Friday, December 31, 2010

Obama's 2010: By the Numbers

WASHINGTON - No numbers in the year just ending are more consequential for President Obama than the results of the midterm elections. His party lost seats in the Senate and its majority in the House. The full impact of those numbers will only start to be felt when the 112th Congress convenes next Wednesday.

But other numbers from 2010 add shading and perspective to other aspects of the second year of the Obama presidency:

Speeches, statements and remarks: 491

-Since taking office: 883

News conferences and press availabilities: 27

-Formal, solo White House Press Conferences: 6

-Since taking office: 69 total, 11 WH.

Town hall meetings: 17

-Since taking office: 40

-Backyard chats: 7

Domestic trips: 65 spanning 104 days

-Since taking office: 111 spanning 176 days

States visited for the first time: 9

-Since taking office: 38

Vacation trips: 6 (all or part of 32 days)

-Since taking office: 10 spanning 58 days

Foreign trips: 6 trips to 8 countries spanning 22 days.

-Since taking office: 16 trips to 25 countries spanning 70 days.

Flights on Air Force One: 172

-Since taking office: 328

Flights on Marine One: 196

-Since taking office: 386

Unemployment Rates:

-January 8 2010: 10 percent.

-December 3, 2010: 9.8 percent.

National Debt in 2010: Up $1.56-trillion

-January 1, 2010: $12.311-trillion

-December 28, 2010: $13.871-trillion

Bills signed in 2010: 203.

-Since taking office: 329.

Cabinet meetings: 6

-Since taking office: 12

Visits to Camp David:

-In 2010: 4 visits, 8 days.

-Since taking office: 15 visits: 35 days.


-Golf: 29 rounds in 2010

-Since taking office: 57 rounds.

-Basketball: 20 basketball outings.

-Since taking office: 28

Interviews: 107 in 2010

-Since taking office: 254

Meetings with foreign leaders: In 2010, President Obama had face-to-face meetings with 61 foreign leaders, 30 for the first time.

Days of no appearances: 24

-Since taking office: 45

Presidential pardons: 9

-President Obama granted the first and only pardons of his presidency on Dec 3, 2010.

After 'progress,' Obama rating stays

President Obama has averaged a 46 percent approval rating since November.

Close The spate of legislative accomplishments in the lame-duck session celebrated by the White House appears to have had little effect on President Obama’s approval rating, according to Gallup’s latest tracking poll.

Between Dec. 26 and 28 – soon after Obama arrived in Hawaii for his Christmas vacation – Obama’s approval rating was 47 percent, two points lower than his rating from the previous week, Gallup reports.
He has averaged a 46 percent rating since November.

Before leaving for Hawaii, Obama called an end-of-the-year press conference to recall some of Congress’s final moves, like repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” ratifying the START pact with Russia and passing his tax-cut plan with Republicans.
He labeled the activity “a season of progress for the American people.”

Where were these jerkoffs when GWB REAGAN GHB where taking their vactions in Texas, California, Maine!?

Obama vacation costing more than $1.4M, paper claims

No one knows exactly how much President Obama's vacation in Hawaii is costing taxpayers -- neither the White House nor the Secret Service like to provide such information -- but one local news outlet is putting the tab at more than $1.4 million, at least.

The Hawaii Reporter did some calculating, though, as we've explained before, it's almost impossible to assess the true cost of these kinds of trips.

For example, most of the cost of the Reporter's estimate is the president's Air Force One ride to Hawaii on the night of Dec. 22; Air Force One is under constant maintenance, and could well be used even if the president wasn't on vacation. (The paper also points out that Mrs. Obama and the Obama daughters flew out early to the islands.)

Secret Service costs are included, but they would be guarding the president anyway, though their housing has to be paid for when they are on the road. The same applies to the president's staff.

President Obama gets a Shave Ice in Hawaii.CAPTIONBy Pool, Getty ImagesWe should also point out, as the Reporter does, that Obama is paying his own house rental.

And there are also a host of unknown costs, and one basic truth: Being president is expensive, especially when they are on the road.

Here's part of the paper's breakdown:

With estimates secured from a host of professionals, city officials and law enforcement, Hawaii Reporter estimates costs to taxpayers will at least include:

Mrs. Obama's early flight to Hawaii: $63,000 (White House Dossier)
Obama's round trip flight to Hawaii: $1 million (GAO estimates)
Housing in beachfront homes for Secret Service and Seals in Kailua ($1,200 a day for 14 days): $16,800
Costs for White House staff staying at Moana Hotel: $134,400 ($400 per day for 24 staff) -- excluding meals and other room costs
Police overtime: $250,000 (2009 costs reported by Honolulu Police Department)
Ambulance: $10,000 (City Spokesperson)
TOTAL COST: $1,474,200

Rental of office building in Kailua on canal
Security upgrades and additional phone lines
Costs for car rentals and fuel for White House staff staying at Moana Hotel (Secret Service imports most of the cars used here to escort the president)
Surveillance before the president arrives
Travel costs for Secret Service and White House staff traveling ahead of the President

US Teen Birth Rate Still Far Higher Than W. Europe

ATLANTA (AP) — The rate of teen births in the U.S. is at its lowest level in almost 70 years. Yet, the sobering context is that the teen pregnancy rate is far lower in many other countries.

The most convincing explanation is that contraceptive use is much higher among teens in most Western European countries.

Last week, U.S. health officials released new government figures for 2009 showing 39 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15 through 19 — the lowest rate since records have been kept on this issue.

That's close to the teen birth rate for Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria in 2007, the latest numbers available from the World Bank, which collects a variety of data gauging international development.

The teen birth rate for Western Europe and a few other countries is dramatically lower. In the United Kingdom it's 24 per 1,000 girls. In traditionally Catholic Ireland, it's 16 and in Italy it's 5. France's rate is 7 per 1,000. Canada's rate is under 13, Sweden's is under 8, Japan's is about 5, and in the Netherlands it's close to 4.

The disparity has existed for decades. Several experts say the reason mostly has to do with more realistic approaches to birth control.

Birth control is less expensive and easier for teens to get in many other developed countries than in the United States. And teachers, parents and physicians tend to be more accepting of teenage sexuality and more likely to encourage use of contraception, said Sarah Brown, chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Teen births are a concern: The hazards of teen pregnancy include higher dropout rates, as well as possible health and other problems for young mothers and their kids.

There are few comprehensive studies of why teen birth rates vary from country to country. And experts say there's probably not one overarching explanation. For example, the reason for a low teen birth rate may be different in the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, than in Japan, which traditionally has a more conservative culture when it comes to sex and sex education.

Some countries may have predominant social values that discourage teenage sex, but abstinence-only education programs — a hot topic in the United States — are generally not considered a major reason other countries have lower teen birth rates.

"Not at all," said Cecilia Ekeus, a researcher in international public health at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute.

"We're working the opposite way," she added, describing Sweden's comprehensive sex education and easy teen access to condoms and birth control pills.

Experts say teen births can be lower when:

—Teens have less sex.

—Teens use contraception correctly and often.

—A larger proportion of pregnant teens has an abortion.

But do those explain the international differences?

As to the first, there is no evidence teens in Europe are having less sex than American teens, so that's not considered a likely explanation.

If anything, "there may be more sex there than here" among teenagers, said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Washington, D.C.-based Population Reference Bureau.

As to the third, most international comparisons of abortion rates are considered dated and somewhat unreliable because of incomplete information. One smaller study found the United States had a higher abortion rate than Canada and some European countries, and not all experts think it's a major reason for different birth rates.

But some researchers say abortion is a significant factor in some nations. In Sweden, for example, abortions are legal without parental consent — and quite common. Indeed, one in two women who get pregnant in their lifetime has an abortion, said Ekeus.

There's much more consensus that birth control is the key to a lower teen birth rate.

Studies indicate that about 80 percent of sexually active teen girls in Sweden and about 88 percent in England and France use contraception. In the United States, it's about 61 percent.

And in some European countries they are more likely to use longer-lasting forms of birth control, such as the IUD, experts said.

Other explanations? Perhaps race and ethnicity, said Dr. Monique Chireau, a Duke University assistant professor who researches adolescent pregnancy.

She noted the birth rate for white U.S. teens — about 26 per 1,000 — is much lower then the black and Hispanic rates (59 and 70, respectively).

"There are distinctions between different ethnicities," and the U.S. whites are more comparable to countries with more homogenous white populations, she said.

Factors like proportions of teens that are married in each country, proportions living in poverty, and other demographics also should be considered, she and others said.

Cultural expectations have a lot to do with it, too, said several sources pointing to societies where teen childbearing is not considered an attractive option.

In Sweden, teen motherhood is so far outside the norm that young moms often are assumed to have other problems like a psychiatric diagnosis or drug addiction, Ekeus said.

Swedish teen mothers "differ very much from the general population," she said.

Man Strips at Va. Airport Checkpoint in Protest

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Police say a man stripped to his underwear at a Virginia airport checkpoint in a protest against security procedures.

Airport police said the man took off his shirt and pants at Richmond International Airport on Thursday. He had scrawled across his chest a reference to the Constitution's 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Police identified the man as 21-year-old Aaron B. Tobey of Chalottesville, Va. He told police he was a student at the University of Cincinnati.

Tobey was interviewed by airport police and federal authorities, issued a citation for disorderly conduct and released. He is scheduled for arraignment on Jan. 10.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Julie may have a death wish going after Arabs who don't know meaning of 'due process!'

Julian Assange Threatens To Name Arab Leaders With CIA Ties

Julian Assange has set the ultimate dead man's switch: Arrest or kill him and thousands of files will be automatically released, including documents that out CIA-backed Arabs.

The Wikileaks leader had previously claimed to have files on auto-release. That he had info on CIA ties was first-mentioned in an interview yesterday with Al-Jazeera.

This is exactly the type of information that lead people to condemn Wikileaks as dangerous. If released it would certainly endanger many American operatives and cause a massive political disruption.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PROOF Conservatives are defective humans!

Are Political Views Hard-Wired Into Our Brains?

A study out of University College London has found differences in the brains of people with conservative views and those with liberal views, the Telegraph reports.

Specifically: Conservatives have brains in which areas called amygdalas, which are associated with fear and emotion, are larger. It also found they have a smaller anterior cingulate.

The study has not concluded that conservatives are born with such brains, since the adult volunteers studied could have developed them through experience.

Still, it "does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude," said Geraint Rees, who led the research, according to the Telegraph.

Researchers examined of the brains of two leading British politicians, one liberal and one conservative, as well as 90 students for the study. It was commissioned by actor Colin Firth as part of a "light-hearted experiment" that yielded surprising results, as the Sidney Morning Herald notes.

Raw Story argues that the study, if confirmed, offers "the first medical explanation for why conservatives tend to be more receptive to threats of terrorism," since amygdalas are associated with fear.

Rees described such areas of the brain as "very old and very ancient and thought to be very primitive and to do with the detection of emotions."

America at Risk of Fascism

New York Democratic Rep. John Hall, who lost his seat in the midterm elections, is warning that the influx of corporate money into politics is putting America at risk of a decent into Fascism.

"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism," he told the New York Observer. "So that's really the question-- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"

The court decision he is referring to is Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that led to greater corporate spending in the midterm elections, much of it anonymous.
In the wake of the decision, Democrats tried to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have mandated that corporate donors identify themselves in their advertising, but the measure failed amid GOP opposition. Ads from groups with anonymous donors were particularly prone to misleading or false claims.

Hall said the influx of corporate money in the wake of Citizens United handed the House of Representatives to Republicans

"The country was bought," he told The Observer. "The extremist, most recent two appointees to the Supreme Court, who claimed in their confirmation hearings before the Senate that they would not be activist judges, made a very activist decision in that it overturned more than a century of precedent. And as a result there were millions of extra dollars thrown into this race."

Hall, who said he was particularly disappointed by the failure of DISCLOSE, said he had been approached by Democrats about running again in 2012. And while he isn't closing the door on a run, he said he would already need to be raising money if he was serious about running -- something he isn't doing.

The former leader of the rock bank Orleans, Hall lost in the midterms to ophthalmologist Nan Hayworth after two terms in Congress.

We are creating a less-informed but more opinionated public. (A little knowledge IS dangerous) While I did talk radio I found it hard to get calls on topics which needed homework. What worked best visceral topics which didn't need thinking just non thinking hate or love!

This Is Why Fox News Continues To Roll

For the ninth straight year Fox News is cable television’s top News Network. This year, it beat CNN and MSNBC combined.

And, the top five cable news programs among 25-54 year-old viewers were all on Fox: The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, Glenn Beck, On the Record and, get this, The O’Reilly Factor repeat show.

This year, for the first time, MSNBC has moved into second place, with CNN dropping to third place. CNN’s marquee shows –Anderson Cooper’s 360 and Parker-Spitzer have been extremely weak.

Politics and prejudices aside, there is a central theme to this change, and it’s not an altogether positive one. I don’t believe this is about one political opinion versus another. I believe this is about people wanting, and needing, to form opinions faster and with less work on their own part.

It is, frankly, easier for someone to turn on either Fox News or MSNBC, listen to the frequent opinion expressed, right or left, and benchmark themselves against that opinion rather than forming their own opinion based on independent thinking.

So if a new Supreme Court Justice was named tomorrow, more people would check out what Fox and MSNBC said about him or her, and then quickly decide whether or not they were in favor or opposed to approving the candidate. “If Fox (or MSNBC) like him, so do I,” a viewer can decide, (or the opposite) based totally on that viewer’s political stance and how it relates to Fox or MSNBC.

In the past, many of those people would have spent the time with a more objective outlet, like CNN or the New York Times, done more research of the candidate, and made up their own minds. Now, it’s just faster to have someone do that for you.

It’s a bad thing for democracy. We are creating a less-informed but more opinionated public.

