I’ve known for a long time I don’t contain the natural empathy or feeling of the average person. This could be how it’s always been. This could also be (in part) desensitization from a career in social work…twenty years of witnessed experiences and darker narratives:
– Doing paperwork in a crisis house when a woman walked up to me with a towel over her arm, “I think I made a mistake,” she said removing the towel, uncovering a clean incision from elbow to wrist…I nodded sympathetically, “Okay, wrap the towel back around and I’ll grab my keys. We’ll go to the hospital.”
– In the emergency room, listening to a young woman with broken front teeth and a bloody eye detail the horrific abuse she had been receiving from her husband…while I made steady, softened eye contact, nodding appropriately and formulating a plan to provide assistance.
Twenty years of horrendous situations, traumatic stories from people dealing with homelessness, abuse, people who have been beaten and thrown away. I’m not trying to say that I feel nothing. I do, but it’s muted, and comes less from an emotional response and more from an analytical choice of what the next correct decision should be given the situation. It’s learned. When my grandfather passed away, I left work early, not because I really felt the need to go home, but because the look of concern from my supervisor indicated that would be the appropriate response. When my client came to terms with her terminal diagnosis from untreated breast cancer, I sat with her for two hours as she tearfully processed this, leaving only to go get her some popsicles from the corner store because they were her favorite and seemed to be what she needed in that moment, or the times spent marching in the streets with thousands over the Chicago Police Department’s murder of another young man – this was correct because racism is wrong.
I used to try to see if I could fix this lack. I thought that perhaps my sense of humor was too dark or that there might be something wrong with the anger being my most frequent go-to, or strongest felt emotion. I knew, intellectually, that my muted responses made me a little different and also that my father was similar in these respects. I also learned from the myriad of social situations most everybody finds themselves in that certain responses are more socially acceptable than others, and if I was going to give up trying to fix what wasn’t going on within me that I was going to need to become practiced in what those responses should be, as well as really put in the time to develop a sense of ethics and social justice as an overall guide.
This past month a co-worker unexpectedly passed away. I had known this person for about a year as we had shared an office with others, her sitting directly behind me. We’d gone to lunch once or twice, had conversations. We’d discussed the sadness she had felt recently when she’d had to put her dog down. I knew about some of her struggles, her difficulties with her family and some of the challenges she was working to resolve. I received news of her death via text while working at a different site. The person who sent me the text was pretty busted up over it, you could see it through the characters and while reading the successive texts I didn’t have too much of a reaction, but I also knew that would be the incorrect response.
So I answered in kind, “That’s terrible. How is everyone doing down there?” (south side clinic) and we engaged around this for a few more texts, and being this person’s supervisor I suggested that if they needed, they were free to leave for the day in order to take any self-care necessary. This was the right thing to say as a supervisor. Also being the right thing: knowing another co-worker at my site was very close to this person, and that it might be better if I told them in person rather than potentially finding out by group e-mail later in the day. So I found them and told them what had happened. I watched them cry. I watched another person sit next to them and put his hand on their shoulder, and made a mental note that next time, in this situation, that would be something I might do.
I once had a conversation with my wife where we discussed social work, a profession she also enjoys. She told me one of things she admires is the compassion I have and how much I care about people. I was a little drunk at the time, and a bit honest about it all as I told her the reason I felt I was good at my job was because ultimately, I didn’t care too much. Writing that might make me sound bad. I get that, and it’s not something I enjoy about myself, rather I’ve learned to accept it. I told her I was able to look at social work situations like Chicago, not like New Orleans, meaning my approach is more clearly analytic, unclouded by an emotional heart. I’ve been successful doing things this way, but I wouldn’t have been nearly so without constant interaction and correction by other people, by observation, by learning that even if I don’t necessarily feel any which way, the right thing to do is this or that; it’s the ethical thing, the thing most likely to get justice for a particular individual in a situation that inherently contains very little.
So next week Saturday, I’ll be going to a memorial for my co-worker who passed away, deep on the south side of Chicago at a small park where a tree will be dedicated in her memory. This gathering will be attended by friends and family of the deceased as well as many people from the non-profit where I work. Emotionally, I feel no real compunction to go, but do I understand it is the right thing to do.
Yesterday, Judge Carl Barbier ruled British Petroleum was guilty of gross negligence in the lead-up to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, stating BP made “profit-driven decisions” during the drilling of the well and “these instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risk.” Barbier went on to say that due to the “egregious” nature of BP’s actions, if legal precedent had permitted, he would have found it appropriate to tack on punitive damages in the case.
British Petroleum, feeling justice had run its due course, nodded solemnly and agreed it was time to truly make things right by dropping any further legal proceedings and began to immediately pay claims again. They also issued a heart-felt apology to all it had harmed through it’s actions over the past years.
No…instead BP immediately threatened to appeal the ruling and called the decision “erroneous,” while insinuating the court isn’t being impartial.
Now that sounds more like the oil company we all know and loathe and so, a few reactions to these events:
1. The immediate would of course be to simply express towards BP, “Good. Deal with it you responsibility shirking, PR department hiding greed-merchants. You put profit first, ruined many and you get what you deserve.”
