Friday, 23 July 2010

Drilling for oil

The US government has named BP as the responsible party for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that has lead to the devastating oil slick spreading around the Gulf of Mexico. The perception is that it BP owns the rights to the Macondo Prospect so it is all their fault. But that is not entirely true.

For the Americans BP is a handy scapegoat. It is a foreign company-only 40% owned by Americans and American investors has a reputation for shoddy health and safety practices, and corner and cost cutting.

It didn't help that the CEO of BP, a man easy to write off as a chinless wonder with a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth tried to downplay the volume of the oil leaking into the Gulf.

In the face of rabid demands for action by the American public politicians are getting in on the act and are turning up the blow torch on BP to stem the leak and clean up the spilled oil that threatens to devastate marine and marshland ecology's in the region and destroy tourism and fishing industries for generations to come. But it is not that easy fix a gusher thousands of meters below the surface of the sea.
And all is not all that it seems in the murky world of oil industry and American politics. Not least that on the one hand America has an insatiable lust for oil but not for the by products of the oil extraction process when things go wrong.

It has also emerged in the last few days that a number of sensor alarms had been turned off on the rig at behest of Transocean staff and after the explosion a blowout protector didn't engage after the explosion. Hardly BP's fault since Transocean owned and largely staffed the rig.

So three months after the oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that has allowed millions of litres of crude oil to leak into the sea the truth is starting to come out about who is actually to blame for this environmental catastrophe.

BP must bare a large chunk of the blame for the leak and the cleanup. They are the major shareholder in the consortium drilling the well. Who knows what that will cost them and whether they will even survive in their current form given the cost of cleanup and any fines that will result. But they aren't totally to blame and some other entities are soon going to come under the spotlight.
The interesting thing will be to see whether faced with the obvious lack of regulation of the drilling in the first place, probable corruption by local officials charged with oversight, and failure to to follow safety procedures by Transocean Americans face up to the fact that they only have themselves and their system to blame for the whole mess and the way the aftermath is being handled.

American politics at all levels seems so petty and partisan that it wouldn't be a surprise me that if at some time in the near future the whole country imploded into a number of ideologically pure warring mini states. Something like a continent of lawless nuclear armed Somalia's.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Doing my bit for the economy

With a bit of luck we are emerging from what is generally being described as the most severe downturn since the great depression of the 30's. Only time will tell whether the economy is slowly stirring into life or there is more pain to come.

Some indicators both here and abroad seem to indicate that that the worst is over. In the United States, still the engine of the world economy some indicators point to the greenshoots of some kind of recovery. Some pundits have been seeing these for a while now while others have been cheerfully being mowing them down.

There was a spike in activity earlier this year as businesses possibly restocked but activity has been flat over recent months. Plenty of businesses have managed to perform well in the face of adversity but if confidence doesn't improve soon and people don't start buying then they are going to have to start another round of cost cutting.

Many businesses will already have harvested the low hanging fruit or worse still are mortgaged to the hilt and no longer have any wriggle room.

The only way out of this is for us to start spending. Forget about saving or paying off the mortgage we need to spend and spend big if we are going to get out of this hole. If we spend with a bit of confidence then that confidence will spread despite what the experts say and in the words of that great Kiwi scholar Fred Dagg: 'she'll be right.'

I already know how I am going to help economic growth. I am going to buy one of these.

Buying a new bike will help the local economy and the local dealer and of course Husqvarna the manufacturer. I know this sounds a little self serving but it gives me a nice little warm fuzzy feeling that I am doing something for the greater good.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Politically Correct

You only have to watch the television news in this country on a slow day to understand what a quaint self important little backwater we are at times. The self important bit is because we think we have more influence on world affairs and opinion than we could ever hope to have.

Does Japan really care that a bunch of hairy legged cardigan wearers from this country don't want them to kill a few whales? Does China really care about us or are they merely using us to test their theories on how to deal with western democracies?

We are also a pretty boring breed really. A pretty violent boring breed with little respect for the law and other people's property by all accounts.

Low level mindless violence seems to have become so commonplace that it barely rates a mention these days unless the victim is white and photogenic or an animal of some kind.

On the other hand the media delights exposing the poor judgement of some of our more well known sports people-particularly members of the code that the media has a love hate relationship with.

Rugby is the one real area that we have been able to punch above our weight in the international arena. Well to be honest that part of the world that understands rugby -the mostly white parts of the old British empire. Despite widespread reports that soccer is gaining in popularity in this country, a good question to ask at the height of the football world cup rugby is still an important part of our culture.

In the good old days what went on tour stayed on tour. Today things are a lot different and many celebrities in this country, sports stars and others find themselves getting into trouble because whatever they do or have done is a story of some kind that someone can sell, gain their own fleeting seconds of fame, or inflict some pain by publicizing.

Not only do we serious national inferiority issues and seek to attack successful institutions in this country in order to bring them down to a collective level of mediocrity. We have built an industry out of blaming others for our problems. Ok it is not a good look for a well known and recently married sportsman to be found shagging a drunk teenage girl who was by all accounts semi conscious at the time. But you have to ask yourself how did he come to be there and was he entirely to blame considering that the couple had had consensual sex previously? And why did it take her twelve years to work out that this one night was a problem?

Not only do we have an industry built around blaming other people for our troubles and trying to extract as much cash as possible many people seem to think that money grows on trees and the rest of us owe them a living.

I'd love to have a baby every few years if it was physically possible so I could live a life of relative leisure on the DPB but alas not only am I too old but I am the wrong sex.

Maybe I could get a tax payer funded gender re-assignment. Yes we are a quaint wee place and long may it remain so