Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This Is An Ex-Scientist. He Has Ceased To Be!

Over at the Guardian, Richard Adams is live-blogging the BP oil spill hearings before Congress and reports something I find astonishing:

11.50pm ET: [Committee chairman Ed] Markey [of Massachusetts] is also hitting the oil execs for their inclusion, among their cutting and pasting, of an expert named Dr Peter Lutz, a professor of marine biology in Florida. BP listed Dr Lutz as a consultant in its 2009 disaster response plan – and even included his contact details, including his phone number. Which is great, except that Dr Lutz inconveniently died. In 2005. So he won't be answering the phone.

(Maybe that explains why BP's response has been so poor – they are still waiting for Dr Lutz to get back to them?)

"It seems to me when you included Dr Lutz's phone number in teh plan, you have not taken the plan seriously," says Markey.

Exxon's Tillerson pulls on a suitably grave face in response, and intones that just because Dr Lutz's happens to be dead, "that does not mean the importance of his work died with him". Wow, that wins today's award for chutzpah.

They listed a four-years-dead scientist among their emergency contacts? Amazing. A couple years ago, when I landed my first staff writer job with an alt-weekly, I did not get the formal offer until they'd contacted and spoken to every one of my listed references. I had to pass a criminal background check, too.

In other words: a local fishwrap that paid me poverty wages to write about such topics as phone-sex companies, Furries conventions and trendy guys getting their balls waxed had more stringent oversight of its employees than a wealthy multinational corporation pushing the absolute boundaries of dangerous cutting-edge technology. Jesus.


Anonymous Russ 2000 said...

The government wanted the disaster response plan. BP gave them a bogus one. Government, unlike an alt-weekly, didn't bother checking it until long after the disaster.

The government produces this exact theater several times a year: shame a rotten company to deflect the shame from themselves.

BP will rightfully be dead as a company in a few years. But bureaucrats will live forever.

This is Big Organization writ large - check the niggling details and assume if they are met then the whole thing is copacetic. In this case, the niggling details are the correct font, the correct font size, the correct layout, the correct binding, the correct spacing, the correct number of people listed, etc. The actual content is ignored. My sister is a Ph. D. at Harvard and creates grant request documents (hundreds of pages) several times a year and she told me this is what most review meetings consist of. As such the physicians and researchers she works for pressure her to get those details correct and not spend valuable money on the content.

We all saw this first-hand when FICO scores ruled the loan market even though they are less than a third of what a competent loan officer should look at. All we got from that was an eventual financial disaster, followed by all-talk and no action other than wasting more money.

The only thing more infuriating than watching this same game over and over again is the surprise anyone over the age of 35 has over it.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Also, Russ, the alt-weekly didn't have friends in government who'd passed a bill saying "If you fuck up royally, there's a relatively tiny limit to the amount of compensation you'll have to pay."

2:59 PM  

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