2. A more thoughtful response could simply be wonderment…is it possible that a mega-corporation is finally being held legally responsible for their actions, and in a way that actually helps those the company has harmed? The increased fines from this ruling will benefit coastal restoration projects, and coastal restoration is good for all in Louisiana. The oil spill did much, much damage to the coast, to the wildlife, to businesses and to people. British Petroleum made a lot of promises when this was headline news, but appears to be trying to extricate themselves from their mess as much as possible now that the media has gone. This ruling puts them financially back on the hook for their reckless behavior in a way that can make a strong impact in coastal restoration.
3. BP will appeal, of course. Why not? Nothing for them to lose here in an appeal process, nothing at all. Exxon dragged the whole Valdez thing out for how long, twenty years? So of course British Petroleum will do the same. And we haven’t even gotten to the legal arguments about how many barrels of oil were actually spilled, there being a vast difference between BP’s estimate and the government’s. With the fine potentially being $4,300 dollars a barrel, there will be a huge financial difference.
4. The government could respond to BP’s endless appeals by putting financial pressure on the company. As I wrote before, the government has some leverage, for while it is certainly BP’s right to fight each and every legal ruling with time consuming appeals while people go broke, the environment continues to degrade and the coast disappears, it is also the government’s right to step in and say, “You know what? That oil spill thing has become so contentious and we just don’t want to muddy the waters any further so, BP? Yeah, we’re just going to suspend your Gulf oil leases until this is all over, settled, until everybody’s happy and then we can move forward again as partners, in good faith.”
But for now, British Petroleum continues to drill in the Gulf while at the same time play the victim in the aftermath of their own, created destruction. They say the judge is not impartial, the people are demanding too much, we can’t be blamed for the decline in oyster harvest; there isn’t enough proof. And this goes on and on and on…all while they maintain how they’re a wonderful and even “green” company who is nothing more but your humble steward doing everything they can to right what’s wrong.
It’s bullshit…like BofA, like Chase: BP’s just another company doing some, but not enough to fix the problems they created when they put profit before all. British Petroleum should, and can do a lot more by dropping their appeals, the delay tactics and any pretense at being a victim and pay up, make good on their promises.
Much appreciation to Judge Carl Barbier for an important ruling, one that might go a ways in making sure this actually happens.
I was standing outside the Converse All Star Store on Market Street in San Francisco when it became clear to me it was again, time to leave this city. The sign in the store window yelled, “SHOES ARE BORING! WEAR SNEAKERS!” in large, capitalized letters and behind this sign stood an equally loud, colorful scream of red sneakers, white sneakers and blue, all arranged on the wall to form a huge American flag of Converse, Chuck Taylor All Stars. It was a catching display, big and bright and then further inside the store, large banners did their turn, celebrating the rebelliousness of the shoes themselves, of the purchasing, owning and living in these shoes (or…sneakers) and what doing so might say about you and your lifestyle, about who you really are and hey…you know, you can step right inside and go to the “Create lab” and with the able help of a “Maestro,” actually design your own sneakers while playing “loud raucous tunes” to further express your unique individuality in their biggest store ever for the low, low price of $75.00! Yes-sir! Express all that you are, and can be:
With. Fucking. Footwear.
Yes sir, time to fucking go…Converse told me so, reminding me clearly of the power held in reputations and the potential emptiness existing below their surface. Them All Star’s got a reputation, an individuality image and so does San Francisco, often defined round here as: “Kook City,” and that is only one example. Some also consider it the land of gay rights, gay marriage and the Castro, or maybe it’s the hippies in the Haight (smaller in number, but still there). It’s known as a liberal playground of civil rights, of compassion and care, as the land of a truly progressive politics that tries to see the big picture for the benefit of everybody. Good lord, by reputation alone this is clearly not a city in America, it’s a nation unto itself, a utopian peninsula where the best of American liberalism has taken it upon itself to finally shine from the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay.
Honestly, if any of that was ever really true, it’s bullshit level has been increasing exponentially the past five years or so, leaving a lot of longtime residents disillusioned about the myths they chose to believe in, kinda like the people who buy into that All Star reputation as some sort of independent status symbol only to later discover the black death of child factory footwear, Nike, bought out the whole chain years ago. Oops.
And who bought San Francisco?
Well, the San Francisco of today is real estate developers and speculators flipping properties and evicting people to work around rent control. It is tech companies getting tax breaks to stay in town while they make money hand over fist. It is the gearing of an entire city towards a luxury class while our compassionate citizens, lead by story after story in the Chronicle demonizing panhandlers and the homeless, help enact a set of brutal homeless laws that make it a crime to sleep in a park or sit down on a sidewalk. It is a wealth gap forming like a canyon between the quite well off and those unable to afford even the most basic needs, continuing an ever-increasing homelessness while the city also cuts shelter beds and mental health support in the same shelters. It is a glut of tech workers moving in and greedy landlords going batshit insane, raising rents to a place where the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco is around $2400 dollars and at those prices, now left out of the new San Francisco are such mainstream salaries as teachers, nurses, cops, social workers and city employees (just to name a few) all being forced out by these high rents, forced to commute in from the East Bay or go away altogether. Right now, I pay $1000 a month for a tiny studio in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. The only reason my rent has stayed so low over the past couple of years is rent control. New rentals in my building now go for $1,450 dollars, and by market rates this is still pretty cheap. If I were to be evicted I would have to leave this city, no longer able to afford it and I work a professional job, and that’s a fucking powerless feeling, and Jesus Christ, what if you were dumb enough to be here with fucking children? How do you put down roots knowing if your landlord decides he’s had enough of owning his building and sells to the speculators constantly knocking on his door with ever increasing offers, you would have to abandon everything?
