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Smoke, Mirrors And Shifting Shapes

By Case Wagenvoord

14 August, 2008

Obama is shape shifting, again. Now he favors the offshore drilling he had opposed. His shift underscores the tragedy of his campaign and the dry rot that has infected the Democratic Party.

Here is a candidate who is both articulate and intelligent. He is probably the best communicator we’ve seen since Ronald Regan. The Republicans are dangling offshore drilling before the public’s eyes as a quick fix for rising gasoline prices. With just a few sentences Obama could reduce their claim to rubble and leave Republicans red faced and looking like fools.

He could start by asking the Republicans to explain how offshore drilling would lower the cost of gas for our Summer vacations when a government agency[1] is telling us that it will be ten to twenty years before we see any oil from offshore sites, and even then it won't have any impact on the price of gas.

First off, nobody’s sure where the oil is, so we’re looking at up to ten years just to find it. Once we find it, there’s a problem[2] with lining up a deep-water drill ships. The worlds existing supply is booked for the next five years. Three quarters of the drill ships under construction are currently spoken for, and Petrobras, the Brazilian company that just discovered a massive oil field off its coast, plans to contract for 69 additional rigs.

A drill ship differs from an oil platform, which is only good for drilling down to 6,500 feet. Each drill ship is as large as an aircraft carrier. Because, unlike an oil platform, they are not anchored in place, each one requires a sophisticated guidance system consisting of a computer and a series of rotating screws to keep it on site. Should these fail in the event of a category 5 hurricane, it is anyone’s guess how much crude would be pumped into the ocean before the rig could be repositioned.

Even if all of these problems are cleared up and the offshore sites start pumping crude, it still wouldn’t make an impact because of a scarcity of refining capacity. World refining capacity is currently at 103 percent of demand. That assumes no hurricanes, terrorist attacks, wars, insurrections or sabotage. Nor does it take in the down time needed to repair and maintain aging refineries.

We haven’t built a refinery[3] in this country since 1976, and the outlook for new refineries is grim. Big Oil knows oil is going to peak in five years, so they are reluctant to invest the money. Besides, by keeping the supply down, they are able to keep prices and profits up. (Arizona Clean Fuels LLC has the permits to build a new refinery in Wellton, AZ. It’s not going to happen because the company can’t get the financing.)).

The off-shore drilling scam is another example of a party so intellectually bankrupt it can only fall back on vapid sound bites to keep the electorate more deluded than informed.

Obama could easily clear the air, if he chose to do so. One wonders if he is playing the drilling game because his corporate handlers, speaking through the consultants who are busy spiking his campaign, have told him to do so.

It is becoming increasingly clear that it will make little difference who wins the election; the Corporatist Party of America will be the real victor. Someday, Progressives will wake up to the fact that their only hope is the formation of a viable second party. Waiting politely in the hopes that the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) will look our way is little more than a pipe dream.

The DLC is convinced it can move to the right because Progressives are so fixated on getting rid of Bush that they will overlook Obama’s sins and vote for him because There is No Alternative (TINA). (Now there’s a familiar phrase.)

Writer Shelton C. Wolin correctly sums up the situation when he says, “Consequently, the fixation upon Bush obscures the real problem. The political role of corporate power, the corruption of the political and representative processes by the lobbying industry, the expansion of executive power at the expense of constitutional limitations, and the degradation of political dialog promoted by the media are the basics of the system, not excrescences upon it.”[4]

It’s the system, not the person. Changing the person will change nothing.

Case Wagenvoord blogs at He welcomes comments at




[4] Wolin, Sheldon S. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. Page 287.


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