Obama spill panel big on policy, not engineering


WASHINGTON – The panel appointed by President Barack Obama to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is short on technical expertise but long on talking publicly about “America’s addiction to oil.” One member has blogged about it regularly.

Only one of the seven commissioners, the dean of Harvard’s engineering and applied sciences school, has a prominent engineering background — but it’s in optics and physics. Another is an environmental scientist with expertise in coastal areas and the after-effects of oil spills. Both are praised by other scientists.

The five other commissioners are experts in policy and management.

The White House said the commission will focus on the government’s “too cozy” relationship with the oil industry. A presidential spokesman said panel members will “consult the best minds and subject matter experts” as they do their work.

The commission has yet to meet, yet some panel members had made their views known.

Environmental activist Frances Beinecke on May 27 blogged: “We can blame BP for the disaster and we should. We can blame lack of adequate government oversight for the disaster and we should. But in the end, we also must place the blame where it originated: America’s addiction to oil.” And on June 3, May 27, May 22, May 18, May 4, she called for bans on drilling offshore and the Arctic.

“Even as questions persist, there is one thing I know for certain: the Gulf oil spill isn’t just an accident. It’s the result of a failed energy policy,” Beinecke wrote on May 20.

Two other commissioners also have gone public to urge bans on drilling.

Co-chairman Bob Graham, a Democrat who was Florida governor and later a senator, led efforts to prevent drilling off his state’s coast. Commissioner Donald Boesch of the University of Maryland wrote in a Washington Post blog that the federal government had planned to allow oil drilling off the Virginia coast and “that probably will and should be delayed.”

Boesch, who has made scientific assessments of oil spills’ effects on the ecosystem, said usually oil spills are small. But he added, “The impacts of the oil and gas extraction industry (both coastal and offshore) on Gulf Coast wetlands represent an environmental catastrophe of massive and underappreciated proportions.”

An expert not on the commission, Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University and an Obama campaign contributor, said the panel should have included more technical expertise and “folks who aren’t sort of already staked out” on oil issues.

Jerry Taylor of the libertarian Cato Institute described the investigation as “an exercise in political theater where the findings are preordained by the people put on the commission.”

When the White House announced the commission, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and others made compared it with the one that investigated the 1986 Challenger accident. This one, however, doesn’t have as many technical experts.

The 13-member board that looked into the first shuttle accident had seven engineering and aviation experts and three other scientists. The 2003 board that looked into the Columbia shuttle disaster also had more than half of the panel with expertise in engineering and aviation.

Iraj Ersahaghi, who heads the petroleum engineering program the University of Southern California, reviewed the names of oil spill commissioners and asked, “What do they know about petroleum?”

Ersahaghi said the panel needed to include someone like Bob Bea, a prominent petroleum engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s an expert in offshore drilling and the management causes of manmade disasters.

Bea, who’s conducting his own investigation into the spill, told The Associated Press that his 66-member expert group will serve as a consultant to the commission, at the request of the panel’s co-chairman, William K. Reilly, Environmental Protection Agency chief under President George H.W. Bush.

Adm. Hal Gehman, who oversaw the Columbia accident panel, said his advice to future commissions is to include subject matter experts. His own expertise was management and policy but said his engineering-oriented colleagues were critical to sorting through official testimony.

“Don’t believe the first story; it’s always more complicated than they (the people testifying) would like you to believe,” Gehman said. “Complex accidents have complex causes.”

The oil spill commission will not be at a loss for technical help, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

For one, he said the panel will draw on a technical analysis that the National Association of Engineering is performing. Also, members will “consult the best minds and subject matter experts in the Gulf, in the private sector, in think tanks and in the federal government as they conduct their research.”

That makes sense, said John Marburger, who was science adviser to President George W. Bush.

“It’s not really a technical commission,” Marburger said. “It’s a commission that’s more oriented to understanding the regulatory and organizational framework, which clearly has a major bearing on the incident.”

Honor From Our Fathers

by Doctor Zero

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me.
– Jim Valvano

Honor is essential to the maintenance of a free society. We learn about honor from our fathers.

When the duties of fatherhood are widely dismissed, or rendered poorly, our understanding of honor is diluted… and freedom soon begins to wither.

This is not to belittle the importance of mothers. Many single mothers do a spectacular job of providing their children with an understanding of personal honor. We can respect and celebrate the achievements of extraordinary individuals, without blinding ourselves to the effect of broad trends upon vast populations. Both fathers and mothers are uniquely important. Our society is suffering from a pronounced deficit of fatherhood.

There are many ways to define honor. I suggest viewing it as an expression of faith, in both yourself and others. An honorable man or woman displays honesty and integrity because they believe others deserve such treatment. It is a sign of faith in other people that we deal honorably with them, and presume they will do the same, unless they prove otherwise. Honor is also a gesture of respect we offer to ourselves, because we have faith that we can succeed without deceit and savagery. If you truly respect yourself, you believe you can win without cheating.

