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Gulf Gusher

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Ten in the Rear-View.

Millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, several massive earthquakes wreaked havoc worldwide, Vancouver hosted a successful Winter Olympics, and so much more. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2010.” Boston’s consistently impressive Big Picture gives us the Year That Was in photographs.

Barton Fink.

According to a GOP leadership aide, Barton met with House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) Thursday afternoon, and was told, ‘Apologize, immediately. Or you will lose your [subcommittee] position, immediately. Now that he has apologized, we’ll see what happens going forward.

Republican Rep. Joe Barton, the Ranking Member of the Energy & Commerce committee, decides to use the out-loud voice and genuflects before BP’s Tony Hayward, causing all kinds of messaging trouble for Republicans today. (Then again, if they had a problem with Barton openly professing his fealty to his biggest donor, maybe they shouldn’t have put it in today’s talking points.) In any case, this one was right over the middle of the plate for the WH today. [Pic via Greg Greene.]

Where Torture Goes, Mengele Follows.

“‘The CIA appears to have broken all accepted legal and ethical standards put in place since the Second World War to protect prisoners from being the subjects of experimentation,’ said Frank Donaghue, the CEO of PHR, a nonprofit organization of health professionals.

A new report by Physicians for Human Rights suggests the CIA conducted human experiments on detainees, including “monitoring the effects of sleep deprivation up to 180 hours” and testing out new forms of waterboarding on them. Once we’re all happy with the president’s visible anger levels toward BP, perhaps we can get some wrath-of-God fury — and criminal prosecutions — directed towards these atrocities committed in our name also? Thanks much. [Update: Here’s the Mother Jones story.]

The King is Not Amused.

“‘I know really, really, really smart people that work typically at depths much greater than what that well is at,’ Cameron said…’Most importantly,’ he added, ‘they know the engineering that it requires to get something done at that depth.‘” Director James Cameron divulges more about his attempt to help “those morons” with the Gulf Gusher.

This may just seem like King-of-the-World hubris, but Cameron is a smart and demanding technical innovator who has spent a great deal of time over 25 years studying deep-sea technology.) I’d at least hear what he had to say. “‘The government really needs to have its own independent ability to go down there and image the site, survey the site and do its own investigation,’ he said. ‘Because if you’re not monitoring it independently, you’re asking the perpetrator to give you the video of the crime scene,’ Cameron added.

“The Beast” is not contained.

The relationship between the federal government and the oil company has been an awkward collaboration all along — “We have them by the neck,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said of BP in congressional testimony last week — but it reached a turning point Monday when the administration said it no longer wants to share a podium with BP at the daily briefing in Louisiana. Instead, the national incident commander, Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, will give a solo briefing wherever he happens to be.

With “Top Kill” a failure, the way forward murky, the environmental impact likely irrevocable, and oil still flowing into the Gulf at a rate three times what BP tried to spin, the Obama administration begins to move toward a more confrontational footing, including having Attorney General Holder look into a possible criminal investigation. Yeah, I’d say there’s a case there. And it’d be a much better use of Justice’s time than its flat-out reprehensible war on whistleblowers. (Aquaman cover via Graphic Policy. And Spongebob fared little better.)

Update 2: “‘We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, anyone who has violated the law,’ Holder said. ‘This disaster is nothing less than a tragedy.’” I’m all for it — Let’s get some accountability here for once. But, hey, you know what else is a tragedy? Torture. And you know what else? Indefinite detentions. And you know what else? The fraud-fueled Wall St. meltdown. As I noted above, the only folks this Justice Dept. seems to have been cracking down on so far, in full defiance of 2008 campaign promises about transparency, are whistleblowers. Their priorities have seemed awfully screwed-up thus far, to say the least.

Cut Corners Kill Coasts.

We had this gradual discovery during Hurricane Katrina, where a natural disaster eventually became seen as what it was, a man-made failure. And now, what was called an ‘act of God’ and a freak accident by the defenders of the pollution industry is now being labeled, proof positive, as the consequence of design failure. Not only did the blowout preventer under the Deepwater Horizon well have a leak in it, not only did it include a dead battery, not only were the tests on it falsified for years, but when engineers actually needed to use it and tried to activate it, they didn’t have the right schematics.

As the Gulf runs black, it’s the same old story: FDL’s David Dayen brings us up-to-date on the idiotic and/or corrupt shenanigans coming to light in the wake of the (still-gushing) Deepwater Horizon gusher. “This is all a consequence of aggressive deregulation by industry, the maneuvers whereby powerful interests save billions in safety costs. They follow the rules at their discretion, they practically own the regulatory agency. It’s amazing how much this mirrors the problems on Wall Street. And just like with Goldman Sachs, the criminal justice system may get involved.” (Pic via TBP.)

Update: “‘We don’t have any idea how to stop this,’ Simmons said of the Gulf leak. Some of the proposed strategies — such as temporarily plugging the leaking pipe with a jet of golf balls and other material — are a ‘joke,’ he added. ‘We really are in unprecedented waters.’

Drill Baby…Spill.

‘There’s no way to wash the oil out of a Spartina marsh,’ said Thomas Shirley, a professor at Texas A&M University’s Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. Spartina, or cordgrass, is the dominant plant in these marshes. ‘It’s just a big sponge.” Several weeks after the President embraces coastal offshore drilling, reversing a notable campaign pledge — 11 dimensional chess! — the Fates conspire to remind us all why this might not be a very good idea. Along with the 11 missing (and presumed dead) workers, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested that cleanup efforts could end up costing billions of dollars.

Well, I say “the Fates,” but it sounds like Halliburton may have royally screwed up also. But, hey, maybe they’ll acquire another no-bid clean-up contract for their troubles. And speaking of our old friends on the right, it seems the “Drill Baby Drill!” camp has gone mysteriously silent…for now. [Image via Boston’s Big Picture.]

Update: “The problem with the April 20 spill is that it isn’t really a spill: It’s a gush, like an underwater oil volcano. A hot column of oil and gas is spurting into freezing, black waters nearly a mile down, where the pressure nears a ton per inch, impossible for divers to endure. Experts call it a continuous, round-the-clock calamity, unlike a leaking tanker, which might empty in hours or days.” It’s even worse than it sounds, and that’s assuming the wellhead isn’t lost. [Track the spill here.]

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