I am a former boy scout, altar boy, baptized and confirmed atheist.
I make around $35,000 a year.
I am a committed social worker and divorced, college graduate.
I work out every day, but really like Popeye’s chicken so sometimes, one step forward, two steps back.
I rent. I have no debt. I own a car. I don’t want a car but I need it for work, oh and I’m kind of a workaholic.
I am a Taoist, and an Anarchist. I dislike the police. I really do, but because of my job I work with the police every day so go figure…ah, life…funny.
I own almost no furniture, but I have a lot of books, and I read them…
Republicans and Democrats…I am hard pressed to think of a politician from either party you could put in front of my car where I wouldn’t speed up…
I would only agree that British Petroleum, TransOcean, Anadarko, Nalco and Halliburton, or any other corporation should be entitled to corporate personhood if we could put them on trial and sentence their person to the death penalty.
My life? Well, it’s pretty good…can’t complain, actually.
I got plenty of money, don’t want for much, am productive, artistic, meditative, and on a really good day, have enough disgust with people and society to melt a piece of glass at one hundred yards…with one eye.
It’s a gift.
Oh, but why am I so angry?
Well, some people, so I understand, want to have children, houses, health care, credit cards, family, labor day picnics, pay for weddings, funerals, even cancer treatment.
Oh, and you know what else?
These people? These entitled people not only want kids, they actually want to have time…yeah, actual time with those actual kids.
I dunno. I don’t get it either.
Oh, and check this out…these people with their kids and their houses and their family get-togethers?
Yeah, they also don’t want to be buried in debt. They don’t want to have to choose between electric bills and tetanus shots, groceries and physical exams, rent and a decent night’s sleep.
These neo-hippies think it would be a good idea to actually have the time to raise their families and I’m sorry, as a member of the the 53%, who feel to demand changes in the way our institutions operate, to demand the ultra-rich make a little less money, maybe pay their share in taxes in hope for a more equitable society, well, me and Eric Erickson, we recognize that for what it is…
These bastards actually want the time to make their marriages work, time with their wives or husbands…and not just time over their bills, at the plasma donation center or out picking up aluminum cans, but times on vacation, maybe an hour in the park, go to a movie, go to church, play a board game…Life, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue…anything.
And that demand for time and equality is nothing more than lazy Socialism.
Look, it’s not that I don’t treasure the family, the house, the two cars, the whatever…it’s just that hell, I am a social worker. I have two college degrees, I have no debt or health problems, and very little chance for unforseen expenses. I have no desire to live outside my means, no desire for kids or furniture, time to myself or groceries for more than one person. I have no desire to work more than 47 hours a week, car insurance beyond what’s legally required, a house of my own or new clothes, dental care and fresh food, or gas…nope.
I don’t need any of those uppity trappings.
And since I don’t…
Why in the hell do you think you should?
Look…the American Dream is a subjective moment of subconscious paralysis, and the quicker you realize this, the happier you will be…
Financial fraud isn’t a crime, it’s simply being creative. As a modern day American, I recognize my patriotic duty as a simple willingness to play host to every financial parasite and politician.
So to the banks, to those who would deregulate, to their political enablers I lie prone and smile.
Have your way with me. I recognize I have no right to complain.
I may be of the 99%, but I am more inclined to be the 53%.
So, I keep reading these bits about Madonna, about her freaking out because some fan gave her hydrangeas, as in flowers, and it turns out she hates hydrangeas so she trashed the flowers in front of the fan, and not content to humiliate the person once, she then made a spoof video where she trashed the flowers again so the moment could live on in internet history.
Maybe the whole thing was a big gag, maybe not. In any case, soon thereafter at the Toronto Film Festival, apparently some sort of tradition exists where orange-clad volunteers get a big thank you at the end of the show and word is, when Madonna presented the film she directed, these volunteers were ordered to turn their backs and not look her in the eye. Again, maybe it was all a big joke but if not, then the joke would apparently be…well I suppose the joke would be Madonna.
So, why might I write about something like this?
