One thing that is very difficult to get to, maybe not as difficult as a gushing volcano of oil a mile below the surface of the Gulf, but… just how did we get o this place? With major corporate interests having us all right where they want us, able to create a catastrophe but still leave us unconvinced that we/they should stop the activity that created the situation in the first place. And they are right, in a way, because what would that be? And on top of that, we blame our political leaders for not being able to immediately fix the situation – but not for creating the atmosphere that made the situation possible. See. Difficult. Where do you even start? Maybe 1876?

Johnson’s rocky relations with Congress resulted in an impeachment trial. Johnson survived in office, and was followed by Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant, who was elected in 1868, and reelected in 1872.

The eight years of the Grant administration came to be known for scandal. Financial chicanery, often involving railroad barons, shocked the country. The national economy faced difficult times. And federal troops were still stationed throughout the south in 1876 to enforce Reconstruction.

The Candidates In the Election of 1876

The Republican Party was expected to nominate a popular senator from Maine, James G. Blaine. But when it was revealed that Blaine had some involvement in a railroad scandal, Rutherford B. Hayes, the governor of Ohio, was nominated at a convention that required seven ballots. Acknowledging his role as a compromise candidate, Hayes delivered a letter at the end of the convention indicating he would only serve one term if elected.

On the Democratic side, the nominee was Samuel J. Tilden, the governor of New York. Tilden was known as a reformer, and had attracted considerable attention when, as New York’s attorney general, he prosecuted William Marcy “Boss” Tweed, the famously corrupt political boss of New York City.

The two parties did not have tremendous differences on the issues. And as it was still considered unseemly for presidential candidates to campaign, most of the actual campaigning was done by surrogates. Hayes conducted what was called a “front porch campaign,” in which he talked to supporters and reporters on his porch in Ohio and his comments were transmitted to newspapers.

Waving the Bloody Shirt

The election season degenerated into the opposing sides launching vicious personal attacks on the opposition candidate. Tilden, who had become wealthy as a lawyer in New York City, was accused of participating in fraudulent railroad deals. And the Republicans made much of the fact that Tilden had not served in the Civil War.

Read all about it.

Best op-ed in the Times this week is again by Bob Herbert.

The risks unleashed by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are profound — the latest to be set in motion by the scandalous, rapacious greed of the oil industry and its powerful allies and enablers in government. America is selling its soul for oil.

Uh-huh. The double-bite of the green metaphor just gets more twisted and foul.

So there’s this major, slow-motion environmental catastrophe underway, and we’re three weeks in. My parents are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary – the family all pulled together and chipped in on a Caribbean cruise, for which they leave on Thursday. Now I wonder if they were going to see any evidence of the sheen getting into the loop current when they slip past the Keys. So there’s that.

It’s difficult to think of much else when something like this going on and, by all evidence, worsening by the day. But in terms of dismantling the system that got us here there’s actually plenty to talk about, think about and prepare for. But just thinking about it, how would we begin to lessen our dependence on deep-sea oil drilling? Maybe we think about pricing gasoline to reflect the true cost of taking it out of the ground, much less burning it. Maybe we try to discover how to use less oil on a per capita, per day basis. Well, how do you start down that road do that? Build more highways?

The umbrella group for America’s state DOTs, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, has started a major new push for, you guessed it, more highways. The new campaign argues for highway expansion in urban areas as if fifty years of similar policies hadn’t led to a dead end of sprawl, pollution, and oil dependence.

As described in an important post onMobilizing the Region by Ya-Ting Liu of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, AASHTO has released a series of reports and a new website making “the case for capacity.” The website is filled with friendly explanations of “what’s so great about an interstate” and promises that “urban interstates are the new ‘Main Street.’” As unbelievable as those claims must be to anyone living next door to the Bruckner Expressway or parked in traffic on the Cross-Bronx, AASHTO’s stated intention to massively expand the urban highway system is all too real.

Does this make sense? In a certain kind of way it would, if we were looking for further rationales to continue drilling for oil anywhere we could find it – because we need all we can find – and we need to fulfill the other side of this feedback loop. But we’re not. In fact, that’s not actually our problem at all. At the moment, our problem is finding a way to cap an out-of-control oil well a mile below the surface fifty miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, the result of an exploded rig that was built without the proper safety precautions envisioned for just such an incident. So you could say our problems are a little more acute than merely finding the budget to dispassionately build more highways, to grow, as it were. Oh the once-upon-a-time whimsy of such a luxury, right now.