Yeah, even childless, I say fuck that.
And that’s a big part of the problem, a lot of people are saying “fuck that.” People like…the aforementioned teachers and nurses, but also the musicians, artists, designers and writers. So many are leaving, and though many have tried Oakland…Oakland is now going the way of San Francisco and as their rents keep climbing, it too is being abandoned. The cultural center of San Francisco is hollowing out, leaving behind a shell of wealthy techies and other higher paying professionals who run around this playground trying hard not to get bored while people commute in from all over the Bay Area to serve them doing retail, restaurant, hotel and other service jobs.
Let them have tips. Let them eat cake.
That’s not a city.
It’s a pretty fiefdom of entitled, dull dilettantes wearing Google Glass and buying eight dollar cups of coffee. It’s a place that hosts the America’s Cup boat races. It’s the land of foodies and food snobs, and so many of the (new and old) wealthy entitled. Now, this doesn’t mean the city’s all bad, and not even bad for me. I love my job, the Bay, the views and the movie houses. I enjoy how most bands on tour stop here, the hills, the never-ending series of taquerias (I have a favorite in every neighborhood in the city and can recite them like poetry). These are all good things, but it’s not enough anymore. Not for me and not for many others, and certainly not when you have other options because everything I like about this town is also available somewhere else. Even one of the strongest reputations San Francisco is known for is losing it’s luster; the city may still be a gay mecca of sorts, but the country’s changing and is it really anymore of a Mecca than many other cities? Even the famed Castro neighborhood is now filled with families complaining about the noise of a scene they once were a part of, back before they decided to get married and adopt kids. It’s all changing. The reputation has expired. One hanging dick from some naked guy on Folsom street no longer makes you “Kook City” when your city council actually went to the trouble to outlaw nudity. Little by little, the unique character of the city gets stripped away. Hell, they even kicked the chess players off of Market Street, stating they (were homeless) attracted crime. The Castro Halloween party? Gone. The Lusty Lady? Gone too. The long trite phrase “Only in San Francisco” becomes vain and rather pointless when there’s far crazier and far friendlier shenanigans happening in Austin, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Denver, Pittsburg and Seattle…just to name a few. Oh, and with the exception of New York, I can actually afford to live in all of those other cities (and many more) and much more comfortably, and with a much cleaner conscience, especially when I know that the guy who got my coffee or made my tacos or helped me find that book in the bookstore is actually living in the same city I am…maybe more difficultly than in the past but he or she is still there.
But not in San Francisco, here they would need several roommates in their studio to try it, and even then they still couldn’t afford a pair of fucking All Stars.
One more example: a couple of weeks ago, they had the Filmore Jazz Festival. The Fillmore District in San Francisco is a legendary neighborhood once known as the “Harlem of the West.” It was where Louis Armstrong played, where Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday performed in the clubs and shopped at many black owned businesses, historically important and culturally iconic. Every year, they still hold the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival in the district, but today Fillmore Street is a fucking joke, a collection of high end shops, pricy eateries and a Starbucks on every block. The only reason one might ever know the history of the neighborhood is by spotting a banner that hangs off a light pole when you walk out of the Mac cosmetic store or the cute little homemade organic soap shop. They might call it the “Jazz District,” but that’s about as accurate as referring to the famed Cable Cars as anything but a tourist trap. In truth, the Fillmore is nothing but a series of cosmetic stores and clothing boutiques punctuated by the occasional artisan cafe all tailored to the new gentry of yuppies and other assorted professionals who can somehow afford the exorbitant rents.
And this is your new San Francisco.
Many people like it. These people often own and work in tech companies and/or own a lot of property, or maybe they own high end restaurants or shops that sell five hundred dollar handbags, three hundred dollar pairs of sunglasses or expensive organic food. The CEO of Apple? He fucking loves San Francisco but the people who work at the Apple Store…not so much. They all live in fucking Pleasanton or with their three roommates in Oakland or in their rent controlled studio hoping the owner of the building doesn’t decide to Ellis Act their ass and kick them to the streets so he can flip the building and double or triple the rent on new tenants. Cities change. I get it. I can accept that, and sometimes you roll with that change or you decide that the dissonance between what a city claims to be is too great from what it actually is and you get the fuck out. Sometimes you take a look around you and just get disappointed, and then maybe you even get bitter and start doing your research and realize how places do exist in this country that actually are what San Francisco (still) claims to be…
Growing up I used to wear Converse All Stars. Great fucking shoes…I mean, sneakers, but then they got bought out by Nike and the prices for them tripled over time and their reputation became only that to me, a reputation and I moved on…to shoes that didn’t define me, but were authentic and affordable and they’re fucking shoes! Who fucking cares! It’s not a lifestyle.
