Friday, June 18, 2010

Who's in Charge?

Earlier today we remarked on the unbelievable bureaucratic dunderheadedness on display in the Gulf oil cleanup project. Now Jason calls our attention to this video from an ABC news report on this subject that reveals that the Obama administration's assurances that they're doing everything they can notwithstanding, they're clearly not. Or, if they are doing everything they can, then they're clearly incompetent:

Maybe I'm just too cynical, but I wonder if there's any connection between the lack of White House responsiveness to the pleas of the two governors in this report and the fact that both governors are Republicans. Surely Mr. Obama couldn't be that petty, but the alternative is that he is utterly inadequate to the office to which he was elected.

I guess we can expect more of this sort of commentary in the weeks ahead:

Billboard in Texas



Forgive me, but this is just nuts:

Eight days ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of his state's oil-soaked waters. Today, against the governor's wishes, those barges sat idle, even as more oil flowed toward the Louisiana shore.

"It's the most frustrating thing," the Republican governor said today in Buras, La. "Literally, yesterday morning we found out that they were halting all of these barges."

Sixteen barges sat stationary today, although they were sucking up thousands of gallons of BP's oil as recently as Tuesday. Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks pumped the oil out of the Louisiana waters and into steel tanks. It was a homegrown idea that seemed to be effective at collecting the thick gunk.

"These barges work. You've seen them work. You've seen them suck oil out of the water," said Jindal.

So why stop now?

"The Coast Guard came and shut them down," Jindal said. "You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, 'Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil.'"

A Coast Guard representative told ABC News today that it shares the same goal as the governor.

"We are all in this together. The enemy is the oil," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer.

But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

Doesn't this take your breath away? What is it about authority and boneheadedness that makes the two so often go together? If the Coast Guard Commander is serious about the enemy being the oil why is he so enthralled by the "rules" that he can't set them aside or work around them until the marshes are cleaned up? If he's in charge then just suspend the rules until the crisis is over.

This is like the bureaucratic insanity that kept BP from burning off the oil in the early days of the leak because of concerns about air pollution, or the refusal of the EPA to allow Louisianna to build sand berms to protect their coasts because an environmental impact study hadn't been done, or the refusal of the Obama administration to accept foreign assistance to skim the oil, or the refusal to send boom that "may" have been substandard to Louisianna. There is something in the nature of government bureaucracies, evidently, that inclines them toward imbecility.

If a nuclear weapon were ever set to go off in a major American city some government flunky would prohibit disarming it until it was estanlished that the nuclear materials could be disposed of safely.

Can't wait for the government to take over our health care.


Suppressing Freedom

Freedom of speech is one of our most valuable rights, but it's under increasing assault today by politicians who, according to this article, don't like that the internet makes it possible for you to know too much about them.

Currently, Senator Joe Lieberman is pushing a bill that would essentially give the president the ability to shut down the internet in the event of a national emergency. Of course, what constitutes a national emergency may well be in the eye of the beholder:

As we have repeatedly warned for years, the federal government is desperate to seize control of the Internet because the establishment is petrified at the fact that alternative and independent media outlets are now eclipsing corporate media outlets in terms of audience share, trust, and influence.

We witnessed another example of this on Monday when establishment Congressman Bob Etheridge was publicly shamed after he was shown on video assaulting two college students who asked him a question. Two kids with a flip cam and a You Tube account could very well have changed the course of a state election, another startling reminder of the power of the Internet and independent media, and why the establishment is desperate to take that power away.

The government has been searching for any avenue possible through which to regulate free speech on the Internet and strangle alternative media outlets, with the FTC recently proposing a "Drudge Tax" that would force independent media organizations to pay fees that would be used to fund mainstream newspapers.

Similar legislation aimed at imposing Chinese-style censorship of the Internet and giving the state the power to shut down networks has already been passed globally, including in the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

We have extensively covered efforts to scrap the internet as we know it and move toward a greatly restricted "internet 2″ system. Handing government the power to control the Internet would only be the first step towards this system, whereby individual ID's and government permission would be required simply to operate a website.

In the last five years politicians accustomed to working in relative secrecy have found themselves and their questionable behavior broadcast across the world by vehicles such as the Drudge Report, blogs, and You Tube. The internet has in many ways been a political blessing to the common folk because it facilitates the rapid dissemination of knowledge and allows for instant communication. Moreover, the internet frees the public from being held captive to the ideological predilections of the major media outlets. That liberal politicians want to control this resource is not surprising, but that's a power that they must never be given. They can't be trusted with it.

On the other hand, MSNBC's Ed Schultz is happy to give them all the power they want:

It's hard to believe that it would ever cross the lips of an American that the president should act like a dictator, but I guess freedom isn't as important to liberals as it used to be back when Bush was president.


Sexual Obesity

Mary Eberstadt weighs in at First Things with an outstanding essay on what she calls, following psychiatrist Mary Ann Laydon, an epidemic of "sexual obesity," i.e. the widespread gorging on pornography in our culture.

Here's an excerpt:

Pornography today, in short, is much like obesity was yesterday-a social problem increasing over time, with especially worrisome results among its youngest consumers, and one whose harms are only beginning to be studied with the seriousness they clearly deserve.

Parallels between the two epidemics are striking. Much like the more commonly understood obesity, the phenomenon of sexual obesity permeates the population-though unlike regular obesity, of course, pornography consumption is mostly (though not entirely) a male thing. At the same time, evidence also shows that sexual obesity does share with its counterpart this critical common denominator: It afflicts the subset of human beings who form the first generation immersed in this consumption, many of whom have never known a world without it-the young.

The data about the immersion of young Americans in pornography are startling and disturbing. One 2008 study focused on undergraduate and graduate students ages 18 to 26 across the country found that more than two-thirds of men-and one out of every ten women in the sample-viewed pornography more than once a month. Another study showed that first-year college students using sexually explicit material exhibited these troubling features: increased tolerance, resulting in a turn toward more bizarre and esoteric material; increased risk of body-image problems, especially among girls; and erroneous and exaggerated conceptions of how prevalent certain sexual behaviors, including risky and even dangerous behaviors, actually are.

In the essay Eberstadt tackles several commonly repeated myths about pornography use:

  • That it's use is a merely private matter.
  • That it only affects men.
  • That it only involves consenting adults.

Eberstadt explodes each of these myths in turn and in doing so provides a great service. There are simply too few articles like her's that encourage men who are drawn to pornography to stop rationalizing their behavior and stop deceiving themselves into thinking that it's harmless.

We didn't have to ban alcohol or tobacco in order to convince most people of the harm done to themselves and others by smoking and drinking. Perhaps it's time to mount a similar campaign against pornography to persuade society that this stuff is the psychological and spiritual equivalent (or worse) of cigarettes and alcohol. We don't have to prohibit it in order to make people realize the harm it does to themselves and others. What we can not afford to do, though, is ignore the epidemic.

Read the whole article and read the comments as well.