Friday, June 18, 2010

The Grilling of BP

Despite criticism of congressmen as if their jobs involve simple binary decisions with obvious answers, it's really got to be a pretty tough job.  Not wrangling bulls tough, but pretty tough.  Because it's not just a job, it's a lifestyle.  Being a congressman is who you are, and you're always expected to be on, all the time. 

But the one part of the job that's simply dumb: Congressional hearings.  I hate the things.  They're such stupid wastes of time that I really wish they'd pass a law outlawing them.  And sure, there are probably good ones that actually achieve something.  But for the most part, they're just opportunities for politicians to grandstand and give good speech, while pretending to ask questions that they really don't expect to get answered.  And even if they got a real answer, they'd be the last ones to know.

I mean, imagine a trial in which the prosecutor only had a vague idea of who the defendant was and how they were related to the crime.  And when he asked questions of the defendant, they were real questions that he didn't know the answer to.  And when the defendant answered the question, the prosecutor didn't have the slightest clue whether it was true or not, and was really only asking because he wanted the jury to like him better and thought they might be impressed by the question.

That's what a congressional hearing is, yet they televise the damn things.  How dumb.  I can learn more reading news on my computer than a congressman will get by holding one of these hearings.

Hayward Highlight Reel

And I'm thinking about this while reading about today's "grilling" of BP chief Tony Hayward.  Here's a recap of all Hayward's comments, grouped together, in the order presented in the article about him.

I am so devastated with this accident, deeply sorry, so distraught.  With respect, sir, we drill hundreds of wells a year around the world. I wasn't involved in any of that decision-making.  I wasn't part of the decision-making process.  I'm not a cement engineer, I'm afraid.  I am not a drilling engineer.  I'm not an oceanographic scientist.  I had no prior knowledge.  I'm not stonewalling. I simply was not involved in the decision-making process.  That is why I am so devastated with this accident.
And honestly, Hayward could simply have condensed everything down to this exact statement and we'd know as much about why this happened as we did before.

He's a CEO, Dummy

No, I take it back.  I learned that some people in Congress are f-ing retarded.  I mean, seriously.  Hayward's right.  He's not a cement engineer.  He's not a drilling engineer.  He's not a oceanographic scientist.  He's a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.  And if these dudes think a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company makes decisions about the best way to cut costs on an oil well, then they need to get the hell out of Congress and work a real job until they learn what sort of decisions a CEO makes.

This guy wasn't stonewalling.  They were asking the wrong f-ing questions.  And if they had done their homework, that wouldn't have happened.  Yeah, I'm sure there's a lot of blame to go around, and I'm sure a lot of that can go on Hayward, but asking him specific questions about how this well was drilled makes about as much sense as complaining to the head of McDonald's because your french fries were burnt.  That's simply not what the man does. 

Hell, if BP is like most companies, Hayward would be the LAST person to know that this well was having problems and that they were cutting dangerous corners to save a buck.  A CEO wants to know the size of the sausage; not what they put into it.  Just because you're the head of the company doesn't mean you make all the decisions for it.  That's why they hire other people.  But of course, these congressmen didn't care about any of this stuff.  They weren't expecting answers.  They were grandstanding.  They wanted to show America that they cared enough about this crisis to get mad at someone about it. 

And hopefully, at some point, a real prosecutor will hold real hearings about what happened, and hopefully, they'll already know the answers before they ask the questions.  Until then, we're stuck with politicians trying to look important, doing the least important part of their job.

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