It’s. Fucking. Footwear.
And San Francisco is just a city, just another city, not really all that special anymore and sometimes, it even feels kind of ugly being here so very soon, it’s off to Chicago again and yes, I understand it suffers from many of the same problems as San Francisco but it’s way better off for a few reasons: hell 0f a lot more room to maneuver, it’s still affordable, there’s a real chance they might kick Rahm Emanuel the fuck out of there and maybe most important of all…it’s a hell of a lot easier to get to New Orleans from Chicago than it is from San Francisco. And I really love New Orleans too, despite what’s happening in the Bywater, and you know? Maybe because of what’s happening in the Bywater, you can bet your ass I’ll be watching for any sign of a Converse store on Canal or Magazine and if that should start to happen, I’ll be ready…
It’s only fifteen hours by car from Chicago to NOLA and even though I don’t smoke anymore, I seem to always have a lighter around and I’m betting that shoes burn a lot easier than a reputation, no matter how empty.
A new study from the University of California-Davis shows a combination of sunlight and oil exposure can cause the “physical disintegration” of fish embryos. The process, called phototoxicity, was documented in the aftermath of the 2007 Cusco Busan spill which occurred when a tanker hit the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland.
“This phenomenon had been observed in the laboratory, but had never been observed in the field, and there were even some skeptics out there wondering if this was just a phenomenon that people would see under lab conditions,” said Gary Cherr, director of the Bodega Marine lab. “One of the real take-home messages from our study was: yes, in fact, it definitely happens in the real world.”
As Stuart Smith points out, the study echoes countless observations from fishermen around the Gulf about depleted catches.
And obviously, if this did/is occurring in the Gulf, it will take that much longer for fisheries and the seafood industry to rebound.
So, all that being said…here’s what really pisses me off about this.
In a perfect world, we would see a simple reaction to the news of such a study:
British Petroleum, alarmed for the welfare of the fishing industry in the Gulf Coast would hire scientists, free and clear from any restrictions of reporting and publication who would then work with government scientists operating free and clear of any political agendas to figure out if what’s described in this study is indeed occurring in the Gulf, and if so, immediately work together with input from the fishing industry to address this problem. In this refreshing climate, one that operates beyond political and litigious constraints and influence, the information would flow freely. The primary objective would be the protection and benefit of the environment, the people and seafood industries along the Gulf Coast, the same Gulf Coast which never asked for this fucking oil spill.
And because of this established, open climate, when the studies were released, they would be trusted.
Alas, this environment has never existed in the Gulf.
From day one, BP has operated on damage control while the government operated in the shadow of Bush’s disastrous response to Katrina, and the EPA, NOAA and FDA? Their functions have been utterly compromised by a decade of corporate and political influence and funding cuts.
The only truth to be had in the Gulf depends on which opinion you wish to adopt.
And none of this helps anybody but those who already have the resources, connections and influence to not need anymore help…and now this whole subjective line of shenanigans and bullshit is playing out in the MDL too…with double dipping attorneys, conflicts of interest and corporate bullying while the campaign contributions fly…
Running this show in the Gulf are the same people who’s agendas caused the problems in the Gulf: British Petroleum and their continuing poor safety record, the government and their continuing poor monitoring of oil platforms, insufficient testing of seafood, and willingness to let entire ecosystems disappear in the name of profit and/or deregulation.
Getting screwed in the Gulf: that would continue to be claimants involved with the GCCF, fishermen with little to catch being told by television commercials how well they’re doing, and frankly, the rest of the people in the Gulf Coast left to wonder if they’re going to get sick from contaminants, from seafood, and from Corexit…all because they are at the mercy of agendas they and their families don’t factor into.
And now, that legal system designed to be the fail safe, the protector, the last stop…it too shows signs of being influenced by the same bullshit agendas that have been played out across four states for over twenty months.
Swear to God, It’s almost enough to make one think that those fish embryos had it easy…
At the end of this month the payroll tax holiday will expire, and if allowed to lapse, it will come as a tax increase for working lower and middle class Americans. The Democrats, including Obama, are in favor of an extension while many Republicans are not. Many Republicans are demanding the extension be offset by spending cuts elsewhere or simply done away with altogether.
Oh wait…forget that part…no, the reason some Republicans would be so willing to let it expire is our out of control deficit…fiscal prudence at its best, yes-sir, so fiscally responsible these Republicans, the cult of Norquist clan, they would allow a tax cut to expire. What an example of sacrifice? Imagine that, they finally agreed, not all tax cuts could be forever sacrosanct…oh, and the fact this party is oft accused of defending only the wealthy, and the fact this tax cut only benefits the working poor and middle class, not the wealthy…
I’m sure this is coincidence.
Has to be.
Just as I’m also sure it is only coincidence the Bush tax cuts, those gifts to the rich and a large part of our current deficit, weren’t required to be paid for while the payroll tax holiday, so many Republicans demand, must be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Yes, this Republican coincidence is but one of many these days…
Take a look at the job creators, for instance. Nick Hanauer, a successful venture capitalist recently wrote an op-ed, stating:
Consider, for example, that a puny 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to maintain and expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time for the economy. With a few more pennies on the dollar, we could invest in rebuilding schools and infrastructure. And even if we imposed a millionaires’ surtax and rolled back the Bush- era tax cuts for those at the top, the taxes on the richest Americans would still be historically low, and their incomes would still be astronomically high…Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit.
