Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

Archive for July 2010

A Plan to Save The Wetlands…

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On June 15th, when Obama gave his speech about the BP oil spill catastraphuk, he said the following:

“…It’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.

And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.

I make that commitment tonight.

Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, who’s also a former governor of Mississippi and a son of the Gulf Coast, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region…”

Develop a plan…every time I hear a leader of any sort, but especially a governor or a president talk about developing a plan, appointing a commission, developing a study, a shudder works through my system. Time and time again, we have been privy to some agency or group of people developing plans on how to fix a problem. While it is an understandable first step, typically the problem is nobody moves on to step two, or if they do, before that step can even set foot on solid ground, an axe arcs down and neatly slices the foot in half, rendering the plan that took forever to take shape meaningless.

And here we are again…

Today in the Times Picayune, America’s Wetland Foundation published an ad in cooperation with the National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society and Ducks Unlimited, urging Ray Mabus to not just slap yet another band-aid on the Mississippi River Delta and actually do something meaningful to restore the coastal wetlands.

The ad calls for:

  • Accelerating the payment of a greater share of federal revenue from Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leases to Louisiana and other Gulf states. The existing revenue-sharing law would provide about $200 million a year to Louisiana in 2017.
  • Arranging immediate financing for new freshwater and sediment diversion and barrier island reconstruction projects already authorized by Congress.
  • Establishing a dedicated long-term funding stream sufficient for Louisiana’s long-term coastal restoration plan.
  • Ensuring a significant percentage of penalty payments resulting from the BP oil spill are dedicated to coastal restoration “as reparations for the contamination of thousands of acres of coastal marsh that cannot be cleaned up.”
  • Cutting red tape to speed payment of existing federal appropriations for restoration projects, including more than $1 billion owed coastal states under the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program.
  • Creating a federal-state authority to oversee coastal restoration efforts that has the ability to act quickly enough to stave off further wetlands loss.

It would seem time to finally do something about this problem, not just study it…and Mr. Mabus? Mr. Obama? Please keep Congress’s hands off this plan or any other you guys come up with, but if that’s impossible, aim really, really high with your coastal plan’s end result so when the axe does come down, you still have what you need to finally start restoring the wetlands instead of one more signing ceremony in the rose garden that accomplishes nothing.

Just because Americans have grown used to empty words from politicians, doesn’t mean we like them.

Read the article…

Environmentalists link oil spill response, coastal restoration

Have a nice day.

American Zombie Visits the Spill…Anatomy of an Oil Spill, Part I

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Raccoon Island

Now that the well is reportedly capped…reportedly…it would seem a collective sigh of relief is in order.  That is if you don’t stop to think about the damage already done.  In the past few days, I had the grand opportunity to survey some of that damage.

I have had the good fortune of being able to fly out over the BP/Macondo site, and over other Gulf areas affected by the oil spill, twice in 4 days.  I say good fortune…I nearly lost my breakfast 20 or 30 times, but it was well worth it.  I took a video camera up with uber-eco-warrior, fearless pilot, PhD of Theoretical Physics, and 2nd mate of the Sea Sheperd’s anti-whaling boat, the Bob Barker (featured on Animal Planet’s Whale Wars),  Bonny Schumaker.

Check out the photos and read on…

Anatomy of an Oil Spill, Part I

Have a nice day.

Hundreds of Thousands of patches of oil…skimmers?

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I'm sorry Mr. Dudley, you're right, it did sound like I questioned your judgment. No, won't happen again.

Thad Allen, National Incident Commander said today at a press briefing, “There are hundreds of thousands of patches of oil in the Gulf of Mexico,” as a result of British Petroleum’s catastraphuk. He went onto say, “The ultimate impact of the spill, the amount of tarballs…will be the subject of long-term surveillance. Our goal would be to keep as much of it off the beaches as we can.”

The surprising thing about these comments:

If this is the case, then why last week did British Petroleum stop awarding contracts for oils skimmers and protective boom? The amount of skimmers in the water has been reduced by almost 700 vessels and The DRC group which alone had contracted 480 vessels to lay protective boom and skim oil, has reduced by half their fleet in the water due to the lost contracts.

Why is British Petroleum backing off efforts to skim oil and protect the beaches and more importantly, why is Thad Allen, you know…the guy running the show, allowing them to do it?

No surprise; it would seem BP is still mostly concerned about their bottom line, about the count of oil that is skimmed, because each time cleanup workers skim a barrel’s worth, BP’s fine increases.

Still surprising is BP getting away with these decisions. Every time they do, Thad Allen’s credibility diminishes.