By the way, it does not mean that more objective sources CAN’T be more interesting. They just aren’t. In an effort to appear totally unbiased, CNN ridded itself of opinion or emotion. You CAN express opinions and still present a balanced report. It takes more work on the news gathering side to both report and curate.

But that will be the future of Journalism.

Larry Kramer is the founder and former CEO of CBS

Feds probe Christine O’Donnell campaign spending

FBALTIMORE — Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell to determine if the former Senate candidate broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of a client who has been questioned as part of the probe. The case, which has been assigned to two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware, has not been brought before a grand jury.

Matt Moran, O’Donnell’s former campaign manager, did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions from The AP. He said earlier this month that the campaign had not been contacted about any investigation and criticized what he called "lies and false-attack rumors."

The U.S. Attorney’s office has confirmed that it is reviewing a complaint about O’Donnell’s campaign spending filed by a watchdog group, but officials in the office and the FBI declined to say whether a criminal investigation was underway.

O’Donnell, who set a state record by raising more than $7.3 million in a tea party-fueled campaign this year, has long been dogged by questions about her finances.

At least two former campaign workers have alleged that she routinely used political contributions to pay her personal expenses in recent years as she ran for the Senate three consecutive times, starting in 2006. The Washington-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission making similar allegations and asked Delaware’s federal prosecutor to investigate.

O’Donnell’s campaign has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged she had paid part of her rent at times with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters.

Federal law prohibits candidates from spending campaign money for personal benefit. FEC rules say this prohibition applies to the use of campaign money for a candidate’s mortgage or rent "even if part of the residence is being used by the campaign," although O’Donnell’s campaign maintained that it was told otherwise by someone at the agency.

O’Donnell drew national attention in September when she pulled off one of the primary election season’s biggest upsets by beating moderate Republican Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination. She lost badly in November to Democrat Chris Coons.

One former O’Donnell staffer, Kristin Murray, recorded an automated phone call for the Delaware Republican Party just before the primary, accusing O’Donnell of "living on campaign donations — using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt."

Another former aide, David Keegan, said he became concerned about O’Donnell’s 2008 campaign finances as she fell behind on bills and had no apparent source of income besides political contributions. He submitted an affidavit to CREW alleging that she used campaign money to cover meals, gas, a bowling outing, and rent to a landlord, Brent Vasher.

Vasher, a nephew of Keegan’s and a one-time boyfriend of O’Donnell, declined comment when asked by The AP if he had been contacted by authorities. Vasher bought O’Donnell’s house in 2008 after she was served with a foreclosure notice, then charged her rent to stay there, according to CREW’s complaint.

In a message sent last week to The AP, Keegan said he had not been questioned as part of a criminal investigation, and that he considers himself only a "catalyst" in a case in which several people must be questioned to scrutinize O’Donnell’s accounting practices and alleged misuse of campaign funds.

During her three failed Senate bids, O’Donnell had numerous campaign treasurers, many of who left after serving brief stints. After losing two treasurers in 2009, she named herself treasurer until this past summer. Another short-term treasurer took over in August and resigned less than two months later, when Moran added the treasurer’s role to his campaign manager responsibilities.

Democrat Charles Oberly III, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, and his predecessor, David Weiss, did not immediately return messages Wednesday seeking comment. Oberly was sworn in Tuesday as Weiss’ successor.

Kim Reeves, a spokeswoman for the office, reiterated Wednesday that the office was reviewing the CREW complaint. She would not confirm the existence of a criminal probe.

Rich Wolf, a spokesman for the Baltimore office of the FBI, said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation.

Murray, the former aide who recorded the automated message, also said she had not been contacted about the investigation.

Bellagio Nixing $25,000 Chip After Casino Heist

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas casino bosses are serving notice to the bandit who made off with $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio: Try to redeem those worth $25,000 soon or they'll become worthless.

Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International is giving public notice that it's discontinuing its standard chip valued at $25,000 and calling for all gamblers holding the chips to redeem them by April 22.

After that, gambling regulators say each red chip with a gray inlay won't be worth more than the plastic it's cast from.

"The bottom line is that they're not money," said David Salas, deputy enforcement chief for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

MGM Resorts first posted notice of the redemption last week in the classifieds of the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. That's one week after a robber wearing a motorcycle helmet held up a craps table at gunpoint and made off with a bag of chips of varying denominations.

Police and casino officials have been working since the Dec. 14 heist to try to locate the bandit and keep watch on anyone trying to cash in the chips, which ranged in denomination from $100 to $25,000.

A police spokeswoman said Wednesday there have been no significant developments in the case since then.

MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman told The Associated Press the chips were switched out at the tables within an hour of the robbery, and the Bellagio immediately filed to discontinue the chips.

Feldman said the move was designed to avoid inconveniencing players using the high value chips. He said he did not know how many chips existed and were uncashed.

"Obviously, anyone walking with one of the old series is going to be subject to a certain amount of questioning as to how they obtained them — assuming it isn't someone we know," Feldman told the AP. "It's pretty unusual for someone we don't know to come strolling up with a handful of $25,000 chips."

Discontinuing chips — though done in this case because of the robbery — is not uncommon for Las Vegas casinos, even at high denominations, Salas said.

Commemorative chips to mark a noteworthy prizefight for example, often have a finite circulation. On Wednesday, the Silver Nugget Casino in North Las Vegas posted notice it planned to discontinue chips with the Mahoney's Silver Nugget logo.

State laws require casino operators to serve notice, file a plan with regulators and give gamblers a reasonable amount of time to cash in any chips they're holding — in this case four months.

The move may be moot given other casino safeguards designed to track patrons who cash high-value chips, but will help the casino by lessening the number of chips outside its possession.

"If they have people that they know are players redeem the ones that they know they have, pretty much it's process of elimination — you're left with people who aren't supposed to have the chips," said David Schwartz, a former casino security guard and director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

It's not immediately clear how many of the chips that were stolen were $25,000 chips, though it could be as many as 60.

This guy gives stupid a bad name!! (How about GWB starting war AND over 300,000 people including over 5,000 American? A pension and library with life long protection!! TUCKER you jackass!

Tucker Carlson addresses Vick role

Fox analyst Tucker Carlson says Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick "should have been executed" for his role in a dogfighting ring.

Carlson was guest hosting for Sean Hannity's show Tuesday night on Fox News Channel when he made the remarks. He led a panel discussion about President Barack Obama commending the owner of the Eagles for giving Vick a second chance after his release from prison.

Vick served 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring.

Carlson says, "Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did [it] in a heartless and cruel way."

Carlson added, "I think personally he should have been executed for that."

Carlson, a conservative commentator, is angry that Obama told Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie he believes people who have paid for their crimes should have the opportunity to contribute to society again.

Finaly USA sees what I've seen since day one of Ms Sarah hope for White House!

For Palin there's no place like a bad way

It's a well known fact that Sarah Palin is the most unpopular major political figure in the thing that may be less well known is that one of the states where voters have the dimmest view of her is her own home state of Alaska.

We've polled Palin's favorability in ten states over the last couple months. In Alaska just 33% of voters have a favorable opinion of her to 58% with a negative one. The only place where fewer voters see her positively than her own home state is dark blue Massachusetts.

Democrats hate Palin in Alaska but they hate her everywhere so there's nothing newsworthy about that. What makes her home state numbers unusually bad is that Republicans see her favorably by only a 60/30 margin. In most places she's closer to 80% favorability within her own party. Also while independents don't like her anywhere their level of animosity in Alaska is unusually large- 65% unfavorable to only 25% with a favorable opinion.

It's not a coincidence that the 35% of the vote Joe Miller appears to have received in the Alaska Senate race is almost identical to the 33% who have a favorable opinion of Palin. Miller allowed himself to practically become a surrogate for Palin and while that was good for letting him pull off a primary victory by the slimmest of margins it was not so good for his prospects in the general election.

Palin's unpopularity in Alaska is an interesting sidebar but ultimately pretty irrelevant to a possible 2012 Presidential bid. What's more relevant is that a majority of voters in every single state we have polled so far on the 2012 race has an unfavorable opinion of her. And her average favorability in the Bush/Obama states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia that are most likely essential to Republican chances of retaking the White House is 36/56. Democrats can only hope...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Death knell for 'death panel' debate?

The debate over “death panels” is hard to kill — but at least one Senate Democratic aide says the issue has now become “Kryptonite for the Right,” thanks to the way a new Medicare regulation is written.

The new policy, buried in the 692-page Medicare fee schedule, allows payment to doctors who provide end-of-life counseling to patients on a voluntary basis. “Voluntary” is the key word, say supporters of the policy.

“When people recognize that they will now have coverage for VOLUNTARY advance-care-planning, they may actually question the motives of those who told them health care reform would involve ‘death panels’,” the Senate Democratic aide said in an e-mail to POLITICO.

The regulation was published earlier this month in the Federal Register and was the subject of a Dec. 25 front-page story in The New York Times.

But Republicans may not let this one go. Betsy McCaughey, a Republican health policy expert and the former lieutenant governor of New York, coined the phrase “death panel” — which was famously tweeted by Sarah Palin during the reform debate.

“Doctors should always be paid for the time they spend counseling patients, including about the tough choices they are making toward the end of their lives. But the government shouldn’t be scripting what doctors should say to patients. The government isn’t a trusted educator, it has a stake in reducing the care provided to elderly patients,” McCaughey, an ardent critic of the health reform law, told POLITICO.

McCaughey, who founded and chairs the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, said that the new rule signals that the Obama administration may take the new policy a step further.

“When end-of-life counseling first came up, doctors’ quality ratings were going to be determined in part by the percentage of patients who have a living will and those who follow it up,” she said. “If they make advance-care planning a protocol … it’s not voluntary, despite the use of the word.“

The rule allows payment for advance-care planning as part of an annual preventive exam. It defines the term as “verbal or written information” that pertains to an “individual’s ability to prepare an advance directive in the case where an injury or illness causes the individual to be unable to make health care decisions. It also addresses whether "the physician is willing to follow the individual’s wishes as expressed in an advance directive.”

Richard Sorian, assistant secretary of Public Affairs for HHS, said the regulation does not require that the doctor say anything, but merely defines what advance-care planning is.

“The conversation between a patient and a doctor is a) voluntary and b) confidential. It is up to the patient and doctor to determine what that conversation is, or whether to have the conversation in the first place,” he said.

As for tying the percentage of patients that create an advance directive to quality measures, Sorian said he doesn’t believe that the regulation addresses that issue.

One of the measures used in the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative that doctors can voluntarily report to earn bonus payments is related to having a conversation about end-of-life care, Sorian acknowledged. But that is just one of dozens of different measures that doctors can choose to report in exchange for bonus payments, he stressed.

The decision about end-of-life discussions is entirely in the hands of the patient, Sorian said. It is up to the Medicare patient to decide. “Do I want a discussion about end-of-life care? And then, it’s up to the patient about what they want to discuss.”

Sorian also clarified that it was the Bush administration that first implemented regulations regarding end-of-life counseling. The wellness visit began as a “Welcome to Medicare” exam, which was created by the Republican-led Congress in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. In 2008, when Democrats held the majority, Congress passed the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, which modified the exam to include end-of-life planning. The Bush administration first implemented regulations that included the end-of life planning as part of the wellness visit created in MIPPA.

Sorian distanced the regulation’s language on advance-care planning from the bill that sparked the initial controversy over death panels. The original health reform bill in the House (HR 3200) “envisioned a separate benefit with a separate fee for physicians that would cover just advance-care planning. That was taken out of the bill,” he said. What was included in the bill were other modifications to the existing wellness visit, but not the advance-care planning language.

Sorian explained that the annual wellness exam is much broader and can include discussions about cholesterol, nutrition and will be used by doctors to set a “baseline” for patients.

The availability of discussions about advance directives is a requirement for conditions of participation of hospitals, under Medicare.

“What’s interesting about this rule is that it’s a lot less prescriptive than the original health reform law, which did outline some of the topics that had to be discussed,” Jon Radulovic, vice president of communication for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, said about the regulation, which the organization supports.

Radulovic said the regulation will be the springboard for patients to make use of an important benefit. “We feel this gives a patient or Medicare beneficiary the opportunity to become an informed consumer and make their own choices that reflect their own beliefs,” he said. As patients age, he said, their views on hospice or palliative care might evolve and the regulation allows for that.

“This is not about rationing care or saving money, it’s about making sure patients understand what options are available before there is a health care crisis,” he said.

But the Senate Democratic aide did talk about how this benefit might save money for the Medicare program over time.

“If people take advantage of it, it could save billions for taxpayers,” the aide said, by respecting the wishes of people who realize that Medicare coverage is available for end-of-life counseling, as well as for hospice and palliative care.

Recent data suggest that Medicare patients are making greater use of hospice. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission reported last year that utilization of hospice by Medicare beneficiaries has dramatically increased since 2000. The commission found that in 2005, almost 40 percent of Medicare patients who died had elected hospice, “suggesting that many more beneficiaries have access to hospice than was the case” in 1983 when the benefit was originally added to Medicare.

By 2007, nearly 1 million Medicare patients were in hospice and Medicare spending for the benefit “more than tripled, from $2.9 billion [in 2000] to just over $10 billion.” Still, because hospice care is cheaper than standard medical care for the terminally ill, generally, it saves taxpayers’ money.

© 2010 Capitol News

Will states consider new tests for 'Roe'?

LINCOLN, NEB. - Mike Flood, the 35-year-old speaker of Nebraska's legislature, had a problem: He wanted to stop the state's well-known abortion provider from offering late-term abortions.

A long line of Supreme Court precedents seemed to stand in his way. But Flood believes that a 2007 decision offers hope for him and other state legislators looking for ways to restrict abortion.

Using that decision as a road map, this spring Flood wrote and won passage of legislation that bans abortions after 20 weeks. Introducing into law the concept of "fetal pain," it marked the first time that a state has outlawed the procedure so early in a pregnancy without an exception for the health of the woman.

