By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Insane in the membrane: It's gotta be a brain tumor. What else can explain the words our tree-hugging fingers are about to type? To wit: U.S. Representative Joe Barton might have had a (garbled) point when he apologized last week to BP chief Tony Hayward. His first apology, we mean, not his apology for the apology.
"I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is—again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown," the Arlington Republican said.
Smokey Joe was referring to the $20 billion escrow account that BP, under pressure from the White House, set up to speed compensation to victims of the Gulf oil spill.
OK, so maybe Barton's timing was horrific. And yeah, Barton is the No. 1 recipient of campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in the House, collecting more than $1.4 million in donations from those interests since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including $27,350 "from people and political action committees associated with BP."
Sleazy? Our tumor counters, "Hey, Joe's no fair-weather friend. He's loyal. To a fault."
Ignoring Barton's tactlessness, sleaze and weasel-tude, the tumor whispers: "But what about due process? Since when does political strong-arming trump a day in court? Are we authoritarian? Having delivered Hayward's head on a pike, might the White House now ignore other heads that belong there too—including some in the government responsible for regulating offshore drilling? Shakedown or mob justice? Potato or potahto?"
Troubled, Buzz called the Sierra Club, looking for a right-thinking expert to tell us whether we should seek an MRI.
"I'm not a physician, so I can't comment," said Athan Manuel, director of lands protection for the environmental group in Washington, D.C.
He did point out that BP agreed to pay the $20 billion, so "it wasn't a shakedown." Under U.S. law, "BP's known from Day 1 they're going to have to pay for the damages they've done," he said. The only question was how much. To BP's limited credit, the amount set aside may be beyond what would be required under current law.
The tumor piped up: "Due process. Ask him, you hippie. Isn't BP entitled to a fair hearing?"
"You could make a case for that, probably," Manuel replied in a doubtful way that suggested only an idiot (Hello, Joe!) would try.
Still, could that cancerous growth—and our tumor—really have a point?
"You should get a second opinion," Manuel said.