jump to navigation

What the Crap, BP?! May 26, 2010

Posted by A. Robinson in Life, Loathin'.
Tags: , , , , ,

OH MY GOD.  It has been umpteen thousand million days since this whole fiasco started (read: over a month), and still no solution.  An article in USAToday says that BP is trying a “top kill” method of plugging the spill that works on aboveground leaks, but it has never been tried underwater.  Their estimate for success?  Somewhere between 60% and 70%.  I don’t know about you, but those are unacceptable grades for a math test, much less the last desperate idea to stop ecological travesty.

Let me just get this out of the way before I continue on:  SCREW YOU, BP.

First, get a sense of the size of this spill.  One of John’s coworkers mocked up these images yesterday, and it really puts things in perspective, though you’ll need to click through to see the full size image:

Here's an outline of the spill in the gulf. It's already big, right?

Here's what the spill would look like on land in Northwest Arkansas

I feel awful that people died in this catastrophe, but their deaths are far outweighed by the outrageous awfulness that is this oil spill.  Scientists estimate that 7 million gallons of oil have already leaked–oh, excuse me, GUSHED–into the Gulf, and if this last minute attempt at plugging the hole doesn’t work, there will be “significant down time” before another alternative can be implemented.  That’s compounded by the fact that scientists say the oil plume is actually getting darker, which implies that the oil coming out is more polluted and even more dangerous.  The dispersants that BP originally used to try and break up the oil are just as flawed; now there are giant plumes of oil floating willy-nilly in the water column.

The water is so toxic that they won’t let divers go in with ANY SKIN EXPOSED.

What really pisses me off is that this whole disaster could have been avoided if the platform had redundant shut-off valves.  When oil companies–including BP–were approached about this by regulatory committees, they pooh-poohed it off as overly expensive and unnecessary.  Now BP is facing a piddling $4300 dollar per barrel fine (which, by my estimates, totals somewhere near $30 billion dollars in addition to clean-up costs.  Lots of people are wagging their fingers at BP, but we should also be looking at Deepwater Horizon (which owned the rig) and Halliburton (which set the lines).  Even more so, we should be glaring down a gunsight at OSHA, which is in charge of inspecting and regulating off-shore drilling rigs.

This should make Obama’s push to open new offshore drilling sites even more infuriating that it was when he backed out of his campaign promise to stop the expansion of such drilling sites.  This wasn’t an old announcement, either–this hit the wire a mere three weeks before BP blew the Gulf of Mexico all to heck.  Don’t read this as an indictment of the Obama administration, because I know full well that McCain would have done the same thing. Consider this an indictment of the American political system that has been sleeping with Big Oil for the past century.

People are screaming at the government to get involved in this process, but that’s not feasible, either.  What is the government going to do that BP isn’t’ already doing?  Obama has assembled a team of scientists to deal with this issue, but they’re going to need as much time as BP is to get in there and fix this thing.  Not only that, but why waste taxpayer dollars on this when you can run a company into the ground instead?  I really think that BP is trying to do everything they can to stop this leak to save the company itself.  Any more of this and they’re going to go under: hook, line, and sinker.  In an effort at self-preservation they’re going to do anything they can to get this mess cleaned up.  The government would be no faster, more efficient, or better.  The only thing it could do is get more manpower on the scene, but with 21,000 BP employees already on the ground and countless American scientists and volunteers, how many more people do you need right now?

The real tragedy here is that it doesn’t matter what we do now.  Even if we plugged the spill today, we cannot feasibly undo the damage to the gulf.  The ecosystem will take decades to recover, but with the current state of affairs–global warming, oceanic acidity, pollution, et. al–it may never, ever recover.  EVER.  All of the regulation, restrictions, and nay-saying that will come in the next few months isn’t going to fix anything.  It may prevent another spill of this magnitude, but it’s not going to help out the Gulf Coast now.

I hope you all are PISSED OFF at the lack of planning, initiative, and competency evidenced by everyone involved in the offshore oil drilling industry. I sure am.

A Few Thoughts on the Health Care Bill March 22, 2010

Posted by A. Robinson in Life, Loathin'.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

I’ll just come out and say it:  I’m unhappy that the House passed Obama’s health care reform.