I often write about equality, tolerance, about simple care for other people. I loathe any type of caste separation, which is becoming more and more prevalent in the world and in this country. Sure, nothing politically or culturally official in America, at least not yet…but when politicians refer to welfare recipients as raccoons, or right winged commentators say the poor shouldn’t be allowed to vote and when Tea Party assholes cheer, suggesting an uninsured patient should be allowed to die, what are we supposed to think about what this future might bring to the United States?
Anyways…yeah, Madonna’s a good business person, but artistically she’s a con artist and a hack and not worth this country’s spit, while these political commentators, politicians and tea party types, they deserve nothing more than the back of this country’s hand, hard, painful and ugly…and repeatedly while we read them the Bill of Rights and discuss how we’re only as strong as our weakest link, and weakest ain’t necessarily about how much money you got.
It might have something to do with your character, and those idiots previously mentioned? Oh, they got a lot of self-righteousness, ego and money, but character?
No, not so much. Not that I’m all that much better, but at least I’m honest about it… Oh, and when we’re done explaining how people of a lower tax bracket don’t need to be made to feel like 2nd class citizens in this oh so great land of equality, we’ll take some time to stuff your mouths full of hydrangeas, lots of hydrangeas, a ton of hydrangeas…and not one single solitary slice of cake.
Wow, sure seems like Ken’s getting defensive down in the Gulf…
Defending himself against accusations that interim claims are not being paid, or are not enough, Ken Feinberg said, “I just think people should move on already. I mean, this is not a lifelong operation…I have no objection to people taking the interim payments, but I do think that there should be a recognition that it’s in the claimants’ interest at some point to move on.”
To just move on already…not a lifelong operation…
Maybe not for you Ken, but for thousands along the Gulf Coast, the Gulf is their lifelong operation; it’s where they work, play, raise their families…and the company you represent really fucked it up and your compensation program, the GCCF…well, it kinda sucks. George Barisich, a shrimper, oyster leaseholder and harvester who is president of the United Commercial Fishermen, said when discussing both Feinberg’s recent decision to pay oyster leaseholders seven times their losses, and his own final payment offer: “Seven times zero is still zero.”
Hmm, appear to be differing opinions…claimants should move on vs. move on, with what? Yes sir, according to Ken Feinberg, all is rapidly improving in the Gulf, all is well with the GCCF and those who think differently, just don’t get it. According to fishers who live and work in the Gulf, Feinberg is the one who doesn’t get it, not at all…
Especially when we talk about quick payments, the claim type 81% of fishers took, and everyone offers their reasons why:
According to Feinberg, people didn’t and aren’t taking quick payments out of financial desperation, they are accepting the $5,000 and $25,000 dollar flat rate offers because they don’t have documentation and/or have been more than compensated by the EAP’s. Nonetheless, according to a recent Times-Picayune article, he is “concerned enough about the persistent complaints” that he has agreed to US Attorney General Eric Holder’s audit of the GCCF.
According to Clint Guidry, President of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, Feinberg is dead wrong, “The reason you’re seeing a lot of $5,000 and $25,000 (quick) payments is they’re telling us our problem in Louisiana is a lack of documentation…Well, that is total horseshit. We went to Wildlife and Fisheries and got trip tickets going back 10 years. People spent thousands of dollars on accountants putting their claims together and they have been turned down flat. But they’ll tell you they’re happy to give you the $25,000 quick pay.”
And what might Catholic Charities say about the financial well-being of those who took the quick payments? According to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, commercial fishers who took the quick payment are among their target population, “People have resorted to the flat-rate quick payments,” the archbishop said. “That takes care of the short-term, but what happens to them down the line?”
Clint Guidry is speaking directly to the fishers and he speaks with them everyday.
Catholic Charities is helping the fishers and the organization is helping them everyday.
Feinberg had to have security at some of his town halls to protect him against angry fishers, so how much direct contact is he getting, to really understand motivations?
