Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Wonder why we can’t solve problems? Consider BP’s latest ad, what you heard and the word “risk”.

By Daniel Becker

An ad I’ve been seeing recently aired by BP is promoting how much work they are doing to clean up the oil spill. It is designed to leave you feeling comforted that they are on top of it, they are cleaning it up in a massive effort. Say, 29 million gallons of oil and water sucked up. Wow. 29 million gallons.

Ever think about how big that is? Every stop to get out the calculator and crunch a few simple numbers to see how big 29 million is? Did you ask: I wonder how much that is in relation to the guesstimated barrels of oil spilled? Do you even think you need to know? Did it occur to you that maybe, in order to make an informed voting decision, you should see just how big a mess the oil spill is by comparing it to the 29 million gallons BP is impressing people with? You know, figuring it out because there is the possibility that this oil spill thing really is more than you might think as it relates to catastrophes to tell your grand kids about.

No? Yes? Maybe? I don’t know?


June 10th estimates were 25K to 30K barrels per day. June 15th estimates were 35K to 60K barrels per day. Gallons per barrel: 42. 29 million / 42 = 690,476.19 barrels / 25K barrels = 27.62 days of spill.

690,476.19 / 35K = 19.73 days of spill. 690,476.19 / 60K = 11.5 days of spill.

Total number of days of spill: 94 (by my count, can’t get google to answer the question). 27.62 days is 29% of the spill days. 19.73 days is 21% of the spill days. 11.5 days is 12% of the spill days.

But, here’s the rub, not all of the 29 million gallons captured is oil. It is water and oil. Thus, the total amount of oil recovered as presented in number of days of spill is something less. Are you still impressed with BP’s results? Does this make you reconsider your estimate of the risk of oil drilling as it is currently performed?

At 35K barrels per day, there are 3,255,000 barrels of oil spilled. At 60k barrels there are 5,580,000 barrels of oil spilled. Roughly. That is 136,710,000 to 234,360,000 gallons of oil. At 29 million gallons of liquid sucked up, we are talking about 4.7 to 8.1 times the number of days it has taken BP to reach that 29 million mark. Assuming that all 29 million gallons was only oil. But, it was not.

Can you relate the need to do such a simple calculation to the concept of risk? “Yeah, there’s a risk” you may say in response. Are you thinking physical risk? How about the concept of risk as exemplified in the concepts of hedging, credit default swaps and derivatives? Or the economic profession’s use of the word risk? Because if you are only thinking about the physical risk, then BP succeeded in it’s messaging. They succeeded by diverting your mind away from their concern and thus their means, modeling and reference for interpreting life and thus formulating and implementing their intentions. This means the chances of you making the voting decision that best benefits you are slim. Why? Because you failed to walk in their shoes because you listened as if you were the only one in the conversation. Yes, the empathetic concept of walking in someone else shoes does not only serve your ability to help another and sooth your soul, it also protects you from one who would use you.

Still want to know why we can’t solve anything in this nation any more such that your life gets easier or do you get it as to your roll in this democracy now? Our roll is not to just take in the message and see if it fits our individual language of how life works. It is to also understand the messenger and their interpretation of how life works.  In BP’s case, life works based on economics.  Their reference for words comes from economics.  Their understanding of democracy is economic based.  Freedom/free market.  Liberty/more choices.  Fiduciary responsibility/make money.  Justice/market clearing price.  Free speech/advertizing.  One vote/one unit of currency.  Rights/market power.  Social conscience/consumer reseach.  

Want another example of where we have failed as citizens in a democracy? Lets consider the relationship of the fed’s recently reported medicare fraud case involving 94 people and $251 million in false billings (fact, really happened) and the message that private insurance will reduce our costs, that a private insurance system is the best way to go. Or, how about the economic message behind the “private insurance is best” message that the free market is always best. Go ahead. Meld those two thoughts. One that is real, $251 million in fraud found by your government and one that is what? I already have tried and thus wonder: How is it that the private market with all it’s cost controls and managed care systems did not catch $251 million dollars in false payout? You know, considering “market clearing price”, “rational consumer”, “perfect knowledge”, etc, etc, etc. Haven’t heard these terms? I assure you BP et al have ’cause it’s all economic democracy to them.

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Nationality Act of 1940: Nipping wingnut memes in the bud

by Bruce Webb

Right Wingnuttia is ablaze. Time for some cold water.

