie" mystery and ezra klein's "wonkbook!"
if only the news was better.

a special mention for lena horne, who just passed away.
a wise, beautiful, talented woman who will always remain an inspiration and source of beauty.
the gifts of people like lena horne, make it easier to suffer through the tragedies like the oil spill, the injustice of british petroleum, the bailed-out banks. the injustices that are always with us.
without the shared talents and courage of people like lena horne, the sorrows of the world, would be even harsher and more sorrowful to bear.

Posted by: jkaren | May 11, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

one of the best things you could see all day....
i have posted it before.
in memory of the beautiful and unforgettable, lena horne.
may her memory be for a blessing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPvZR6DTbq8

Posted by: jkaren | May 11, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

"Citigroup analysts said that stockholders' reactions seem 'disproportionate to the likely costs to the company.' It noted that punitive damages against Exxon for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil-tanker spill were originally set at $5 billion in 1994 but were reduced on appeal. The company in 2009 agreed to pay less than $1 billion, including interest...On Monday, BP said it spent $350 million in the first 20 days of the spill response, about $17.5 million a day. It has paid 295 of the 4,700 claims received so far, for a total of $3.5 million. By contrast, in the first quarter of the year, the London-based oil giant's profits averaged $93 million a day."

You win for most depressing news of the day. Twenty years between catastrophic oil spills is not nearly enough. I don't think Exxon is even old enough for Nickelodeon to be re-running footage of it yet.

Posted by: slag | May 11, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"What is the administration's response??? After the initial week after the disaster struck sending Napolitano and Salazer down there are they doing anything??? I'm sure glad we're not giving them a pass around here!"

If you want people to get upset about this, you might consider being specific about what, exactly, you want the administration to be doing right now. Should they be evacuating New Orleans, for example? What?

Bonus points for using the term Mighty Kenyan Pincer-Fingers in your list of grievances.

Posted by: slag | May 11, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

slag,

i love it. anyone that isn't a shill for this administration, you slam them as a birther.

I'm sure you weren't giving any issues to Bush during Katrina. I'm sure you gave the same courtesy to them.


Personally I'd have liked them to have just find a way to shut it off. If not I'd like an inquiry as to why they didn't take precautions to ensure this didn't happen.

Don't tell me that if this wasn't on the previous administration's watch that you wouldn't be slamming them.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 11, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr: "Personally I'd have liked them to have just find a way to shut it off. If not I'd like an inquiry as to why they didn't take precautions to ensure this didn't happen."

And design requirements that make the necessary safeguards happen. We let them do it their way--which was, I think, the right thing to do. However, their way has turned out to suck, so regulations requiring greater safety. Especially regarding the automatic shutting off off wells, should there be an explosive break anywhere in the chain, should be imposed, and BP--whose BS commercials (about how oil is bad and they know it and we need to stop using oil and global warming is just terrible) didn't satisfy (or fool) anybody. Anyhoo, needs to get shut off (which I'm sure it will, in time) but in the future adequate precautions should no longer be optional.

"Don't tell me that if this wasn't on the previous administration's watch that you wouldn't be slamming them."

I'm pretty sure he's already blamed this on the Bush administration. If not, I know somebody here has. ;)

Just as the economy, a year-and-a-half into the Obama administration, is all Bush's fault. The bad bits, anyway. Any good news--now, Obama is responsible for that.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 11, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"i love it. anyone that isn't a shill for this administration, you slam them as a birther."

Actually, I slam them as a person without a mordant sense of humor. Which is a far worse offense, in my book. ProTip: If you don't understand something, don't make assumptions. Which, now that I think about it, pretty much sums up my response to your entire comment. And yes, to assuage your curiosity, I would have "slammed" George W Bush for making ignorant assumptions as well.

Posted by: slag | May 11, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"We let them do it their way--which was, I think, the right thing to do. However, their way has turned out to suck, so regulations requiring greater safety."

Nobody could have predicted.

Posted by: slag | May 11, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Kevin,


I agree that BP and the subcontractors need to pay and pay dearly for this.

I also think they should look at each off shore drilling site currently in production (and I'm sure they're doing this now or i should say I hope they're doing this now) and try to figure out if this is possible in any other site and either slow or shut down production to ensure this doesn't happen somewhere else.


I don't know enough about the off shore drilling and how it works but someone was asleep at the switch or had the switch turned off. If that's the former administration's fault because they pushed offshore drilling with little safeguards then i have no problem blaming them but 90% of the commenter's on this site would be slamming Bush to no end (and rightfully so) if he came out a month or so prior to this and pushed increased offshore drilling and then had this happen (whether one had anything to do with the other or not).

A little fair play is all I ask for but then when I'm slammed as a birther (with no cause for that) then I guess I'm asking for too much.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 11, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

you know its funny but no one could have predicted Katrina with much certainty either.

Ya I know the katrina response was horribly slow and the lack of preparation before the fact with FEMA was horrible at best and those slamming the Bush administration are 100% right on that fact.

