Obama, Lord of the Rings

The Gulf oil spill and the temptations of executive power

Your moral bearings obviously have been corrupted by high concentrations of carbon dioxide.

You've gotten past that scandalous word—"oil"—for a moment and begun to wonder who gave the administration the authority to shut down a vital regional industry without a shred of scientific evidence or tangible safety concern.

Perhaps it's just that unshakable affection you have for BP (Exxon is also dreamy), but you wonder aloud how the administration has the power to extract $20 billion from a corporate partner—without congressional or independent oversight or even an executive order—and then name a political appointee to head up the fund and allow him to mete out the money any way he sees fit.

You're pretty sure, judging from the administration's track record—from "stimulus" to the health care legislation to fiscal reform and so on—that it would be patently absurd to trust it could divvy out billions without attaching political considerations.

Then again, you're a coal-lovin' shill. No, it doesn't matter that Barack Obama was the top recipient of BP's political action committee and individual bucks over the past 20 years. It is irrelevant that BP was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and lobbies for cap-and-trade schemes.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in fact, the administration's compensation fund has a little something for BP, as well. "In the end," the piece states, "one aim of the fund—and a prime reason BP agreed to it—will be to minimize lawsuits against the company."

To minimize lawsuits against the company is the function of Kenneth Feinberg—with imperial experience as auto bailout "compensation czar"—who went on to say that he "will have to make an offer—'You take this amount in full satisfaction of your claim, but only if you waive your right to future litigation.'"

If BP had independently begun to offer similar ultimatums to Gulf-area citizens, rest assured Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would have unleashed one of his boot-to-the-throat smackdowns as he faced off against imaginary enemies near and far.

Salazar was the one who told Congress that experts backed his plan for a blanket moratorium on further deep-water drilling, when experts had said nearly the opposite. (Salazar later apologized.) Many engineers, in fact, warn that shutting down wells and then restarting drilling—with the migration of drill rigs, technology, and human capital—would only increase risk in the long run.

And on Tuesday, some nitrous oxide-loving federal judge in New Orleans blocked the executive overreach, saying the administration "simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country."

Nor can the administration justify the escrow fund. BP already had pledged to waive the $75 million liability cap Congress had bequeathed the company. It had written 31,000 checks totaling more than $100 million before the compensation fund was established. There were very few complaints—other than political ones aimed at Barack Obama.

Surely The American Trial Lawyers Association could enlighten the White House to the benefit and fairness of class action suits. If the arrangement is broken or too slow, shouldn't we have some tort reformed? Is it really "mediation" when the administration and an oil company collude to decide what's best for the victims?

As many on the left have argued for years, simply because we have an emergency or threat—the war on terror, for example—is no excuse to abuse executive power or ignore our excellent legal system.

Or does all that change because oil is involved?

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.

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  • George Costanza||

    who gave the administration the authority to shut down a vital regional industry without a shred of scientific evidence or tangible safety concern

    Well I, uh, I'm not sure how you pronounce it or anything, but I, uh, I
    believe it's...Fascism?

  • ||

    What's he doing there? What he and Biden do in private should stay private.

    (Don't worry, I'm too busy for a Barry-on-Joe fisting vignette. But if someone else wants to run with it...)

  • ||

    Barry Plugs the Hole.

    "Plug the damn hole!" The phrase kept running through Barry's mind faster than the Gulf was being overrun with Louisiana Tea, while Joe was choking on Barry's cock. Like the circular thinker Barry was, he could not arrive at the solution; everything else he tried, every excuse, in both meetings with the press and with his inept advisors had run their course. And neither were helping him now and certainly weren't coming up any new solutions. "Ouch! Dammit Joe, be careful! Easy with the teeth! Suck Harder! Your gagging helps me think clearer!" "UMMPH GLUMPHER BLURBPPED," Joe replied, his mouth firmly wrapped around Barry's cock. "Fucking mouth breather," Barry thought to himself. He thought fondly of Rahm and his elegant technique, his forceful approach, and his limber frame honed from his years as a ballerina. The Chicago Way wasn't working this time, and Rahm was leaving soon, just as Peter would be leaving soon as well. "Fucking BP!" Barry roared as Joe kept clumsily taking Barry down his throat, a taste that reminded Joe of the sour mash he so loved when he drank the hooch. It made him suck harder, craving all of Barry's ejaculate. "Sweetness. How I miss you sweet sweet liquor!", kept recycling in Joe's puny brain.

