Tag: US Government

Why the US Government should bail out BP

Let me start by saying I was opposed to the bailouts. In particular I think the rescues of both General Motors and several financial institutions were completely unnecessary to the stabilization of the economy. They were purely political maneuvers, and the repercussions have yet to fully materialize.

Nevertheless, the nation is now dealing with a debacle that could very well eclipse the financial crisis. Oil spews from the Gulf of Mexico in incalculable amounts. Neither BP, their supporters, nor independent scientific study can put a precise figure on it. Plumes of crude meander at depths the public will only ever see via National Geographic specials, and samples are now being found hundreds of miles away from the well. How far will the oil be spread another month from now? And where will it land? Nobody knows, and that uncertainty cannot be hedged against.

Aquatic life, gone. Bird life, gone. Beaches ruined. Property values plummet (further). Nobody has even thought about untold brackish and freshwater interiors, many of which support life that migrates from sea to river and back. Mixing and churning. Eventually pouring through faucets.

Matt Simmons of energy investment bank Simmons & Co surmises BP doesn’t have enough cash to clean up the mess, and will soon file for bankruptcy. It’s not an unlikely scenario, and if it comes to fruition I believe the US Government should be ready to step in. The reasoning is simple.

If BP files and creditors scoop up what’s left, they won’t be taking BP’s cleanup obligations with them. In other words, a cleanup might not happen. Assuming that, the government would then take over the effort. Disregarding how well that might go, it means taxpayer dollars and/or additional debt, and there is zero hope of recovering the cost. But if the government were to step in, either providing new equity after Chapter 11 proceedings begin or buying BP debt as it tanks (which it is already doing) and converting thereafter, the new owner stands a chance of recovering their investment somewhere down the road.

Further, the US owning an oil company might not be such a bad thing. The government could use BP (aptly renamed “USP”) to develop model policies and procedures for future operation of all such companies doing business in America. Strategic petroleum reserves could be managed from within, accounting and bureaucracy whittled away. I’m not a foreign policy expert, but I suspect having a hand in BP may have some additional advantages when dealing with entities such as OPEC too.

It’s just a thought, but I am curious how others feel about the concept. In other words, if you’ve got an idea, let’s hear it.

MG signing off (to quit looking at pictures of dying pelicans)

Don’t hold you breath on government data lockdown

With breaches of all shapes and sizes occuring at the government level, you would think someone would get their act together. You are hoping (if you’re a Democrat), you are praying (if you are a Republican), and you are drooling if you are either a security industry investor or an outside crisis public relations firm with a federal contract.

Nevertheless, don’t hold your breath that the latest encryption declarations are going to change things much – securing government data is going to take a while.

Your tax money is in good hands

After hearing that the IRS website was the target of a phishing exploit, I had to frown. The IRS is using URL forwarding on its Govbenefits.gov website (the name of which is an oxymoron in itself), and phishers are taking advantage of the fact to forward folks to their own scam sites.

I have always had good experiences with the IRS (which is an easy task if you don’t cheat). But reputations precede themselves, and if your organization lacks accountablility to its patrons, there is no reason to think too long and hard about the consequences of your decisions. Maybe phishers figured that if the IRS is cavorting with Choicepoint, there just HAVE to be some holes in their systems.

Phish the Feds

The US Government is far away from getting its act together regarding network security. Some branches of government have been making some choices regarding battening down the hatches, but the general consensus is that federal agencies have no clue as to how to stop computer security threats.

Now, from the same GAO report that found agencies woefully unprepared, we find that a lot of government workers are falling victim to phishing exploits. Furthermore, a big part of the solution needs to revolve around reporting threats internally, and government workers fail in that regard as well.

If I was still getting beaten up by Nigerian 419 scams, I’d be too embarrassed to report it too!

Federal agencies have no clue

The US Government’s accounting office just released a report detailing how woefully unprepared government agencies are to handle computer security issues. Little has been done to prevent daily threats such as spyware and spam, and coordinated cybersecurity threats such as large botnet attacks could pose more serious problems for multiple government agencies.

It makes you wonder how the Department of Homeland Security could ever hope to stop any hackers.