Where they lose me is when it took as much time as it did for this administration to respond and the lack of preparation for this catastrophe and they seemingly get a free pass by some.

I mean they at one point said it was a set amount being spilled and then later that day they admitted it was 5x that amount.

Double standard?? hmm.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 11, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

The Obama administration's response to the Deepwater explosion and spill was timely and appropriate, and any attempt to compare the federal response to this disaster with Bush's handling of Katrina is a pathetic attempt to disguise the facts.

The chronology is available here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/05/ongoing-administration-wide-response-deepwater-bp-oil-spill

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 11, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"you know its funny but no one could have predicted Katrina with much certainty either."

Severe hurricanes on the Gulf Coast occur all the time, and so FEMA should always be prepared to mobilize for a worst case scenario every year during the storm season.

Anyone who watched the news anywhere in America the weekend before the storm made landfall knew that it was being predicted that Katrina might be a Category 5 hurricane, and that it might make a direct hit on the city of New Orleans. The worst case scenario forecasts about the storm actually did NOT come true, and the problem in NOLA was more due to design flaws by the Army Corps of Engineers than to the trajectory and the severity of the hurricane.

There was no lack of predictability of a dire situation.


"Ya I know the katrina response was horribly slow and the lack of preparation before the fact with FEMA was horrible at best and those slamming the Bush administration are 100% right on that fact."

OK ... you got that part right.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 11, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Patrick,

you may in the end be right but its not as if the white house blog is going to say things they did wrong or say they acted too slowly in this or that. Seriously??


Maybe the government should have stepped in directly and not just overseen what BP was doing?

What are they actively doing now to stop it?

Maybe they shouldn't have waited two weeks to activate the national guard?

Are we not allowed to ask these questions of this administration?

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 11, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr,

You are allowed to ask whatever questions that you want. The problem is that you are not asking any fact-based questions.

The government did "step in directly," as you would know if you had bothered to look at the timeline.

The White House timeline does not say that they acted fast or slow, it simply shows what steps were taken at what time. So if you think the Federal Government was asleep at the switch, you will have to take a look at the timeline, and tell us what additional measures should have been taken at any given time, and what effect those measures would have had to reduce the impact of the leak.

You say the National Guard should have been activated two weeks earlier. Why? How would that have mitigated the leak or its effects?

What precisely is your complaint?

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 11, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

@Patrick: "Severe hurricanes on the Gulf Coast occur all the time, and so FEMA should always be prepared to mobilize for a worst case scenario every year during the storm season."

In all fairness, deployment is a challenge, but it doesn't take much to be ready to deploy, especially to gear up as storms are coming nearer. FEMA could have done much better, although FEMA has never been particularly outstanding at managing emergencies.

Certainly, Bush could have done better that nominate the guy who had spent to last 12 years running the International Arabian Horse Association. Even if nothing bad had happened, that kinda smells of cronyism.

@Visionbrkr: "Maybe the government should have stepped in directly and not just overseen what BP was doing?"

That's a tough one. There would be a lot of opposition, and for a lot of reasons. Also not a lot of enthusiasm to rush in, take charge, and then solve nothing or make matter worse. Then suddenly it's not BPs fault, it's the Whitehouse's.

Also, as with Katrina, there may be local issues. The federal government is legally bound, and can't just send the National Guard in.

You can ask questions of this administration, but you might have to wait a while to get an answer, as Obama is busy trying to get his X-Box to work with the new flatscreen so his kids can play Half-Life. Darned new-fangled things.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 11, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

@slag "Nobody could have predicted"

Nobody could have predicted that something might explode or there might be severe damage to an oil platform?

The potential was always there. They could have made an additional investment in failsafe technologies (BP) and chose not to do so. Fine and dandy. Now, I think they should be obligated to implement such failsafes as a prerequisite for future drilling.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 11, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Brazil and Norway mandate an acoustic switch that has a remote control capability as the last line of defense. The USA considered requiring the same technology, but BP along with other corporations involved in offshore drilling fought against the proposed regulation (then under consideration by the famously dysfunctional and corrupt Bush-era Minerals Management Service, the arm of the Interior Department that oversees offshore drilling) and in 2003 (according to the Wall Street Journal):

"U.S. regulators decided remote-controlled safeguards needed more study. A report commissioned by the Minerals Management Service said "acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly."

A spokesman for the agency, Nicholas Pardi, said the decision not to require the device came, in part, after the agency took a survey that found most rigs already had back-up systems of some kind. Those systems include the unmanned submarines BP has been using to try to close the seabed valve."

It is impossible to know with absolute certainty whether the switch would have prevented the disaster. The Norwegians believe that these switches have been extremely useful in preventing spills in the North Sea. One thing is clear: in 2003 the MMS made the decision that an extra layer of safety was not worth the additional expense to the industry.

Drill baby drill.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 11, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

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