I’m not, however, unhappy for the typical conservative reasons.  I’m glad that the abortion clause was taken out, but it wouldn’t have been a deal-killer for me.  I’m actually glad that it will require all Americans to have health insurance, and that it is going to provide an affordable option for that.  Let’s be completely honest with one another–uninsured Americans cost the health care industry billions every year.  That cost has to be redistributed across insurance payers, other procedures, etc.  This will, ultimately, be a good thing, if not screw over illegal immigrants.  Does it rankle me that people will have no option in this matter?  Sort of, but the ultimate point of the matter is this:  most people who don’t have insurance in this country don’t have it because they can’t afford it.  Those who still don’t want it aren’t the rich who can pay for their own medical treatment but the POOR who don’t want to pay for it at ALL.

It’s not that I’m not for health care reform.  I am.  There are plenty of people in my life who struggle with their health and can barely afford treatement.  Some examples:

1.  A good friend of mine’s father has recently been diagnosed with chronic leukemia.  He’s the sole breadwinner for the family, and although he’s a University employee, his health insurance won’t cover enough of the cost for sustained chemotherapy and radiation.  He cannot afford treatment; instead, he and his family have turned to alternative therapies to treat the disease.

2.  My pastor and his wife both have preexisting conditions that keep them from switching insurance providers.  Right now they pay 35% of their income after taxes to keep their insurance.  Though they could get a bit of a break by changing companies, that would mean that they wouldn’t be covered for any of their preexisting conditions for a year–tough, considering one of them suffers migraines.  My pastor is looking for a second job in order to keep his health insurance.

3.  John and I have a close friend whose nephew was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Because the boy’s family doesn’t have health insurance, he wasn’t diagnosed until January even though he had been having fairly severe symptoms since September.  Once he was diagnosed, the family struggled to find charity care at a hospital because they couldn’t afford treatment.  He died last week.  (To be fair, there’s a lot more to this story besides health care reform and insurance, but it still made a difference).

I love these people.  I want them to have everything they need to make their lives comfortable.  However, I think we are going to pay an awful lot of money for a health care band-aid, not reform.  This bill is not transformative enough.  I also think this is just not the right time to pass the bill.

Let me start with that last bit first.  Look, guys.  We’ve just paid out BILLIONS in bail-out money.  BILLIONS.  The economy is in a hole.  Unemployment in this country is at an all-time high.  As of yet, I have heard of no compelling plan of action for actually PAYING for this bill.  Instead, it inflates the deficit without any thoughts of reducing it.  I don’t understand why this bill couldn’t have waited another year for the economy to stabilize a little more in order to support such continued, sustained, massive spending.

I also think that this bill has been pounded through Congress with little thought to actual health care reform.  The one issue that is critical to reducing health care costs substantially has been little addressed: tort reform.  Right now, doctors run tons of unnecessary tests in order to avoid lawsuits.  The amount hospitals and doctors pay in malpractice insurance is incredibly high, and doctors that lose malpractice suits often find themselves jobless.  They become a risk that clinics and hospitals no longer want to assume.  Though I think it’s important that we keep doctors accountable for their actions, we’ve become sue-happy, which drives up costs.  But tort reform is unpopular.  Lobbying groups pretty much kept that discussion from happening.  Secondly, we need to streamline our healthcare system.  It’s SO SLOW.  However, this is going to require automating a lot of processes and eliminating jobs–also unpopular.

Anyway, I”ll be interested to see how all of this unfolds, but I’m not optimistic about its long-term feasibility.

Y’all, I am READY to take it to some people September 10, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in Life.
Tags: , , , ,

I rarely discuss politics here, because…guess what?  The fastest way to lose friends and alienate people is by constantly harping on a) political beliefs and b) religious beliefs.  I know that I differ on both of these counts from most of my friends who, although tolerant of my backward ways, would promptly get sick of me if that’s all I decided to write about.  I love you guys.

But seriously.  I am so sick of having labels applied to conservatives willy nilly just because they happen to be conservative.  It also seems to me that most people are incapable of separating the talking heads on news stations and political figures from the average, everyday people that align themselves with the Republican party in some fashion.  It is unfair to think that every American who calls themselves Republican holds every tenant of the party as close to his heart as his Bible and gun.

