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Letter to the Editor

Published: Thursday, September 2, 2010

Updated: Thursday, September 2, 2010 18:09

To the Editors:

Some thoughts on Walter Block's "On the Record" essay (if that is the correct word—others, e.g., "screed," come to mind).

The BP oil spill, "played havoc with the economic welfare of people in states stretching from Texas to Florida (none of which, apart from Florida, voted for Obama)."

"And the point of the parenthetical remarks? That if they had voted for Obama, there would be no economic havoc? That Obama's admittedly pathetic initial response would have been stronger if they had all been in his column on election night?

Block needs to wean himself off his apparently mind-numbing addiction to Fox News.

The failures of the MMS under the Obama administration and the whole culture of systematic crippling, underfunding and co-opting such regulatory agencies, inherited from the Bush administration, are well-known. As Block points out, "in the last 20 years, the number of MMS inspectors stayed the same."

But he quickly assures us that he is not suggesting an increase in the size of government. What then is he suggesting?

"Even on its own grounds, MMS has been a calamity." Again, not quite certain what that means. Give MMS even fewer inspectors? Or get the government out of the regulatory business entirely? Surely we'd be better off if we remove even the minimal oversight that BP and other oil companies were under. The invisible hand will protect us, right? (Yes—far right.)

Block continues: "…our president …. refused to abandon the nefarious Jones act, which mandates that coastal shipping and all goods transported by water be carried in U.S. flag ships…." Block charges that because the U.S. shipping industry "is heavily under the control of organized labor, this constituted a pay off to Obama's union boss buddies."

I confess ignorance of the Jones Act, not to mention Obama's union payoffs at the expense of both the red and blue Gulf states. According to, a project of the Annanberg Public Policy Center (an organization not, I would think, dominated by union bosses), Obama's refusal to waive the Jones Act, allegedly keeping foreign vessels from assisting cleanup efforts, was late June's Fox News conspiracy obsession.

Sarah Palin and Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison noted that after Hurricane Katrina Bush temporarily lifted this ban. Palin on June 11 told Greta Van Susteren, (who else would be facilitating such drivel?) that "there needs to be a waiving of the Jones Act so that we could have had … some help with skimmers from elsewhere." (I wonder if what she really said was "waving"?) states that "[i]n reality, according to … the Deepwater Horizon response team there were 15 foreign flagged ships participating in the oil spill cleanup." (But when have Palin or Susteren or Hutchison or Block ever allowed bothersome reality to get in the way of their convictions?)

FactCheck adds: "None of them needed a waiver because the Jones Act does not apply. The Jones Act is a trade and commerce law …." Its requirements for U.S. carriers serve the law's stated purpose, "to develop a merchant marine for national defense and commerce."(Though we all know its REAL nefarious purpose is to perpetuate the tyranny of unions.)

The Jones Act was waived during Katrina because of the hurricane's serious effects on infrastructure and oil/gas availability, neither of which in June had been affected by the BP disaster.

Consequently, foreign vessels were approved for delivering resources and conducting offshore skimming. On June 23, the U.S. State Department indicated that offers from six foreign countries or entities had been accepted, with fifty more under consideration.

One was declined—France's offer of a chemical dispersant not approved for use in the U.S. (Thank God France's other great chemical dispersant, red wine, continues to be readily available in this country.)

According to a June 18 Associated Press report, most came with the expectation that the U.S. would pay for them, not offers of free aid (the kind the U.S. regularly dispenses worldwide) but rather offers to sell resources to BP or the U.S. government.

I do think Block may be on to something if "users of the Gulf, its homesteaders would become its owners." (Does that include Mexico?) Why "pinkos" (a charming echo of Congressman Nixon and the McCarthy era one seldom hears in political discourse beyond Rupert Murdoch's media universe) would be upset by that as Block suggests, I cannot imagine.

But then, so much about Block's piece is strange, puzzling….


Philip Dynia

Associate Professor Department of Political Science

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