Read the articles:

Patches of Oil – Times Picayune

Oil could keep washing ashore for weeks – Times Picayune

Have a nice day.

From Project Katrina Hope: What You Can Do To Help The Gulf Coast

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Katrina Hope

Sometimes, it’s difficult to think what to do in situations like this, these problems that are so large, so overwhelming, and oftentimes we do nothing because we don’t know where to begin. The oil spill is like that, two million gallons of Corexit, millions of gallons of oil, the wildlife, all the people suddenly robbed of their culture and thrown out of work. Where do you begin…who might you even get in contact with if you had the means to get to the Gulf Coast to volunteer time?

Well, meet Gretchen Wieland; if you had questions about what you could do, she might be a good place to start.

After a vacation in New Orleans, frustrated by a lack of positive coverage about the volunteer efforts Post Katrina, she decided to make a documentary and create an organization to help, so she created Project: Katrina Hope.

Here are her suggestions for what people who want to help can do:

1. Don’t forget.  Just because there is a cap on the oil leak and almost five years have passed since the hurricane, it doesn’t mean problems just go away.  These men, women and children are struggling.

2. Volunteer.  If you have the time and the resources, go down to the Gulf Coast and get a sense of the morale yourself.  As we approach this critical anniversary next month, there is still plenty of work to be done, and volunteers are the primary source of rebuilding in Louisiana and Mississippi.

3. Write a letter of hope.  If you want to provide hope to a Gulf Coast resident directly, e-mail gretchen@projectkatrinahope.com, where we can set you up with a homeowner pen pal of sorts.  We’ll deliver your handwritten or e-mailed letter directly to a resident who is struggling, giving him/her hope for the future, despite circumstances that may currently feel insurmountable.

Read her article:

Being Kicked While You’re Down…

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

July 26, 2010 at 2:15 PM

Thank You…to all of ya, and especially…

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Because, I can...

I’m new to writing a blog.

Two months ago, I didn’t know what I was doing. To be honest, I didn’t know if I should be doing it at all. What right did I have to vent my opinions out into the internet? What right did I have to be expected to be taken seriously? Blah, blah, blah…one more guy with a computer pissed off at how stupid this whole world has become, especially in the Gulf Coast, especially in New Orleans. Sure, I lived in NOLA once, lived in a studio at the corner of Royal and St. Ann…but it was the worst apartment I’ve ever lived in…mice, palmettos; during one hurricane, part of the ceiling gave in and I spent the next few months with that hole above, wondering when the rest might come down – still, it was the best apartment I’ve ever lived in. Morning coffee on the balcony off St. Ann Street, tourist buggy’s rolling below as I read the Sunday Times-Picayune drinking chicory coffee…I worked a locals bar, taking a year off social work to be a bartender a few blocks from my place and as those tourists looked up, imagining what it would be like to actually live there, I knew…I knew and it was great! And it sucked! some days I reveled in it, some days I opened up the gate on Royal, saw all the tourists and went back in, no…not today.

And this gives me the credibility of…well, nothing.

But I fell in love with New Orleans back then, and I still am…

Three years ago, up on Frenchman’s, a guy walks up to me as I walk out of the Cat’s Meow after seeing a great set by St. Louis Slim, and this guy says something so simple as “Hello…”

I look at him, wondering what he wants, so focused on my defensive reactions I don’t even respond. He says “Hello” again and just for a moment I realize I am not in California, people actually say “Hello” here, and want nothing…

I laugh, self-conscious, and nod back to answer his greeting.

We shake hands.

He wanders on; I am reminded of how cold I can become, social worker or not.

I am reminded of how I have been changed.

A few months ago, I had a conversation – and it was understood by the end of it, I am coming back to New Orleans. Next year, have too…not really a matter of want, it has become a necessity because for some reason…there and only there am I able to engage on the social level I need…

But now, in the meantime, I am becoming what is known as a “blogger,”…whatever, I write what I feel and what I feel tends to be about the Gulf Coast. To be honest, from what I see – real news from real people tends to trump most “real” news from mainstream news sources, but anyways…with this blog I could have been just venting into the winds for all anybody might have cared, but a few people people took notice and those same people made me feel validated…on occasion publishing what I wrote onto their own blogs…

Kinda made me feel I wasn’t alone, that what I was doing here was a voice sometimes worth listening to…

So, I am writing this for anyone who wants to read it, but specifically to say, “Thank you,”  to a few people out there, thanks for giving me a taste of what I know, what I knew all along – something you reminded me of, yet again…Louisiana and New Orleans is home.