This disaster is testing our resolve and ability to ignore it, and I truly hope our indifference carries the day. But after just a short while now, and it hasn’t really been that long, it seems like we’re beginning to fight something else, something taking the shape of an ocean-borne oil slick you might see during a once-in-a-lifetime vacation on a twelve-story cruise ship. At first it may appear to be out of place; but in the end, it has as much right to be there as you do.

Or everybody. Last week, BP started asking for suggestions on ways to clean up the oil in the Gulf. Innocentive, indeed.

Challenge Overview
Recently, an explosion on an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico caused both loss of life and a sizable and ongoing oil spill. We are asking Solvers worldwide to respond quickly with ideas and approaches to react to this very serious environmental threat.

This is an Emergency Situation Challenge and will be quite different than any other Challenge we have run on the InnoCentive website. No one has requested us to do this and InnoCentive is not getting paid to run this Challenge. We are doing it because we believe our Solver base can and will help and we will do everything we can to get solutions into the hands of the appropriate responders. This is an experiment and we believe our Solvers will answer this call for help. We believe trying to mitigate this international disaster is the right thing to do.

  • Your submission will identify and describe a solution that can help prevent further damage caused by the explosion and ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. You are required to give InnoCentive and any emergency respondents a free, perpetual, and non-exclusive license to use any information submitted for this Challenge specifically to be used for this oil spill crisis. You will still retain ownership of any idea submitted.

Look for many new exciting Emergency Situation Challenge(tm) branded products on store shelves soon. Toothpaste. barbecue sauce, charcoal…

Captain Obvious here with a report from the bridge: A connection has been spotted between this

In an example of Republican obstructionism rendered beautiful by its simplicity, the GOP yesterday killed a House bill that would increase funding for scientific research and math and science education by forcing Democrats to vote in favor of federal employees viewing pornography.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the ranking member of the House science committee, introduced amotion to recommit, a last-ditch effort to change a bill by sending it back to the committee with mandatory instructions.

In this case, Republicans included a provision that would bar the federal government from paying the salaries of employees who’ve been disciplined for viewing pornography at work.

and this.

Size of Oil Spill Underestimated, Scientists Say

Can we not just stop for a second and look at the long-tail of this form of stupid that seems to be on sale everywhere? Sweet baby in the manger, the short tail should even scare the crap out of us.

There is nothing to fear except but unless you can’t see the obvious.

A red future or a green mist, the language of color is local.

The Duluth, Georgia-based company has an as-yet small presence in China, but Richenhagen believes the world’s No. 3 maker of tractors, combines and other farm equipment has one big advantage versus world No. 1 Deere & Co (DE.N) when it comes to cracking open that market. Around the world, Deere’s wide range of farm machines stand out for their bright green hoods.

“We have a competitive advantage compared to some of our colleagues,” Richenhagen said at the Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit in Chicago. “Green is a very bad color in China.”

Specifically, green is associated with adultery — wearing a green hat is a way a man could signal that his wife had cheated on him.

“Red is the color of luck. And therefore we will go there with Massey-Ferguson,” which uses red hoods on its tractors, said Richenhagen, who comes from Germany.

Good to know. Just goes to show how much you can over-estimate and choose poorly, well or with luck. But not usually so awesome. Ly.

And speaking of business-as-usually, we turn to Russia Today (doesn’t everybody?) to see what’s going on in the Golfo de México.

Moratoriums, schmoritoriums… the oil has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?

The T-Ridge project is somewhat complicated – a few environmentalists in the Santa Barbara area actually support it – but when asked if an oil spill the likes of what is happening in the Gulf could take place in California, Schwarzenegger said “That will not happen”. Asked why he is withdrawing his support of the project, he said simply, “why would we want to take that risk?”

Why, indeed. The storm continues to build, but do we do, or plan to do, anything differently? Is this massive oil dump just one of those things that happens in the background and meanwhile, we just keep on doing the same things in the same ways? It’s a full-blown catastrophe in just its sixth day and already the States’ Rights Brigade is calling for the Federal government to do something(!). While not exactly hopeful for their redemption, I’m always open to it. But they’ll have to take a moment and reload something other than their fancy store-bought weaponry.