    Tony Hayward's response to Barry's donkey punch proved that, while Tony took it like a limey tranny, he still had some gumption left. He escaped. Barry's fist clenched with anger as he thought of the limey with the great hair. He thought of Peter Orzag, the damn traitor. Leaving after getting health care reform through, to get married? To a woman? It hurt Barry's pride as Peter had been exceptional at both providing fellatio and taking a wicked Filthy Sanchez. That rug of Peter's. That thick mane. Barry chuckled when in a fit of ecstasy he heard the popping of buttons with a plethora of loud snaps, exposing Peter's alopecia and emasculating him on the spot instantly. How else could Barry have blackmailed him into cooking the numbers for CBO? How Barry longed for thick manes of man hair to run his fingers through, the comfort it brought him. He relaxed his tense anus slightly and ran his fingers through Joe's silky hair plugs.

    "JOE! GOD DAMMIT! BREATH THROUGH YOUR NOSE!" Joe had gagged too much and regurgitated some of the Kobe beef they had had for lunch, nearly slopping Barry shoes with partially digested beef tips. But Barry's lithe hands had clenched Joe's locks and artfully passed Joe's mouth away from Barry's torso, just like the way he played basketball on the court. "Plugs." Barry had an epiphany! Joe's hair should have ripped out easily, but stayed in Joe's tanned scalp. Perhaps, if there was some way to parlay this technological miracle to the Gulf Spill, he could save the memory of his rule. There had to be a way! Then, as he spurt and dumped his load of watery semen (a byproduct of the vasectomy he kept secret from Michelle), it came to him!!!

    "Joe!", shouted Barry, beaming with his pearly trademark grin, "I've got an idea!" "Yeah, Boss?", Joe croaked, his larynx damaged from Barry's sizable member. "Have Chu summoned, we're gonna plug the damn hole! Now, bend the fuck over Joe, drop your gabardine and spread 'em, you fucking doofus, I'm gonna plug your hole!" Barry thought of all the taunts and hoots of scorn after he pitched that baseball at the White Sox game. The impotence of both his rule and that pitch infuriated him! He clenched his hand tighter, so tight blood oozed between his knuckles. "I'll show those bastards! I'll show 'em all!", he shouted as he lined up an aim at Joe's glory hole, reared back as far as he could and let his fist fly with speed and fury the likes not even Michelle had seen on their wedding night. Joe crumpled to the ground.

  • ||

    My heart swells with pride.

  • Bill Clinton||

    My stories are better.

  • G Alvanism||

    Thanks Victor. Once was enough.

  • Villagers||

    no shit

  • christian louboutin||

    For my part,Dita von teese and Scarlett and Johansson are the suitable ones.Because they share the common characters:sexy and charming,and this suits the designing style of well."To those dancers,shoes are the most important.They must be comfortable,beautiful,sexy,and attract the people.My thinking was simple,just let these girls wore the shoes I made.They will be more comfortable,more beautiful than those on their feet.

  • Joe||

    What was the idea that Joe's hairplugs gave Barry about the Gulf?? U lost me.

  • West Texas Boy||

    Team Red: Why can't you fuckers see that there are actually bad guys in the world and that desperate times require desperate measures?

    Team Blue: Why can't you fuckers see that there are actually bad guys in the world and that desperate times require desperate measures?

  • ||

    Only the president can be trusted to manage conflicts of interest...he's pure.

  • ||

    Only the Democratic president can be trusted to manage conflicts of interest...he's they are pure.