Yet, the Republicans would rather it be discovered they wet the bed than raise taxes on the wealthy, on those job creators…God save the job creators, even if they call bullshit on their actual ability to create jobs…and I suppose this only makes no sense at all, none…I mean, the Bush tax cuts have been in effect for what, 10 years or so, yet strangely enough we’ve had a recession, we’ve watched a looting of pension plans, a housing collapse and high sustained unemployment for years… And through it all, the fact those taxes on the wealthy, meant to create jobs have done everything but create jobs?
But I digress, back to that tax break the Republicans are so sketchy about, the one that coincidentally doesn’t help the wealthiest of this country…when John Boehner was asked if letting the tax cut expire would hurt the economy, he replied, “I’m not an economist. I don’t know what kind of impact it’s going to have on the economy.”
Not an economist?
Yet he was sure the deficit didn’t matter when Bush was president, growing exponentially due to unfunded wars, tax breaks for the wealthy and that huge gift bag to pharmaceutical companies.
Just as he is now sure, that since Bush is no longer President, the deficit is destroying America as we know it, that if allowed to continue, not only will the deficit destroy our ability to manufacture American flags for the waving, but your mother’s apple pie? As a country, we will no longer be able to support the cost involved in using ovens, ever again. We will be one flag-less pie-less country, that much closer to gay marriage if we don’t do something about the deficit, like yesterday. He means…now.
Oh, but that Boehner suddenly lost his economist credentials, that he devolved into financial confusion when it was time for this tax break that doesn’t expressly help the wealthy?
Another matter of simple coincidence.
However…to be fair…Boehner has come around the past day or so, the GOP is coming around and now say the payroll tax holiday should be passed. John himself has said, ““The fact is that Republicans are doing everything we can to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn.”
Course, that was Public John Boehner. And what did Private John have to say about the payroll tax holiday?
Well, behind closed doors, he told his membership they were pushing a package that not only included the extension, but also more environmental deregulation, more sales of broadband spectrum and a change in policy to help pass the Keystone XL pipeline so, you know, he could turn “chicken shit into chicken salad.”
The ingredients of chicken salad of course being heavier pollution, sick kids, global warming, monopolies on spectrum leading to a lack of diversity on our airwaves, and a big fucking pipe to take oil all the way across our country from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, oil from tar sands development which is about as environmentally friendly as, well, as most Republican policy.
Oh, and that John Boehner didn’t refer to this tax break, which doesn’t help the wealthy, as “chicken shit” in public?
Coincidence…you know it.
Yes…coincidence…of course this is what it is, what all of this is.
Cutting taxes on job creators so they continue to not create jobs, unfunded tax breaks for the wealthy while tax breaks for the working poor and middle class must be offset by spending cuts, spectrum sales and pollution, and Boehners ability to be an arch-economist who sometimes, economically speaking, is dumb as a stump…
In two developments this past week, British Petroleum officially welcomed the Coast Guard and the Federal Government to their party that history forgot. Behind the ivy covered walls, steel doors and security guards of BP headquarters, Bob Dudley toasted Coast Guard Captain, Julia Heim and BOEMRE head, Michael Bromwich, celebrating a rousing relapse of maritime irresponsibility and forgetfulness. Toast completed, Bob turned on the tequila fountain, shaped like a deepwater oil rig, and they all took an extra shot for luck…
Whereupon a few Gulf Coast journalists decided to go and wreck the party by writing a few editorials to ask Julia and Michael…um, what the hell, remember the whole oil spill, corporate irresponsibility thing?
Julia and Michael, you remember all that, right?
Well, apparently Julia, the Coast Guard Captain, doesn’t remember shit because while the Coast Guard signed an agreement with BP, transitioning the clean-up portion of the response towards one of coastal recovery, she seemed to forget a few very important details. Not only does the agreement allow BP to pretty much weasel their way out of any more clean-up and its accompanying costs, she forgot to specify any long-term monitoring of the Gulf Coast. Captain Hein also left out any part where BP continues to pay for aerial monitoring of the Macondo well site.
Yeah, bang-up job, Ms. Hein.
So, all this means that if/when oil comes into the Louisiana wetlands and marshes it will now be up to the public to discover and report it. Then, the state will have to prove it is actually BP oil, which as the oil degrades will become increasingly impossible to do, which in turn will leave the state on the line to pay for the clean-up. When Tropical Storm Lee hit on Labor Day and dumped tar mats, tar balls and other assorted tar products…BP’s clean-up was very slow and when the next storm hits, it will be even slower, or not come at all…thanks to the Coast Guard and their bullshit agreement. Not to mention all those oil slicks they kept discovering this fall by the Macondo Well. Remember? BP and the Coast Guard denied the slicks even existed, until they were photographed by a non-profit group. Then they denied the slicks were in the vicinity of the Macondo site, until it was shown they were, and finally, they then denied the oil actually came from the Macondo well until journalists had tests run, proving them wrong for a third time.
