Tuesday Morning Reads: BP Goes on Trial over 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010. The blowout in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people and sent 4.9 million barrels of oil gushing from the sea floor into the Gulf (Houston Chronicle).

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010. The blowout in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people and sent 4.9 million barrels of oil gushing from the sea floor into the Gulf (Houston Chronicle).

See more photos of the Gulf oil disaster at the Houston Chronicle.

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

From the UK Guardian:

BP went on trial over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster on Monday, after the failure of efforts to reach a last-minute settlement.

US district judge Carl Barbier opened proceedings in New Orleans with a warning that it would be a “lengthy trial”….

The trial is designed to identify the causes of BP’s well blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies. That will help determine how much more each has to pay for their roles in the environmental catastrophe.
Months of negotiations have failed to produce a settlement that could have averted the trial.

BP has said it already has racked up more than $24bn in spill-related expenses and has estimated it will pay a total of $42bn to fully resolve its liability for the disaster that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil.

But the trial attorneys for the federal government and Gulf states and private plaintiffs hope to convince the judge that the company is liable for much more.

The Guardian quotes Columbia law professor John Coffee as saying that there could still be a settlement, because BP obviously does not want to deal with the adverse publicity that would go along with a month’s long trial with damaging information about the company in the headlines day after day.

Read live tweets from the trial by Dominic Rush of the Guardian here.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports: BP, Transocean Accused of ‘Reckless’ Actions in Spill.

The mishandling of an oil-rig safety test by BP Plc (BP/) and Transocean Ltd. (RIG) officials was a major cause of an explosion that led to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, lawyers for the U.S. and spill victims said at a trial.

BP and Transocean supervisors’ failure to properly interpret results of a pressure test on the Macondo well off the coast of Louisiana cost 11 rig workers their lives and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf, Michael Underhill, a U.S. Justice Department lawyer, and Jim Roy, an attorney for plaintiffs suing the companies, told a judge yesterday.

“BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment,” Underhill said in opening statements that began this morning [Monday] in New Orleans in a trial before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing litigation over the spill….

BP executives’ “missteps and reckless decisions” about the safety test were prompted by pressure to generate billions in profits regardless of the costs, Underhill said in his statement.

Read the entire Bloomberg article for an excellent summary of the issues in the case.

Through their attorneys, BP, Transocean, and Halliburton pointed fingers at each other. NOLA.com:

Opening day at the long-awaited civil trial against BP and its partners in the ill-fated Macondo oil well at times sounded like a group of youngsters blaming everyone but themselves for a bad deed. That’s not an unexpected beginning in the first phase of a federal trial aimed at determining each of the companies’ financial liability for the accident.

The trial at the federal courthouse in New Orleans began Monday morning with opening arguments by Plaintiff Steering Committee attorneys, representing private parties who sued BP and its partners for damages; the U.S. Justice Department; and the states of Louisiana and Alabama, whose attorneys outlined their views of how the accident occurred and whether BP or any of its partners were guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct, which could result in an eventual four-fold increase in fines under the Clean Water Act and the awarding of punitive damages for the private plaintiffs….

The federal, state and private party attorneys took aim at BP, which owned the drilling lease for the Macondo well; Transocean, which owned and staffed the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig; and Halliburton, which provided an unusual, lightweight cement that was used to block the flow of oil in the well.

Among the recurring story lines and accusations:

That BP made the ultimate decisions for drilling operations on the Deepwater Horizon rig, was more concerned with profits than safety as it ran behind schedule and over-budget on the well, and that BP rig supervisors botched a crucial safety test before the April 2010 drilling-platform explosion;

That Transocean had not properly trained its crew, which missed clear signals that a blowout was about to occur;

That Halliburton’s use of a cement made lightweight with nitrogen bubbles was known to be risky, and the mixture did not succeed in sealing the well.

Other takes on the opening of the trial:

Wall Street Journal: Accusations Fly as Trial Over Gulf Oil Spill Begins

Transocean, which owned the drilling rig, failed to train its crews properly and didn’t maintain key safety equipment, said Jim Roy, a lawyer for hundreds of businesses suing the energy companies that were drilling the ill-fated well.