    We are talking old media, correct?

  • ||

    As many on the left have argued for years, simply because we have an emergency or threat—the war on terror, for example—is no excuse to abuse executive power or ignore our excellent legal system.

    I think you misheard me; I said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

  • mad libertarian guy||

    To the left, it all changes because of 2 reasons:

    1) There is not only oil involved, but also a corporation, so it's a double whammy for them. Both get "exposed" during this process. This oil spill is a leftist dream. They could care less about the environment so long as they can stick it to big oil all while using the spill as an excuse to get horrible AGW legislation shoved through. For the the longer it lasts, the better.

    2) Since The One is running the show, the "Right People™" are in power so it's okay to abuse public power now.

    Rightly they wouldn't have such abuses of power when Team Red was in charge, but since it's Team Blue, and it's over an oil spill, and it's "punishing" a corporation they're perfectly content to allow Obama all of the lee-way he wants to take.

  • Joe||

    No, I think most would have been ok with Bush doing this too.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    They wouldn't even really be "sticking it to big oil" since B.P. is pushing for cap and trade too. They must have figured out some way to use it to their advantage.

  • ||

    C'mon- the guy's a Constitutional Law scholar; you can trust him!

  • Wegie||

    Nope, sorry he's a shit for brains!

  • Max||

    Jesus Christ, why can't you wingnuts understand that Obama didn't extort or extract anything from BP. He asked for the $20 billion, and they handed it over, willingly. Have you business worshiping assholes ever heard of PR or image? I mean, fuck!

  • ||

    One way to analyze the informational density of a statement is to quantify the amount of original information being produced. Since Edward has been repeating the same insipid socialism and uncreative profanities for years, the information transmitted by any post by him is nil. It might as well just be deleted; nothing at least has a chance of containing something useful. His waste of pixels--so inexpensive that they approach being free--is an economic tragedy due to the content-free use he puts them to.

  • ||

    Information Theory To The Rescue!

  • ||

    This reminds me of something Hume said:

    When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
  • Gilbert Martin||

    In other words, don't feed the troll.

  • ||

    So what did they need the special meeting at the White House for? BP coulda just made the pledge and that would be that.

  • ||

    Yeah, he "asked" for it, like Don Courleon. Seriously is anyone stupid enough to believe this was a request in anything but name? If it was why would BP do it? They can pay out their own money without putting this idiot in charge of it.

  • Big Picture||

    BP did this willing. Letting the government handle the payouts is win-win for them. First they have probably already added up their total liability and it was greater than $20B, so that's a win. Second, when the payout process is revealed to be filled with corruption, dishonesty and endless red-tape, they can keep their distance and say "Not our fault". Win number 2.

  • Kaiser||

    Nationalizing car companies, shutting down entire industries at a whim, expropriating money from unfavored businesses.... We are only steps away from Chavez-land.

  • ||

    Which brings up a good question:
    Why didn't Obama shut down the U.S. auto industry during The Great Toyota Scare?

    Oh yeah, I forgot, they already work for him.

  • The Gobbler||

    Thank god we have a well armed citizenry.

  • ||

    When was the last time that helped?

  • Brett L||

    Do you speak Canadian? No? You're welcome.

  • ||

    Yeah, that long ago.

  • Joel||

    'Fraid so.

  • ||

    what's this all aboot?

  • ||

    ""So how is it, asks David Harsanyi, that the Obama administration has the power to extract $20 billion from a corporate partner—without congressional or independent oversight or even an executive order""

    He doesn't. BP agreed.

    If BP isn't claiming to be a victim, why should people assume they are?

  • ||

    He doesn't. BP agreed.

    BP's mere agreement to pay is not evidence that it wasn't extorted from them.

    You could say the same, after all, to the shop owner forking over to the Mob protection racket.

    What we need to know, and don't know, is why BP agreed to pay nearly $20 billion more than it would have been liable for under existing law. Was it out of the goodness of their black, black hearts? Was it purely for PR?