Now, any more monitoring is on the state dime.
Garret Graves, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said of the Coast Guard’s relationship with BP, it’s “like they’re a victim of Stockholm Syndrome,” referring to a phenomenon in which hostages become sympathetic to their captors, but I disagree. The Coast Guard never seemed like a hostage at all, more of a willing participant or co-conspirator in this agreement, one which Louisiana representatives refused to sign, a fact Julia and the Coast Guard simply ignored, going ahead with the agreement regardless. No, that ain’t a hostage, that’s someone with an open invite to party with Bob.
Which brings us to the other party guest, Mr. Michael Bromwich…
This individual currently runs what was formerly the MMS, that lovely regulatory agency that was doing blow and hookers with the oil company reps they were supposed to be monitoring. No wonder the Deepwater Horizon blew up, hard to see a design flaw in the specs when the design prints are on a table covered with empty beer cans. Now, as we all know, the MMS is the BOEMRE, a much more catchy acronym that stands for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, and with this new moniker came a brand new seriousness about safety, or so we’ve all been told, but then they go and release to the public a draft called the “Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.” The point of the BOEMRE’S OCSOGPEIS is to analyze and weigh the “environmental implications of continued drilling in federal waters between 2012 and 2017,” also, “the economic analysis associated with the new impact statement projects the potential for future spills and the damage they might cause based on all “spills from 1964-2010 excluding the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon (DWH) event.””
So, when this agency estimated environmental impacts and possibilities of a spill by analyzing data from the past, they decided to leave out the economic and environmental impacts of the biggest oil spill in United States history?
Why, because it screwed up the curve?
Believe it or not…that’s precisely why. From the report and accompanying article, “If a more recent period is chosen (1990-2009)” for the risk analysis. For instance, using only the 19 years prior to the BP spill in the environmental analysis, the report concludes, this would further “decrease the anticipated environmental costs” of continued drilling.”
You see, if we just kind of leave out the whole millions of barrels spilled, millions of gallons of Corexit dispersant dumped, eleven people dead thing from last summer, well then, deepwater drilling not only looks more economically beneficial but damnit, wouldn’t you know it is environmentally sound, too? Really, no fooling.
Course another take on it could be: “By omitting the nation’s largest environmental disaster from its calculation of the environmental costs of drilling, BOEMRE continues to bury its head in the sand and pretend that the Deepwater Horizon accident never happened,” Catherine Wannamaker, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in an emailed statement. Wannamaker said that even low-probability events such as the Deepwater Horizon blowout must be included when looking at the economic and environmental costs of offshore drilling, “BOEMRE tries to move forward without truly accounting for these risks and costs,” Wannamaker said. “This is not a responsible course of action for a supposedly reformed agency.”
How much you wanna bet Ms. Wannamaker never gets invited to any of Bob’s parties.
Well, she wouldn’t be the only one because it sure seems these get togethers are not meant for you and I, especially if we have a vested interest in not only ensuring BOEMRE fulfills its responsibilities by monitoring the oil companies and all of these wells, but also that British Petroleum is not allowed to walk away from their responsibilities in the Gulf as they seem hell-bent on doing, with the complicity of BOEMRE, the Coast Guard and the Obama Administration.
Remember back when the oil spill first happened? Congress was truly up in arms and they promised to regulate this, enforce that, do whatever they had to do to ensure a preventable tragedy such as the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon could never happen again…so they declared, promised, wrote out in blood, but when push came to shove, Congress passed nothing. Well, the Coast Guard’s bullshit agreement and BOEMRES skewed numbers are just more of this same pattern. Both agencies like to talk about the unlikelihood of such catastrophic events. Yeah, that’s great and all, this ongoing unlikelihood…but it sure as hell don’t keep the coast safe and it didn’t keep those eleven men on the Deepwater Horizon alive.
What the Gulf Coast and this entire country needs, right now, is for the government to finally step up and proceed with true regulation and actual enforcement of industry, because if there’s one thing we know, they sure as hell aren’t going to do it themselves.
The priest has been to the hospital, performed last rites and was then thrown through the glass doors and spit upon by current British Petroleum CEO Bob Dudley, who whipped around, his black duster flapping lazily in the fall breeze, before he strode back into the hospital. Word is he was heading towards the pediatric ward to see if he could dash the hopes of any sick children, pull out their IV’s, blow his nose on their lunch trays.
And in the process, BP’s entire public relations department had a panic attack…
Why? What happened? How has this come to be?
Well, British Petroleum is trying to screw over participants of the VoO program still, while shrugging their shoulders at non-payment of workers and businesses who lost money as a result of the drilling moratorium. Oh, and didn’t you know they’ve signed an agreement with their trusty sidekick, the Coast Guard to agree the clean-up is for all intent and purposes over and when it comes to the trial beginning in February, those two big ‘ol reports the government did? They want those reports excluded from the trial, as well as any other litigation brought against BP in the past…
Making things right, for British Petroleum…but for the Gulf Coast?