The law shut down LeRoy Carhart, the provider who had planned to expand his practice outside Omaha and provide late-term abortions to women across the Midwest.

The importance of Flood's bill is likely to be felt far beyond Nebraska. Abortion opponents call it model legislation for other states and say it could provide a direct challenge to Supreme Court precedents that restrict government's ability to prohibit abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. (It also prompted Carhart to shift his practice east, and he has since opened a late-term practice in Germantown, outside Washington.)

Critics of abortion hail the law as the most prominent and promising outcome of the Supreme Court's 2007 decision, in which, coincidentally, Carhart was the lead plaintiff.

The 5 to 4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart turned away Carhart's challenge to the federal ban on "partial birth" abortion and appeared to mark a significant change in the high court's balancing of a woman's right with the government's interest.

The ruling was a key moment in the emerging identity of the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who marked his fifth anniversary on the court this fall.

Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., also nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005, have become part of a conservative majority willing to reconsider the court's position on social and political issues. Race, campaign finance and the ability of plaintiffs to sue are some of the issues touched by the court's changing jurisprudence.

But since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, no social issue has been as entwined with the court than abortion, nor as dependent on its nuance and shifting views.

That's what made the 2007 decision so important to both sides of the issue.

"Many in the pro-life movement have become very pragmatic when it comes to the court: 'Can you count to five?' " said Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee. "With the Gonzales decision, we were happy to see that we could."

The justices have not revisited the issue of abortion since, but the decision has emboldened state legislators to pass an increasing number and variety of restrictions in hopes that a changed court will uphold them.

"I believe the decision was like planting a bunch of seeds, and we're just starting to see the shoots popping out of the ground," said Roger Evans, whois in charge of litigation for Planned Parenthood of America.

The Center for Reproductive Rights concluded that in 2010, state legislatures "considered and enacted some of the most extreme restrictions on abortion in recent memory, as well as passing laws creating dozens of other significant new hurdles."

The center's docket of lawsuits challenging state abortion restrictions has grown by a dozen cases in the past two years, President Nancy Northup said.

Flood agrees that his legislation pushes the court's previous boundaries but recites parts of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's majority opinion in the 2007 decision to justify the effort.

"Absent the holding in Gonzales, I don't think Nebraska would have any ability to even propose a bill like this and see it held constitutional," Flood said in a recent interview.

"I think Justice Kennedy's decision opened the door and spoke to me to the point I wanted to be convinced of before I started down this path."

Shift since 2000

The opinion was all the more striking because it seemed the opposite of what the court had ruled seven years earlier.

In 2000, the court struck down Nebraska's attempt to ban the procedure that opponents term partial-birth abortion. Known in medical terms as "intact dilation and extraction," it involves removing the fetus in an intact condition rather than dismembering it in the uterus.

With Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the majority, the court ruled 5 to 4 that Nebraska's law violated abortion rights established in Roe and affirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey because it did not contain an exemption for allowing the procedure when a woman's health was threatened.

But in 2007, with O'Connor replaced by Alito, the court in Gonzales upheld a federal ban on the procedure that did not include such an exception.

Kennedy's majority opinion said Congress did not need to provide a health exception, because of its finding that other procedures exist for terminating late-term pregnancies and the procedure is never medically necessary.

He noted that the Casey decision affirmed the right to abortion before viability. But he said it also established that "government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life."

Kennedy's ruling was shot through with references to government's interest in protecting the unborn and in making sure women knew the consequences of their actions.

He drew the ire of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others when he discussed the regret a woman might feel about the decision to end her pregnancy.

"It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound" when she learns the details of the intact-dilation-and-extraction process, Kennedy wrote.

In a dissent, Ginsburg struck back at the insinuation that a woman has not fully thought through her decision, or should be protected from making such a choice. "This way of thinking reflects ancient notions of women's place in the family and under the Constitution," said Ginsburg, which "have long since been discredited."

Ginsburg noted that, besides being the first court decision not to require a health exception, it as the first to uphold the ban on a specific procedure.

The "differently composed" court, Ginsburg said, is "hardly faithful" to previous decisions.

One outgrowth of the decision's expansive language on what a woman should know about abortion has been that an increasing number of states require physicians to read scripts about fetal development and consequences of abortion.

Abortion rights proponents call the "informed consent" laws "biased consent" because they substitute language from lawmakers for the words of physicians.

Many states require abortion providers to make ultrasound images of the fetus available to the woman; the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed suit to block an Oklahoma law that requires the ultrasound image be displayed where a woman can see it while a physician describes specific aspects of the fetus.

Nebraska passed a second antiabortion law aimed at "patient-screening" that imposed a wide variety of counseling demands on physicians.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland challenged the law before it took effect, and a federal judge issued an injunction, saying it was so vague that it would make it virtually impossible for a woman to get an abortion in the state.

Nebraska's antiabortion attorney general, Joe Bruning, agreed not to pursue appeals or try to enforce the law. He said he was convinced that courts would not uphold it and that further litigation "would only mean paying a million dollars to Planned Parenthood" in legal fees.

The 20-week threshold

On the other hand, Bruning said, the bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks is "brilliant in its simplicity."

Flood's bill, which went into effect in October, bans abortion after 20 weeks except when a woman's life is in danger or to save an additional fetus in the womb. It contains no exception for a woman's mental health, or because of the discovery of a fetal anomaly.

Most states' abortion bans, including Nebraska's, begin at 22 or 24 weeks, which in most cases is considered the earliest a fetus could survive outside the womb. The new Nebraska law seems to provide a direct challenge to Supreme Court precedent that government may not unduly burden a woman's right to an abortion pre-viability.

Flood's legislation was built on a premise that Right to Life's Balch has been championing for years: that some studies indicate 20 weeks is the point at which a fetus may begin to experience pain.

Flood acknowledges there is medical disagreement on that point but said the court's Gonzales decision seemed to leave balancing conflicting opinions up to legislators.

He provides the specific citation from Kennedy's opinion: "On Page 163, 'the court has given state and federal legislature wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty.' "

He is ready with other examples, too, about a state's interest in protecting fetal life. He even notes Ginsburg's dissent, in which she complained that the decision "blurs the line firmly drawn in Casey between pre-viability and post-viability abortions."

Flood understands that he and Ginsburg are in disagreement. "Clearly my bill walks away from viability as a standard and instead substitutes a scientific standard that I think the state of Nebraska has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life at that point."

The bill passed 44 to 5, and state Sen. Danielle Conrad was one of the five. "This legislation makes dramatic changes to every understanding of every court case and every bill and every ruling on this issue over 30 years," she said.

Both Flood and Conrad say that very few women would be affected by the ban - 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester. But Conrad said most abortions that take place so late in pregnancy are necessitated by problems that are discovered only then.

"What we're talking about now is forcing women to carry pregnancies that are incompatible with life," she said. "That's a dramatic departure from what medical practice and our jurisprudence has ever said."

Conrad was a constant presence on the floor as the abortion bills were debated, partly to establish a record for a constitutional challenge.

So far, that has not happened. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President Jill June said her organization's clinics in Nebraska do not offer abortions after 16 weeks, and so her group does not have standing to challenge the law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights's Northup said the Nebraska law is not grounded "in either the Constitution or science." She said she believes it to be "clearly unconstitutional" and adds: "The fact that it has not been challenged yet does not mean that it won't be."

Some abortion rights supporters say privately that a challenge might come if another state adopts Nebraska's model, as seems likely. Those who were active in passing the law seem almost disappointed that the challenge has not arrived yet.

"We can't say with any certainty that this is going to meet constitutional muster," said Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin. "But you know what, from our perspective, if we aren't bucking up against Roe, we're not doing our job.

"So we did our job in Nebraska and now it's time for the other states to do their job."

BREAKING NEWS: $13,000 Stolen from Salvation Army in Las Vegas! Loser both on earth & in heaven!

Chris Matthews Wants To Know Why Obama Hasn't Requested A Copy Of His Birth Certificate

Following Hawaii's Governor Neil Abercrombie announcement last week that he intends to put this Birther controversy to rest once and for all, Matthews raised the issue on his show last night.

"I am not a birther, I am an enemy of the birthers."


Said Matthews producing examples of the Hawaiian long-form birth certificate and the digital one that Obama has released: "Why has the president himself not demanded that they put out the initial documents?"

Why indeed. As the Tribune's Clarence Page points out, the president presumably has more important things to do.

Yes, but then why do so many people profess to be skeptical about Obama's birthplace? Asks Matthews: "Are you saying 43% of the country is incorrigibly stupid, or resistant to truth?"


The solution, according to Matthews? Produce the birth certificate.

"Don't we want to know if he can find it? I don't know why the Governor doesn't say, 'snap it up, whoever is there in the Department of Records, send me a copy right now. And why doesn't the president just say, 'send me a copy right now'?"

New Hawaii Governor to Take on Birthers (Remember "birthers" the earth is FLAT!)

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is vowing to end the "birther" controversy once and for all.

Birthers are those who believe President Obama was not born in the U.S., despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. They have long demanded that the state of the Hawaii release the president's original birth certificate, which is not allowed under state law.

Now, Abercrombie says in multiple interviews that he is determined to find a way to release more information about Mr. Obama's birth in an attempt to silence the critics.

"This has to do with the people in Hawaii who love him, people who loved his mom and dad. This has to do with the respect of the office that the president is entitled to," Abercrombie told CBS affiliate KGMB over the weekend.

The governor, a former Democratic congressman who was elected governor last month and took office just a few weeks ago, told CNN yesterday that he directed his attorney general and the state's Health Department director to determine what he is legally able to do to release more documentation "as quick as we can."

The Obama campaign in 2008 posted a "certification of live birth" online, an official document from the state. An original long-form birth certificate is by law not public record in Hawaii, though the director of the Hawaii state Department of Health at the time she had "personally seen and verified" the original. But that did little to stop rumors and conspiracy theories which have persisted among birthers.

Obama's birth on Aug. 4, 1961, at the Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital was also recorded in two separate birth announcements in local newspapers.

Abercrombie made clear in the CNN interview that there was nothing Mr. Obama or the White House could do to either expedite or stop his process. In fact, the White House may not want to bring up the issue again, and administration officials would not comment on the governor's remarks in response to a request from CBS News.

"No, no, no - it's not up to the president," Abercrombie said in the CNN interview. "It has nothing to do with the president. It has to do with the people of Hawaii who love him, people who love his mom and dad."

Abercrombie, 72, said this is was a personal issue for him since he was friends with Mr. Obama's parents while they lived in Hawaii.

"It's an insult to his mother and father," he told KGMB. "How would anybody like to have their mother and father in that kind of a situation? I was friends with his mom and dad."

"It's a matter of principle with me... I was here when he was born," he told CNN.

"His father was one of the first scholarship students coming to the United States and he came to the University of Hawaii, which we were very proud (of)," the governor added. "We became good friends."

But despite his efforts, Abercrombie knows he might not be able to silence all those who have a "political agenda."

"We have to take a look at what we can do with that," he told KGMB. "But I can't imagine that we can't find some way to see to it that those who are honest about it, that don't have a political agenda could have no further argument about it."

Could be a date to remember! May help or hurt the quitter's White House move?

Governor: Palin e-mails won't be released 'til May

JUNEAU, Alaska -- The Alaska governor's office says it needs until May 31 to release potentially thousands of e-mails sent and received by former Gov. Sarah Palin.

By that time, more than 2 1/2 years will have elapsed since media outlets, including The Associated Press, requested the e-mails. Palin has been out of office since July 2009.

A work plan submitted to the new attorney general, John Burns, says the Department of Law plans to assign two people to review the records full-time, including a former assistant attorney general with whom the department will contract. According to the plan submitted by public records officer Linda Perez, the cost will be $120,000.

Why Obama weighed in on behalf of Michael Vick

The weirdest story of the morning is President Obama's call to Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the NFL Eagles. Two things apparently happened during the call: Obama praised the team for giving Michael Vick a second chance, and then he asked some questions about the Eagles' plans to use alternative-energy sources to power the stadium.
Now the White House is spinning the call as the sort of everyday inquiry the president makes into eco-friendly architecture. "The president did place a call to Mr. Lurie to discuss plans for the use of alternative energy at Lincoln Financial Field, during which they spoke about that and other issues," Bill Burton told Mike Allen.

That explanation makes a lot less sense than the one Lurie himself offered, which was that Obama is "passionate" about the fact that "it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.
And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''

Patting Lurie on the back for playing Vick might give the White House communications shop some headaches, but it's also worth doing: About one in 100 Americans are currently behind bars, and more were behind bars at some other point in time. And as this Pew report (pdf) shows in grim detail, the punishment doesn't stop when convicts leave prison: "Serving time reduces hourly wages for men by approximately 11 percent, annual employment by 9 weeks and annual earnings by 40 percent."
And those numbers hide a serious racial tilt: "Incarceration depresses the total earnings of white males by 2 percent, of Hispanic males by 6 percent, and of black males by 9 percent."

Then there's the downstream effects on children and families ("Even in the year after the father is released, family income remains 15 percent lower than it was the year before incarceration"), and on cities with a high population of ex-convicts, and so on. As you might expect, the recession is making all this even worse.

That Obama would think it important that an NFL team made a major statement about the employability of ex-convicts makes sense.
That he'd want to take a risk and throw his weight behind the decision by making that call is admirable. But for the White House to now say that the call was really about energy efficiency in stadium design both makes Obama look a bit Carteresque -- does he really have time to be worrying about the energy efficiency of football stadiums? -- and blunts whatever impact the call itself could have had.
That was a call either worth making or not worth making, but it definitely wasn't worth making if the president wasn't willing to stand behind it.

Palin invents word 'refudiate,' compares herself to Shakespeare (Dummy Update!)

Politico reports that Sarah Palin addressed her now-infamous "refudiate" tweet (see below for the backstory) on Sunday's episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska." She now says it was a simple typo:

While in the car, Sarah also talked to Todd about the time she tweeted the word "refudiate." "I pressed an F instead of a P and people freaked out," said Sarah, pointing out that her blunder was the second-most-searched word on Google trends. "Make lemonade out of lemons," said Sarah.

