The View From the Couch: 16 Tons and What Do You Get? Twenty Nine Dead


Over the weekend, one thing was made clear: President Obama

is funnier than Jay Leno.Obama's

performance at the White House Correspondents dinner bash was masterful;

somehow The One didn't make it too smarmy or inappropriate, given all the

disasters currently in play.He

even managed to make warm fun of the buffoon Vice President Biden, joking about

the evening as a Big F***ing Meal.

Leno, in contrast, revealed why he was replaced as host of

the Tonight Show.He seemed

nervous – too much power on the dias – and kept reading his jokes

from a series of index cards.It's

true that Leno is generation specific; Johnny Carson might have been everyone's

off-color uncle, but Leno is just growing older, along with his audience.NBC moved him back to his old time

slot, throwing out in the process Conan O'Brien, who also turned up this

weekend on 60 Minutes.O'Brien has

always been a mystery to me.And

not because he left the network with a bigger golden parachute than your

typical Wall Streeter. I recall hearing a number of years ago – two years

after O'Brien had begun his own late night show on NBC – some big shot at

the network saying that he, Conan, had finally developed an audience after two

years.I was amazed.I could have developed an audience if

NBC had put me on every weekday night for two years.The trouble with O'Brien, I suppose, despite his Harvard

frat boy aspects, is that his audience watches its entertainment on computers

more than televisions. Well, it's cable for him.

The non-funny news is BP troubles in the gulf.It shouldn't come as a surprise but a

central actor in this drama is Halliburton, our chief war profiteer, formerly

headed by the why-can't-he-shut-up-and-go-way veep, Dick Cheney.Halliburton was involved in the

installation of the fail-safe cement plug that failed.Halliburton, like Cheney, are failures

that thrive.Things go wrong, we

pay them to fix them, even though they broke them.President Obama, at the correspondents' dinner, did make fun

of Goldman Sachs, but not Halliburton and BP. BP had smaller oil disaster in

Texas and Alaska. Obama continues to cozy up to the richest and most powerful.

Obama's barely month old thumbs-up for off shore drilling really stains him


The right wing, attempting to rehab George W. Bush's

reputation, has labeled BP's disaster Obama's Katrina.See, the bright Obama makes the same

mistakes as our dummy Bush did, therefore W is no dummy. But, to me, there is

only one connection.How the story

rolled out.After Katrina there

was one day when the news was full of New Orleans dodged a bullet stories.The next, the dikes broke and the

flooding began in earnest.BP

claimed there was no leak for a few days and then the enormity of the problem began

to leak out, slower than the oil was leaking out. And both were man-made

disasters. Though Katrina less so.

The dead 11 men on the rig are now an afterthought;

dangerous occupations have taken quite a toll in April.April is, as Eliot line made cliche,

the cruelest month.The problem

that keeps rearing its head is human failure, usually coming about because of

cutting corners in the name of greater profit by unchecked, rapacious

corporations.The commuter flight

disaster last year in Buffalo is an example; untrained and overworked and underpaid

pilots.Massey coal's unsafe


The list is long.It even include's NASA killing the first teacher in space; the head guy

who said go, even in the freezing conditions, was going against his own

scientists advice, but he was trying to please the White House and have the

teacher in orbit for Reagan's State of the Union speech that night.He was hoping for bigger NASA

budgets.And Obama's lukewarm

support of NASA now can only be read as the opposite of his support of the

private sector.He wants

government out of the space business and into the private sector.You know who runs Los Alamos now?It's not the University of California.

It's gone from public to private, the stealth privatization of America's

military.It's Bechtel and others.

Halliburton can't be far behind. How about an accident there, trying to save

the corporate behemoths some money?