Sunday, May 30, 2010

Louisiana gulf requiem 

Firedoglake posted this amazing piece:

People are desperately looking for someone to blame for the gulf oil leak -- British Petroleum? Obama? Bush? Is it a right-wing failure or a left-wing disaster?
I think maybe we could assign some blame to ideology itself.
Ideology helps us believe that everything can be simple -- if we just believe in "free enterprise" then we can let private companies like British Petroleum do what's best because after all they wouldn't do anything that would hurt their bottom line. Or if we believe in "government regulation" then we would have highly-trained government experts -- people who don't work for oil companies but somehow know all about oil drilling -- to anticipate every potential problem and force companies to fix them in advance. Or if we just believe in "environmental protection" then we shouldn't drill for oil off the coasts at all but instead continue to buy oil from the Middle East -- and let THEIR ecology take the hit!
Actually, these decisions are not simple at all, to find a way to balance economic development with environmental protection, to establish safety procedures under which an industry can operate without imposing so much regulation that the industry can't function. When we adopt an ideological "right-wing/left-wing" approach, it makes our decision-making easier and we think we've got it cased. But we cannot resolve complex issues with shibboleths and slogans.
This description of the chaos when the platform caught on fire demonstrates the brittleness of a bureaucratic and cover-your-ass approach to safety regulations, while this article about complex systems teaches that simplistic approaches to technological systems won't work.
As the article states, "Complex systems can not be reverse engineered." Sometimes you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, nor can you put Humpty together again. No matter what you believe.
UPDATE: John Cole writes:
I’m all for constructive criticism, but flailing around over things that no one can control is just driving me nuts. Why hasn’t Obama done more to stop the leak? I dunno. Why didn’t Obama do more to save John Murtha and Dennis Hopper! Why won’t he wave his magic fucking wand and bring world peace! Why is unemployment at 10%? Why are we all going to die one day!
Because sometimes things don’t have solutions or answers, you losers. Try acting like you are a little older than five for a change.

UPDATE DEUX: Americans are deeply concerned -- the latest news story about the disaster was posted by AP five hours ago, and there are more than 80,000 comments already on the Yahoo News website, more comments than I have ever seen.

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