I especially hate being called ignorant, stupid, classless, and anti-Obama because I remain aligned with the Republican party.  It is exactly this kind of agonism that keeps problems from being solved.  People spend so much time slinging cruel names at one another that actual issues–you know, those things that affect our daily lives, insignificant really–are either unresolved or resolved poorly.  Deborah Tannen wrote an article a few years ago called “We Need a Higher Quality Outrage” that sums up this problem in a completely bipartisan fashion.  It’s quite good.

Don’t think that this doesn’t go both ways.  Shame on conservatives for doing the same injustice to their liberal counterparts.  There’s no reason that we can’t respect each other’s opinions and engage in healthy debate.  I’m just sick of all of this awful name calling and mudslinging.

Life List #49: Fly a Kite on the National Mall July 17, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in Life, Life List.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

Woo hoo!  Cross one off the Life List!

One of the items on my Life List was to fly a kite in Washington DC–specifically, on the national mall.  If you have seen Night at the Museum 2, you will note that in the opening 30 minutes there are some kids flying kites in Washington DC.  The minute I saw that, I was like “Oh my God, I absolutely have to do that!”  And…I did.

Just our luck, our hotel in Rockville, MD was right next door to an REI (by the way, if you’ve never been in an REI, you are missing out on life).  I cannot believe how many kites they had, and all of them were awesome. After some debate, John and I purchased the Atom, made my Prism Kites. Let me tell you, it is the coolest. kite. ever.

So the first day we went into DC we left the kite at home.  We hadn’t really figured out how we were going to schlep it around yet.  That particular day (of course) the wind was great, and there were like, HUNDREDS (really, just ten) kids flying kites all around the Washington Monument.  I was so excited; so, the next day, I made sure that we were able to pack the kite.

And the wind didn’t blow.

Okay, no problem.  I just took the kite the next day.

And the wind didn’t blow.

I didn’t get to fly my kite until the day before we left, because there just wasn’t any breeze.  But let me tell you, once John and I had the chance, flying that kite was the most fulfilling–and the best–part of the whole trip.  You can see some of the best photos here, on Flickr.

Here’s the thing: I knew crossing an item off my list would be exciting, but I didn’t know it would be so rewarding.  There have been a couple of times as I’ve been composing this epic list that I’ve considered how arbitrary and impossible it is.  You know what, though?  If I feel like this every time I scratch off another number, I won’t stop working towards these goals.  That, in and of itself, is worth it all.

Washington DC 2009 July 14, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in Life.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Instead of reading for class, I’d much rather tell you all about Washington DC and how wonderful it was.  I mean, how many times can you read “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” before you know it by rote?  Can I get an “amen?”

If you are in DC, you should:

1.  Definitely check out the Star Spangled Banner in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  It’s so tattered and delicate that it can no longer fly; they have it displayed in a special low-light, low-humidity exhibit.  It’s dark, and the atmosphere is almost eerie.  Also in the exhibit is a touch screen where you can zoom in on certain areas of the flag (like shrapnel holes!).

2.  Go to the Holocaust Museum.  John and I opened the place up and shut it down.  You have to get there early to get a ticket to enter the permanent exhibit.  I would imagine that they go quickly.  Anyway, while we were waiting to enter the big exhibit, John and I checked a temporary display on Hitler’s propaganda.  Did you know that Hitler was the first candidate for the chancellorship that utilized campaign stops?  He chartered a plane and flew to nearly 200 locations across Germany, stomping for his election campaign.  His opponent made a grand total of THREE stops around the country.  This was my favorite museum of the trip.  The architecture is amazing, and the content is thorough and moving.  This is a MUST SEE.

3.  Visit either the Senate and/or the House of Representatives.  It’s really interesting to visit the floor where all of the country’s legislation is debated.  Scary note: NO ONE WAS THERE, and there were two Senators debating the health care issue.  By NO ONE, I mean there were like, three aides, a few runners, whoever was presiding, and two Senators.  Two.  I think we would get a lot more done as a nation if we required senators and congressmen to actually ATTEND debates.

