Friday, June 18, 2010

Hayward Replaced by Smoky Bear At BP, Barton Backlash,Israel Opens Land Crossing To Individuals

David Brooks
Dan Barry
Dana Milbank
Joe Klein

David Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard During President Obama's Meeting with Tony Hayward"

10."So, what's new?"
9."Careful, you're getting oil all over the Oval Office"
8."Before I start kicking asses, would any of you like some sparkling water?"
7."Speaking of leaks, where's the men's room?"
6."Thanks for giving my administration something to worry about besides two wars, a crushing debt, global warming and the worst economy in 70 years"
5."$20 Billion? Hell, I got that on me!"
4."Tony, I forgave you the second I heard that dreamy British accent"
3."Gotta keep this short, I'm meeting with the president of Indonesia about that smoking baby" (Videotape of Smoking Baby)
2."Biden, please, enough with the vuvuzela"
1."How can we blame this on Bush and Cheney?"

I didn't post anything yesterday, I ended up spending the day as a playmate to our neighbor's Brindle Boxer. He has escaped from his house and came directly to my front door. My sister has three small chihuahuas and one Brussels Gryphon, who were alternately excited to see him and terrorized by his size. So, I spent the whole day keeping him by my side, and he took advantage of the situation by breaking all of his house rules. I had a determined 100 lb dog climbing up on my lap on the couch, and literally hugging me and licking me all over my head and arms. At other times I had to control him so he didn't step on a small dog in his excitement to play with them. All in all, an instructive day in animal behavior, and I now know why old men also prefer owning smaller dogs...

The press's focus today seems to be mostly on BP's Tony Hayward five hour grilling before Congress yesterday. I almost feel sorry for the guy, waking up one morning to become the most hated man in America. But every time he opens his mouth he makes us hate him more and more. Both Dan Barry and Dana Milbank relate the story, with mr Barry's piece being the closest to gonzo journalism the NY Times will allow. I guess at one time, the chairman Henry Waxman got fed up with Mr Hayward's non-answers  that he asked if Mr Hayward had read the list of questions that the committee had sent him before the hearing... If he had his lawyers write down the answers, Mr Hayward could then read them off like a script, and at least give some authoritative answers instead of his constantly saying that he didn't know, he wasn't involved in that decision, that's not his area of expertise...

Ever since Barack Obama was campaigning to become President, the Republican strategy has been to "just say no" to all of his ideas and policies. This automatic negative reaction to everything Obama says or does often backfires in the realm of public opinion, but since it's the only trick they know, they keep repeating it, and it's why Mitch McConnell and John Boehner so often look like fools in front of the cameras. The most recent nabob of negativity came from Representative Joe Barton, from Texas, and who has accepted the most money in contributions from oil companies, including BP, than any other Republican, in his opening remarks: "I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," the Texan said of BP's offer, under pressure from President Obama, to set aside $20 billion to pay damages to Gulf Coast residents ruined by the oil spill. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown."

Heads of the other committee members spun, cartoon-like, in the direction of Barton. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) froze, her coffee cup suspended equidistant between tabletop and lips. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the panel chairman, scrunched his face and shook his head as though he had just witnessed a bloody wreck.

In a sense, he had. And Barton wasn't done. The $20 billion BP would pay to those who are now out of work because of the spill is a "slush fund," he said. Then he did the unthinkable: He apologized to the man whose company is destroying a large piece of the nation. "I apologize," he said, adding that he doesn't "want to live in a country" that does such things to poor BP."

Joe was just articulating what the Republican Central Committee had previously criticized after Obama got BP to set up the $20 billion trust account, and people like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman have criticized demonizing BP.  But, instead of solidarity over Joe's remarks, he's being attacked by his own party and some have asked for him to step down from his being the ranking Republican on the energy committee, and he was made to go back at the end of the meeting and apologize for his apology to BP: " "If anything I've said this morning has been misconstrued," he said, "I want to apologize for that misconstrued -- misconstruction." Again, this is where I whine that our elected officials need to pass a basic literacy test... The Republicans will continue to automatically make negative statements over anything else Obama will do while in office, then throw one of their own under the passing train of public opinion if it isn't accepted well. Joe Barton may have ended his political career for being loyal to the oil lobby and expressing his love in public.

The other result from the hearing is that Tony will get his life back - he's being recalled back to Britain, where he will fade back into obscurity. Which means that BP thinks it has a more sympathetic spokesman lined up. I believe they are bringing Smoky the Bear out of retirement for a few quick commercials: "OK Smoky, say your lines 'I am the Walrus!' "


Another fine mess is developing over the Gaza blockades. Hamas has finally relented and is now letting the humanitarian aid that was off-loaded from the flotilla ships to enter into Gaza and be distributed by UN run charities. This includes the pre-fab housing units that have been promised to incredibly poor families living in worse conditions than the Haitians are, if you can believe it. Suddenly, the rest of the Arab world has discovered their compassion for the Palestinians living in Gaza, and more flotillas have been planned. Of course, nothing will be sent to the Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, where their living conditions have not improved in over 50 years because the governments of those countries treat them with contempt and have refused to improve their lot, hoping to embarrass Israel...

Israel has decided to open up the barricades at the land crossings into Gaza, but will allow only people carrying personal items through. Businesses hoping to bring commercial items across will have to stick to the smuggling tunnels for now. The Egyptians opened up their side of the border, but seem to have no set rules as to who and what can go across the border, people are randomly searched and items confiscated without any reasons given, so you go across at your own risk... I couldn't find any mention of the Iranian lawmakers who were supposed to have visited and caused a scene, so perhaps that was diplomatically avoided. The Iranian aid ships are still on their way, they plan on sneaking into Egyptian waters and sailing to Gaza that way, to avoid Israeli ships. Israel has asked Egypt to detain them, but so far Egypt has declined. Egypt is trying to show some backbone here, as the next phony election season is gearing up. Creating phony election results is what Egypt and Iran have in common, in fact, its common practice throughout the region, and is why such a cynical attitude is popular towards elections and any so-called democracies...

Iran is trying to become a major international player, and the recent sanctions could hurt the economic expansion of the Revolutionary Guard. Look forward to confrontations between US factions and Iranian factions in Latin America and the Caribbean this Summer, as members of an elite tactical unit within the Guards have been roaming in Brazil and neighboring countries, perhaps even influencing recent remarks made by an old and feeble Fidel Castro from Cuba... Looks like I won't be legally obtaining any Cuban cigars anytime soon...

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