BRAVO, ERIC! The Nation extends heartiest congratulations to editorial board member Eric Foner, whose book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery has received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for History. Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. The Fiery Trial also received the Lincoln Prize and the Bancroft Prize this year.
Intended to be “both less and more than another biography,” The Fiery Trial follows the development of Lincoln’s changing views on slavery and emancipation throughout his life, illuminating his position in the broad context of the antislavery movement.
WHAT’S THE BEST PROTEST SONG? Dorian Lynskey’s comprehensive new book 33 Revolutions Per Minute details the history of the protest song in America and around the world. It’s a bracing and informative survey, even if you’re familiar with the topic, and it happily set us at The Nation to thinking about our favorite protest songs. Please visit thenation.com/whats-best-protest-song-ever to tell us what you consider your all-time favorite protest song.
There are far too many to single out just one, but we’re nonetheless looking for nominations and will publish a survey of readers’ choices, with videos.
BP OIL SPILL, PART 2? It has been one year since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven workers and flooding the surrounding sea with more than 200 million gallons of oil in possibly the worst environmental disaster in American history. Confusion reigned while oil gushed from the damaged rig, as engineers tried to stop the flow with everything from a giant underwater dome to thousands of golf balls. But there was one thing nearly everybody agreed on—stronger regulation of offshore drilling was needed. A year later, however, one of the fundamental engineering failures that created the gulf oil spill is still in place.
On the Deepwater Horizon rig, a blowout preventer should have kept oil from spilling into the ocean after the initial explosion, but it failed. A government-backed forensic study released in March found that the failure was not an aberration but likely the product of a basic design flaw. One critical part of the blowout preventer—“shear rams,” a pair of blades designed to cut through pipe and seal off an oil well in an emergency—functioned properly but failed to seal the well completely.
Last year the Senate killed a bill requiring a second set of shear rams. The Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which issues offshore drilling permits, has also declined to require a second pair of shear rams. When confronted with the continuing blowout preventer problems, BOEMRE director Michael Bromwich said, “No one in our agency, and certainly not me, has ever suggested that these are failsafe devices.”
The Interior Department is examining improvements to the shear systems, and Representative Ed Markey has called for a similar examination. It’s possible the safety measures will be strengthened—but if another leak occurs in the meantime, the government will once again be left scrambling for golf balls. GEORGE ZORNICK