4.  Eat at Good Eats, down on the corner of 3rd and Pennsylvania.  Apparently the guy who owns it won some kind of reality cooking show.  After five (yes, FIVE) separate people told us about it, John and I swung by.  It’s a burger/fry/shake joint and is totally delicious and absolutely reasonably priced.  It was so delicious that it was the only restaurant we ate at twice.

5.  Visit the Memorials down and around the National Mall at night.

If you are in DC, you should not:

1.  Forget that you have an appointment for a private senate tour with your senator so that you have to run to the other side of the city.

2.  Get pooped on by a bird as you run to the other side of the city for the senate tour you forgot.

3.  Walk into the wrong senate building, effectively ALMOST making you late for the tour you forgot.

4.  Watch other families for parenting advice.  I cannot even put into words how many times I almost strangled someone else’s children (or completely idiotic parents).  There are two stories that immediately come to mind.

After an exhausting day in Washington DC, John and I hopped the subway train back to our hotel in Maryland.  Now, mind you, it’s like 10:00 at night on a Friday, and lots of people are using the Metro.  John and I sit down, and there’s a couple with two children standing up near the exit doors right in front of us.  Their son, probably about 3, was strapped into a stroller, and the daughter, who was 5-pushing-6, was standing next to her mother.  The dad lets the boy out of his restraint system stroller, and the two kids start spinning circles around one of those long grab bar things.  At first this was no problem; the standing room at the front of the car was pretty much empty.  However, a few stops later, people were cramming onto the Metro, and the kids were still running around, spinning on the bars, and CRAWLING ON THE FLOOR (the last bit actually made me gag a little).  At this point the parents told the kids to stop, but of course they didn’t.  The little girl, as a matter of fact, looked straight into her mother’s eyes and defiantly kept spinning.  I almost had an aneurism.  I understand that kids are kids, but there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing.  A crowded subway car, where your kids keep bumping into people, is NOT that place.  Finally I looked at John, and loudly asked how old you had to be to fit into the default “kids get to go to Heaven” clause in the Bible.  Then I loudly proclaimed that I hoped those children didn’t go to church.

The second incident happened the day before we left.  John and I were waiting in line to go to the National Archives.  It was a hot, muggy afternoon, and the line was about 30 minutes long.  It had already been an exhausting day, so John volunteered to take the most awesome water bottle in the world and fill it up.  How nice, right?  Anyway, as I was waiting under a tree, I began to overhear the family behind me.

The mother (if you could call her that) was overweight, with dyed blonde hair with two inches of brown roots sticking out.  Her low cut shirt was flouting her ta-tas to the world, and I couldn’t understand how someone’s shorts could ride that far up her crotch.  She looked just like she had stepped out of backwoods Mississippi and had done herself up right for a trip into town.  Her boyfriend was more put-together than she was, younger, and fairly attractive; apparently he had no standards.  The most tragic part of the whole scenario were her two daughters, dressed identically, who she continuously lambasted and mistreated.  I guess they were about 11 and 6, and just as sweet as they could be.  It was obvious that they have some other influence in their lives other than their parents, who were basically the scum of the earth.

It began with the cussing.  Look, I’m not saying that it’s my job to police other people’s language; you want to curse, fine with me.  However, I have to draw the line at calling your 6 year old daughter a “whiny little bitch.”  Within ten minutes, she’d called both of her girls “stupid idiots” a handful of times, which was making me sick.  Her tone was just so condescending and…mean. Then, of course, to make matters worse, she has them both go sit in the sun despite already having visible sunburns.  When the youngest complained of her sunburn really hurting, Mama Dearest told her to “cut her shit” and keep sitting there until permission was given to move.

It was at that point that I went over to sit with the little girls.  I started chatting with them, offered them some of our sunscreen, asked them what their favorite parts of DC were, just ANYTHING to keep the mother from speaking to them anymore.  I figured that any bit of niceness would be more than the poor waifs received at home.  Ugh, it makes me mad all over again just thinking about it.

5.  Make sure you know when the subway terminals shut down for the night, and check for special postings so you don’t end up running halfway across DC to catch one of the last trains to your stop.


I’ll be posting about my Life List in another post very, very soon.  🙂