The Dead Hand of Ronald Reagan Rises in the Gulf
As the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew out ever more toxic oil and methane into the sea, and as floating toxic sludge, by the millions of gallons, starts destroying the wetlands across the American Southeast, the dead hand of President Ronald Reagan is at work, making sure nothing is done to prevent yet another such disaster from occurring.
The name of that dead hand is Martin Leach-Cross Feldman, a federal judge in Louisiana, a part of the notoriously right-wing Fifth Circuit.
Feldman, appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate in 1983, has been a craven supporter of corporations over the public interest for years. In the wake of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, for example, the judge ruled against homeowners who tried to bring a racketeering case against Clipper Estates, the corporate owner of their housing development, claiming that the company had stolen money it collected from them allegedly for repairs, for the owner’s personal use. Feldman ruled that homeowners had no standing to sue.
Now, using classic Reaganesque logic (remember our senile ex-president’s mocking argument to environmentalist that because trees release carbon dioxide at night, they must be “polluters”?), Judge Feldman has issued a temporary restraining order against the White House’s six-month freeze on offshore drilling. His rationale for overturning the moratorium on drilling: The government hadn’t provided an adequate justification for it.
As the judge put it: "If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy handed and rather overbearing".
Well actually Judge, yes it is rational. When the Exxon Valdez was steered by a drunken captain into a rockpile, and its hold was gashed open, spewing 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, it exposed for all to see the danger of single-hull supertankers, and led to requirements that tankers be built with double hulls, and that single-hulled vessels be barred from harbors. And yes, when an engine fell off a DC-10 jumbo jet, causing a fatal crash, all DC-10s were grounded until the problem was figured out, and all those planes around the world were safely refitted with a new pylon design. Similarly, when a few Toyota Prius cars were found to develop stuck accelerators, all Prius cars of that model were ordered back to the shop for repairs.
As a matter of fact, Judge Feldman, a moratorium on new deep water drilling is exactly the proper response to a disaster that causes huge damage, or that poses the risk of significant deaths. You stop the practice until you can figure out what caused it and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.