Unintended consequences are fascinating. In South Carolina, a racist sits in a jail cell after gunning down nine people in a Bible study. I hope someone has told him his hate crime accomplished something decades of the civil rights advocacy could not. The Confederate battle flag no longer flies over the state capitol.
Meanwhile Donald Trump, in his bid to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016, has tripled his double-down on anti-immigrant hate-mongering. His characterization of Latino immigrants as rapists and drug dealers has cost him a few TV shows and a clothing line at Macy's. He even was bigot enough to go after the Mexican immigrant wife of fellow candidate Jeb Bush.
Because of Mrs. Bush's heritage, Trump said, Jeb "has to like the Mexican illegals." Is Trump a communist sympathizer because one of his wives was born in a Czech city named for a communist president?
What's this have to do with unintended consequences? Well, since the last presidential election, Republicans have been talking about the need to reach out to the country's growing Latino electorate. Then along comes Trump with his racist anti-immigrant rant, which seems to play well with hard-core Republican primary voters. As a result, Trump is leading the Republican field and his party can kiss off its courtship of Latino voters. Good news for Democrats.
So progress comes from unusual places. Lynn Schooler wrote a fantastic book about the last shot of the Civil War. Remarkably, the ship CSS Shenandoah, a Confederate raider, fired the last shot of the war in Alaska waters. It happened two months after Lee surrendered at Appomattox. An unintended consequence of the Shenandoah's attacks on the New England fleet was the crippling of the American whaling industry. The ship's captain is almost certainly the most successful accidental "save the whales" activist ever.
Today, I'm watching another unintended consequence take shape. Shell Oil is going to save the Arctic from oil drilling.
That's not to to dismiss the efforts of environmental activists organizing "Shell No" gatherings or chaining themselves to a drilling rig to protest Arctic oil exploration. I share their fears of what could go wrong in the fragile ocean.
The administration of our uber-liberal, socialist, Muslim president doesn't seem to think there's any chance of a blowout under ice. It has greased Shell's wheels all along the way (because Obama's so anti-oil, you know).
Shell can't seem to stop screwing up at almost every turn. I'm wondering if the person running their show isn't actually a double agent hellbent on demonstrating that the company is too incompetent to be allowed to drill.
If running into an uncharted hazard last Friday was the only example of a Shell "Oops!" on its way to the Arctic, I might not suspect good intentions.
According to its website, Shell is "overcoming energy challenges for a better future." Apparently that includes overcoming uncharted shoals and hitting them for better economic futures for ship repairmen.
The cargo aboard the 380-foot ship was a safety cap required to be within 24 hours of deployment at a drill site in the event of a blowout. To be fair, this is the second time a ship in the Shell fleet encountered something underwater in Dutch Harbor. The company's Noble Discoverer went adrift in 2012. The company denied that it had run aground, then the tugs towed it off. Yeah. As the local news reported, "The vessel bumped into the beach."
What has stopped Shell from drilling for the last two seasons? Shell's inability to evaluate and adapt to conditions or, as I might say, general incompetence.
Between air permitting problems and bad decisions, the company is proving its opponents' case. During a hundred-year storm, in a bid to dodge paying piddling state taxes, Shell set sail from Dutch Harbor towing the drilling rig Kulluk. Before they left, the skipper of the tow ship warned, "... This length of tow, at this time of year, in this location, with our current routing guarantees an ass kicking."
Sounds good, said the Shell bosses, let's do it!
Then they got their asses kicked.
Shell's oil spill prophylactics haven't been up to snuff either. When the company tested its spill cap in completely calm, ice-free waters, it "breached like a whale," sank 120 feet and ended up "crushed like a beer can."
While still in a Washington harbor, Shell's containment barge was fined by the Coast Guard for spilling hydraulic fluid.
At this point, Lloyds of London must be feeling pretty good about its decision not to insure Shell's drilling in the Arctic. Mishap meets oops meets "we didn't see that there!" -- over and over again. Let's hope it doesn't take a spill under ice to stop Arctic drilling, because with Shell's track record, that's a gimme.
So, Shell, thanks for being the accidental environmentalist. You're doing a heck of a job.
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.