Murphy’s Law

I was pretty young when first I heard about Murphy’s Law, but a lifetime of experience has shown me that it is as inescapable as, say, gravity, and the only way one can ever manage complex tasks is to always plan for the worst case scenario; it’s one’s only hope that it might not occur.  This is axiomatic for most people; from wearing our seat belts to bleeding ourselves dry for health insurance, we make decisions every day that sacrifice convenience or even cold cash in the here and now to avert unmentionable but unlikely catastrophe in the hazy future.  Of course, for another group of people, including but not limited to oil and financial executives and Republican officeholders, a lot of girly-man hand-wringing about what might happen if your Rube Goldberg derivatives, bubbles, mile-deep oil wells, trumped-up wars, tax cuts, and such turn into just the costly and predictable disasters they couldn’t help but be was never even considered, much less shared with the public.  One after the other, we were bombarded with Rosy Scenarios about profoundly risky and half-baked ideas, which had nothing much in common with each other except failure, and coincidentally that a lot of the same people got rich.  Hmmmm.

Would that the rest of us had such forgiving performances reviews as George Bush did in 2004.  ”Well, as a country we went financially quite a way from the black to the red already, with no end in sight , but your two other big initiatives, the wars, will at least provide us loss carryovers so we won’t have to pay taxes until 2125….  Great job!”   Or the bankster, “Well, you did crash the world economy and cheat your own best customers for personal gain in the process, but the way you got us all that free Fed money shows that you’re a real team player….  Here’s another billion, and a bigger plane!”  Sadly, those poor guys in the oil industry, who actually do something, or are at least supposed to, always get the short end of the stick.  Unlike Presidents or Wall Streeters, who ruin lives so subtly and at such a discreet distance that it almost seems genteel, and certainly tolerable, the oil boys do have to produce something to get paid, and unfortunately that thing is messy.

Years of playing “Battleship” with the American military, however, and being lavished with tax breaks and lax oversight by fawning politicians and compromised regulators started to make Big Oil think that they, too, had stepped out of the dreary and dangerous basement of heavy industry into the rarified, risk-free penthouses of magic money, but they’re finding out to their considerable chagrin that this isn’t so….   George W. Bush, never much of a believer in Murphy’s Law, nonetheless wisely chose politics when he found out that oil was too hard.  Then, in office, he set about making oil easier, with horrific results for all concerned.  Watch what you wish for, and all that.

There’s something intuitive, really, about the idea that poking holes 20,000 feet beneath the surface of the earth, in rough seas, to bring up flammable gases and liquids is a little tricky, and no matter how widely liability were spread, one good hit with Murphy’s Law and your company, industry, and reputation, not to mention vast swaths of aquatic life, are completely shot to hell for multiple generations.  It takes a particularly blind arrogance and an astonishing sense of personal infallibility utterly foreign to most of the real world to simply not bother to dot every “I” and cross every “t” before proceeding with something so risky.  What does, say, an engineer, or for that matter a waitress, think of people who show up for such highly paid work so dismally unprepared?  Not much, I’m guessing.

For this reason, I hold some hope that Americans will finally get some admittedly petroleum-scented oxygen to their brains from this incident and start to call a halt to the relentless abandonment of accountability at the top that has plunged so many of us into debt, destitution, or despair, while the perpetrators are complete strangers to the harsh and unforgiving retribution we would receive for such shockingly incompetent performance.  Apologists like Mary Landrieu (the Republicans have been uncharacteristically quiet…) only drive the point home further…   She talks endlessly about the importance of “jobs,” when everyone listening knows that had they done their “jobs” like BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, or for that matter George Bush or Citibank, did, they would no longer have them, and they would have a tough time finding another.  For real Americans,  Murphy’s Law has not been repealed, and sympathy for its deniers is pretty hard to come by.


  1. michlib says:

    The dividends from deregulation just keep ” pouring ” in. AIG, Goldman Sachs, Massey Energy, BP, Halliburton, et. al. . Welcome to the age of corporate non-culpability because sheesh, we can’t expect avarice and prudence to exist side by side, can we ?

    • cocktailhag says:

      Evidently not. And the strategy is always the same in the inevitable failure; all these Randians suddenly fall in love with Big Government, if only for the duration of the emergency.

  2. avelna says:

    And yet a majority of Americans apparently still believe that we ought to “drill baby drill.”

    Ignorance is truly a tragic thing.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Wait until the mess starts really hitting the coastline; that number will change. (i.e., people will want to drill everywhere except near themselves. Sigh.)

      • avelna says:

        If the mess makes it all the way up the eastern seaboard (which at this point seems more and more likely) “near” is going to be a relative term. I suppose the “heartland” won’t be directly affected – until, that is, no one can afford seafood anymore.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Well, out here blue dog Washington Senator Maria Cantwell upped and proposed stopping all drilling on the Pacific just today, not that there’s any up here anyway…
          Remember, it’s the Redneck Riviera that’s about to get hit, where all they ever listen to is FOX and Rush, and I’m expecting some potentially beneficial cognitive dissonance. (I know, cocktail hour optimism striking again, but you never know.)

  3. sysprog says:

    W.S.J. : MAY 13, 2010, 3:44 P.M. ET

    In the Senate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) led the charge against a measure aimed at raising to $10 billion the limit on damage claims that BP must pay for the oil spill. The current limit, of $75 million, has been widely criticized by lawmakers as too low.

    Republicans blocked efforts to proceed, saying independent offshore oil developers would not be able to stay in business under the legislation because small companies wouldn’t be able to self-insure against claims.

    Thank God for Lisa Murkowski, and those like her, who are standing up for the thousands of little mom-and-pop deepwater oil platform companies who’d be driven out of business if misguided liberals tried to get the companies to internalize their external costs.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, at least she’s taking a bit of the heat of poor, portly Mary Landrieu. That girl clearly needs a rest. Talk about dumb…. This mess has barely started, and these nincompoops are writing their opposition’s campaign commercials.

  4. timothy3 says:

    Landrieu … talks endlessly about the importance of “jobs,”

    And yet rarely, if ever, about the jobs destroyed by those jobs that, as it were, destroy.

    Similarly, the idiot known as Haley Barbour

    likened much of the spill to the gasoline sheen commonly found around ski boats.

    “We don’t wash our face in it, but it doesn’t stop us from jumping off the boat to ski,” Barbour said.

    At a press conference, Barbour encouraged potential visitors to “[c]ome on down here and play golf, enjoy the beach, catch a fish.” But it may be hard to enjoy a beach covered in tar balls and dead fish. Here’s something tourists might find if they visit Mississippi’s beaches:

    What follows is a pic of a dead dolphin washed up on the beach.

  5. dirigo says:

    Late breaking …

    “Suck up that coal dust, boys! Back down in the hole with yer.”