Fair. Balanced. American.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thank you, Sarah Palin

For reminding Democrats that politics is a zero-sum game. When Democrats, beginning with the President, don't come out strongly enough against the big banks, Wall Street and Big Oil, Republicans will--even if they are receiving the bulk of the contributions from both entities and have been practically unanimous in doing their bidding.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking, but why should anyone blame them for beating Democrats with a stick of the latter's own making? The inaction of corporate Democrats, will take many, many decent lawmakers to defeat this November. Let's hope that at least some of the culprits (hello, Blanche Lincoln) lose their seats as well.

Now that I've bashed the President, let me say one another thing. There is a strange method to his passivity that is decidedly Lincolnesque. Lincoln was similarly "weak" through much of his presidency, but often times he struck, and hard, just at the moment that it was politically opportune to do so. Obama has fought and won more progressive victories, already, than any President since Johnson.

And that's what makes this little nugget from ProPublica.org that was rebroadcast in Daily Kos, so extraordinarily interesting:
Several former senior EPA debarment attorneys and people close to the BP investigation told ProPublica that means the agency will re-evaluate BP and examine whether the latest incident in the Gulf is evidence of an institutional problem inside BP, a precursor to the action called debarment.

Federal law allows agencies to suspend or bar from government contracts companies that engage in fraudulent, reckless or criminal conduct. The sanctions can be applied to a single facility or an entire corporation. Government agencies have the power to forbid a company to collect any benefit from the federal government in the forms of contracts, land leases, drilling rights, or loans.

The most serious, sweeping kind of suspension is called "discretionary debarment" and it is applied to an entire company. If this were imposed on BP, it would cancel not only the company's contracts to sell fuel to the military but prohibit BP from leasing or renewing drilling leases on federal land. In the worst cast, it could also lead to the cancellation of BP's existing federal leases, worth billions of dollars.

Present and former officials said the crucial question in deciding whether to impose such a sanction is assessing the offending company's culture and approach: Do its executives display an attitude of non-compliance? The law is not intended to punish actions by rogue employees and is focused on making contractor relationships work to the benefit of the government. In its negotiations with EPA officials before the Gulf spill, BP had been insisting that it had made far-reaching changes in its approach to safety and maintenance, and that environmental officials could trust its promises that it would commit no further violations of the law.
In short, there is provision in existing law that permits the people of the United States of America to end BP's lease of United States property.  The prospect of losing tens of billions of dollars is the one thing that might cause the the company to show a bit of humility.  The fact that BP hasn't is a sign of its confidence that the U.S. would never dream of doing so, either because of its assistance in the war effort, or repeated victories against effete regulators and Washington Republicans who would never dream of regulating their top donors (what to speak of the two oilmen who ran the Executive Branch for eight years).

So credit Sarah Palin for waking up the President and his team. She may have created just what our mini-Lincoln needed: the window of political opportunity to do the right thing.  Let's end the BP leases until we have recouped every penny of cash, and then some, for the damage this foreign corporation has caused to the United States of America and the living beings on its southeastern coast.

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