He says he sees no evidence, that the audit will validate him. Maybe, maybe not, but when it comes to that audit…it would seem to most, Feinberg agreeing to an audit due to his “concern” over persistent complaints is also, as Clint Guidry said, “horseshit.” Claimants have been calling for greater transparency in the GCCF process for a year. Jim Hood has actually sued to have an audit done, a lawsuit Feinberg is getting waived to Federal court. The way it appears, Feinberg was less “concerned” about criticisms, and more concerned about the building pressure from claimants and the states, calling for greater transparency, so he opened the pressure valve and took the Federal option, which he’s hoping will be less critical, less inflamed by local opinion.
Okay, so let’s take a look at the interim payments:
Feinberg has maintained for quite some time he’s not trying to coerce people away from the interim payments, the one payment where claimants do not have to waive their right to sue British Petroleum, yet he then says, “I just think people should move on already.” He then goes on to say that his formula for paying twice the 2010 losses for final payments could soon be a thing of the past, you know because British Petroleum is “battering him,” presumably for his generosity? So it would seem quite clear the message being sent to people thinking of interim payments is they should reconsider, grab the final payments before he decides to stop being so generous, you know, because BP is telling him to stop.
Oh, and how many interim payments has Feinberg paid to fishers in Louisiana?
Clint Guidry said, when commenting about the interim payments, “Then you got some people who are so frickin’ desperate because they fell through the cracks on interim payments,” he said. “Come May, they couldn’t make any money with the small (brown) shrimp and the bad prices, and they took the $25,000 because they needed to put food on the table for their kids.”
“Fell through the cracks.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, want to know how many people should be allowed to slip through the cracks?
Zero. None. Nobody. Precisely the same amount of people who asked for British Petroleum to spill their oil.
No, the Gulf still ain’t what it should be, Feinberg is still aloof and defensive, and despite the fisher’s financial difficulties, it’s still their fault and certainly not British Petroleum’s. Ken maintains he sees no evidence of people taking one claim over another due to economic hardship, yet Catholic Charities says otherwise and receives $15 million dollars in grant money to continue their work helping the fishers who according to Ken, have been made whole. Meanwhile, the fishers continue to struggle with poor catches and low prices due to low market demand, still suffering from the idea the seafood ain’t safe. And if there aren’t enough grey clouds, Feinberg keeps floating one out there about possible reductions in final claims, which are already too low, because BP is getting mad.
So there you have it, it must be the fishers fault.
Hell, even the GNO Inc’s Regional Economic Alliance says their study indicates fishers have been paid more losses than they’ve suffered…course, that study is based, like Feinberg’s methodology and British Petroleum’s bitching, on future estimates:
“It (the GNO study) does not take into account long term ecological effects, which are still unknown; nor does it take into account the impact on the Louisiana seafood “brand.” Further research is needed to examine the long term ecological impacts of exposure to oil concentrations and dispersant chemicals, as well as the impact on the fishery industry of decreased consumer demand for seafood.”
And estimates are all they have.
The GNO, British Petroleum and Feinberg, certainly when discussing the future, are taking guesses and forcing claimants to gamble. They are not talking hard facts.
Hard facts indicate people are still unemployed and people need help. Hard facts indicate the seafood catch ain’t what it should be and the prices are too low. Hard facts indicate the National Resource Damage Assessment is still a long way from being completed. Hard facts indicate there’s a long way to go, no matter how much Feinberg thinks people should just move on already.
Finally, hard facts indicate that when Ken Feinberg criticizes British Petroleum for raising people’s expectations about the $20 billion dollar claims fund, he would do well to hit a newspaper archive and remember the days when we heard nuggets like this one from CNN Money:
“The new head of the Gulf Coast disaster’s claims fund says his first two priorities will be to cut bigger checks and send them out faster to the oil spill’s economic victims.”
Maybe back then, in June of last year, that was just another estimate?
I know I’ve only been coming to you with problems lately, and I did do my best to clear the scheduling conflicts with Rick Perry’s Reliant Stadium deal, but you know how it is, the laundry needs doing, the house needs painting and the television needs watching and besides, word is you’re not going to Houston either, so live and let live, right right?