Brad Brian, a lawyer for Transocean, said that wasn’t true, noting that the Coast Guard, federal safety regulators and BP’s own management considered the Deepwater Horizon rig “what ‘good’ looked like.”

Michael Underhill, the Justice Department’s lead civil attorney, focused on a last-minute conversation between BP engineers on the rig and onshore that he said showed that the oil giant acted with gross negligence. The rig was not reviewed by hydraulic engineer to ensure that everything is safe.

But BP attorney Mike Brock argued the accident was caused by many mistakes made by all the parties aboard the rig, which exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and unleashing the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. “There were a number of mistakes and errors in judgment that were made by BP, Transocean and Halliburton,” Mr. Brock said.

LA Times: Greed caused BP’s gulf oil spill, lawyers argue

Energy giant BP, behind schedule and $50 million over budget drilling a deep-water well, emphasized cost-cutting over safety, causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, lawyers said Monday as the company’s high-stakes civil trial began.

Lawyers used PowerPoint presentations to provide a dramatic recounting of the April 20, 2010, explosion and fire in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 crew members. Workers were preparing to temporarily cap the Macondo well 4,100 feet underwater when it blew up. The 30-story drilling vessel about 50 miles offshore burned for two days before crumpling into the gulf.

The resulting spill of more than 4 million barrels of oil damaged the waters and economies of five states. And the responsible party was BP, according to the lawyers representing the federal government, Gulf Coast states and private parties.

Washington Post: Billions of dollars at stake for BP, other companies as trial opens for Gulf oil spill

One of the biggest questions facing U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is hearing the case without a jury, is whether BP acted with gross negligence.

Under the Clean Water Act, a polluter can be forced to pay a minimum of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil; the fines nearly quadruple to about $4,300 a barrel for companies found grossly negligent, meaning BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion.

The judge plans to hold the trial in at least two phases. The first phase, which could last three months, is designed to determine what caused the blowout and assign percentages of blame to the companies involved. The second phase will determine how much crude spilled into the Gulf.

The issues in the case are “massive” and “complex.”

Hundreds of attorneys have worked on the case, generating roughly 90 million pages of documents, logging nearly 9,000 docket entries and taking more than 300 depositions from witnesses who could testify at trial.

“In terms of sheer dollar amounts and public attention, this is one of the most complex and massive disputes ever faced by the courts,” said Fordham University law professor Howard Erichson, an expert in complex litigation.

The trial continues today.

AP via the Houston Chronicle: 1st witness to testify in Gulf oil spill trial

A University of California-Berkeley engineer who played a prominent role in investigating levee breeches in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is scheduled to be the first witness Tuesday at a trial involving another Gulf Coast catastrophe: the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Robert Bea, an expert witness for the plaintiffs who sued BP PLC and other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, will share his theories about what caused BP’s Macondo well to blow out on April 20, 2010, provoking an explosion on the Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and spewed an estimated 172 millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf.

Bea’s testimony was scheduled for the second day of a civil trial that could result in the oil company and its partners being forced to pay billions of dollars more in damages. The case went to trial Monday after attempts to reach an 11th-hour settlement failed.

The second witness scheduled is BP America president Lamar McKay.

The high-ranking executive is likely to discuss corporate decisions that were made during the disaster. It was not clear if there would be time for his testimony Tuesday. Other BP officials were expected to give videotaped testimony.

In pretrial depositions and in a report, Bea argued along with another consultant that BP showed a disregard for safety throughout the company and was reckless — the same arguments made in opening statements Monday by attorneys for the U.S. government and individuals and businesses hurt by the spill.

Attorneys for BP tried to block Bea’s testimony, accusing him of analyzing documents and evidence “spoon-fed” to him by plaintiffs lawyers. BP accused Bea and another expert, William Gale, a California-based fire and explosion investigator and consultant, of ignoring the “safety culture of the other parties” involved in the spill, in particular Transocean Ltd., the drilling company running operations aboard the Deepwater Horizon.

It should be fascinating to follow this case, and I’m really hoping there won’t be a settlement. A trial could bring out valuable information that we haven’t heard about so far.

I thought the BP trial deserved its own post, but please consider this an open thread and post freely about any topic in the comments.


