Oil rig explosion.The Deepwater Horizon after the explosion.Photo: U.S. Coast GuardHere’s something to fill you with confidence on the eve of BP’s risky “Top Kill” gambit: Workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig missed warnings that something was seriously wrong before the rig exploded. BP itself, in a memo to a House committee, reveals that crewmen failed to heed signs of a “very large abnormality” underwater. In fact, they apparently missed one warning sign after another that day.

Third time’s the charm?

Or will it be three strikes you’re out? Later today, BP will try, try, try again to — as the president put it — “plug the damn hole.” This latest attempt is the “top kill,” in which a mix of heavy mud and cement is shot into the well to counteract the upward pressure of leaking oil and gas. If the top kill fails, BP will move on to the “junk shot,” in which a gumbo of rope, tires, and golf balls gets pumped into the leak. If the junk shot doesn’t work, it’s “top hat” time — the smaller of the two containment domes will be lowered over the well to hopefully capture leaking oil and pump it to the surface. 

And if that doesn’t work, well, we’re pretty much screwed.

Now that the oil giant relented to pressure from the feds, we can watch it all go down on the BP webcam.

That’ll show ‘em

A criminal investigation of BP is gaining traction. The Justice Department now says it will give “due consideration” to charges by a group of Senate Democrats that BP misled the feds about its ability to respond to oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.

And in a ratcheted-up campaign to show he’s pissed, President Obama will announce tomorrow that federal regulators will stop being soft touches when they inspect offshore oil rigs.

Fox, henhouse … henhouse, fox

All of which raises more stink about a system in which regulators don’t regulate. Maureen Dowd, writing in The New York Times, draws parallels with the recent banking fiasco:

As when derivatives experts had to help unravel the derivatives debacle, now the White House is dependent on BP to find a solution to the horror it created. The financial crisis and the oil spill are both man-made disasters brought on by hubris and avarice.

And The Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein says, “It’s time for the business community to give up its jihad against regulation.”

It hardly captures the breadth and depth of these regulatory failures to say that during the Bush administration the pendulum swung a bit too far in the direction of deregulation and lax enforcement. What it misses is just how dramatically the regulatory agencies have been shrunken in size, stripped of talent and resources, demoralized by lousy leadership, captured by the industries they were meant to oversee and undermined by political interference and relentless attacks on their competence and purpose.

How bad is it?

You can now place bets on which species will be the first to go extinct thanks to the BP spill. According to gambling website PaddyPower.com, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the odds-on favorite.