Jindal…right, Bobby Jindal…yes-sir, governor of the great state of Louisiana, God Bless America…yes.
So, I suppose I should get right to it.
Remember back during the oil spill? Yes, British Petroleum in the Gulf…right. So back during the oil…last April? No…it was last, last April in 2010, and that’s precisely my point, that was a long time ago and back during that time, not only were my political friends talking about me as a possible Republican Presidential Candidate, but a definite shoo-in for a sweet national gig should a Republican win, a cabinet post…no, I know I said the only job I wanted was the job I had, but you know how it is, I’m supposed to say that.
Oh, you didn’t?
Okay…well now you do…sure, you’re welcome.
Anyways, so we had all the press down here summer before last, and I mean all of them and they were talking to me everyday. I got to talk about how Obama wasn’t doing anything to stop the spill, how he was getting in my way, how the Feds were totally screwing this whole thing up. I got to take all these helicopter rides with all the big-time reporters, the bigs! And me too! I was big time, flying low and hard over the oil slicks, pointing out my citizens trying to clean it up. All that attention, all those speeches, the microphones hanging on my every word and I tell you, really, it was absolutely amaz…horrible. It was a horrible tragedy.
Yes-sir, a heartbreak.
Well, you see God, it’s been a long time since I got to ride the helicopter. It’s been too long, and presiding way down here, the rest of the country I think is forgetting all about poor Bobby Jindal. I need your help to wake ’em up. This governor thing, it’s been a rough year. The whole school unification plan fell apart. The big hospital plan fell apart. People keep calling me unethical and a hypocrite about transparency and the economy, well, it really kind of sucks and hey, I love me some Tea Party people, but the way those guys want to be with the money…yes-sir, I’m worried…right, coastal erosion.
Between you, me and too many holes in the levees, these Tea Party guys are stealing my thunder. Do you know that during the whole debt ceiling fight, the press, they were talking to every presidential candidate they could find. Every single one. They talk to that head-case Bachman, the pizza guy, Palin…they even tried to talk to Romney. All of ’em, CNN, FOX, the networks and…no, hardly anybody talked to Bobby. That’s my point. I’m kinda feeling unwanted, and that’s not all, not by a long shot. These new governors they got now! That Walker guy in Wisconsin, trashing the unions and hell, he screwed the entire state’s educational system a hell of a lot more than I could have ever dreamed, lousy, filthy teachers. Chris Christie, Nikki Haley and that guy in Maine with the French sounding name. Press, press, press, but nobody’s talking about me anymore, nobody at all. What’s a governor gotta do, blow up an oil refinery? Oh, and don’t get me started on Paul Ryan. The Ryan budget! The Ryan Budget! Eric Cantor says nobody under 55 will have Medicare when the House is done this year…Stealing the thunder! If I had my way, I’d have killed Medicare ten years ago!
It’s almost like nobody cares about Bobby, not at all. But I think we can fix it…no, I don’t want another oil spill…no, of course not a hurricane…and no, I think an earthquake might be a bit too suspicious, but I do have an idea…
How’d you know? …Oh right, God.
No, I don’t want the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Maybe if I’d been able to get my privatized prisons, that’d been something but that didn’t work out either.
Got a different kind of idea on Cuba…okay, you ready?
Invade Cuba?…no, they invade us, Louisiana!
Lord, if you could do whatever it is you do and get Cuba to invade we’d really be onto something. Mainstream press will eat it up….oh, totally! Sincerely! It will be the biggest story since the oil spill and the biggest local story ever! Can you imagine the video they’ll get, the photos, the photos of me?
All me…full gear on with an M-16 racing down the beaches. I bet I could even get myself back into the helicopters. Tie a red bandanna round my head and maybe a jade necklace I take off the dead girls body, the only one who every really understood me, as I head out to avenge her death with arrows, armed with exploding tips, all sweaty and…yes! Rambo, part two…yeah, Sly’s a personal friend…Okay…right…no, you’re right, I never met him, but that movie’s pretty cool and you know what?
