News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stuck on stupid

I, too, am not terribly happy with the Obama administration's handling of the oil spew.  I side with Lt. Gen. (ret.) Russel Honore. He's the man who was put in charge of restoring order to New Orleans after Katrina.  His idea is that the stopping of the spew and the cleanup should be put under one central command which has the power to coordinate and order measures--the military rule of command and control--to be taken.  He endorses Obama's battle language, but he thinks the power of a battle-field command is required.  A contributor to CNN, Gen. Honore says that if the battlefield idea is used, it would involve making every effort to stop the oil before it reaches the beaches and wetlands.  That would mean putting every U.S. asset in place and using the offers of foreign help to clean up as much of the Gulf sea as possible before the oil gets a chance to assault the beaches.  Such measures would entail the complete deployment of the Department of Defense assets and military command over civilian assets enlisted to help with the control and cleanup.

There is one problem with Gen. Honore's plan.  It would require the rule of martial law, which would bring into question the rule of military authorities over civilian governments.  The terms could be worked out so as to support cooperative efforts with the states and cities, but it would be an arduous task, which the current political climate makes impossible.  Obama's oval office speech was roundly criticized for its flaccidity--with the Republicans getting orgasmic at what they regard as Obama's Katrina--but then when he extracted a $20 billion fund from BP to provide compensation for those whose lives have been ruined by the spew, the Republicans started hollering "shakedown."   

There is a  contingent of people who are so fixated on destroying and denigrating Obama (Dana Milbank calls it the Obama Derangement Syndrome) that they are willing to sacrifice their countrymen and the country itself to their hatred of him and his agenda.  And they also sacrifice true facts to any  misinformation and disinformation they can contrive.  This contingent is quite willing to destroy the country in order to vanquish Obama, and one need only to look at those who were allowed to be the voice of the tea party to see the racial motivations behind their hatred.  The fact is that any attempt to bring the full complement of resources to bear on the oil spew would erupt into a frenzied obstruction against anything that could be represented as a Marxist, socialist, Nazi, Muslim, Kenyan-based takeover of America.  Obama and his advisors are smart enough not to get mired down in the muck of juvenile resentment  and malicious derangement that grip so much of the nation's electorate.  Instead, it seems better to quietly and mildly maintain a course of decency, support, and recompense for the people and the environment that is being destroyed by the oil spew.

I share Gen. Honore's military impatience at what seems to be unorganized attempts to deal with the spew.  There are time when full authority to  command and control are needed.  That means being able to kick the butts of those who obstruct and impede the carrying out of strategies aimed at dealing with problems.  There are times when the quibblers and detractors need to be shoved aside and held in abeyance until a job is done.   As an example of military expedition, I recall when we were setting up the redundancy system for the guided missile outfit I was in.  The system was designed for four or five independent lines of communication between the radar-fire control area and the launcher area.  That included the primary cables which ran above ground so that they were readily accessible for maintenance and repair, a field-phone system of wires which ran along another route,  a radio system, and a backup system of cables which ran underground.  The problem with the underground cable system was that the agreement with the German government after it was no longer under occupation did not permit any underground military installations. For example, the missiles I worked with were kept in underground bunkers in the U.S. and the launchers were elevated to the surface when they were to be fired.  In Germany, where I was stationed, they were kept above ground on  launching pads which were vulnerable to weather and attack.  This vulnerability was compensated for by deployment strategies which made the redundant communications system crucial.  The U.S. had to negotiate a special exemption for an underground cable system.

When the exemption was finally worked out, the troops had to start working on the trench to get the system in place as soon as possible.  We were sent out with our entrenching tools to begin the work.  As the men went out to start the work,  there was a constant stream of bitching, comment on how stupid the project was, and, of course, many suggestions as to how the job could be done more efficiently.  The launching platoon sergeant, M/Sgt. Jack Bradley, called the troops into formation and said, "The objective is to get this trench dug and the cables working, and we will use whatever tools we have available.  I don't give a fiddling f*ck if we have bulldozers or teaspoons, we are going to get that trench dug and this system working.  You can either do it as  bitching soldiers or as a stockade detail that is not allowed to bitch."  So, we bitched and dug.  We did get the route of the cable system laid out by removing the surface soil, and by that time the Army arranged for German civilian contractors to come in and finish the actual trench.   The point was that all the standing around and making suggestions ended and the job got underway with whatever was available to do it with.