At the time, Palin acknowledged in a tweet that she had created a new word.
It is perhaps worth noting that the "F" and "P" keys on a QWERTY keyboard are not near each other.
Moreover, Palin spoke the word "refudiate" in a Fox News appearance before she used it on Twitter:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Obama, Clinton Lead List of Most Admired in U.S.

According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll

The poll, which was conducted earlier this month, found that 22 percent pf Americans said the president is the man they admire most. That is down from a high of 32 percent in 2008. But he still outranks second on the list, Former President George W. Bush, who was cited by 5 percent.

Two other former presidents also made the list - Bill Clinton at No. 3 (with 4 percent) and Jimmy Carter who was in a tie for 8th with Fox News host Glenn Beck at 2 percent. Gallup reports that sitting presidents have been at the No. 1 spot in 52 out of the 64 times they have asked the question since 1946.

The list of admired men also includes Nelson Mandela (2 percent), Bill Gates (2 percent), Pope Benedict XVI (2 percent), Billy Graham (2 percent) and the Dalai Lama (1 percent). Gallup notes this is Billy Graham's 54th time in the top 10, the most ever.

"It's all about power," Wesleyan University professor Richard Slotkin told USA Today. "When we think of importance, we think politically, that's really clear -- with religion a close second, though Bill Gates beats out Pope Benedict. It's almost like a register of power."

Not surprisingly, party politics also plays a part in who people name for most admired. Mr. Obama is the most admired by 46 percent of Democrats, but only 17 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans.A

As for the women rankings, Clinton led the field with 17 percent, with former Alaska governor Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in second with 12 percent. Clinton has topped the poll for nine straight years, and this is Palin's second year in second place. Oprah Winfrey is in third, with 11 percent saying she is the woman they admire most.

Clinton is also among four first ladies who make the list. Michelle Obama came in fourth with five percent, and Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are in a three way tie for ninth with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi (at 1 percent).

Also included in the list of women: Condoleezza Rice (2 percent), Queen Elizabeth (2 percent), Angelina Jolie (1 percent) and Margaret Thatcher (1 percent). Queen Elizabeth's 43rd time in the top 10 is the record for women.

However, it should be noted that not everyone lists someone famous as the person they admire -- about 10 percent named a friend or relative, according to USA Today. In addition, many people didn't name anyone -- 25 percent didn't name a man and 22 percent didn't name a woman.

FOX Pundit Says Sarah Palin Is Too Dumb To Take On Obama

Fox News analyst Juan Williams has never exactly been timid with his criticism of Sarah Palin but he took it to a new level this weekend on Fox News Sunday. Here's Williams' frank assessment of the 2012 GOP presidential field:

"This is such a weak field. It's too weak, even, to exploit Obama's considerable flaws...The only potential candidate who could match Obama in charisma is Sarah Palin and she can't stand on the intellectual stage with Obama."

Cue gasps from fellow panel members Dana Perino and Bill Kristol (naturally). Some might say Williams is picking up where Karl Rove left off and is merely voicing reality too many GOPer's are unwilling to speak up about.

Meanwhile, could anything be better for Fox News than a on-air contretemps between Williams, who was welcomed into the Fox family following his NPR debacle with open arms and a multi-million dollar contract, and Sarah Palin, their star contributor?

How did obesity become a partisan fight?

Is Elmo a Kenyan, too? Or maybe a Socialist? He is awfully red, after all.

I ask because the Sesame Street puppet recently visited the White House to support "Let's Move," first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity. And that campaign has become, in one of the more striking political stories of the past year, the latest battleground in the left-right culture wars.

It's never easy for the spouse of a president, who so far has always been a wife, to settle on a signature issue. Choose something trivial, and she'll be accused of frothiness unworthy of strong and independent womanhood. Choose something more controversial, and people immediately demand, "Who elected you?"

In that context, the first lady's campaign would seem to have struck Goldilocks perfection. The obesity epidemic is a genuine public health emergency, with vast implications for the nation's well-being, economy and even national security. And yet, could anyone really be against children eating healthier food and getting more exercise? Could anyone really object to White House assistant chef Sam Kass trying to interest Elmo in a vegetable-laden burrito?

Well, yes, if Michelle Obama is for it, someone will be against it. Someone like Glenn Beck, for example, who was moved to rail against carrot sticks, or Sarah Palin, who warned that Obama wants to deprive us all of dessert.

And when you look a little deeper, it's not surprising that a crusade seemingly beyond questioning would become a political battle. Interests that might feel threatened by Let's Move include the fast-food industry, agribusiness, soft-drink manufacturers, real estate developers (because suburban sprawl is implicated), broadcasters and their advertisers (of sugary cereals and the like), and the oil-and-gas and automotive sectors (because people ought to walk more and drive less).

Throw in connections to the health-care debate (because preventive services will be key to controlling the epidemic), race (because of differential patterns of obesity) and red state-blue state hostilities (the reddest states tend to be the fattest), and it turns out there are few landmines that Michelle Obama didn't trip by asking us all to shed a few pounds.

Insinuations from her critics notwithstanding, Obama has not endorsed nanny-state or controversial remedies such as ending sugar subsidies, imposing soda-pop taxes or zoning McDonald's out of certain neighborhoods. Instead, she is pushing for positive, voluntary change: more recess and physical activity, more playgrounds, more vegetable gardens, fresher food in schools and grocery stores, better education on the issue for parents and children.

All of this makes total sense, and historians will marvel (much as they will at climate-change deniers) that anyone could doubt it. The percentage of American adults who are obese more than doubled in the past 30 years, from 15 percent to 34 percent (with another 34 percent overweight); the share of obese children and teenagers more than tripled, from 5 percent to 17 percent. In fact, the astonishing acceleration of the epidemic (which may now have leveled off) might explain some of the skepticism; it takes a while for awareness to catch up to statistics.

But the statistics are scary. The implications for these children are heartbreaking, literally (obesity is associated with higher incidence of heart disease as well as diabetes) and figuratively. For the nation, it could be bankrupting. Obesity and its attendant ills already may add as much as $147 billion to health-care costs each year, one-tenth of the nation's medical bill, a figure that is certain to rise. And the Army reports that one in four young people is too fat to serve.

That's why obesity is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Obama has merely extended and amplified a campaign that began under President George W. Bush; Bush's last acting surgeon general, Steven K. Galson, made obesity a signature issue, calling it "a national health crisis . . . [that] is driving up healthcare costs and crippling the fabric of our communities."

The crisis won't be solved in one presidential term, either. "We're talking about changing habits that have been formed over generations," Obama has said.

You'll notice, if you watch the White House video, that Elmo never actually eats that red-pepper burrito, though he claims to be enticed. "Where's the sour cream?" he may be thinking. "And no melted cheese?"

"It's not going to be easy," Michelle Obama says. She's right - but also right to keep pushing.
Fred Hiatt Washington Post

On Forgiveness - What is forgiveness? When is it appropriate?

We are in a season traditionally devoted to good will among people and to the renewal of hope in the face of hard times. As we seek to realize these lofty ideals, one of our greatest challenges is overcoming bitterness and divisiveness.
We all struggle with the wrongs others have done to us as well as those we have done to others, and we recoil at the vast extent of injury humankind seems determined to inflict on itself. How to keep hope alive? Without a constructive answer to toxic anger, addictive cycles of revenge, and immobilizing guilt, we seem doomed to despair about chances for renewal. One answer to this despair lies in forgiveness.

What is forgiveness? When is it appropriate? Why is it considered to be commendable? Some claim that forgiveness is merely about ridding oneself of vengeful anger; do that, and you have forgiven. But if you were able to banish anger from your soul simply by taking a pill, would the result really be forgiveness?
The timing of forgiveness is also disputed. Some say that it should wait for the offender to take responsibility and suffer due punishment, others hold that the victim must first overcome anger altogether, and still others that forgiveness should be unilaterally bestowed at the earliest possible moment. But what if you have every good reason to be angry and even to take your sweet revenge as well?
Is forgiveness then really to be commended? Some object that it lets the offender off the hook, confesses to one’s own weakness and vulnerability, and papers over the legitimate demands of vengeful anger. And yet, legions praise forgiveness and think of it as an indispensable virtue. Recall the title of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book on the subject: “No Future Without Forgiveness.”

If you claim you’ve forgiven someone then take revenge, you’re either dishonest or ignorant of the meaning of the term.
These questions about the what, when, and why of forgiveness have led to a massive outpouring of books, pamphlets, documentaries, television shows, and radio interviews. The list grows by the hour. It includes hefty representation of religious and self-help perspectives, historical analysis (much of which was sparked by South Africa’s famed Truth and Reconciliation Commission), and increasingly, philosophical reflection as well. Yet there is little consensus about the answers. Indeed, the list of disputed questions is still longer.
Consider: may forgiveness be demanded, or must it be a sort of freely bestowed gift? Does the concept of “the unforgivable” make sense? And what about the cultural context of forgiveness: does it matter? Has the concept of “forgiveness” evolved, even within religious traditions such as Christianity? Is it a fundamentally religious concept?

On almost all accounts, interpersonal forgiveness is closely tied to vengeful anger and revenge. This linkage was brought to the fore by Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752) in his insightful sermons on resentment (his word for what is often now called vengeful anger) and forgiveness. These sermons are the touchstone of modern philosophical discussions of the topic. Butler is often interpreted as saying that forgiveness requires forswearing resentment, but what he actually says is that it requires tempering resentment and forswearing revenge. He is surely right that it requires at least that much.
If you claim you’ve forgiven someone and then proceed to take revenge, then you are either dishonest or ignorant of the meaning of the term. Forgiveness comes with conditions, such as the giving up of revenge. What are other conditions?

If you seethe with vengeful thoughts and anger, or even simmer with them, can you be said to have forgiven fully? I would answer in the negative. That establishes another condition that successful forgiveness must meet. In the contemporary literature on forgiveness, the link between forgiveness and giving up vengefulness is so heavily emphasized that it is very often offered as the reason to forgive: forgive, so that you may live without toxic anger.

However, if giving up revenge and resentment were sufficient to yield forgiveness, then one could forgive simply by forgetting, or through counseling, or by taking the latest version of the nepenthe pill. But none of those really seems to qualify as forgiveness properly speaking, however valuable they may be in their own right as a means of getting over anger.
The reason is that forgiveness is neither just a therapeutic technique nor simply self-regarding in its motivation; it is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other.

Consider its genesis in the interpersonal context: one person wrongs another. Forgiveness is a response to that wrong, and hence to the other person as author of that action. Forgiveness retains the bilateral or social character of the situation to which it seeks to respond.
The anger you feel in response to having been treated unjustly is warranted only if, in its intensity and its target, it is fitting. After all, if you misidentified who did you wrong, then forgiving that person would be inappropriate, indeed, insulting. Or if the wrongdoer is rightly identified but is not culpable, perhaps by virtue of ignorance or youth, then once again it is not forgiveness that is called for but something else — say, excuse or pardon.
(One consequence: as philosopher Jeffrie Murphy points out in his exchange with Jean Hampton in their book “Forgiveness and Mercy,” “they know not what they do” makes Christ’s plea on the cross an appeal for excuse rather than forgiveness.) Moreover, it is not so much the action that is forgiven, but its author.
So forgiveness assumes as its target, so to speak, an agent who knowingly does wrong and is held responsible. The moral anger one feels in this case is a reaction that is answerable to reason; and this would hold too with respect to giving up one’s anger.
In the best case, the offender would offer you reasons for forswearing resentment, most obviously by taking a series of steps that include admission of responsibility, contrition, a resolve to mend his or her ways and recognition of what the wrong-doing felt like from your perspective.

Forgiveness is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other.
Of course, as the wronged party you don’t always get anything close to that and are often left to struggle with anger in the face of the offender’s unwillingness or inability to give you reason to forswear anger. But if the offender offered to take the steps just mentioned, you would very likely accept, as that would make it not only psychologically easier to forgive, but would much more perfectly accomplish one moral purpose of forgiveness — namely, restoration of mutual respect and reaffirmation that one is not to be treated wrongly.
A similar logic holds on the flip side: if as the offender you take every step that could reasonably be asked of you, and your victim is unable or unwilling to forgive, you are left to struggle with your sense of being unforgiven, guilty, beholden. Offered the chance that your victim would set aside revenge and vengefulness, forgive you, and move onto the next chapter of his or her life, you would very probably accept.

The paradigm case of interpersonal forgiveness is the one in which all of the conditions we would wish to see fulfilled are in fact met by both offender and victim. When they are met, forgiveness will not collapse into either excuse or condonation — and on any account it is essential to avoid conflating these concepts. One of the several sub-paradigmatic or imperfect forms of forgiveness will consist in what is often called unconditional, or more accurately, unilateral forgiveness — as when one forgives the wrongdoer independently of any steps he or she takes.
Some hold that unilateral forgiveness is the model, pointing to the much discussed case of the Amish unilaterally forgiving the murderer of their children (for an account of this case, see “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy,” by D. B. Kraybill, S. M. Nolt, and D. L. Weaver-Zercher).
I contend, by contrast, that the ideal is bilateral, one in which both sides take steps. I also hold that whether forgiveness is or is not possible will depend on the circumstances and reasons at play; not just anything is going to count as forgiveness. Establishing the minimal threshold for an exchange to count as “forgiveness” is a matter of some debate, but it must include the giving up of revenge by the victim, and an assumption of responsibility by the offender.

Other familiar cases of imperfect forgiveness present their own challenges, as when one seeks to forgive a wrong done to someone else (to forgive on behalf of another, or what is commonly called third-party forgiveness, as for example when the victim is deceased).
Another case concerns self-forgiveness. The latter is particularly complicated, as one may seek to forgive oneself for wrongs one has done to others; or for a wrong one has done to oneself (say, degrading oneself) by wronging another; or simply for a wrong one has done only to oneself. Self-forgiveness is notoriously apt to lapse into easy self-exculpation; here too, conditions must be set to safeguard the integrity of the notion.