There are a couple of lawsuits floating around concerning Obama’s alleged non-citizenship. One is Berg v. Obama which was dismissed due to lack of standing on October 24. Berg has appealed that to the Supreme Court which has not to my knowledge taken it up at all. The other case is Donofrio v. Wells which was thrown out at the NJ State Supreme Court. Donofrio applied for a stay to the US Supreme Court, which application was denied by Justice Souter and then for whatever reason referred to the full court by Justice Thomas. These two court cases seem to have been blended together in the fever swamps of the Right and it is time to sort them out a little.

Summary version: they got nothing. Nothing on the substance and nothing on the law. Those with a taste for bizaare conspiracy theories and debunking of same can follow me below the fold. Or you can do something more productive like grab a beer and watch football. Your choice.

Although Donofrio v. Wells is in some sense actually before the Supreme Court it almost certainly isn’t going anywhere. First there is no longer any serious question about where Obama was born, his office has a certified and sealed official copy of his birth certificate. FactCheck.org has clear photos (~2 meg jpgs) showing this in much better detail than the scanned version normally circulating the web. Born in the USA. Second it would appear that even if Donofrio v. Wells was somehow upheld it would only apply to New Jersey. And third the NJ Attorney General seems to have throughly thrashed the legal reasoning. So much so that even the wingnuts have mostly moved on to Berg v. Obama.

Now while Berg v. Obama was dismissed in October due to lack of standing, the judge didn’t rule on the substance. Berg v. Obama asserts that Obama’s mother and hence Obama lost citizenship when she married Soetoro and moved to Indonesia. Now there is a lot more stuff revolving around this, claims of adoption, that Obama went by the name Barack Soetoro while in Indonesia, talk about Obama travelling to Pakistan on an Indonesian passport at age 20. But due to a lot of hard work by an Obama supporter running a reality constrained website called What’s your evidence we can see that the whole case falls apart both on substance and by mis-citing the statutes. Berg cited the 1940 Act, but it simply doesn’t support his claim to start with.

From and after the effective date of this Act, a woman, who was a citizen of the United States at birth, and who has or is believed to have lost her United States citizenship solely by reason of her marriage prior to September 22, 1922, to an alien, and whose marital status with such alien has or shall have terminated, if no other nationality was acquired by affirmative act other than such marriage,shall, from and after the taking of the oath of allegiance prescribed by subsection (b) of section 335 of this Act, be deemed to be a citizen of the United States to the same extent as though her marriage to said alien had taken place on or after September 22, 1922.

Sec 317(b) Nationality Act of 1940 (pdf)
Okay it would appear from this that women who married a foreign citizen before Sept 1922 by that act lost citizenship. This act provides an easy way to regain it. But Obama’s mother didn’t marry anyone prior to that date, she was not even born, meaning this part of the act doesn’t even pertain. Not that it would matter.

Sec 401: A person who is a national of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by: (a) Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state, either upon his own application or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person: Provided, however, That nationality not be lost as the result of the naturalization of a parent unless and until the child shall have attained the age of twenty-three years without acquiring permanent residence in the United States:

Even if Obama’s mother had somehow naturalized as an Indonesian (by effect of law or application) and so equally naturalized her minor son, that son could still regain U.S. citizenship by acquiring permanent residence by the age of 23. Which Obama of course did. But even that only matters a little. Because the Nationality Act of 1940 cited by Berg is not even the right one to apply in this case. Instead you would want to look at the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952

From and after the effective date of this Act a person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by — (1) obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application, upon an application filed in his behalf by a parent, or duly authorized agent, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person: Provided, That nationality shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person is under the age of twenty-one years, or as the result of naturalization obtained on behalf of a person under twenty-one years of age by a parent, guardian, or duly authorized agent, unless such person shall fail to enter the United States to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-fifth birthday:

Which not only adds two years to the window shows that Mr. Berg isn’t even citing the right statute.

People who wish can explore the questions of whether Obama’s step-father adopted him, whether or not he attended school under the name Barack Soetoro, or whether his identification card described him as ‘Indonesian’. Or further you could examine the claims that he travelled to Pakistan at age 20 under an Indonesian passport. Some of the evidence of these matters is pretty sketchy and the rest apparently non-existent but none of that matters. As a minor under the age of 21 it doesn’t appear that any act by Obama’s parents could have caused him to permanently lose his citizenship as long as he relocated in the United States by age 25.

Meaning a whole bunch of frothing happening as we speak over on the other side of the blogosphere is kind of a waste. The Acts of 1940 and 1952 effectively acted as reset buttons.

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