A Fun Ride to the Colossal Fail

Posted in Stumble and Fail, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 8:47 am by George Smith

Upper class reporters sometimes write very strangely in their zeal to cover the news.

Such was the case with a surprising story in the New York Times yesterday. It was on a scientific boat ride out to the very bad oceanic chemistry demonstration that’s the Gulf Oil spill. And I call it surprising, not because of what was reported, but how it was reported — like being in with the regatta crowd to gaily observe a curious experiment at sea.

At the site of a disaster of Biblical proportion, the reporter — Justin Gillis — wrote:

Soon, a giant winch on the rear of the boat hauled special bottles back from the deep, carrying water samples. The younger researchers rushed to the rear deck.

Special bottles? The younger researchers were rushing!



Working quickly in a daisy chain, circling the bottles, they filled small vials and other containers, then hustled back to their makeshift laboratory on the main deck of the Walton Smith.

Slowly, as the Walton Smith and other boats worked the gulf this past week, the weird physics of a deep-water well blowout came into better focus. The idea that oil rises quickly to the surface of an ocean may be one of the casualties of this disaster.

They hustled! And there was the delving into of “weird physics.”

Then the meant-to-sound-gnomic-quote:

“Nothing really makes sense out here,” Dr. Joye said as her ship plowed through orange slicks of oil.

Then even more excitement at the finish:

From the bridge of the ship, Capt. Shawn Lake made an announcement. Everyone rushed to the outside decks.

Once again, in the middle distance, the ocean was burning.


Judging from the prose, it sure seemed exciting for the New York Times reporter to be on the “Walton Smith” looking for funnels of oil floating in the Gulf. Important stuff was being noted, like the surface of the water being on fire and graduate students taking water samples.

The reporter makes a conclusion about the import of vast bodies of underwater oil.

“That would be troubling because it could mean the oil would slip past coastal defenses such as ‘containment booms’ …”

Troubling? Only troubling? And has not oil already gone past ‘containment booms’?

This is the best work the New York Times can do?

But what’s the real message, one obscured by the vanities of trying to be calm, scenic and cineramic?

What, exactly, can a few US scientists in a boat do when confronted with an undefinable immense volume of underwater oil?

Nothing. There’s nothing to fix it except to hope for nature to slowly take it away.

“We really never found either end of it,” one scientist said to the Times reporter. “He said he did not know how wide the plume actually was … ”

It’s a colossal failure on every level.

No amount of deluding oneself about American business, science and technology, or promising leadership and the delivery of fine sayings, or that only the oil companies have the savvy to deal with it, makes any difference.

The one thing that does make sense is the human desire for revenge. The Obama administration ignores this — as it seemingly has done with the general desire to inflict payback on Wall Street — at very real peril.

A Reuters news piece mentions briefly, and with seemingly inappropriate humorous intent, that “Concocting revenge fantasies has become a popular sport.”

“A Louisiana resident suggested in a letter to the Times Picayune newspaper that BP executives be tarred in spilled oil, rolled in blackened pelican feathers and sent to the guillotine so their severed heads could be used in a ‘junk shot’ to clog the well.” it added.

When all is said and done, the US government must find a way to put the minions who did this on the end of pitchforks. And it will have to firmly and publicly. Or it will have also allowed BP’s disaster to not only destroy the environment of the Gulf Coast, but also take down its ability to effectively govern.


  1. Spiny Norman said,

    May 31, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    That seems kinda harsh. I just want to see ’em spend the rest of their days in a federal supermax.

  2. George Smith said,

    June 1, 2010 at 8:47 am

    When the White House eventually changes hands, someone will make the highest American BP exec the Secretary of the Department of Energy.