Only 35 percent approve of [Obama’s] words and deeds so far during the [Gulf] crisis. He seems too willing to defer to BP executives, even as Bad Petroleum Ltd. tries to shift blame to Transocean Ltd., the rig operator, which is trying to put blame on Halliburton, which made the cement casings. But it's not just the oil gush.
Most Americans continue to be livid at Wall Street executives and traders -- for which they blame an economic crisis that's cost many their jobs, savings, and homes -- a crisis that's still costing taxpayers a bundle even as the bankers are back to collecting huge compensation packages. Yet the President continues to consult and socialize with many of them. Inexplicably, the White House won't go along with proposals by several Democratic senators to cap the size of the biggest banks (the only way to ensure they'll never be too big to fail and their political power is contained), to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (except in its weaker "Volcker rule" form), or to force the biggest banks to do their derivative trading without the artificial support of tax-payer insured commercial deposits.
Okay, so President Obama tripped badly on a question in today's news conference about the departure of the chief of the Minerals Management Service. He was inexplicably caught unaware.
Putting that aside, Obama was effective in dispelling the overall impression that he and his administration were hostages of BP. While the oil company is responsible for plugging the hole, cleaning up the mess and paying the hefty tab that comes with all that, it is not making a move without the involvement, buy-in and sign-off from a very engaged Obama administration.
As Stephen Stromberg points out, Obama took ownership of the oil spill with this comment: "This notion that the federal government has been sitting on the sidelines and for the last three or four or five weeks, we’ve just been letting BP make a whole bunch of the decisions, it’s simply not true."
"Drill, baby, drill" isn't just the bizarrely inappropriate chant that we remember from the Republican National Convention two years ago. It's a pretty good indication of where the national ethos has drifted. Environmental regulation is seen as a bureaucratic imposition -- not as an insurance policy against potential catastrophe, and certainly not as a moral imperative.
In the weeks since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the political debate has fallen into predictably partisan and often puerile categories. Conservatives say this is Obama’s Katrina. Liberals say the spill is proof the government should have more control over industry.
But the real issue has to do with risk assessment. It has to do with the bloody crossroads where complex technical systems meet human psychology.
This isn’t just about oil. It’s a challenge for people living in an imponderably complex technical society.
A good column, in that Brooks finishes the thought he starts, for a change.
Intelligent design. That’s one goal of synthetic biology, a field that was catapulted into the news last week with the announcement that a group of biologists had manufactured a genome that exists nowhere in nature and inserted it into a bacterial cell. The dream is that, one day, we’ll be able to sit and think about what sort of life-form we’d like to make — and then design and build it in much the same way we make a bridge or a car.
Realizing this dream is still some way off. But before I get to that, let me briefly describe the state of play.
Hmmm. Maybe I should reread that Brooks column on humans' inability to do risk assessment. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with creating synthetic life?
[Froederick and Igor are exhuming a dead criminal]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: What a filthy job.
Igor: Could be worse.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: How?
Igor: Could be raining.
[it starts to pour]
The latest issue freedom-loving conservatives should be concerned about is the Arizona immigration law.
This law clearly challenges citizens' freedoms, and it does so by putting some Americans at risk of losing their freedoms while others stand little or no chance of being affected.
During World War II, while a German American hero and future president -- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower -- led the allied forces in Europe, this country put Japanese Americans in detention camps. That outrage was wrong. We destroyed lives and undermined the very fabric of our Constitution.
We did so under the guise that we were at war and in crisis. But it is precisely at such times that we must take extra measures to safeguard our rights, our freedoms and our nation.
Instead, America took away the constitutional rights of citizens -- a shameful overreach of the government.
The Arizona immigration law reminds us of how fear and distrust can lead to bad laws and even more government overreach into the private sector and our private lives.