Welcome to the Results of TransOcean’s Record Safety Year

Republicans are busy today with their attempts to dismantle the EPA because, after all, they stop businesses from doing so much business, right?  No reason told businesses back, is there?  Those paragons of job creation and responsibility are just drowning in EPA regulation.   Meanwhile, dead dolphins, drowning in BP oil continue to wash ashore down here in Louisiana. Ask me why I haven’t eaten anything from the Gulf for months now. Aren’t you glad Transocean had the best safety year evah?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that eight months after the Deepwater Horizon oil well was capped, dolphins are washing ashore in east Louisiana with some oil from that spilled on their bodies.

Spokeswoman Kim Amendola says the dolphins had spots of weathered oil.

Blair Mase — NOAA’s Gulf Coast stranding coordinator — emphasizes there’s no way yet to know why the dolphins died. She says the most recent dolphin bearing BP oil was found two weeks ago.

Mase says 15 dolphins with confirmed or suspected oil on their bodies washed ashore since the spill began last April — and eight had oil from that well, which was capped July 15.

I thought we got told that little miracle microbes ate it all.  Get the feeling NOAA is covering up stuff again?

Related News:

Feds forbid scientists probing Gulf dolphin deaths from speaking to media

Dolphins accidentally drowned by scientists trawling in Gulf

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says federal scientists trawling for fish to test for possible damage from last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill accidentally caught and drowned three dolphins.

Spokeswoman Connie Barclay says the pantropical spotted dolphins were caught Wednesday by scientists on the NOAA research ship Pisces, which works out of Pascagoula, Miss.

She said Friday that NOAA is reviewing the incident and will conduct an enforcement investigation.

 


New Year’s Eve Reads

Good morning!

Today we begin to say good bye to 2010 and the first decade of the millennium and century!    What a decade and what a year it has been!  I don’t know about you, but just the last five years alone have turned my life upside down. (Think Hurricane Katrina, BP Oil Tsunami, and the financial crisis that has empowered thugs like Governexorcist Jindal to enforce absolute budget austerity on Louisiana and higher education.)   Despite all that, we’re going to have an Airing of the Gratitude thread as part of the-Little-Blog-That-Could’s New Year’s Celebration.  I’ve bought my black eyed peas and cabbage.  Now, I’m making my list of things that I resolve to appreciate for the thread.  I’d like to invite you to think about yours too and join in.   A lot of my gratitude comes under the heading of my daughters, dad and sister, and my friends.  That includes you !  We’re a blogging community that was forged from some really tough political times.

Meanwhile, here are some headlines to gear you up for the coming year and decade.  May things improve for the better!!  May peace and sanity prevail!!  May every one’s health and circumstances improve tremendously!  Many, many  blessings to each and every one of you!

Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the coming year?  A CNN poll  shows a lot of people are optimistic about the the world outlook, but less so about their personal situation. Men are much more optimistic than women.  Where do you fit in?

The Senate appears to have reached its limit on perpetually trying to find 60 votes for cloture and taking every ‘threat’ of a filibuster seriously.  Brian Beutler at TPM is following the reform movement and the possible hurdles it faces.

The consensus package will aim to put an end to “secret holds” (anonymous filibuster threats) and disallow the minority from blocking debate on an issue altogether. Those two reforms are fairly straightforward. The third is a bit more complex. Udall, along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), say there’s broad agreement on the idea to force old-school filibusters. If members want to keep debating a bill, they’ll have to actually talk. No more lazy filibusters.

But how would that actually work? In an interview Wednesday, Udall explained the ins and outs of that particular proposal.

“What we seem to have the most consensus on, is what I would call… a talking filibuster,” Udall told me. “Rather than a filibuster which is about obstruction.”

As things currently stand, the onus is on the majority to put together 60 votes to break a filibuster. Until that happens, it’s a “filibuster,” but it’s little more than a series of quorum calls, votes on procedural motions, and floor speeches. The people who oppose the underlying issue don’t have to do much of anything if they don’t want to.

Here’s how they propose to change that. Under this plan, if 41 or more senators voted against the cloture motion to end debate, “then you would go into a period of extended debate, and dilatory motions would not be allowed,” Udall explained.

As long as a member is on hand to keep talking, that period of debate continues. But if they lapse, it’s over — cloture is invoked and, eventually, the issue gets an up-or-down majority vote.