Excuse, mercy, reconciliation, pardon, political apology and forgiveness of financial debt are not imperfect versions of interpersonal forgiveness; rather, they are related but distinct concepts. Take political apology, for example. As its name indicates, its context is political, meaning that it is transacted in a context that involves groups, corporate entities, institutions, and corresponding notions of moral responsibility and agency.
Many of the complexities are discussed by philosopher Nick Smith in “I Was Wrong: the Meanings of Apologies.” Apology figures into interpersonal forgiveness too. But in the case of political apology, the transaction may in one sense be quite impersonal: picture a spokesperson apologizing for a government’s misdeeds, performed before the spokesperson was born, to a group representing the actual victims. A lot of the moral work is done by representation (as when a spokesperson represents the state). Further, the criteria for successful apology in such a context will overlap with but nevertheless differ from those pertinent to the interpersonal context. For example, financial restitution as negotiated through a legal process will probably form an essential part of political apology, but not of forgiveness.

But, one may object, if the wrongdoer is unforgivable, then both interpersonal forgiveness and political apology are impossible (one can pronounce the words, but the moral deed cannot be done). Are any wrongdoers unforgivable? People who have committed heinous acts such as torture or child molestation are often cited as examples.
The question is not primarily about the psychological ability of the victim to forswear anger, but whether a wrongdoer can rightly be judged not-to-be-forgiven no matter what offender and victim say or do. I do not see that a persuasive argument for that thesis can be made; there is no such thing as the unconditionally unforgivable. For else we would be faced with the bizarre situation of declaring illegitimate the forgiveness reached by victim and perpetrator after each has taken every step one could possibly wish for. The implication may distress you: Osama bin Laden, for example, is not unconditionally unforgivable for his role in the attacks of 9/11.
That being said, given the extent of the injury done by grave wrongs, their author may be rightly unforgiven for an appropriate period even if he or she has taken all reasonable steps. There is no mathematically precise formula for determining when it is appropriate to forgive.

Why forgive? What makes it the commendable thing to do at the appropriate time? It’s not simply a matter of lifting the burden of toxic resentment or of immobilizing guilt, however beneficial that may be ethically and psychologically. It is not a merely therapeutic matter, as though this were just about you.
Rather, when the requisite conditions are met, forgiveness is what a good person would seek because it expresses fundamental moral ideals. These include ideals of spiritual growth and renewal; truth-telling; mutual respectful address; responsibility and respect; reconciliation and peace.

My sketch of the territory of forgiveness, including its underlying moral ideals, has barely mentioned religion. Many people assume that the notion of forgiveness is Christian in origin, at least in the West, and that the contemporary understanding of interpersonal forgiveness has always been the core Christian teaching on the subject. These contestable assumptions are explored by David Konstan in “Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea.”
Religious origins of the notion would not invalidate a secular philosophical approach to the topic, any more than a secular origin of some idea precludes a religious appropriation of it. While religious and secular perspectives on forgiveness are not necessarily consistent with each other, however, they agree in their attempt to address the painful fact of the pervasiveness of moral wrong in human life. They also agree on this: few of us are altogether innocent of the need for forgiveness.

Charles L. Griswold is Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.

The week's top 10 quotes in American politics:

"Many of us in the Democratic Party are going to take some pleasure watching [Republicans] try to figure out who they want to be when they grow up." - Rep. Anthony Weiner, offering his vision of the future in a GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

"Harry Reid has eaten our lunch." - Sen. Lindsey Graham, noting the majority leader's success during the lame-duck session.

"I'm short only two things: a calling and a groundswell." - Rep. Steve King, being realistic about his presidential chances in 2012.

"No, you're not interrupting anything." - University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, fielding a phone call from President Obama after his women's basketball team broke the NCAA's record for consecutive wins.

"We don't get ourselves dry-cleaned, we tend to take showers." - Rep. Barney Frank, dismissing a question about whether gay soldiers showering together was problematic.

"It does not scare me because I believe in the intelligence of the American public." - Oprah Winfrey, staying cool and calm about a potential 2012 presidential run by Sarah Palin.

“As MC Hammer would say, ‘You can’t touch this.’" - Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, boasting that the FCC can't get at him, being on private airwaves.

"Oh, happy day." - Rep. Nancy Pelosi, on the president signing the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"We have a gay guy in the unit. He’s big, he’s mean, he kills lots of bad guys. No one cares that he’s gay." – President Obama, quoting a soldier's take on gays in the military.

"Robert, as a former Eagles fan, are you suggesting that getting START through the Senate is a bit like scoring four touchdowns in seven minutes?" - CBS's Chip Reid, drawing a parallel between the nuclear arms reduction treaty and the Philadelphia Eagles’s stunning come-from-behind victory.

© 2010 Capitol News Company

In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill

In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill
Echoes of Murrow

Did the bill pledging federal funds for the health care of 9/11 responders become law in the waning hours of the 111th Congress only because a comedian took it up as a personal cause?

And does that make that comedian, Jon Stewart — despite all his protestations that what he does has nothing to do with journalism — the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow?

Certainly many supporters, including New York’s two senators, as well as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, played critical roles in turning around what looked like a hopeless situation after a filibuster by Republican senators on Dec. 10 seemed to derail the bill.

But some of those who stand to benefit from the bill have no doubt about what — and who — turned the momentum around.

“I don’t even know if there was a deal, to be honest with you, before his show,” said Kenny Specht, the founder of the New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation, who was interviewed by Mr. Stewart on Dec. 16.

That show was devoted to the bill and the comedian’s effort to right what he called “an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11.”

Mr. Specht said in an interview, “I’ll forever be indebted to Jon because of what he did.”

Mr. Bloomberg, a frequent guest on “The Daily Show,” also recognized Mr. Stewart’s role.

“Success always has a thousand fathers,” the mayor said in an e-mail. “But Jon shining such a big, bright spotlight on Washington’s potentially tragic failure to put aside differences and get this done for America was, without a doubt, one of the biggest factors that led to the final agreement.”

Though he might prefer a description like “advocacy satire,” what Mr. Stewart engaged in that night — and on earlier occasions when he campaigned openly for passage of the bill — usually goes by the name “advocacy journalism.”

There have been other instances when an advocate on a television show turned around public policy almost immediately by concerted focus on an issue — but not recently, and in much different circumstances.

“The two that come instantly to mind are Murrow and Cronkite,” said Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television at Syracuse University.

Edward R. Murrow turned public opinion against the excesses of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Mr. Thompson noted that Mr. Murrow had an even more direct effect when he reported on the case of Milo Radulovich, an Air Force lieutenant who was stripped of his commission after he was charged with associating with communists. Mr. Murrow’s broadcast resulted in Mr. Radulovich’s reinstatement.

Walter Cronkite’s editorial about the stalemate in the war in Vietnam after the Tet Offensive in 1968 convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that he had lost public support and influenced his decision a month later to decline to run for re-election.

Though the scale of the impact of Mr. Stewart’s telecast on public policy may not measure up to the roles that Mr. Murrow and Mr. Cronkite played, Mr. Thompson said, the comparison is legitimate because the law almost surely would not have moved forward without him. “He so pithily articulated the argument that once it was made, it was really hard to do anything else,” Mr. Thompson said.

The Dec. 16 show focused on two targets. One was the Republicans who were blocking the bill; Mr. Stewart, in a clear effort to shame them for hypocrisy, accused them of belonging to “the party that turned 9/11 into a catchphrase.” The other was the broadcast networks (one of them being CBS, the former home of Mr. Murrow and Mr. Cronkite), which, he charged, had not reported on the bill for more than two months.

“Though, to be fair,” Mr. Stewart said, “it’s not every day that Beatles songs come to iTunes.” (Each of the network newscasts had covered the story of the deal between the Beatles and Apple for their music catalog.) Each network subsequently covered the progress of the bill, sometimes citing Mr. Stewart by name. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, credited Mr. Stewart with raising awareness of the Republican blockade.

Eric Ortner, a former ABC News senior producer who worked as a medic at the World Trade Center site on 9/11, expressed dismay that Mr. Stewart had been virtually alone in expressing outrage early on.

“In just nine months’ time, my skilled colleagues will be jockeying to outdo one another on 10th anniversary coverage” of the attacks, Mr. Ortner wrote in an e-mail. “It’s when the press was needed most, when sunlight truly could disinfect,” he said, that the news networks were not there.

Brian Williams, the anchor of “NBC Nightly News” and another frequent Stewart guest, did not comment on his network’s news judgment in how it covered the bill, but he did offer a comment about Mr. Stewart’s role.

“Jon gets to decide the rules governing his own activism and the causes he supports,” Mr. Williams said, “and how often he does it — and his audience gets to decide if they like the serious Jon as much as they do the satirical Jon.”

Mr. Stewart is usually extremely careful about taking serious positions for which he might be accused of trying to exert influence. He went to great lengths to avoid commenting about the intentions of his Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington in October, and the rally itself emphasized such less-than-impassioned virtues as open-minded debate and moderation.

In this case, Mr. Stewart, who is on vacation, declined to comment at all on the passage of the bill. He also ordered his staff not to comment or even offer any details on how the show was put together.

But Mr. Specht, the show guest, described how personally involved Mr. Stewart was in constructing the segment.

After the news of the Republican filibuster broke, “The Daily Show” contacted John Feal, an advocate for 9/11 victims, who then referred the show producers to Mr. Specht and the other guests.

Mr. Stewart met with the show’s panel of first responders in advance and briefed them on how the conversation would go. He even decided which seat each of the four men should sit in for the broadcast.

For Mr. Stewart, the topic of the 9/11 attacks has long been intensely personal. He lives in the TriBeCa area and has noted that in the past, he was able to see the World Trade Center from his apartment. Like other late-night comedians, he returned to the air shaken by the events and found performing comedy difficult for some time.

But comedy on television, more than journalism on television, may be the most effective outlet for stirring debate and effecting change in public policy, Mr. Thompson of Syracuse said. “Comedy has the potential to have an important role in framing the way we think about civic life,” he said.

And Mr. Stewart has thrust himself into the middle of that potential, he said.

“I have to think about how many kids are watching Jon Stewart right now and dreaming of growing up and doing what Jon Stewart does,” Mr. Thompson said. “Just like kids two generations ago watched Murrow or Cronkite and dreamed of doing that. Some of these ambitious appetites and callings that have brought people into journalism in the past may now manifest themselves in these other arenas, like comedy.”

A Proposal to Let the States Override Congress

Re “Proposed Amendment Would Enable States to Repeal Federal Law” (news article, Dec. 20):

The proposed constitutional amendment to allow two-thirds of the states to overturn any federal law or regulation turns James Madison’s original proposal on its head.

Madison favored granting Congress the power to overturn state laws. The framers thought better of Madison’s proposal and adopted the balanced federal system we now have. Both Madison’s and the latest proposal would gradually unbalance the federal structure in favor of either the central government or the states.

The proposed “repeal amendment” would also undermine the rationale for the Supreme Court as we now know it. What happens to the Supreme Court as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution if two-thirds of the states may repeal a federal law or regulation for any reason or no reason? The Constitution eventually becomes the plaything of political expediency and whimsy.

Michael J. Polelle
Chicago, Dec. 20, 2010

The writer is a professor of law at John Marshall Law School.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hawaii gov. seeks to combat birthers

HONOLULU — For once the conspiracy theorists who believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States and the president's defenders are on the same page.

Neil Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama’s parents when the president was a baby, has only been governor of Hawaii for less than three weeks, but he’s said in interviews this week that he’s already initiated a process to make policy changes that would allow Hawaii to release additional evidence that Obama was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961.

“What bothers me is that some people who should know better are trying to use this for political reasons,” Abercrombie told Mike Memoli of the Tribune Co. “Maybe I’m the only one in the country that could look you right in the eye right now and tell you, ‘I was here when that baby was born.’”

But the initiative could backfire on the new governor, a Democrat who faces a $71 million budget deficit and a shrinking education system. Releasing additional documentation about Obama’s birth in Honolulu — which has been independently verified — could do more to stir up the ‘birthers’ than quiet them down. The movement has used such documentation in the past to bolster their conspiracy theory.

Abercrombie’s comments come as the "birther" movement is back in the headlines. In a recent high-profile trial, Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to six months in military prison for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because he believes Obama was born outside the United States and should not be commander in chief.

The conspiracy theory began when Obama was running for president in 2008. Without any evidence, critics began to charge that Obama was born in Kenya, where his father was from, not Honolulu. The Obama campaign responded by releasing a “certification of live birth” from the health department, and local reporters in Honolulu dug up a newspaper birth announcement.

But the ‘birthers’ persisted, demanding the release of Obama’s birth certificate, and some prominent Republicans have stopped short of definitively putting the theory to rest.

According to an article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the numerous requests have been a strain on the state Health Department's manpower, both under Abercrombie and his predecessor, Republican Linda Lingle.

Abercrombie got to know the president’s parents when they were students at the University of Hawaii. Though he says he was not at the Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu when Obama was born — a fact likely to be latched onto by ‘birthers’ — he has long spoke of being around Obama when he was a baby.

The ‘birthers’ will be a tough group to convince, but Abercrombie told The New York Times: “I’m going to take care of that.”

© 2010 Capitol News Company

Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours NOT B P OILS finest moment!

The worst of the explosions gutted the Deepwater Horizon stem to stern.

Crew members were cut down by shrapnel, hurled across rooms and buried under smoking wreckage. Some were swallowed by fireballs that raced through the oil rig’s shattered interior. Dazed and battered survivors, half-naked and dripping in highly combustible gas, crawled inch by inch in pitch darkness, willing themselves to the lifeboat deck.

It was no better there.