Everybody and their mother will be talking about Bobby Jindal again. They’ll practically throw the Presidency at me. They’ll give me every cabinet post, and an ambassadorship too! I won’t even have to campaign, I’ll just show up on inauguration day and say, “America, you’re welcome.”
Louisiana? Remember God, that’s just what we’re supposed to say…because that way, if nobody wants us to run or invites us to DC, we can pretend like we never cared at all. Yep, saving face and getting re-elected.
Not that it’ll matter.
Not when Cuba invades.
Not when me and Anderson Cooper are skimming the armada while I unload clip after clip, the camera flashes flashing and the bullets flying. CNN and Fox news will beat down the mansion’s front door during rest and relaxation.
No, no…screw MSNBC.
Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly…I will be the permanent guest host between now and inauguration day and all the American citizens will be calling in, just to say thank you, to me, Bobby Jindal.
Awesome. It will be awesome.
How about on my birthday…right, I picture getting out of the car in full fatigues, or maybe a nice pair of khaki’s and then…I turn to the camera and glare, “Cuba? Not on my birthday, bitch.” Then I’ll grab a gun, a big one and charge the surf to stand on my sand berms and wait for the Cubans…cue the sunrise!
It’ll be perfect. Nobody will ever forget about me again. I’ll be 42 this year…politically, make or break…right, right…yes, of course in your name I pray, pray I make the national stage, or at least get one more ride in a helicopter before I leave the Louisiana stage…someday.
When Ken Feinberg was fending off criticisms of his methodology, he inferred the process was open to alterations should conditions in the Gulf require it so…well, in the case of the oyster business, looks like we’ll soon find out if that was true because for them, the conditions have changed.
With the swelling of the Mississippi River, no doubt many of you are aware of the Bonnet Carre spillway being opened earlier this week, done to release pressure on the levees around New Orleans. Many are also aware the resulting flooding has the potential to destroy the oyster crops…again. The past few years…between the hurricanes, British Petroleum’s spill in the Gulf and the freshwater diversion to combat the spill, all of it has seen people in the oyster business take hit after hit.
Less well known, as a result of the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many in the oyster business entered into a part-government, part-private insurance program so when Hurricane Gustav hit, many were able to rebuild and survive with the help of this insurance…so, more flooding on the way due to the Mississippi River and yes, that’s unfortunate but thank God there’s that insurance, right?
With the water diversion to fight the oil spill wrecking the oyster beds, the government determined they couldn’t renew the insurance program because there wouldn’t be enough of a crop. So, with the opening of the Bonnet Carre and in turn the Morganza spillway…any more damage, which in some parts will be considered total…will have to be suffered without the business saving assistance of the insurance this time…
Unless of course, you count Ken Feinberg’s brand of insurance.
And any of you who read this blog regularly will probably realize as far as insurance plans go, Ken’s GCCF policies are about as good as State Farm’s – long on detail and short on payments.
When the GCCF designed their methodology, sure, they were more generous with the oyster workers than others, but with another decimation caused by the Mississippi flooding and a loss of insurance directly attributable to the effects of the oil spill…it would only stand to reason they should now be due additional compensation, as this new blow to their livelihoods will throw off Feinberg’s methodology, thus throwing off the amount he has calculated as final payments to the few people who have so far received them.
Course, it would also stand to reason that if fishermen had damage to their boats while cleaning up the oil from BP’s catastraphuk in the Vessels of Opportunity program that BP would pay to fix their boats too…yeah, but that didn’t happen either.
So once again, we come back to making things right, enough.
And once again, an industry may very well be forced to go back to Ken Feinberg, and ask him to do the morally correct thing by correcting his payment calculations to take into account the loss of this insurance as a result of his employer’s malfeasance.