DDay at FDL has a thread up that offers a more detailed explanation.  This includes a bit on what is being called ‘continuous debate’ which sounds a lot like that Jimmy Stewart movie “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” or what every one was hoping for when Bernie Sanders started talking a few weeks ago.

After 41 Senators or more successfully maintain a filibuster by voting against cloture, they would have to hold the floor and go into a period of extended debate. Without someone filibustering holding the floor, cloture is automatically invoked, and the legislation moves to an eventual up-or-down vote, under this rule change.

This would institute the actual filibuster. The Majority Leader would have the capacity, which Harry Reid says he doesn’t have now, to force the minority to keep talking to block legislation. It becomes a test of wills at this point – whether the minority wants to hold out for days, or whether the majority wants to move to other legislation.

Here’s hoping we can fix our broken government that is driven by corporate cash and interests and railroaded by imperious Senators.  I’m not very hopeful that congress can actually fix itself, but I guess we’ll see.  I will say that I do think Tom Udall is a good man. He’s one of the people that is fighting for an improved process.

I still have Louisiana and New Orleans on my mind right now. We have a new headline in our ongoing BP Oil Gusher Saga. This is from Raw Story. It appears the company that owns the rig–Transocean–is refusing to co-operate with the federal oil spill probe. I just want to find out what went wrong so we don’t ever repeat it.  I’m sure all they are thinking about is the upcoming lawsuits.

Transocean said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board does not have jurisdiction in the probe, so it doesn’t have a right to the documents and other items it seeks. The board told The Associated Press late Wednesday that it does have jurisdiction and it has asked the Justice Department to intervene to enforce the subpoenas.

Last week, the board demanded that the testing of the failed blowout preventer stop until Transocean and Cameron International are removed from any hands-on role in the examination. It said it’s a conflict of interest. The request is pending.

Our economy is in sad shape down here and a good part of it is due to Transocean’s role in destroying livelihoods and life around the Gulf of Mexico.  Human lives aren’t the only thing still struggling from the gulf gusher.  Here’s some local news on that.

Scientists at the institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport are studying why two endangered manatees died near the Gulf Coast in the past two weeks.

According to the Institute’s Executive Director Dr. Moby Solangi, cold water killed the manatees, but they should have migrated to warmer water.

Scientists are finding an unusually large number of Gulf of Mexico animals out of place since the BP oil spill began.

“It is no different than having a forest fire,” Dr. Solangi said Thursday. “The oil spill expanded, it went thousands of square miles and as their habitat shrunk, these animals moved to areas that were not affected.”

The problem, according to Dr. Solangi, is those unaffected areas were also unfamiliar to the animals.

Too many turtles, for instance, wound up in waters off the Mississippi coast, where they didn’t understand the food supply.

300 turtles died in Mississippi.

Many more were caught by fishermen.

“In the past years, we would get one or two or maybe three animals, this year we had 57,” Dr. Solangi said.

He and his staff at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies are now caring for dozens of sea turtles.

Of course, turtles in distress have to be  swimming through some pretty nasty stuff in their environment. The shores along the Gulf are still oiled. Here’s a story about 168 miles of coast in Louisiana alone.  This is from New Orleans own Times Picayune. Yes, folks, every single story I’m linking to on this is no more than a day old.  We’re still living this nightmare down here.

Louisiana’s coastline continues to be smeared with significant amounts of oil and oiled material from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, with cleanup teams struggling to remove as much as possible of the toxic material by the time migratory birds arrive at the end of February, said the program manager of the Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Teams, which are working for BP and the federal government.

There are 113 miles of Louisiana coastline under active cleanup, with another 55 miles awaiting approval to start the cleanup process, according to SCAT statistics. Teams have finished cleaning almost 72 miles to levels where oil is no longer observable or where no further treatment is necessary.

But that’s not the whole story for the state’s coastline. According to SCAT statistics, there’s another 2,846 miles of beach and wetland areas where oil was once found but is no longer observable or is not treatable.

Gary Hayward, the Newfields Environmental Planning and Compliance contractor who oversees the SCAT program, said that large area will be placed into a new “monitor and maintenance” category, once Louisiana state and local officials agree to the procedures to be used for that category.

“With rare exceptions, most of the marshes still have a bathtub ring that we have all collectively decided we aren’t going to clean any more than we already have because we’d be doing more harm to the marshes than the oil is going to be doing to them,” Hayward said.

