Plug Ugly 

I ain't no engineer, but ...

You will be happy to know I have come up with a good use for Dick Cheney.

But before I tell you what that use is, I must acknowledge one of my most faithful complainers as the inspiration for this column. He calls himself "dlb" within the anonymity of BW's online comments and hardly a week goes by when he doesn't find plenty in what I've written to bitch about. On rare occasions, he even manages to be semi-coherent in his commentary, although I suspect that on those occasions, he has borrowed his insults from other Internet worms.

(Don't take me wrong. I don't use "worms" as a derogatory term ... necessarily. You see, when I write an opinion, I think of it as tilling another row in my opinion garden, turning the soil and softening it up so that, hopefully, something good grows from it. And every gardener knows that when you till rich soil, worms come to the surface. Which is what I consider "dlb"--one of the worms that crawls out when someone else does the work. Only, unlike Internet worms, real worms actually serve a useful purpose.)

Anyway, "dlb" has lately been greatly incensed that I have not lambasted President Barack Obama for his response to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in the same way I ripped President George W. Bush for his handling of the Katrina aftermath. The reality that there is virtually nothing Obama can do about a crisis taking place under a mile of water, contrasted with the reality that there were any number of things Bush could have done about thousands of people left helpless in sea-level New Orleans is a distinction I don't expect "dlb" or any other right-wing boob to appreciate.

Yet he is correct about one thing: I have let almost two months slip by without saying anything about what is shaping up to be not only the worst environmental calamity imaginable but what could be one of the worst economic calamities as well. And all the other Obama bashers are correct about one thing, too: We must find someone to blame. This is simply too dreadful for heads not to roll.

But rather than try to wrap it around Obama, the man incidentally in office when years of malpractice, recklessness and appalling greed came to their inevitable fruition, let us identify that one man responsible above all the rest for the corruption spewing out of the ocean floor. Let us find the man who almost a decade ago gathered a cartel of oil magnates away from the prying eyes of the free press and nature lovers alike, and bequeathed unto them the gift of doing whatever the goddamn hell they wanted, promising them virtually no oversight from the only entity big enough to oversee an international cartel of oil magnates: the U.S. government. Let us name the man to whom we most owe this spectacle of death and ruination unfolding off the coast, and let us cast the blame on he who has earned it.

Dick Cheney, there's who to blame. Dick Cheney, the only vice president in recent memory so malevolently creepy you wouldn't want your children sitting on his lap. Dick Cheney, the man who let loose the dogs of oil.

For those of you afflicted with the same historical amnesia that debilitates "dlb's" rationality, let me catch you up. In the spring of 2001, starting just 10 days after taking office, Cheney assembled a task force of corporate energy Goliaths, and gave them the privilege of formulating the Bush energy policy, un-checked. Exxon-Mobile, Conoco and Dutch Shell were all in on it, as well as British Petroleum, Enron and Halliburton. To this day, Cheney resists the release of records from those policy sessions, but it is widely agreed that Big Oil was allowed--nay, encouraged--to write their own ticket. There are even indications that Ken Lay--the crooked sonofabitch who manipulated the energy markets in California and then drove Enron into the biggest bankruptcy ditch in American history--was given the task of picking those who would regulate the oil industry.

This was far beyond normal "fox-in-henhouse" stuff. This was more like "gang-of-foxes-design-henhouse, have-its-construction-subsidized-by-taxpayers, sell-henhouse-to-hens-for-enormous-profit, then-eat-the-hens" stuff. I suspect that if Americans knew what they had really paid over the last decade for Cheney's energy chicanery, there wouldn't be an "undisclosed location" left in North America in which the bastard could safely hide.

But we are a nation of second chances, are we not? And I am willing to give Chubby Dick a shot at redeeming himself. As I write this, Cheney's old BP buds are trying another procedure--"cut and cap," I believe they're calling it--but it's not my impression there is a surplus of optimism the strategy will work.

So as a standby, here's my plan. It is my understanding that the pipe from which the oil is pouring is 19 inches in diameter. And it is my observation that Dick Cheney is at least 19 inches in diameter. It wouldn't hurt if he were actually 20 or 21 inches in diameter. That would make for one tight cork, yes?

Obviously, the biggest problem with this procedure is the delivery system. Like, how does Mr. Cheney get down there where he could actually do some good for once in his rotten life? I've figured that out, too. I have, somewhere around here, a pumice block and a length of dog chain that I will happily donate to the cause.

There you go, "dlb," that column on the oil spill you wanted. You happy now?

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