Over the past five months, Gulf Coast residents have been treated to a number of decisions with direct impact on their lives. They weren’t asked to give input at the time these decisions were made. They weren’t asked how they thought it might affect their future. The decisions occurred above their heads and most times, without their knowledge, but they are the ones now paying the price. This post is the second of three parts having to do with these decisions. Part one addressed British Petroleum’s use of the dispersant, Corexit while two and three will be concerned with Bobby Jindal’s sand berms and the federal government’s response, including the amount of control ceded to British Petroleum. All three will address the issue of the courage necessary to change course in the Gulf, the importance of doing so and who will be affected. All three decisions to be looked at had to do with money and politics, and changing course now will affect the back accounts and political standing of the people in charge, but change must happen.
What is going on in the Gulf of Mexico is not working.
“We need the Federal Government to get in this war to win it.” – Bobby Jindal
And thus began the Louisiana governors charade that is the sand berm project. In this simple sentence Jindal set himself up as the man at odds with an inept response, as the individual who was being pro-active, the man of common sense doing something tangible while everyone dawdled. When the Deepwater Horizon exploded and it became readily apparent oil was gushing into the Gulf, the ideas of how to mitigate the damage began in earnest. Some were tried and true, skimmers and boom with all their benefits and faults, and some were not, like the use of dispersants on a level nobody had ever before attempted. Bobby Jindal then injected into the public dialogue his idea: the construction of a hundred miles of sand berms.
This idea seemed simple enough, build walls of sand off the coast which will catch the oil and keep it from the coast, but then as the details, and the environmental impact of the project were looked at, it gave most everybody pause, everybody but Jindal and the dredging companies. Scientists said berms would be too fragile, the overall environmental impact would be too harmful, removing sand from the very coast that already needed to be rebuilt was a bad idea and besides, the contractors predicted a nine month time frame to complete construction. It would simply take too long, but Jindal pounced; he had an issue he could work. When the Army Corps of Engineers, the Obama administration and the Coast Guard hesitated to give Jindal the permits required, the Louisiana governor who never met a regulation he liked and had long been an advocate of small government, skipped the science and seized the microphone, speaking forcefully to any reporter who would listen, “We don’t have time for red tape and bureaucracy,” Jindal said, “We’re literally in a war to save our coast.”
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, a Jindal appointee, angrily defended the berm project against environmentalists, scientists and federal officials, saying the state plan carefully balanced the negatives raised with the ever-growing threat of oil reaching the coast and, he pointed out, none of the federal agencies that raised objections required BP to prepare detailed environmental assessments for dealing with a worst case oil spill. He neglected to mention the part of the state’s plan dealing with a worst case scenario was simply blank, labeled, “to be developed,” and that this lack of a federal plan was signed off on by Louisiana state officials.
These details were not politically convenient.
The sand berms were, however, and so was all the shouting against government red tape; they kept the focus off Jindal’s lack of a response plan. The sand berms put Jindal on the offensive.
It was dramatic stuff.
And the feds relented. An emergency proclamation was declared, giving Jindal the right to begin construction, funded by $350 million dollars of BP’s money.
And so in June, The Shaw group began construction of Bobby Jindal’s sand berms.
And by early July we were treated to such narratives as this:
Governor Bobby Jindal gives a crisp salute to the Louisiana National Guard soldiers standing outside the Governor’s Mansion as he climbs aboard a Blackhawk helicopter for another trip to the Gulf of Mexico. Today’s mission: a tour of the E-4 sand berm under construction in the Chandeleur Islands, one of six artificial barriers authorized by the Army Corps of Engineers and a linchpin in the governor’s strategy for containing the oil from the ruptured Macondo well, but first, the governor makes a stop at Lakefront Airport to pick up the national news media — camera crews from ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CNN and a reporter for The Washington Post — who quickly climb aboard for a noisy 30-minute ride to a narrow strip of sand where a 24-hour dredging operation is under way.