That same explosion had ignited a firestorm that enveloped the rig’s derrick. Searing heat baked the lifeboat deck. Crew members, certain they were about to be cooked alive, scrambled into enclosed lifeboats for shelter, only to find them like smoke-filled ovens.

Men admired for their toughness wept. Several said their prayers and jumped into the oily seas 60 feet below. An overwhelmed young crew member, Andrea Fleytas, finally screamed what so many were thinking:

“We’re going to die!”

It has been eight months since the Macondo well erupted below the Deepwater Horizon, creating one of the worst environmental catastrophes in United States history. With government inquiries under way and billions of dollars in environmental fines at stake, most of the attention has focused on what caused the blowout. Investigators have dissected BP’s well design and Halliburton’s cementing work, uncovering problem after problem.

But this was a disaster with two distinct parts — first a blowout, then the destruction of the Horizon. The second part, which killed 11 people and injured dozens, has escaped intense scrutiny, as if it were an inevitable casualty of the blowout.

It was not.

Nearly 400 feet long, the Horizon had formidable and redundant defenses against even the worst blowout. It was equipped to divert surging oil and gas safely away from the rig. It had devices to quickly seal off a well blowout or to break free from it. It had systems to prevent gas from exploding and sophisticated alarms that would quickly warn the crew at the slightest trace of gas. The crew itself routinely practiced responding to alarms, fires and blowouts, and it was blessed with experienced leaders who clearly cared about safety.

On paper, experts and investigators agree, the Deepwater Horizon should have weathered this blowout.

This is the story of how and why it didn’t.

It is based on interviews with 21 Horizon crew members and on sworn testimony and written statements from nearly all of the other 94 people who escaped the rig. Their accounts, along with thousands of documents obtained by The New York Times describing the rig’s maintenance and operations, make it possible to finally piece together the Horizon’s last hours.

What emerges is a stark and singular fact: crew members died and suffered terrible injuries because every one of the Horizon’s defenses failed on April 20. Some were deployed but did not work. Some were activated too late, after they had almost certainly been damaged by fire or explosions. Some were never deployed at all.

At critical moments that night, members of the crew hesitated and did not take the decisive steps needed. Communications fell apart, warning signs were missed and crew members in critical areas failed to coordinate a response.

The result, the interviews and records show, was paralysis. For nine long minutes, as the drilling crew battled the blowout and gas alarms eventually sounded on the bridge, no warning was given to the rest of the crew. For many, the first hint of crisis came in the form of a blast wave.

The paralysis had two main sources, the examination by The Times shows. The first was a failure to train for the worst. The Horizon was like a Gulf Coast town that regularly rehearsed for Category 1 hurricanes but never contemplated the hundred-year storm. The crew members, though expert in responding to the usual range of well problems, were unprepared for a major blowout followed by explosions, fires and a total loss of power.

They were also frozen by the sheer complexity of the Horizon’s defenses, and by the policies that explained when they were to be deployed. One emergency system alone was controlled by 30 buttons.

The Horizon’s owner, Transocean, the world’s largest operator of offshore oil rigs, had provided the crew with a detailed handbook on how to respond to signs of a blowout. Yet its emergency protocols often urged rapid action while also warning against overreaction. Fred Bartlit, chief counsel for the presidential commission that is looking into the Horizon disaster, said Transocean’s handbook was “a safety expert’s dream,” and yet after reading it cover to cover he struggled to answer a basic question:

“How do you know it’s bad enough to act fast?”

Transocean has defended the Horizon’s crew. “They acted appropriately based on the information they had at the time,” the company said in a statement, adding, “This world-class crew — some of whom lost their lives — battled to the end to gain control of the well.”

In the end, though, after the Horizon’s elaborate defenses had failed, many lives were saved by simple acts of bravery, the interviews and records show. All over the rig, in the most hellish of circumstances, men and women helped one another find a way to live.

Morning, April 20

Caleb Holloway, a lanky 28-year-old floorhand, headed up to the Horizon’s vast main deck just after 11 a.m. It had always been a breathtaking sight.

The deck, nearly as big as a football field, was dominated by a 25-story derrick flanked by two cranes. Below deck were two more floors, including quarters for up to 146 people. Each room had its own bathroom and satellite television. There was a gym, a sauna and a movie theater. Housekeepers cleaned the crew members’ rooms and did their laundry. “A floating Hilton,” they called it.

Before joining the Horizon in 2007, Mr. Holloway had worked on a rusty little jack-up rig just off the Gulf Coast. But this place — a space-age behemoth packed with up to 5,000 pieces of sophisticated drilling equipment — practically gleamed. “Everything on Horizon, it’s like, pretty,” he said.

Mr. Holloway gathered with the rest of his drilling crew, about a dozen men in all, to discuss the day ahead with their bosses, Wyman Wheeler, the toolpusher, and the driller, Dewey Revette. They were a tight-knit bunch, working in close quarters 12 hours a day, day after day, over a 21-day hitch. They knew one another’s moods and quirks. They all knew Mr. Revette was a nut for Jeeps, and that Steve Curtis, an assistant driller, could do a turkey call that was so convincing you half expected a turkey to land on the rig. Everyone had a nickname — Mr. Holloway was “Hollywood” — and their bond went beyond work. Some hunted and fished together, others worked out together, and a few studied the Good Book together.

“It was family,” Mr. Holloway said.

It was also a family with some swagger.

Drilling is a competitive business, and it was an article of faith that the Horizon’s crew members were among the best. Just last year, the Horizon drilled the deepest oil well on earth, at 35,055 feet.

They shared something else — a clear-eyed realization that they held one of the last great blue-collar jobs, where someone with a high school diploma could easily make six figures a year.

The Horizon was not just a job; it was a path to a life otherwise out of reach.

Doug Crawford of Mount Olive, Miss., had hit a dead end in the poultry industry. Patrick Morgan of McCool, Miss., saw the writing on the wall when his Georgia-Pacific plant began downsizing. Six years ago, Mr. Holloway was pouring concrete foundations and wondering if he would ever get a paid vacation. Now he and his wife owned an Infiniti and a sprawling brick home.

Leo Lindner, a former college English teacher who discovered that he could make far more money handling drilling fluids on the Horizon, was not fooled by the rig’s collection of good old boys. “Sometimes maybe a little rough,” he said, “but a very intelligent crew.”

On this day, the main task was finishing off the “well from hell.” The Macondo had been behind schedule nearly from the get-go, and the Horizon had been sent to get it back on track. At first the Horizon drilled rapidly, welcome news for a crew whose bonuses were tied to meeting schedules.

But drilling quickly adds risk. For all of the Horizon’s engineering wizardry, it was tangling with powerful and unpredictable geological forces. And pushing rapidly into a highly pressurized, three-mile-deep reservoir of oil and gas can be particularly problematic in the Gulf of Mexico’s unstable and porous formations.

Sure enough, the Horizon hit trouble. Heavy drilling fluid, called mud, kept disappearing into formation cracks. Less mud meant less weight bearing down on the oil and gas that were surging up. This set off violent “kicks” of gas and oil that sent the Horizon’s drilling teams scrambling to control the well. March 8 had been especially bad. A nasty kick had left millions of dollars worth of drilling tools jammed in the well. Operations were halted for nine maddening days. There was still so much gas filtering up that cookouts were suspended on the deck.

For the crew, the sooner they left the Macondo the better, so the team quickly got down to business. Mr. Holloway worked the drilling floor with Adam Weise and Dan Barron, the team’s newest member. Before long, Mr. Holloway received a call over his radio from Mr. Revette: “Mr. Jimmy needs to see you down in his office.”

Jimmy Harrell, 54, had started off as a floorhand just like Mr. Holloway. Now, after three decades with Transocean, he was the boss of the Deepwater Horizon. He was revered by his crew, regarded as approachable, competent and to the point. Mr. Holloway found most of the rig’s leaders waiting in Mr. Harrell’s office, including Curt Kuchta, the captain, and Randy Ezell, the senior toolpusher, who supervised drilling operations.

“All right,” Mr. Harrell began. “Close the door.”

Mr. Harrell handed him a box. Inside was a handsome silver watch — a reward for spotting a worn bolt on the derrick. “You did a really good derrick inspection,” Mr. Harrell said.

The gesture was typical of the potent safety culture on the Horizon, where before every job, no matter how routine, crew members were required to write out a plan identifying all potential hazards. Despite the long hours and harsh conditions, injuries were remarkably rare. So rare that two BP executives and two senior Transocean officials had flown out earlier in the day to praise the crew’s safety performance.

But the V.I.P.’s were also there to discuss the Horizon’s crowded schedule. Along with finishing the Macondo, the rig had to complete several repairs before beginning two other high-priority projects for BP. The executives were keen to keep the Horizon on track. In e-mails, BP managers — whose bonuses were heavily based on saving money and beating deadlines — kept asking when the well would be finished.

Mr. Holloway returned to work, and he and the other floorhands got busy cleaning the drilling floor. They avoided the drill shack, though. Lately, there had been too much stress there.

Mr. Holloway could tell when the BP “company men” got on Mr. Revette’s nerves: he would rub his head a certain way. This had happened a lot on the Macondo job. The Horizon might have been Transocean’s rig, but it was BP’s well, and it was obvious that the guys in the shack felt that the BP men were breathing down their necks. “You could just tell,” Mr. Holloway said.

BP has denied pressuring the Horizon’s crew to cut corners, but its plans for completing the well kept changing, often in ways that saved time but increased risk. “It’s a new deal every time we get up,” Jason Anderson, a 35-year-old toolpusher, complained to his father.

By early evening, there was one crucial test remaining before the Horizon could plug the Macondo and move on. To make sure the well was not leaking, the crew would withdraw heavy mud from it and replace it with lighter seawater. Then they would shut in the well to see if pressure built up inside. If it did, that could mean hydrocarbons — oil and gas — were seeping into the well.

In effect, they were daring the well to blow out. Designing and interpreting this test — a “negative pressure” test — requires a blend of art and engineering expertise. There are no industry standards or government rules. Designing the test was BP’s job, yet the oil company’s instructions, e-mailed to the rig that morning, were all of 24 words long.

It fell to the BP company men and the drilling crew to work out the details, but it did not go well. There was strong disagreement over the test results. Pressure had built up, exactly what they did not want, and Mr. Wheeler, the team’s toolpusher, was worried. A BP company man said he thought the test went fine. Other rig managers, including Mr. Anderson, joined the discussion, and they debated whether to repeat the test.

By 8 p.m., after redoing the test, they all agreed that the Macondo was stable. In a few hours, the drilling crew’s 21-day hitch would be done. They were working unusually fast. In seven years on the Horizon, Joseph Keith had never seen so much activity while sealing a well, and it made him uncomfortable. His job included monitoring gauges that detect blowouts. But all the jobs going on at once — transferring mud to a supply vessel, cleaning mud pits, repairing a pump — could throw off his instruments. Mr. Keith did not tell anyone that he was worried about his ability to monitor the well. “I guess I just didn’t think of it at the time,” he later testified.

Mr. Holloway and Mr. Weise were filling out paperwork when Mr. Revette called on the radio again. He needed a floorhand in the pump room below. “I’ll see you at 11:30, buddy,” Mr. Weise said, heading down. Mr. Holloway walked to the drill shack to drop off the papers.

By then, oil and gas had probably begun seeping into the well.

Investigators believe that the influx began about 8:50 p.m. Preparing to plug the well, the drilling crew was pumping mud from it, reducing the weight bearing down on the hydrocarbons. Investigators agree that the Macondo had in fact failed its crucial final test. They have pointed to BP’s cursory instructions and questioned whether the Horizon’s crew had the skills to correctly interpret the results. They also believe that monitors should have allowed Mr. Revette’s team to spot the signs of leaking within the first 20 minutes.

But Mr. Holloway detected no concern in the drill shack. Whether the team was distracted by other tasks or rushing to get done or simply complacent may never be known.

“The question is why these experienced men out on that rig talked themselves into believing that this was a good test,” said Sean Grimsley, a lawyer for a presidential commission investigating the disaster.

“None of these men out on that rig want to die.”

Mr. Ezell, the senior toolpusher, was in his office below deck. He had been up nearly 18 hours, but a little before 9:30 he decided to check in one last time with Mr. Anderson, who had relieved Mr. Wheeler. Mr. Ezell and Mr. Anderson had been born in the same Texas hospital, and though they were 20 years apart, Mr. Ezell considered Mr. Anderson to be “just like a brother.” He knew Mr. Anderson would give it to him straight on whether there were lingering doubts about the final tests.

Mr. Anderson assured him everything was good.

“Get your ass to bed,” he said.


By now, investigators agree, hundreds of barrels of oil and gas were moving up the well, gathering force and speed as the gases expanded.

At 9:38, well data indicates, the first hydrocarbons passed through the Horizon’s five-story blowout preventer. Resting on the seabed, the blowout preventer was an elaborate fail-safe device that gave the drilling crew several ways to seal the well. But once the oil and gas got past the blowout preventer, there was nothing to stop them from racing up the Horizon’s riser pipe, the 5,000-foot umbilical cord to the rig.

Mr. Holloway and Mr. Barron were working on the main deck when Mr. Holloway happened to glance up at the drilling floor. He could not believe it. Drilling mud was gushing up from the well, just like a water fountain.

It would be nine minutes before the first explosion, well data shows.

Nine precious minutes.

The drilling crew had trained for blowouts. Floorhands like Mr. Holloway were the crucial first responders. A driller would call “Blowout!” and time their response. This usually involved quickly installing a special valve on the drill pipe to end the imagined blowout.

But confronted with the real thing for the first time, Mr. Holloway realized there were no floorhands on the drilling floor to respond.

Mr. Holloway cursed and sprinted for the stairs. Mr. Barron was right behind him. A waterfall of mud was pouring off the drilling floor to the main deck. Then, in a split second, mud and water exploded up inside the derrick.