Our energy conundrum is made up of exactly the sort of complexity that the right wing conveniently dismisses. Maybe this is one thing that happens when you ignore implications and complex systems. But still, will they get it? How does it get played on Fox?

This will be more difficult than you might think, especially considering the awful power of an oily coastline to focus the mind. There is a mountain of cognitive dissonance intellectual and ethical incoherence that’s actually a volcano. And it’s rumbling.

Krugman’s column today is a reminder of what it took to bring about the first wave of environmentalism. And this, sadly, might be reminiscent. It’s pathetic that it takes this kind of disaster to allow people to visualize the effects of our crazy, laissez-faire rhetoric. It abets nothing so much as poisoned wells, tainted toys, contaminated foods, financial crises and this is no different.

And if you haven’t read Juan Cole on BP… well, you might want to pour yourself a scotch first.

29spill

Are they burning oil, money, their public image, a political rationale? All four? Let’s hope.

The burn operation began at 4:45 p.m. Central time Wednesday. “They have lit off the burn,” Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley said.

The process consists of corralling concentrated parts of the spill in a 500 foot long fireproof boom, moving the oil to another location and burning it. While the process has been tested effectively on other spills, it is complicated by weather and concerns over ecological impact.

The generous version: When these kinds of events (corporate environmental pillage, war, financial crises that enrich single entities at the expense of millions) creep up and in on us, it’s possible not to think so much of them; not saying they’re normal/natural but the precipitous slopes of their peril fit in somewhat with other elements of our, um, progress.

But if this was an opening sequence to a film or a novel that we walked into or opened up and suddenly were encountered with the Gulf of Mexico on fire on purpose, it would be obvious that it was a dystopian setting, foreshadowing further suffering and annihilation to come. We would brace ourselves, even in the context of art, for further destruction. What are we doing as the sea burns now?

Even if you’ve only noticed [or tied to ignore] this casually, it’s hard not to find it unreal, bizarre.

We’re stupid if we don’t see this for what it is.

But whose?

It seems we are going force Iran to go nukuler, or insure they do, by instituting a sanctions regime. All this while effectively defanging whatever is left of that nation’s Green Revolution from last spring. Nice going.

In a 90-minute conversation here before the opening of a summit meeting on nuclear security, Mr. Obama sought to win more cooperation from China by directly addressing one of the main issues behind Beijing’s reluctance to confront Iran: its concern that Iran could retaliate by cutting off oil shipments to China. The Chinese import nearly 12 percent of their oil from Iran.

This oil dependency thing is just not going away on its own. Are we going to be where we were a couple of years ago again this summer, only a little worse, with the cyclical oil shocks rocking the fragile ‘recovering’ economy? That should be one of the real fears of the energy wall as we hit it, that instead of some sudden catastrophe it unwinds slowly at a pace that should give us plenty of time to make a shift, but we still don’t.

It’s amazing that people wonder why the leaders of Iran, or Venezuela for that matter, think they need the bomb. Do we ever send them any other signal?

Sticking with the X theme, and why not. Today’s Pigment of the Day: Madder lake.

So… positive words from Big Oil and their patsies political allies on the heels of efforts by Sens. Kerry, Graham and Lieberman to put together legislation capping global warming pollution. I guess ‘positive’ isn’t quite the right word – it’s kinda like the line in Raising Arizona:

Evelle: [about the balloons he just bought] These blow up into funny shapes and all?
Grocer: Well no… unless round is funny.

Ha. Ha.

Industry officials said they too welcome the discussions of a carbon fee as part of the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman effort.

“Clearly it softens the reaction and increases the likelihood that a number of people who’ve been forced to push back will be much more cooperative in the dialogue,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute.

Gerard said that the carbon fee approach would yield net environmental benefits, while giving consumers the most transparent signal they can get about what the costs are from the program. Unlike the House bill’s cap-and-trade system, oil companies would pass through the costs with signs at the gas pump letting people know they’re paying more because of U.S. efforts to deal with climate change.

As Grist reports, the energy companies like the fee because they’ll be able to complain about it as a tax ‘Americans cannot afford’. Actually, re-setting a highly mobile bar, they will be decrying the removal of $80 billion in loopholes and oil company subsidies as an “unprecedentled tax.” Dig it.

I mean, drill… or whatever. The oil companies see the handwriting on the wall. We can’t change underwear without taking off our pants – and they know what a zipper sounds like, as much as they will spend spin like crazy to try and tell you it’s bubbling brook.

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