When it comes to the VoO Program, 500 more fishermen have alleged in court they signed a contract with BP which states they would be paid a daily wage regardless of whether their boats are used until the contract is complete, which only occurs upon final decontamination of their boats. Turns out however, BP really scrimped on the decontamination supplies so many fishermen are still waiting for this, with unusable, oily boats. And of course, British Petroleum doesn’t want to actually pay these fishermen for waiting around for BP to complete their terms of the contract, so they actually sent out a new “transitional” contract, hoping some people would actually sign it and, you guessed it, the decontamination language is gone. Oh, and they sent this contract out in large part to Vietnamese fishermen who can’t read English.
Huh, fraud much?
So, on to that agreement with the Coast Guard; it’s a government plan to end most of BP’s responsibility for pretty much any more clean-up of any more oil that might contaminate beaches in the future. Not entirely, however…BP can still be on the hook for further cleaning, but first it must be proven the oil washing up is actually from the Macondo Well, which conveniently enough the company concedes, will be ever harder to prove as the oil continues to degrade. Also in this agreement, it is not specified who, if anybody, will be involved in long-term monitoring of the Gulf, regardless the lessons learned from continued problems with the major spills in Mexico and Alaska, problems which are continuing twenty years later. It should be noted Louisiana officials refused to approve of this Coast Guard plan, but BP and the Coast Guard had a novel solution for this potential problem…they have decided to just ignore Louisiana so therefore, no more problem.
Next, we come to that drilling moratorium. Bob and British Petroleum feel this moratorium is not their fault so they should not be responsible for any loss of income people or businesses may have suffered over those five months. You see, this was a solid case of arbitrariness at its best…that Obama character just loves to shut down drilling for no apparent reason. In fact, word is next week he’s going to pull the plug on every nuclear plant in the country, shutting them all down for six weeks because, well…because he’s the president and he can. Seriously though, of course the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States had nothing to do with that moratorium. That kind of cause and effect is more crap logic from business hating Democrats so this is why Bob feels BP should be totally off the hook on this one. To prove it, he plans to find the nearest bar where he will not only explain this in greater detail, but he’ll also show any fellow patron how natural gas fracking has nothing to do with earthquakes in Oklahoma…all while he does whiskey shot after shot until he’s sober.
Finally this week, BP has decided this whole trial thing in February just ain’t right, as is. British Petroleum went to a lot of trouble to buy so many scientists and science departments in Universities across the Gulf Coast, and thus being bought, unable to testify against them at trial. So it kind of flies in the face of that to have those two huge investigations by unbought government scientists and the resulting reports used against them at trial. Fair’s fair, right right? Hell, the Coast Guard report even said British Petroleum was ultimately responsible for the whole deal. This would be why they have asked for said reports to be excluded, oh and also excluded should be any other litigation brought against BP in the past, especially from places like Texas City and Prudhoe Bay. Bob would appear to feel this is certainly understandable as the last thing BP needs is their long record of mishaps be used to show a long pattern of mishaps.
And the BP public relations department has officially passed out.
Really, who could blame them? They’ve been forced to eat this whole “Making things right” slogan for well over a year and it’s hard, really hard when your company CEO appears only concerned with making things right for the company shareholders, focused for the most part on the legal technicality and what he is legally obligated to do, instead of just sucking it up and doing the right thing, period.
I mean, hey, don’t get me wrong…the $20 billion escrow fund was a good thing in spirit…but Feinberg’s handling of it is a whole nother story and it almost seems at times this escrow fund’s main goal was to provide PR cover for BP to try and screw everybody and everything else they possibly could.
It’s kind of like the mediocre student whose content to just pass the course, rather than excel…yeah, Bob’s getting a D-.
So, to the Gulf Coast?
It would appear more and more, that unless you got the law, you are now officially on your own…not that you haven’t (really) been this way for a long enough time already…let’s just say BP finally ripped their mask clean off as it would appear they’ve decided moral bankruptcy and greed is back in style…
Ken Feinberg recently visited Dublin as part of the US-Ireland Alliance where he gave a talk to Trinity College law students, and then an interview to the Irish Times. During both engagements, he spoke of the cottage industry he has established as a mediator for a variety of compensation funds, including his role with the GCCF.
When discussing his role in the Gulf, Ken said, “In 13 months I received one million claims from all 50 states and 37 foreign countries…when BP said it was putting up $20 billion, it engendered a lot of very creative claims.”
Good one Ken, yes, “creative claims.”
Very nice, because obviously people from all over the world were trying to play the British Petroleum lottery, trying their best to fool Feinberg and get their fraudulent hands on all that BP money…but how many fraudulent claims did you actually refer to the Justice Department for investigation? A few thousand, out of over a million filed…yes Ken, very good joke, I’m sure much laughter was had as you misrepresented the integrity of those who filed claims, of those so affected by the largest environmental disaster in the United States.
And during his interview, Feinberg was asked, “Was there an element of compulsion in accepting the compensation, as people have to waive their right to sue when the full extent of the damage may not yet be known?”
Good question, very good…
To which Ken replied, “No one is required to accept a final settlement…if anyone feels the future is uncertain, they can opt for an interim payment and keep coming back until they are comfortable about the future; 25,000 people took that option.”