When they reached the drilling floor, Mr. Holloway and Mr. Barron paused. They would have to pass through a watertight door to get to the drilling floor. Yet they could not be sure what they would find on the other side.

Mr. Holloway cracked open the door. All he could see was mud and water bouncing off the derrick in every direction with incredible force. He and Mr. Barron went through anyway.

Twenty feet from the blowout’s full fury, it sounded like a jet engine, a shrill whining howl. Mr. Holloway was instantly soaked, his protective glasses coated in mud. Objects were crashing around him, some “loud enough to make you jump.”

He told Mr. Barron to take shelter in the heavy tool room just behind them.

Their training sessions contemplated a blowout coming up through only the drilling pipe. This one, it seemed, was erupting from the whole well opening. “I had no idea it could do what it did,” Mr. Holloway said.

He considered making a dash for the drill shack to find out what his bosses wanted to do, but he would risk being torn apart by the blowout.

He reached for his radio and called Mr. Revette.

“Dewey!” he shouted. “What do I do?” He didn’t hear an answer. He took his earplugs out and tried again.

“Dewey. Dewey. What do we need to do?”

Again, no response.

‘Something Ain’t Right’

High above the rig floor, from his perch in a crane cab, Micah Joseph Sandell had a clear view of the blowout.

When the mud subsided for a moment, he thought the drilling crew had it under control. But then it erupted again, he said, so loudly that it was like “putting an air hose to your ear.”

Even more unnerving was the smoky haze of gas coming from a pipe opening positioned like a large shower head high up on the derrick. The Horizon had two ways to defend against oil and gas surging to the rig. The drilling crew could turn a valve and divert the blowout out to sea. Or it could try to contain it on the rig by funneling it into a device called a mud gas separator.

The separator was much preferred for smaller kicks because it avoided any cleanup and investigation required by a spill. Drilling crews rarely even rehearse diverting blowouts into the ocean, and Transocean’s handbook seemed to offer contradictory advice. It said either method could be used if hydrocarbons entered the riser.

The gas Mr. Sandell saw floating down from the derrick indicated that Mr. Revette’s team had chosen the mud gas separator, only to see it quickly overwhelmed.

The gas cloud spreading over the aft deck was a grave threat.

The Horizon’s six main diesel engines, spanning the rig’s back end, were fed by air intakes above the deck. If the engines began taking in air suffused with gas, they might speed up to the point of breaking apart.

Doug Brown, a chief mechanic, was doing paperwork in the engine control room, which was sandwiched in the middle of the six main engines. Three of his men were with him. Suddenly, a computer console began chirping, warning that sensors had detected gas somewhere on the rig. “Something ain’t right,” Mr. Brown said.

Up on the bridge, the crew was busy showing off the Horizon’s impressive capabilities to the V.I.P.’s.

Andrea Fleytas, one of the bridge officers, felt a jolt. Curt Kuchta, the 34-year-old captain, also sensed something wrong. There was a high-pitched hissing. On a closed-circuit television, they could see mud flying into the sea.

Suddenly, gas alarms began lighting up Ms. Fleytas’s computer console. The lights showed gas spreading over the rig, from the drilling floor to the main deck. There were so many alarms it was hard to keep track of where gas was being detected. More frightening still, the lights were all magenta, signaling extremely high levels of combustible gas.

The phone rang. It was the crew in the drill shack. They said they were having a well-control situation and hung up. A second call came — the engine control room asking what was going on. “We have a well-control situation,” Ms. Fleytas replied.

She said nothing about the erupting mud or the gas alarms.

The alarm system relied on dozens of sensors strategically placed all over the Horizon. When a sensor detected fire or gas, a corresponding alarm lighted up on computer consoles — not just on the bridge, but also in the two other crucial parts of the rig, the drill shack and the engine control room. In theory, this meant anyone in the three critical locations could respond swiftly to the first sign of trouble.

As originally designed, this system would also automatically trigger the general master alarm — the shrill warning that signaled evacuation of the rig — if it detected high levels of gas. Transocean, though, had set the system so that the general master alarm had to be activated manually.

The change had the Coast Guard’s blessing, but Mike Williams, an electronics technician who maintained the system, testified that he had raised concerns about the setup’s safety.

“They did not want people woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning due to false alarms,” he said.

Ms. Fleytas, 23, had graduated from maritime school in 2008 and had only been on the Horizon for 18 months. This was her first well-control emergency. But she had been trained, she said, to immediately sound the general master alarm if two or more sensors detected gas. She knew it had to be activated manually. She also knew how important it was to get crew members out of spaces filled with gas.

Yet with as many as 20 sensors glowing magenta on her console, Ms. Fleytas hesitated. She did not sound the general master alarm. Instead she began pressing buttons that told the system that the bridge crew was aware of the alarms.

“It was a lot to take in,” she testified. “There was a lot going on.”

Her boss, Yancy Keplinger, was also on the bridge. The alarms, in addition to flashing magenta, were making a warning sound. Mr. Keplinger said he kept trying to silence the alarms so he could think about what to do next. “I don’t think anybody was trained for the massive detectors that were going off that night,” he said.

Ms. Fleytas and Mr. Keplinger had another powerful tool at their fingertips — the emergency shutdown system. They could have used it to shut down the ventilation fans and inhibit the flow of gas. They could have used it to turn off electrical equipment and limit ignition sources. They could have even used it to shut down the engines.

They did none of these things.

Ms. Fleytas’s lawyer, Tim Johnson, said that with so much gas, explosions were all but inevitable. “I don’t think anything she could have done would have changed the situation out there,” he said. Mr. Keplinger’s lawyer, Steve Gordon, said the bridge crew faced “an insurmountable situation.”

As with the general master alarm, the effectiveness of the Horizon’s emergency shutdown system relied on human judgment. Transocean had been warned that the human element — the need for crew members to act quickly and correctly under stress — made the shutdown system vulnerable. In 2002, a safety consultant specifically urged Transocean to consider changing the system “so that human input is not critical for success.” Transocean says that having an automatic system is less safe.

Ms. Fleytas said it never occurred to her to use the emergency shutdown system. In any event, she explained, she had not been taught how to use it. “I don’t know of any procedures,” she said.

A Fine Mist of Gas

Most of the crew members still knew nothing about the unfolding emergency. They were sleeping, watching television, calling home, posting on Facebook.

On the drilling floor, inside the heavy tool room, Mr. Holloway found Mr. Barron pacing. They were both close to losing it. “I just remember the look on his face,” Mr. Holloway said. Mr. Holloway picked up a phone and started to dial Mr. Revette again. Then he froze. He realized he was enveloped in a fine mist of gas.

“I could just feel it and taste it,” he said. “It was smothering.”

He looked at Mr. Barron, and for the first time he panicked. He knew they were one spark from oblivion.

“Daniel, that’s gas,” he yelled. “We have to go.” He dropped the phone, and they ran down a set of stairs to the main deck.

Mr. Ezell’s stateroom was on the level below. After Mr. Anderson had told him to go to bed, Mr. Ezell had called his wife. He turned on his new 40-inch flat-screen television. About 15 minutes after hanging up with Mr. Anderson, his phone rang. It was Mr. Curtis, the assistant driller.

“We have a situation,” Mr. Curtis began.

“The well is blown out,” he said. Mud, he explained, was shooting to the top of the derrick. The drill shack’s windows were coated. They could not see a thing. After 33 years of offshore drilling, Mr. Ezell knew instantly that this was the nightmare they had all dreaded.

“Do y’all have it shut in?” he asked.

“Jason is shutting it in right now,” Mr. Curtis said. No one was better at shutting in a well than Mr. Anderson, but Mr. Curtis’s next words were a plea: “Randy, we need your help.”

Mr. Ezell grabbed his coveralls and socks. His boots and his hard hat were in his office. In the hall, he found Wyman Wheeler and Buddy Trahan, one of the Transocean V.I.P.’s, who had come down from the bridge. They asked what was going on. Mr. Ezell was so focused on getting to the drilling floor he did not respond.

Only minutes before the blowout, the drill shack had seemed to sense trouble. Mr. Revette and Mr. Anderson were overheard discussing puzzling pressure readings. They had also turned off the pumps removing mud from the well, and they had sent word that they were going to hold off on plugging it.

When the mud erupted, they reacted quickly, well data shows. They turned to their mightiest weapon, the 400-ton blowout preventer. It gave the men several different methods to shut in the well, the most extreme being a powerful set of hydraulic shears that could cut through drill pipe and seal the well.

A red button in the drill shack would activate the shears, yet Transocean’s well-control handbook said they should be used “only in exceptional circumstances.” It does not appear the button was pushed. The well data, though, indicates that the drilling team tried to use at least two other methods, both in keeping with Transocean’s guidelines. Neither worked.

The industry has long depicted blowout preventers as “the ultimate fail-safe.” But Transocean says the Horizon’s blowout preventer was simply incapable of preventing this blowout. Evidence is mounting, however, that the blowout preventer may have been crippled by poor maintenance. Investigators have found a host of problems — dead batteries, bad solenoid valves, leaking hydraulic lines — that were overlooked or ignored. Transocean had also never performed an expensive 90-day maintenance inspection that the manufacturer said should be done every three to five years. Industry standards and federal regulations said the same thing. BP and a Transocean safety consultant had pointed out that the Horizon’s blowout preventer, a decade old, was past due for the inspection.

Transocean decided that its regular maintenance program was adequate for the time being.

As the drilling team was trying to shut in the well, Paul Erickson, the chief mate on the Damon B. Bankston, a 262-foot work vessel moored to the Horizon, noticed something spilling off the rig. Then drilling fluids began cascading onto the ship. Dead seagulls fell, killed by the blowout’s blast. The Bankston’s captain radioed the Horizon’s bridge and was told to move to a safe distance.

In the engine control room, Doug Brown and his men overheard the conversation with the Bankston on their radios. Within arm’s reach was a console that gave them access to the emergency shutdown system. All they had to do was lift a plastic cover and hit a button and the engines would shut down in seconds.

It was not such an easy or obvious step to take.

Although they knew there was a well-control situation, they had no reason to believe that it was anything more than a routine kick. Nor did they know that highly explosive gas was gathering overhead.

There was risk in overreacting. If they killed the engines, the Horizon would drift from its position over the well, possibly damaging the drilling equipment and forcing costly delays. Indeed, Mr. Brown testified that he did not think he had the authority to hit the emergency shutdown. The practice was to “wait and listen” for instructions from the bridge, said William Stoner, one of the men with Mr. Brown.

But other than the two brief calls, each only seconds long, there were no communications or coordination among the bridge, the drill shack and the engine control room. The men in the engine control room did nothing.

Mr. Stoner saw more lights flicker on the console: someone had triggered an emergency shutdown of the electrical and ventilation systems near the drilling floor. Since the bridge and the engine control room had not hit the emergency shutdown, only the men in the drill shack could have done it. But those efforts to prevent an explosion on the drilling floor did not affect the engines.

Two of the rig’s six engines were running — No. 3 and No. 6 — and they were beginning to accelerate. The usual rumble was turning to a whine. A safety device, the “rig saver,” should have shut down the engines if they ran too fast. Yet the whine kept climbing. “Higher and higher and higher,” Mr. Brown recalled.

In the electronics shop next door, Mike Williams could hear Engine 3 revving. He pushed away from his desk to investigate.

Just then, his computer monitor exploded. Then, light bulbs began popping, one by one.

Explosions and Fire

Mr. Holloway and Mr. Barron were leaping rows of pipes, heading for the stairs that would take them down, off the main deck.

All the lights went out, casting them into darkness.

“Stay with me, Daniel,” he called.

They were turning down the stairs when they were buffeted by an explosion. Mr. Holloway felt an intense, stabbing pain in his ears. He steadied himself on the stair rail and pressed his hard hat to his head, as if it alone might shelter him.

The first big explosion centered on Engine 3, investigators believe. A second explosion centered on Engine 6. Caught in the crossfire were Mr. Brown’s engine control room and Mr. Williams’s electronics shop.

Mr. Williams was contemplating the remains of his computer when everything exploded. A door smashed his forehead. Blood streaming down his face, he clenched a penlight in his mouth and began crawling. He got to another door, only to be blown 30 feet back by the second blast.

He began crawling again. He climbed across two men in the engine control room. He assumed they were dead because they did not respond. (In fact, all four men in the engine control room survived, although all were injured.)

Mr. Williams made it to the lifeboat deck just outside the engine control room. The superstructure by Engine 3 had been blown away. But the two lifeboats looked intact. They were meant to hold 73 people, but he considered launching one on his own.

Instead, he decided to offer his help on the bridge.

All over the Horizon, the explosions hit crew members who until then had been oblivious to the threat. In the galley, Kenneth Roberts was washing dishes. The explosions knocked him out. “I woke up under a table,” he said. Virginia Stevens was working in the laundry. The blasts left her trapped and battered. “No warning, no nothing,” she said.

On the main deck, Carlos Ramos looked up at his boss, Dale Burkeen, who was operating the Horizon’s starboard crane. Mr. Ramos wanted to make sure that Mr. Burkeen was getting out. Instead, Mr. Burkeen, a father figure to many on the rig, tried to lay the crane boom in its cradle.

“Moments later, I saw him exit the cab and go down the spiral staircase while smoke and flames covered him whole,” Mr. Ramos said. The blast wave from the second explosion briefly extinguished the fire engulfing Mr. Burkeen, but it also knocked him headfirst to the deck.

Joseph Keith, running for the lifeboats, stumbled on Mr. Burkeen. He was facedown in a pool of blood, without a pulse, his head caved in.

On the other side of the deck, Mr. Sandell was blown to the back of his crane cab by the second explosion. “All I know is the whole deck blew up,” he recalled. A fireball, hundreds of feet high, enveloped the derrick and wrapped itself around his cabin. He could feel the heat building. He put his arms over his head and prepared for the end.

“No, God,” he said. “No.”