Sgt. Bradley was a prime example of the cuss-order-and-act military.  Few soldiers could put more f-bombs sprinkled with plenty of goddamns in an English sentence.  He was affable but nobody f*cked with the troops under his command.  During a general inspection, he was chided because he was not wearing all his medals.  He responded, "Sir, how many f*ckin' uniforms am I expected to wear at one time?"  He had served multiple combat missions during World War II and Korea, and did not know what to do with all the medals he earned.    And he was relentless about my bunk-making skills.  At an inspection review, he told the troops that if they intended to go AWOL they should take bunk-making lessons from Newquist:  "He's one of the few soldiers who can make up a f*ckin' bunk to look like he's still in it."

Gen. Honore gained momentary notoriety after Katrina when he responded to a reporter's question by telling him not to get stuck on stupid.  When people are in dire straits and need rescue and help,  standing around quibbling about the job rather than getting it done is stupid.

While there seems to be some indecision in the Obama Administration about what to do, the nation has got itself stuck on extraneous stupidity.  Rather concern itself about stopping the spew and cleaning up the waters, it is standing around indulging itself in mindless blather.  It is doing just what irritated Gen. Honore:  getting stuck on  stupid.

BP, government agencies, and news organizations have invited  people to suggest ways to plug the spew and clean up the waters.  If those suggestions are to have any value, the one's with real possibility have to be sorted out from the stupid.  Among the latter was the suggestion that we do what the Russians did when they had runaway oil wells on land and sealed them off with nuclear blasts, which melted the strata and sealed the wells.  That is, it worked the first two times.  On the third the blast fractured the strata and created multiple fissures for the oil to pour through.  And as geologists have pointed out, a nuclear blast would not only give the oil more routes to escape, but you'd then have radioactive oil to deal with.  Still, there is a raging group that castigates BP and the government for not using nukes on the spew.

It is not expediting control of the well and implementation of the cleanup when people who know something and possess the tools of thought and action have to waste time analyzing stupid.  Ideas and possibilities need to be analyzed, but they need to come from people who actually know some of the hard facts of nature and and science and have some qualifications to offer advice.

To see the Obama Derangement Syndrome at work, one need only look at the South Dakota blogosphere.  One blogger whose agitation over Obama goes into derangement overdrive at times, devoted a post to an identification slug that some low-level photo studio staff member used on a White House picture of Obama.  The slug contained the word "hero," which has more to do with the bravado of rivalries among photographers than it does any self-assessment from the subject of the photos.  "Hero" is a traditional slug to designated the best picture in sequence taken on a specific assignment.  However, this blogger tried to make a case that the slug was evidence of White House narcissism.  One can marvel, to a degree, at the phobic malice directed toward anything Obama, but the absurd pettiness of using a photo slug, which is only known to those who reproduce the photo, as the basis for a denigration is more than a bit chilling.  Gen. Honore's epithet would seem a more than charitable description.   

The most salient criticism about the Obama administration is that it is too considerate of its phobic opposition.  It is suffering fools, and it is allowing them to impede work that needs to get done with the greatest expedition.  That includes not only stopping the spew and cleaning up the waters, it includes providing health care to the 47 million who can't afford it, it means adding jobs instead of outsourcing them, and it means getting out of endless and hopeless wars. And if Obama wants to keep his promise to American, he may just have to resign himself to a one-term presidency.

When Rep. Joe Barton apologized to BP for the escrow account that the White House insisted upon for dealing with the oil spew, he said he did not want to live in a country that allowed such things to happen.  Obama could do something more for the people of the country.  He get could refuse to get mired in stupid and force the issues so that people will know once and for all if this is a country they can live in.  For those who contemplate the Second Amendment solution recommended by Nevada senate candidate Angle, we remind that bullets fly both ways.  But if oil spews and the gospel of environmental pollution are allowed to prevail, there won't be any country to fight over. 

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