    Or, just perhaps, was it because the Daley machine now resident in the White House said, in effect, "Nice little oil company you got there. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it?"

  • The Gobbler||

    ^^THIS^^

  • ||

    Without limited government or rule of law, the mere implicit threat of unfettered action against a company or individual kinda negates any idea that its or his "agreement" wasn't made under duress.

    BP is going to face all sorts of liability under the legitimate legal system. Why skip that process then? First, it gives the federal government money to reward its friends with. Second, it allows the federal government to dramatically expand its power,
    "justified" by this crisis. A crisis which, of course, the government seems to have helped to aggravate.

  • ||

    Where are the Pirhana brothers when you need them.

  • ||

    Dinsdale?

  • West Texas Boy||

    I'll say it again:

    Paying income taxes is "voluntary" too.

  • Joe||

    Did any of you read the article? It was for PR and because of this:

    According to The Wall Street Journal, in fact, the administration's compensation fund has a little something for BP, as well. "In the end," the piece states, "one aim of the fund—and a prime reason BP agreed to it—will be to minimize lawsuits against the company."

    To minimize lawsuits against the company is the function of Kenneth Feinberg—with imperial experience as auto bailout "compensation czar"—who went on to say that he "will have to make an offer—'You take this amount in full satisfaction of your claim, but only if you waive your right to future litigation.'"

    Just as with most regulation and gov't "control" of business, it actually benefits one (or a few) companies at the expense of the consumer or in this case also the claimants. And it is good for PR for BP as well as for Obama. It allows Obama to say he has done something. I think the idea that the media and the people in general think it is Obama's job to do something is silly but since that is what they want, he gave it to them while also sweetening the pot for BP. (There was also the stick in the background but Obama didn't need it once he found the right carrot). So, no they are not complaining. But it is also true that the environment (no pun intended) is not really suitable for complaints at this time. Despite what some think, there is the "threat" of gov't retribution and it played a role but in the end it was not needed.

  • Equal Protection||

    It's good to be appreciated

  • ||

    LOL if BP isn't the victim a lotta people on the Left are gonna be upset. They've been screaming for Obama to kick BP in the nuts.

  • ||

    If BP isn't claiming to be a victim, why should people assume they are?

    Becuase everyone that is not an elite within the Democratic Party are now a victim. How does one compete with an opponent that has a $20B slush fund? If only 1% sticks to the Democratic Party's fingers, that is still $200M that can be used to corrupt.

  • ||

    Plus what RC wrote!

  • shrike||

    Don't worry. Those low-info Gulf states won't turn Blue in our lifetimes.

    Unless you're saying that money will be channeled to a Live Free or Die state like New Hampshire.

  • ||

    The money will be channeled to Chiacgo.

  • ||

    Just because BP paid isn't evidence of extortion. But they did agree to pay, and BP has made no claim they were being extorted. So where's the evidence of extortion?

    ""Was it purely for PR?""

    I'm going with that. They do have a interest to keep boycotts to a minimum.

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    Vic, ixnay on the oycottbay. Modern consumer theory holds that consumers are pathetic pawns held in the thrall of overbearing corporate titans. "Boycott" suggests that the pawn actually has power, and we don't need anyone getting that idea, do we?

  • shrike||

    BP willingly ponied up because they value their huge Pentagon contracts and the dirt-cheap royalties they pay the US for their drill locations.

    There is nothing "outside the Constitution" about a mutual BP/Fed business decision despite the histrionic braying by the Cro-Magnons.

  • Gore Vidal||

    So, BP has lucrative contracts and royalty agreements; the executive could cancel, or at least endanger renewal of, those contracts and agreements. So your argument is that BP "ponied up" $20B willingly?

    And of course this circle jerk is outside the Constitution; where the hell does it enumerate to the executive the power disburse private property damages?

  • ||

    Not all negative concequences equate to extortion.