A good father reveals the nature of honor to his sons and daughters through his conduct. He is loyal to his wife and children, despite the easy temptations offered by the modern world. He works to build a better future for them, rather than waiting for it to be dropped in his lap, or demanding others provide it for him. He rejoices in this task, and his joy is so obvious that his family forgives his occasional moments of weariness or frustration. Through marriage, he has chosen duty over indulgence. He sees the intricate beauty of permanence, when the flickering neon light of passing fancy is more obvious. Honor is one of the many frequencies of love.

The absence of a father is a terrible burden for children, and their mother, to bear. I know, because I’m one of the many children who grew up without my father in the house. It’s a pain that is not always easy to understand. What’s missing is too big to be seen clearly. Generations have grown up listening to the seductive lie that fathers are less than critical. They are portrayed as a dangerous accessory, prone to explosion and meltdown, easily replaced by a wad of cash or a government check. Some men have disgraced themselves by allowing this lie to spread, because it suits their convenience. Some women spread it because they have lost faith in the human race, and believe they armor themselves against an inevitable tragedy.

The opponents of freedom spread this lie because they understand honor sustains liberty, and it flows from the loyal union between fathers and mothers. Honorable people carry their freedom with dignity. They understand the difference between charity and dependence. They are energized with faith in themselves, which makes them courageous enough to take risks. Honor builds trust between individuals, enhancing the value of voluntary cooperation.

The honor we inherit from our fathers makes us adventurers, explorers, architects, and paladins. Without it, too many people become predatory, or sessile. Either way, those people are clay to be molded by the will of others. When we act in the name of our fathers, we bear the strength of history. Deprived of this strength, many are trapped forever in the present moment, with past and future beyond their reach. A good father teaches us that the past and future come as a set.

Some fathers are absent without ever leaving the house. To them, I would say that fatherhood is your greatest opportunity to testify, before all Creation, that you are not a beast. Follow its difficult path, in the company of your wife and children, and you may come to understand the true meaning offorever… and then I will envy you, until I am fortunate enough to join you. If you grew up without a father, then I hope you answer the challenge to give your children what you and I did not have. An honorable man understands the world is not fated to lose its battle against entropy. He knows he can help his children make it better. Look upon them, and understand: you areindispensable.

Happy Father’s Day!

Mike Brewington and his Campaign Treasurer, Dr. Greg Belcher, File to run for Wicomico County Council At Large.

Who is Mike Brewington?

I grew up on the family farm in Pittsville, MD. We grew chickens for Holly Farms, Showell, and finally Perdue. My Grandmother is an Austrian immigrant who came to this country through Ellis Island. My mother, Linda Truitt, taught school in Wicomico County for 38 years and retired this year. My grandfather was my childhood hero. He tilled about 80 acres with a 75hp tractor, and always kept cattle for beef. When I was a boy, I asked him once, “Why are you a Democrat?” He replied, “I’m a democrat because democrats are for the people.” This memory has remained with me until this day and my family members on my mother’s side are conservative democrats. I graduated from Salisbury University in 1998 earning a B.S. Chemistry degree. I currently live in south Salisbury on a small farm with my wife Julie and daughters Meredith and Madison. Of course, I had to keep farming because it was in my blood, and I keep a herd of beef cattle and have a small hayfield and some old John Deere tractors.

Why is Mike Running for Office as a Democrat?

I have been a registered independent until I filed for candidacy on June 15th, 2010. Maryland doesn’t recognize the independent party, which makes filing a difficult, time consuming process. I decided to go back to my family roots as a conservative democrat. I dusted off my college American history textbook and read about the conception of the democrat party. Thomas Jefferson founded the party after the Revolution to prevent the aristocracy in America from returning us to colonial rule. Does this sound familiar? Using the democrat party, Thomas Jefferson was able to pass the Bill of Rights, a document that cements our freedoms as Americans. Where would we be without the right of free speech, or the right to keep and bear arms? These are possible due to the Jeffersonian democrat party.

In Wicomico county, we need informed, transparent, and responsible government. For ten years, I worked and raised my children without paying much attention to politics. After G.W. Bush passed the bailouts and Obama passed the stimulus, we found ourselves in a record amount of debt. I was awakened, and soon found myself at a rainy, cold TEA party on April 15th, 2009 holding a sign that read, “RAISE CHICKENS NOT TAXES.” We need to be fiscally conservative. A party that is for the people does not raise their taxes, because when you take a portion of a person’s paycheck away from them, you take their freedom. Government cannot spend your money better than you can.

What is Mike’s Plan For Wicomico County Government?

