Watching the Follies.

The explosion of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico has brought forth an odd mixture of feelings and responses. On the one hand, there is the tragedy of an ecological system already under stress facing a huge assault brought on by human stupidity and greed. Coupled to that is the plight of the people who live off of the wealth of that ecological system, people who now facing the real prospect of ruin. These bring out, as Lincoln said, our better angels, leading us to hope that the spill will be contained soon and that the environment will eventually be healed.
The other hand, though, holds a far less glowing prospect. Corporate ‘leaders’ who make it their first, last and only duty to find someone else to take the blame for what has happened. Stories of an industry and its regulators who seem to have grown so close as to be indistinguishable from one another. Finally, looming behind it all, the hypocrites in politics who one day chant slogans like “Drill, baby, drill!” while complaining about the ‘evils’ of government ‘over-regulation’; then the next day decrying the damage all of those policies can bring about.
What happened in the Gulf was not some freak accident, it was the result of government oversight and regulation of the oil industry having been treated for far too long as an afterthought. It came about because, with nearly no money to do their own research, government regulators drew more and more on the “expertise” of industry researchers and “safety experts”. That, in turn, lead the regulators to the point where they were being essentially directed by those whom they were supposed to be overseeing and regulating. The history of this nation is littered with examples of how terribly that can go wrong, but it seems as though we have to keep repeating the same mistakes.
Why?
That is the simplest question of all those raised by this accident to answer. The fundamental problem is that, given the chance, all industry will maximize its profits first, and worry about things like safety and the environment, at best, somewhere ‘down the line’. It is a thing so proven by countless examples that only an idiot would believe otherwise…..which I guess is why conservatives and their Republican allies seem to be the ones most likely to ignore it. In their eyes, Capitalism (which they no doubt refer to with that implied capitalization, much as one implies that God is always spelled with a capital G) is a force of Absolute Good. Capitalism Can Do No Wrong, and to suggest otherwise (especially by pointing out all those pesky instances when it hasn’t been true), is to make the person saying such things and Anti-Capitalist, and as such, an Anti-American (though how the hell that fucking conclusion has come to be believed I have never fathomed).
The problem is,

    it just ain’t fucking true!

There is one other thing that history proves: capitalism it at it’s absolute best when it keeps an eye on the bottom line….while knowing someone, preferably someone with the teeth to make it hurt, is watching it to make sure it doesn’t stray too far off the Straight And Narrow. Maybe, just maybe, if the conservatives can drag their heads out of their collective asses for a second or three, they might notice that fact. If they did, they might not have to stand in front of the TV camera sounding as sincere as Claude Rains in “Casablanca” as they complain about how “shocked, truly shocked” they are that industry has found some new way to screw things up because nobody was regulating them.

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