  • Barry from the Blockade||

    Note to self: draft a new executive order

  • Tman||

    What's deeply troubling about the extortion of $20 billion from BP isn't necessarily that it was a Chicago Mob-style shakedown (as RC Dean aptly states above-"Nice little oil company you got there. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it") but the fact that the Federal Government failed on such a massive scale in terms of regulation of the blow-out preventers that they should be held equally to blame for this mess.

    There were piles of studies that had been available since 1998 by the MMS that showed clearly that offshore blowouts are not rare and blowout preventers are not reliable. Yet the leases were approved by the last three administrations without fail. And not once did anyone in any of the administrations since Clinton say "hey, we have NO PLAN AT ALL if one of these things doesn't work".

    The scapegoating of BP may be deserved, but it's clear that Obama wants to deflect criticism of the government by placing all of the blame on BP's shoulders.

  • ||

    Oh it's "the government's" fault, is it? Put a name on it. It's Cheney's fault, and that of the entire pro-corporate, anti-regulation, libertarian right that has dominated the US government for the last 30 years. The MMS was set up in the Reagan administration as an _anti-environmental_ agency whose purpose was to facilitate the extraction of oil and coal. Somehow libertarian concern about freedom doesn't extend to the civil rights of individuals to live free of oppression (read, willful destruction of the environment; a bought and paid-for Congress) by unrestrained, unregulated big business. It's only an abstract concern with hypothetical abuses by an elected government that concerns them. Saying "the government" is a convenient way of shifting responsibility to the Obama administration, when all they did was fail to completely clean up the corruption and clear out the ideologues from Interior and MMS in less than a year and a half. What a huge failure on their part.

  • ChrisO||

    Let's look at it the other way. What did BP buy (under the table) for that $20 billion? They have a history of supporting Obama, so what was the quid pro quo for this?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    DING DING!

    Nothing was extorted out of B.P.

    B.P. happilly paid Barry twenty Billion(chump change compared to the total cost of clean-up and honoring "all valid claims") for the service of federally mitigating that future cost. Barry loves it because he gets to look like he's kicking ass while getting a bunch of money to spend.
    Everybody wins! Yay!

  • Tony Montana||

    Goo for you mang! Chu got the money and the Yay-yo!

  • ||

    There is nothing "outside the Constitution" about a mutual BP/Fed business decision

    I eagerly await shrike's quotation of the enumerated power that allows the executive branch to take $20 billion "gifts" (freely given! No strings attached!) from a private company and distribute those funds at its sole discretion.

  • ||

    Sounds like a question only a Christfag would ask.

  • ||

    Does it have to be an enumerated power to enter into a mutual agreement?

    I'm not agreeing with the process at all. I think it's an attempt to make Obama look like he's doing something. I think BP should have said no thank you, we will deal directly with the people affected.

    The quid pro quo could be Obama saying make me look like I'm doing something here, and I'll help you out latter on.

  • ||

    Does it have to be an enumerated power to enter into a mutual agreement?

    Since he is supposedly acting on behalf of the U.S. government, yes. Now, if he were entering into a mutual agreement for a blowjob from a D.C. hooker, he wouldn't need an enumerated power for that.

  • ||

    He's acting more like a director of claims for BP than on behalf of the government.

  • ||

    If it's a gift, BP can change their minds, right? Without any consequences?

  • ||

    Can you take back a gift you gave your wife without consequences?

  • ||

    Only if I replace it with a gift of much greater value.

  • T||

    My wife took a gift back to the jewelry store once and exchanged it for something less expensive. So anecdotally, it's possible. But I wouldn't bet on it.

  • ||

    I don't think Obama is that kind of woman.

  • ||

    Zing!!

  • Tony||

    without a shred of scientific evidence or tangible safety concern.

    Ex-fucking-cuse me?

  • A is Awesome||

    Everyone shut the hell up, do not respond.

  • Joe||

    Sorry A. I gotts tu.