Okay, but taking a look at the most recent GCCF statistics, whereas you are correct Ken, approximately 29,0000 people have accepted interim payments, you again misrepresented this situation entirely. What you failed to mention is the GCCF has received over 100,000 interim claims, yet two out of every three claimants haven’t been paid.
Why is that?
Did they not qualify?
Were the offered payments so low, they instead took the final payment you also offered, out of frustration?
Are they maybe just still waiting to hear from you, after all the interim payments were the last to be processed, right Ken? Or maybe it had something to do with your continued statements about the Gulf so rapidly improving, people might not be happy down the line with final offers, or when you said there comes a time, that people just have to move on…perhaps if there were transparency in the GCCF process, we might have the answers to these question, but alas, there is not.
Now Ken, don’t get me wrong.
I don’t actually expect you to go to Ireland and talk about what a horrible job you’ve done as arbitrator for the BP compensation fund. I mean, who would do that? But, I also would expect you to not make light of the still terrible situation in the Gulf, or misrepresent claimants and facts, or make things appear better than they are… And now that I think about it, I really wouldn’t expect you to be in Ireland in the first place, haven’t you heard? They’re discovering some real alarming things going on in the Gulf environmentally that would seem to make an impact on not only the seafood catch, but the health of Gulf Coast residents and in turn, impact your calculations for your payment methodology…you know, the one you said was an estimate and could be changed down the line as new facts come in…
Whereas I am sure the people in Ireland love ya a lot more than the people of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, so as I would certainly imagine it’d be more fun for you to be over there rather than in the Gulf…the people in Ireland? Well, they aren’t still waiting for you to finish doing your job.
So what do you say, maybe you should get back to work? After all, you are getting paid a hell of a lot of money, right?
“No, I know for a fact the Constitution expressly forbids global warming, therefore, anyone who speaks of it is committing treason…”
Jim DeMint, Senator and self-described Tea Party Rock Star who never saw a constitution he actually wanted to read, recently had this to say about job creation:
“DeMint argued, businesses want the government to oppose unions and eliminate regulations, which he said would create “certainty.” “What they want is some certainty. They want the regulators off their back. They want the National Labor Relations Board to stop pushing the union agenda and try to help companies that create jobs. So I don’t think the president is going to come out with things that are really going to create jobs,” DeMint said.”
Course, the actual nationwide survey of small business owners by McClatchy found that Jim DeMint is full of shit.
“None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it. Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.”
Yeah, but what these business owners don’t seem to get, as Jim DeMint would gladly tell them, is what they feel is important hardly fits the Tea Party profile and/or makes their campaign contributors money so it is quite obvious, those small business owners are horribly wrong about their own businesses, and probably socialists too.
Ain’t just Washington DC Republicans and Democrats wheeling and dealing with austerity cuts to harm the people of this country, their health and the environment, (gotta keep that spending and revenue down so them wealthy job creators can keep on job creating) Feinberg, administrator of the GCCF is doing his part too, assisting British Petroleum and their $5 billion dollar plus profit this quarter by making austerity cuts to any sort of health claims people might direct towards the GCCF, as opposed to the less restrictive work he did with the 9-11 and Agent Orange funds.
In a new report, released by AEHR, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, it’s demonstrated how Ken Feinberg has changed his ways when it comes to the health of those so harmed by tragedy, in this instance, all the people who live along the Gulf Coast, helped clean it up or just happened to be visiting at a really unfortunate time.
According to Feinberg, he has received roughly 200 health related claims, but has rejected them all because they failed to show “proof,” by way of medical documentation, documentation…documentation!…that the illnesses were related to toxic exposure from the oil spill.
This standard of medical proof should be compared to his previous, less restrictive requirements:
The Agent Orange Settlement Fund:
No proof was required for medical causation. All that was necessary was for the claimant to show they were in an area where the herbicide, Agent Orange was sprayed and that they had a related medical diagnosis.
The 9-11 Victims Compensation Fund:
Feinberg also did not require proof of medical causation. Approximately 80-90% of the claims he received were due to respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to toxic air pollution. Again, all the claimants needed to show was that they were in the vicinity, rescue workers or civilians and they had a medical diagnosis.
But now, things have changed…
These are the times of austerity, cutting back, living within our means, tightening our belts, etc…so GCCF claimants must now have proof. From the report:
“By requiring medical proof of causation, Feinberg has effectively denied the human right to health for people suffering from illnesses associated with the BP oil disaster toxins, but who cannot provide medical proof that their specific illnesses were caused by specific exposures to the hazardous substances. Furthermore, given the inconclusive state of scientific evidence that a specific toxic exposure caused a specific physical harm, Feinberg’s requirement that GCCF claimants provide medical proof of causation is outrageous.”
So, that means all the people who had the misfortune of living in the area, or were trying to clean-up British Petroleum’s catastraphuk, and are now sick or at risk of getting sick in the future…well, sorry ’bout that.
Making people whole, making things right…
To a point.
After all, some of this making whole stuff is really expensive, and haven’t you heard? There’s still a recession on…and we here at BP only made five billion dollars last quarter, so, you know, be reasonable. Do you understand how many people might make health claims if they thought we’d pay them? Neither do we, and we’d like to thank Feinberg for helping to keep it that way.