Raise your hand  if you heard any thing about any of this on your local newspaper or the national TV stations.  We’re so out of sight and out of mind down here that some times I wonder if we’re even considered part of the country.  You do realize that a majority of water-related commerce and a majority of oil comes through our state, don’t you?

The South American country of Brazil is looking forward to incoming-President Dilma Rousseff.  The Nation has an article that spotlights the country’s first female elected head of state.  I only hope to see a day like that for our country.  I’d also like to end the Reagan legacy and get a real Democrat back in the White House.  Yes, I’m clapping for Tinkerbelle.

When the confetti was still falling after her victory at the polls on October 31, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president-elect, said, “I want to state my first commitment after the elections: to honor Brazil’s women so that today’s unprecedented result becomes a normal event and may be repeated and enlarged in companies, civil institutions and representative entities of our entire society.”

In a country where women have typically played a limited role in politics, the election of a woman to Brazil’s highest office signals a major break from the past. But Rousseff’s term will likely be marked by continuity with her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula, a member of the Workers’ Party (PT), is leaving office with 87 percent support in the polls. An economist, PT bureaucrat, chief of staff under Lula and former guerrilla in the anti-dictatorship movements of the 1960s and ’70s, Rousseff was handpicked by Lula to follow his lead as president. When she is sworn in on January 1, she will inherit Lula’s popular legacy and will be further empowered by the fact that her party and allied parties won a majority of seats in the Senate and Congress. Not even Lula counted on this much support.

Well, at least somewhere, women are getting their due.  I’m getting tired of living through stories where women in the U.S. watch jobs they should have go to less qualified people.  Then, they get to do all the work without the title.  What’s worse is when the boyz club in power make you participate in the charade of celebration and finding the royal heir. Like that legitimizes their malfeasance!  Here’s yet another example in a  WSJ story about Elizabeth Warren searching for a person for the job she would hold if the world weren’t so upside down.  It seems less and less about qualifications and knowledge these days and more and more about appearances and appeasing the old boyz.  Money screams!

White House adviser Elizabeth Warren and a top lieutenant are quietly asking business and consumer groups for names of people who might run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, people familiar with the matter said.

The hunt suggests that Ms. Warren, a lightning rod for some bankers, might not be selected to lead the bureau, a centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill that passed this summer. Still, many liberal groups will push to get her in the post.

President Barack Obama’s choice could signal how he intends to deal with resurgent Republicans in Congress. The feelers to business groups serve as a reminder that any nominee would likely need support from at least seven Republicans in the Senate to win confirmation.

Among the names being discussed are Iowa’s attorney general, Tom Miller; New York state bank regulator Richard Neiman; and former Office of Thrift Supervision director Ellen Seidman.

The reality is Obama fights for nothing but Obama. I know there are other Obama appointments coming up shortly and I’m trying to get a grasp on what I want to discuss with you on the proposed replacements for Larry Summers.  Well, I know what I want to discuss but it’s more like trying to figure out how to describe what I see as the problem. As some one who rides both sides of the finance and economics line, I have some insight that many don’t have.  Finance is where you make the money and it’s really based on chimera.  I know the details and the proofs behind asset pricing models and it’s simply smoke and mirrors.  Economics is where the brains and the real insight exists. There is going to most likely be a bland, uninspired replacement for Larry Summers.  A finance person will undoubtedly win that appointment.  Hence, we will get smoke and mirrors and meaningless numbers.

Once again, it’s the vision thing.  All these appointments seem to reek of employing micromanaging corporate bureaucrats that are part of the problem.  They can crank through the data but they can’t put it into perspective.  As old President Bush used to say, no one seems to be good at the “vision thing”.  No one is crafting a  blue print that incorporates a better big picture based on what we already know.  The Great Depression and the inflationary 70s–and definitely the failures of Reagan’s voodoo economics–are full of lessons that every one seems to be ignoring.   We’re seeing the appointment of types that just muck around in the already mucked up bureaucracy decimated by Dubya Bush whose only inspiration appeared to be blowing things up like a psychopathic third grade with a bunch of firecrackers and a pond full of frogs.