Thank you…for reminding me in your own way….Katy, Editilla, Slab, Humid, AmZombie,

Have a great day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

July 26, 2010 at 1:00 AM

Headlines…Gulf Coast and Beyond

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The Gulf of Mexico...remember when that was just a boat, not a skimmer? BP, 5 billion dollar disaster profit, Cheers America, You Finally Lost the Revolutionary War!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

With Bonnie threat gone, critical equipment has already returned to Gulf oil well site – Times Picayune

Dudley Set to Succeed Hayward at BP - Wall Street Journal

Dam fails in eastern Iowa, causing massive flooding – CNN

White House sends 2012 rescue team to Florida – Politico

US Troops Captured in Afghanistan: Report – HuffingtonPost

Germany Love Parade Tragedy: Death Toll Rises After Stampede At Festival – HuffingtonPost

Kyra Phillips Asks if Something Needs to be Done “Legally about Anonymous Bloggers’” – CNN

Researchers Confirm Subsea Gulf Oil Plumes Are From BP Well – Truthout

Everybody but Kyra Phillips…

Have a good night.

And now, a word from our sponsors…Vol 2.

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Sometimes you need a break…

Circle Jerks – I Wanna Destroy You

The hidden subtext?

Obviously…       Sean Hannity believes he will be crucified on April 22nd, 2011.

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

July 25, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Some Perspective…BP Set to Announce 5 Billion Dollar Profit in 2nd Quarter

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Brutal Profit

From the Telegraph:

This week is likely to see the start of BP’s fightback, beginning with the announcement of $5bn in profits for the second quarter of 2010 and the resignation of Hayward – a symbolic break with the steady drip of bad news that has bombarded the company since April 20.

While I do understand the necessity of British Petroleum staying afloat so they can make reparations to the Gulf Coast along with the number of pensions tied up in British Petroleum stock in America and elsewhere…this profit…something seems wrong with them making this large a profit, especially in light of all they are doing to cut corners in the Gulf, making successive decisions that further affect lives and cause even more suffering for the residents of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Drastically wrong, a $5 billion dollar profit, when so many are now forced to do without as a result of BP’s catastraphuk? 

Perhaps a little perspective is in order as to how they might be achieving this kind of wealth:

1. British Petroleum is stalling relief payments to the Gulf Coast – said Kenneth Feinberg, the arbitrator of the 20 billion dollar escrow. He states when he takes over as arbitrator, officially on August 10th, these delays will stop. He has heard the complaints from residents and states he understands the pain being experienced.

2. British Petroleum has stopped awarding contracts for oil skimmers and protective boom. The people getting these contracts are people of the Gulf, let go because BP says there isn’t enough oil out there to skim, much of it driven underwater by dispersants like Corexit. However, the idea of boom and skimmers not being needed as badly, and throwing the fisherman out of work again, after your oil spill threw them out of work previously, well, maybe someone could ask the dead pelicans on Raccoon Island how they feel about there not being enough oil to skim.

3. British Petroleum is using prison labor to clean up beaches…prison labor is far cheaper and as an added benefit, prisoners cannot complain about lack of safety equipment or conditions. Well, they can but who will really listen? They are being used despite thousands in the Gulf Coast being out of work because of British Petroleum’s spill.

4. Cleanup pay will be deducted from future payouts of oil claims so essentially, Gulf Coast residents are working to cleanup BP’s mess for free while putting their health at risk by working in this toxic stew of Corexit and crude oil.

5. BP is stalling requests made by Gulf Coast states for mental health outreach funding for affected Gulf Coast residents. Millions of dollars have been requested and BP has committed to nothing. It took weeks for the company to even acknowledge the request.

6. BP no longer assisting food banks - after donating $175,000 dollars the first month of their oil spill catatastraphuk, they have since given nothing while the need for assistance continues to rise and rise quickly. When fisherman are used to eating their own catch, and no longer can due to the oil spill, well, along with the loss of their jobs, food quickly becomes an expensive problem.

7. BP is paying exorbitant sums to Gulf Coast scientists to conduct research on the spill and become part of their defense team. A number of university scientists have accepted as research funds are in short supply. A signature on the BP contract forbids them from disclosing findings for 3 years, thus they are silenced.

And I am sure many more examples exist beyond what’s mentioned above…

So, a little perspective, despite British Petroleum’s initial commitment to making sure that the Gulf Coast and their residents are “made whole” again, they have done little more than cut costs and delay payments at every turn. The Gulf states are predicted to lose 100,000 jobs because of this spill while the Gulf Coast economy is expected to lose 22.7 billion dollars.

Hundreds of thousands of affected lives…

BP made 5 billion dollars in the second quarter alone…

Bully.

Read the article:

Oil spill: BP plans for life after Deepwater

Have a good evening.

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