Trapped Below Deck

Mr. Ezell had just stepped into his office to get his boots and his hard hat when he was blown 20 feet into a bulkhead.

“I could hear everything deathly calm,” he said.

Twice he struggled to get up.

Twice he fell back.

“Either you get up,” he told himself, “or you’re going to lay here and die.”

He made it to his hands and knees, but he could not figure the way out. He felt a flow of air and followed it until he realized it was gas. He kept crawling, droplets of gas clinging to his face. His hand touched a body. There was a groan. It was Mr. Wheeler, buried in debris.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Hell no, I’m not all right,” Mr. Wheeler said. “Get this stuff off of me.”

Down the hallway, Mr. Ezell saw a flashlight beam. It was Stan Carden, the electrical supervisor, and Chad Murray, the chief electrician. Then the rig boss, Mr. Harrell, emerged from the remains of his stateroom. He had been in the shower and although he had managed to slip into coveralls, his feet were bare and he had been partially blinded by slivers of insulation. The gas made it hard to breathe.

Mr. Ezell told him about Mr. Wheeler.

“Yeah, O.K.,” Mr. Harrell said, disoriented and squinting. “I’ve got to see if I can find me some shoes.”

The men finally managed to get Mr. Wheeler up, but his leg was shattered and he could not walk.

“Y’all go on,” he said. “Save yourself.”

They ignored him.

A little way off, a voice called out: “God, help me.”

Mr. Ezell saw feet protruding from the wreckage. It was Mr. Trahan, the Transocean executive. He and Mr. Wheeler had been swallowed by a fireball that had roared down the corridor.

Somehow the men found a stretcher. While Mr. Carden and Mr. Murray carried Mr. Trahan away, Mr. Ezell waited with Mr. Wheeler.

“I told him I wasn’t going to leave him, and I didn’t,” Mr. Ezell said.

After the explosions, the chief engineer, Steve Bertone, raced from his room to the bridge. He did a quick survey of the rig’s condition. Its engines were dead. There was no power. The phones didn’t work. When he tried the handheld radios, they didn’t either. Meanwhile, he later wrote in a statement to the Coast Guard, Captain Kuchta was screaming at Ms. Fleytas for pushing the Horizon’s distress signal.

Then Mr. Williams arrived on the bridge, his face a mask of blood. He announced that the engine control room was gone.

“What do you mean gone?” Mr. Bertone asked.

Mr. Williams described the explosions, but the captain did not seem to absorb the news. “He looked at me with that dazed and confused deer-in-the-headlights look,” Mr. Williams testified.

The captain’s attorney, Kyle Schonekas, said no one could point to anything Mr. Kuchta “did or failed to do that caused any injury or loss of life.”

Without power, there was no way to fight the fire, no way to control the rig. They were on a “dead ship,” Mr. Bertone said.

Only after the explosions did the bridge crew finally hit the general master alarm.

It had been at least two minutes since the first gas alarms sounded, records and interviews show. And according to government officials and BP’s internal investigation, it had been nine minutes since mud had gushed onto the drilling floor, although Transocean has suggested that it might have only been six minutes.

The captain asked Ms. Fleytas to make an emergency announcement. She looked at her boss, Mr. Keplinger. “She said she couldn’t do it,” he said. “She looked pretty nervous.”

Although Ms. Fleytas disputes Mr. Keplinger’s account, it was Mr. Keplinger who got on the intercom.

“Fire, fire, fire,” he called out.

A Fighting Chance

There was still a way to keep the Horizon from sinking. Chris Pleasant saw it first.

Mr. Pleasant was one of the supervisors responsible for the blowout preventer. With the main deck on fire, he ran for the bridge with one thought: they needed to disconnect the rig from the blowout preventer — and therefore from the well itself. That would cut off the fire’s main source of fuel and give the Horizon a fighting chance.

He just needed to activate the emergency disconnect system. Like a fighter pilot hitting eject, it would signal the blowout preventer to release the Horizon. It would also signal it to seal the well, perhaps stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“I’m hitting E.D.S.,” he told the captain.

Witnesses differ about what happened next. But they agree on a basic point: even with the Horizon burning, powerless and gutted by explosions, there was still resistance to the strongest possible measure that might save the rig.

According to Mr. Pleasant, the captain told him, “No, calm down, we’re not hitting E.D.S.”

Mr. Bertone, the chief engineer, recalled someone hollering that they needed Jimmy Harrell’s approval.

As it happened, Mr. Harrell had finally made it to the bridge despite being half-blinded by insulation and gas. Ms. Fleytas recalled the captain asking Mr. Harrell’s permission to hit the emergency disconnect. Mr. Harrell said he told Mr. Pleasant to go ahead.

Mr. Bertone assumed that the Horizon was now freed from the Macondo. The inferno consuming the derrick would soon subside. If they could get the standby generators to work, he reasoned, they could start one of the remaining engines and fight the fires. The generators, however, were on the back end of the Horizon, just beyond the burning derrick. Someone would have to brave the flames to get to them.

Mr. Bertone said he was going. Mr. Williams and a third man, Paul Meinhart, said they would go, too.

The three crept along the rig’s edge, holding one another by the shirttails. But when they finally reached the generators, they could not get them to start.

Meanwhile, David Young, the chief mate, had discovered a new problem. Mr. Young was in charge of the Horizon’s two firefighting teams, which practiced each Sunday. After the explosions, he went to a fire locker and waited for his men to show up. Only one did.

“We weren’t trained to fight a blowout fire,” said Matt Jacobs, a firefighter who went straight to the lifeboats.

But the death knell for the Horizon was the emergency disconnect system itself. Like so many of the rig’s defenses, it failed to work for reasons that remain unclear.

The Horizon was still handcuffed to the well from hell. There was nothing left for the crew to do but to get off the doomed rig before they all died.

‘We Got to Go’

Mr. Holloway and Mr. Barron ran along a catwalk toward the rig’s forward lifeboat deck.

There were two lifeboats, with crew members assigned to one or the other. Mr. Holloway and a couple of other men climbed into lifeboat No. 1.

Then they waited.

They waited some more.

Where was everyone? Why weren’t they coming?

They felt the second explosion, and for a sickening moment, it seemed as if the lifeboat was going to plummet into the gulf. But it held fast.

Mr. Holloway climbed out. The door leading to the crew quarters had been blown open. He stepped into a darkened hallway. The theater was to his right, the mess hall to his left. He had been there a hundred times. But nothing was recognizable. Walls were caved in. Ceiling tiles dangled. Bits of insulation floated in the air. He went deeper, his flashlight shining ahead. He wanted to get people moving. Suddenly he became aware of a mass of dazed men coming toward him. Some were shirtless or shoeless or wearing only underwear.

Together, they made their way to the lifeboats.

Of all the emergency procedures on the Horizon, evacuation was the most practiced. But the routine rapidly disintegrated. Out on the now-crowded lifeboat deck, everyone could see, feel and hear the flames engulfing the derrick. Mr. Jacobs said it was “like staring into the face of death.”

The crew was supposed to first report to a supervisor. Yet many were simply piling into the lifeboats. Someone ordered the men to get out. “Needless to say that didn’t happen,” Benjamin Lacroix said.

Inside the enclosed lifeboats, heat and smoke were building. Men began screaming at the coxswains to launch. The burning derrick, they warned, might collapse on all of them. “We got to go,” they yelled. Some were crying.

Lifeboat No. 2 left first, without many of its assigned passengers, records and interviews show.

Darin Rupinski, the coxswain for lifeboat No. 1, refused to leave with empty seats. “Let me do my job,” he said.

Greg Meche had seen mayhem as an infantryman in Iraq. The fire and explosions ripping the Horizon apart were even more terrifying. “I never heard a bomb like that in Baghdad,” he said in an interview. He made a quick decision; he and a friend jumped into the gulf.

Mr. Holloway saw his friend Matt Hughes clinging to the handrail and urged him not to jump. But Mr. Hughes lost his footing and fell, glancing off the rig and cartwheeling into the water. Mr. Holloway climbed the rail, prepared to go after Mr. Hughes if he did not come up swimming.

The gulf, he recalled, was as calm as a “mud puddle.” At last, Mr. Hughes popped up and backstroked away.

Mr. Holloway was one of the last into lifeboat No. 1. Soon he noticed Mr. Harrell and a few others coming from the crew quarters, carrying someone on a backboard. It was Mr. Trahan, and he was in excruciating pain. His entire back had been burned. He had a deep puncture wound on his neck. His left calf was mangled, and his fingernails were gone.

But the backboard would not fit into the packed lifeboat. So they took Mr. Trahan off the board, and Mr. Holloway, Mr. Pleasant and others eased him into the boat and strapped him in.

Mr. Holloway turned to help Mr. Harrell. “I can’t see,” Mr. Harrell said. “What’s happening?”

“It’s me, Caleb, Mr. Jimmy. Just hang tight, and we’re going to get these straps on.”

But when it came time for Mr. Holloway to strap himself in, his hands would not cooperate. He fumbled and gave up. He could hear the nitrogen tanks bursting on the main deck. The heat was suffocating. He looked around for other members of his drilling crew. “Where are my guys?”

He began to pray. A passage from Isaiah came to him: “Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

10 Left Behind

Both lifeboats had left, but at least 10 people were still alive on the rig.

When Mr. Bertone, Mr. Williams and Mr. Meinhart finally made it back to the bridge from their attempt to start the generators, they found the captain, Ms. Fleytas and Mr. Keplinger still there.

“That’s it,” Mr. Bertone said to his men. “Abandon ship.” The captain said it was time to go, too.

Down on the lifeboat deck they found Mr. Ezell, Mr. Carden and Mr. Murray tending to Mr. Wheeler on a gurney. They gently put him in a life vest.

“My leg,” Mr. Wheeler moaned.

The plan was for everyone to leave in an inflatable raft, a backup to the lifeboats. But this plan, too, went awry. For all the evacuation drills, they had never rehearsed inflating and lowering the raft. They had trouble freeing it from the deck, more trouble keeping it level and more trouble still getting it loaded.

Small explosions kept going off around them, sending projectiles every which way. Intense waves of heat were now coming up from under the rig.

“I honestly thought we were going to cook right there,” Mr. Bertone said.

In his written Coast Guard statement, Mr. Bertone said the captain suggested leaving Mr. Wheeler behind. Mr. Bertone wrote that he “pushed past” the captain, shoved Mr. Wheeler’s gurney into the raft and climbed in himself.

The captain’s lawyer disputed Mr. Bertone’s statement, saying Captain Kuchta acted in “an incredibly heroic and skilled manner.”

The raft, far from full, began to descend, leaving several people on the deck. The raft pitched and spun wildly, spilling Mr. Wheeler from his stretcher. Ms. Fleytas said it felt like they were “free falling,” and when it hit the gulf, she went tumbling into the water. The raft’s remaining occupants were stuck under a burning, exploding, sinking oil rig, and they couldn’t find the paddles.

Mr. Bertone jumped in the water and tried to drag the raft away. Others did, too. Then, out of the smoke, he saw someone plunging at him.

It was the captain.

He barely missed Mr. Bertone.

Another crew member fell through the smoke. It was Mr. Keplinger.

Mr. Bertone could make out Mr. Williams up on the helicopter pad. He watched him sprint and then leap, his legs churning as he arced into the sea.

Try as they might, they could not get the raft away from the rig. It turned out the raft was still tied to it. Captain Kuchta thought fast. He swam to a rescue boat launched by the Bankston, fetched a knife and returned to cut the raft free.

On the Bankston

It seemed to take the lifeboats forever to get to the Bankston.

When lifeboat No. 1 arrived, Mr. Holloway scrambled up a ladder to the deck. He was quickly put to work directing the injured to a makeshift triage area. But he kept looking for his drilling crew. He kept asking others if they had seen his guys. No one had.

Eventually he went to sign in with a man who had a list of the crew. The name of everyone who had reported in was highlighted. Mr. Holloway scanned the list. Only two names from his team were marked — his and Mr. Barron’s.

He felt sick and heartbroken all at once. Eleven men were missing, including Dale Burkeen, Dewey Revette, Steve Curtis, Jason Anderson and Mr. Holloway’s buddy, Adam Weise. All but Mr. Burkeen had been working either on the drilling floor or just below it.

The life raft arrived, and Mr. Wheeler was rushed to the triage area. He seemed close to passing out from the pain, yet when he saw Mr. Holloway, he managed a question.

“Hollywood, who made it?” he asked.

Mr. Holloway avoided answering him directly. “I didn’t have the heart to tell him,” he said.

After the Coast Guard arrived and moved Mr. Wheeler and the other injured off the Bankston by air, Mr. Holloway searched for a place inside the ship where he would not have to watch the Horizon burn, a private spot where he could at last weep for his friends.

Out on the deck, the Horizon’s crew gathered in groups. Across the water, the rig hissed and groaned as it began to list. The mighty derrick finally crashed. Several crew members said it was like watching your home burn.

In quiet conversations, they tried to make sense of what had happened. That so many had escaped seemed a miracle, but why had the rig’s defenses failed? What had the drilling crew seen?

They turned to Mr. Holloway for answers. “There was nobody else to ask,” he said.

Mr. Harrell stayed with his crew on the deck. He looked as if he were carrying the weight of the entire disaster. Some thought he might be having a heart attack. Crew members took turns trying to comfort him. He kept saying he wished he could turn back time.

“I don’t know what happened,” he told Mr. Holloway.

“I don’t either, Mr. Jimmy.”

The next morning was clear and calm. The Horizon, receding in the distance, burned brightly. The crew gathered on the Bankston’s deck. Shoulder to shoulder, they formed a large circle. A BP manager explained that they were headed to Port Fourchon, La.

Mr. Lindner, the former English teacher, interrupted.

“We should really say something for our fallen,” he said.

The group fell silent.

Patrick Morgan, an assistant driller, spoke up first.

“Our Father,” he said, and with that everyone joined in the Lord’s Prayer.

New York Times