Finance people have tons of numbers in search of a theory.  They crunch that data until they come up with a hypothesis that fits their storyline.   Macroeconomists have a broader sense of what the system needs to look like in order to really change things.  Economics has theory proved endlessly by empiricists.  Finance people have run amok since the 1980s and really, it’s time to end overt data mining and look to bigger principles.

This White House seems really short on values, vision, and a blueprint to carry our country forward into this new decade. We need an economic strategy that includes real job creation; not imaginary ‘saved’ jobs.  We need to unwind any thing that’s too big too fail and empower small, facile, and agile companies.  Our money needs to be concentrated on developing strategies and resources that we can nurture and renew.  (No, corn ethanol is not the answer. Making higher education more expensive and less accessible to all is not the answer either.)  We need to find a way to fulfill our promises to the weakest among us.  Current income inequality is not only immoral but it’s at levels approaching the powder keg of revolutions.  (Have you listened to a Teabot recently?)   We can no longer be railroaded by the interests of the few just because they can afford to fund political campaigns.  No government law should incent a business to leave its community in need to search out obscene profits elsewhere because government policy encourages it.  We should not accommodate any country that buggers growth from us by proffering trinkets on credit.   Vision is not a difficult thing.  Fighting for what’s right should not be a difficult thing either unless you’re in the fight with the wrong motivation.

Compromise seems to come so easy these days because there’s nothing proffered but compromise.  The original positions are badly compromised from the get-go.  Law making is based on political victory and not victory for the country.  No one is shifting real strategies due to midterm elections because there’s never been an overarching plan to begin with.  Moving pieces around a chess board is not playing chess.  Government at the highest levels has just gotten to be a muddled process with no guiding principles.   The White House is intently putting mid-level bureaucrats from corporations and the Clinton administration in charge of making tasteless sausage.  It’s just making things even more muddled and more muddled is not the type of change people want.  No bold vision could ever include the likes  Timothy Geithner, Joe Biden, or  Bill Richardson in positions that require vision.  Instead, we have people of vision–like Elizabeth Warren–hunting for acceptable seat warmers.

Meh.

I would just like to say that the last two months of being more than a file cabinet has brought a lot of intriguing things to Sky Dancing.  We have a growing number of readers and front pagers and I find that all very exciting.  So, must other parts of the blogosphere.   WonktheVote’ s excellent piece ‘What if this is as good as the Obama administration gets? ‘ made Mike’s Blog Round up at Crooks and Liars. Another surprise showed up last night from Pew Research Center and the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. This time a reference and quote come  from BostonBoomer on Julian Assange and the Wikileaks.  Here’s their story and how we fit in.

Espousing a unique mix of politics, technology, free speech and transparency, WikiLeaks has captured the attention from bloggers in a way few stories ever do. It has been a focus of social media conversation for three weeks this month alone, with a discussion that moved from one dimension to the next. After centering on political blame, the value of exposing government secrets, and the importance of a free press, the debate took on yet a new angle last week.For the week of December 20-24, more than a third (35%) of the news links on blogs were about the controversy, making it the No. 1 subject, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

“It should go without saying that I do not approve of Assange’s behavior if the allegations against him are true. Nevertheless, I still believe the allegations are very convenient for the powers that be,” declared Sky Dancing.

The Center produces something that’s called the New Media Report.  Here’s the description.

The New Media Index is a weekly report that captures the leading commentary of blogs and social media sites focused on news and compares those subjects to that of the mainstream press.

PEJ’s New Media Index is a companion to its weekly News Coverage Index. Blogs and other new media are an important part of creating today’s news information narrative and in shaping the way Americans interact with the news. The expansion of online blogs and other social media sites has allowed news-consumers and others outside the mainstream press to have more of a role in agenda setting, dissemination and interpretation. PEJ aims to find out what subjects in the national news the online sites focus on, and how that compared with the narrative in the traditional press.

In similar news,  Technorati just gave us a new badge early this morning. It’s a nice little green rectangle that says TOP 100 US POLITICS. We’re currently 95.  Not so bad for a blog that was just a file cabinet 2 months ago.

Our goals here include becoming part of the bigger conversation as well as providing more links and information to news items than we get via traditional main stream media outlets dominated by the concerns of advertisers and sources.  We complement that with our commentary and explanations and yours.    Yes.  They hear us now.

So what’s on your reading, blogging and celebration lists today?