    Yes, for the moratorium as written, banning all drilling in water deeper than 500 feet for six months including drilling in various stages of completion, there is no justification. That is why the same experts that Obama called in (the ones you normally would be pushing for) had to write a rebuttal and say that this was not their idea.

  • shrike||

    The USA is the third largest producer of crude oil in the world (and the largest consumer).

    Face it, BP made a smart business decision. $5 billion a year and maybe another grubby Texas oilman comes in to power in 2012 and they are let off the hook altogether.

  • alethus||

    "without a shred of scientific evidence or tangible safety concern."

    Except for the large disaster that we have been dealing with... of course Libertarians read a book by Ayn Rand when they were freshmen in college and therefore can really see that this is all about an abstract discussion of individual liberties protection and not a necessary response to an actual disaster happening right now... like right now.

  • Jordan||

    Rights don't apply in emergencies. Got it. I guess you're cool with the Patriot Act, Gitmo, Japanese Internment, etc.

  • ||

    jesus titty-fucking christ. there are way too many of these assholes. alethus won't be laughing when executive order 11490 gets invoked

  • ||

    Except for the large disaster that we have been dealing with...

    This would maybe apply if all drilling rigs were identical and used the exact same equipment. They aren't, they don't. If your Ford breaks down, do you park your Saab?

  • ||

    alethus|6.23.10 @ 1:45PM|#
    "of course Libertarians read a book by Ayn Rand when they were freshmen in college and therefore can really see that this is all about an abstract discussion of individual liberties protection..."
    Oh, goodie. One more brain-dead whose total knowledge of libertarianism stems from a college roommate who sorta read the first chapter in Atlas Shrugged. And now presumes to tell libertarians what they believe.
    Go away, asshole.

  • phistphuck||

    Atlas Shrugged is starting to read like a newspaper.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Only more accurate.

  • New York Times||

    Only people still buy Atlas Shrugged

  • ||

    ...Barack Obama was the top recipient of BP's political action committee and individual bucks over the past 20 years.

    This is a weird statement from Harsanyi, who appears to support "Citizens United." Isn't the money Obama raised corporate "free speech?"

  • Jen||

    Citizens United was about corporations running advertisements, not donating money.

  • CatoTheElder||

    some nitrous oxide-loving federal judge in New Orleans blocked the executive overreach, saying the administration "simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country."

    It wasn't the nitrous oxide that caused Judge Feldman to make his ruling. We now know that he has more than $12,000 invested in mutual funds that might own oil companies and (gasp) direct ownership of a few hundred shares in several publicly traded oil companies.

    We all know that Federal judges are so craven that they would happily despoil the entire Gulf of Mexico for several hundred bucks of profit in their modest stock portfolio. Or, at least, the geniuses at ThinkProgress and Huffington Post think so.

  • ||

    They left out the part that his entire salary is paid by the government, but of course *that* wouldn't affect his decision at all, right?

  • Realist||

    Its a good thing this judge isn't president because he might do something like piss away $100 billion in tax money propping up a bunch of failing American car companies to benefit the unions that contributed heavily to campaign...

  • Me Libertarian||

    Me not notice that MMS was stocked with oil industry lobbyists and veterans for whole decade.

    http://www.propublica.org/ion/.....looded-mms

    Me not read much that not come from Cato or Moustache-Man or The Jacket.

    Me like freedom! Me free! To not follow money or career paths but still talk and talk and talk like I did!

  • Me Libertarian||

  • ||

    Where were you when the real abuses of executive power were going on? Felony wiretapping in violation of FISA's criminal section. Signing statements purporting to negating acts of Congress even as they were signed into law, by granting the President the power to set them aside in the interests of limitless "national security" interests. Sending prisoners not captured on a battlefield to law-free, habeas-free black sites and foreign countries to be tortured. If you think Obama's handling of BP is an abuse of power remotely comparable to the abuses of the Cheney-Bush administration, you suffer from ignorance of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and a fundamental lack of seriousness.

  • links of london||

    thanks

  • Scarpe Nike||

    is good

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