I believe in researching the topics with an objective perspective before passing judgment. I am currently talking to democrats and republicans alike to gather information to form an educated decision on all the major issues that face our county. You might see me in public with my notebook, taking notes and interviewing people to gather the facts. We are living in a time of economic hardship. Money is tight and we need to be responsible with spending in order to prevent additional taxes. People living on a reduced income due to the current economic situation can’t afford more taxes. There are certain essential county services that we can’t afford to be cut. It is time to drill deep into the budgets and reduce spending that doesn’t affect our ability to maintain a civilized society. I expect it will be a painful process. I want to reduce overhead and keep the working man at work.

More information here.

Happy Father’s Day! (For Now): A Cautionary Tale

By Larrey Anderson

Just before noon, a week ago Friday, my father had a heart attack. My mom tried to call the local Veteran’s Administration clinic to get him treated. My dad is a vet who proudly served in the Marine Corps. As luck (and the federal bureaucracy) would have it, the local VA clinic is closed on Fridays.

Unable to get my father treated by the VA, Mom called their family physician and described the symptoms. Her doctor told her, “Get him to the emergency room…now!” She did.

The local hospital (Saint Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center — they deserve a plug) bypassed all the paperwork, admitted my dad, and had him on a gurney surrounded by two or three nurses and a couple of doctors in what seemed like seconds.

We live in a small town. My parents happen to go to church with the cardiologist who was on call that Friday. When one of the nurses asked my mom if she wanted to hug my father before he went into surgery, the doctor bluntly stated, “We don’t have time for hugs.” (That’s my kind of doctor.) My dad went from “door to balloon” in thirty minutes. The national standard is ninety minutes.

The radiologist, who was also on call at the time of my dad’s surgery, stopped by my house the next day. (As I said, this is a small town.) He told me that had another twenty minutes elapsed, my father would have suffered a major heart attack — and might have died. My father, thanks to the rapid response of the emergency room staff, dodged another bullet.

Most people with a decent father tend to think that they have the greatest father. This emotional favoritism can happen even to a cynical philosopher: I have long been convinced that I have the best dad in the world — and I really believe it.

My mind is full of memories of my dad struggling to support and provide for our family. When I was five years old, we moved to California. A year later, after my dad learned how to start and run his own janitorial service, we moved back to Idaho.

I remember taking care of my sisters, once in a while, when my mom and dad were out servicing their janitorial accounts, mopping floors, and cleaning toilets. I started helping my dad with his ever-growing janitorial service when I was in the eight grade. I learned an awful lot about hard work, commitment, and life’s real struggles from my father.

After establishing several small businesses — through a lifetime of labor — my mom and dad have met their goal of a comfortable retirement. They were amazingly successful in fulfilling their shared American Dream. They did it with diligence, patience, and love. Their story of slowly accumulating wealth could not have happened in any other country on this planet — and they know it. My parents are both proud and patriotic Americans.

I called up the doctor who was in charge of my father’s treatment to thank him and to tell him I was writing this article for American Thinker. “I’ve got one question for you,” I said. “Do you think my father would have received the same treatment he got this time around in five years under ObamaCare?”

The doctor was taken back by my inquiry. “Wow. That is a great question. I am not sure how to answer it. I have my doubts.”

After a little prodding, the doctor continued, “There are two things that don’t look promising. First, will people who are paid a salary or fee fixed by the government have the same incentive that we had when we worked on your father? I don’t know the answer. I would hope that people in the medical professions would care that much about their patients. However, human nature is human nature. If there is no incentive to do a good job…” His voice trailed off.

“Yes. I can see your concern,” I reassured him.

“Second,” he got back on topic, “we do know, for a fact, that the government-controlled systems in other countries in the West cannot touch the American standards for care and treatment of heart attacks. Great Britain, for example, doesn’t even track the door-to-balloon time for most heart attacks. In fact, standard procedure in Britain is to give the patient a drug — rather than proceed straight to the balloon. The hope is that the inexpensive drug will break up the blockage and save the system money. Britain’s approach is twenty years old — and it kills a lot of people. The Canadian statistics are not much better than those in England.”

“Can you answer my original question with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” I asked him.

The doctor hesitated before responding. “The scientist side of me says that we won’t know how ObamaCare will work in these situations until we get there. The human side of me — let’s just leave it at ‘I have my doubts.'”

Happy Father’s Day to my dad and to all of those fathers out there. I love you, Dad. I know that I have the best dad — but so do all of those other people who have a great father.

What none of us know is whether or not we will be able to tell them that we love them…after ObamaCare.

Larrey Anderson is a writer, a philosopher, and submissions editor for American Thinker. He is the author of The Order of the Beloved, and the memoir Underground. His next book, The Idea of the Family, will examine the role of procreation in human self-awareness.

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