And with every trip to the berms, those narrow strips of sand have increasingly come to symbolize his proactive, common sense, buck the feds response to the oil spill. With each mention by the press, and with every shot he takes at scientists who questioned his plan, Bobby Jindal’s image has become further linked to this project until we get to where we are today where the berms have become part of his political identity, and this is troubling, for as the science continues to roll in the sand berms are being shown time and time again to be simply, a bad idea.
Among those criticisms are the idea that the berms will potentially worsen the impact of the spill on the marshes by trapping oil behind and/or increasing the speed of oil flowing through the remaining openings in their artificial shield and with the time it has taken to build the first few miles of these berms, significant oil has already entered the marshes, everywhere. And what of the habitats? The contractors have assured that every caution is being undertaken not to harm habitats, but when the amount of sand needed to create the berms is eleven times the volume of the Superdome, scientists simply don’t see how this is possible, even if all goes well, meaning a hurricane or storm surge doesn’t hit the fragile berms scattering their flimsy constructs far and wide where they will hold back nothing. “In 18 years in the governor’s office,” one scientist said, “I’ve never seen an administration where science is such an alien concept,” but not only science…also, transparency, for what went on behind closed doors in deciding to construct these berms may never be known. Jindal, despite all campaign claims of opening up the governor’s office has done anything but, and he sealed all of the state’s oil spill records. He states he wouldn’t want BP to know what Louisiana knows, a dubious legal argument due to terms of disclosure in any trial. For whatever his reason, it would seem it is the people of Louisiana he wants kept out of the loop. We do not, and quite possibly will not ever know how much the dredging companies, the construction companies influenced the idea of constructing sand berms in the face of virtually all science and simple logistics.
Jindal would rather keep Louisiana in the dark, unaware of the politics behind most any of his decisions, including these sand berms.
So instead, let’s take a look at who is completing their construction: the Shaw Group.
This company, whose office are located in Baton Rouge made a great deal of money after Katrina. They pocketed close to $350 million dollars in contracts from the Army and FEMA and are most famous for the subcontracting involved therein, especially with their contract for covering roofs with blue tarp. According to an essay by William Quigley, the Shaw Group got $175 dollars a square foot to do the job. They subcontracted this work out to another company, paying them $75 dollars a square foot, who then subcontracted to another company for $30 dollars, who finally subcontracted to another company that actually did the work, and were paid a total per square foot of $2 dollars. This is only one example of price gouging which can occur during no-bid contracts, the same kind of contracts the Shaw Group was awarded to construct these sand berms. Also, and perhaps more importantly, it should be noted the Shaw Group has donated the third highest amount to Jindal’s political campaigns, and should Jindal decide to run for President in 2012, which despite his protestations seems a very real possibility, it is the Shaw Group that will be in place to reap continued benefit and to continue opening those funding doors for his campaign.
Despite being politically dead in the water before this oil spill, the times have changed for the governor, making his run much more likely. Bobby Jindal recently scheduled an appearance at a fundraiser in Minnesota for the Republican Party. He has also been making regular appearances on Fox News. As the oil spill continued to dominate the news cycle, Jindal found his star power rising, oftentimes as a result of his stance in favor of the sand berms and critical of BP and the Obama Administration. As mentioned before, the sand berms have become a powerful symbol and a part of his identity. They are something he can point to, give tours of, something tangible he can show to conservative thinkers and the moneyed backers as evidence of his actions in times of crisis, of his strong states rights record and his beliefs in the limited role of federal government. In order to wholly maintain his reputation as a serious presidential contender, the sand berms must be completed. To the Louisiana governor, their construction can be seen as a partial construction of his legitimacy for national office.
So now, Jindal has made his request to expand his berm plan beyond the scope of the emergency permit he already received, and this has opened up the process to official comments from environmental groups and federal agencies. Many of the comments have not been released from the Army Corps of Engineers process per policy, but Garret Graves has stated he feels many of these people are against the berms because they don’t have the information necessary to adequately determine their effectiveness and/or they are just biased against the idea from the start. Despite this argument, the Jindal administration doesn’t put forth any effort to explain the workings of the plan, beyond releasing some financial information, and this information has not been good. It shows that of the $350 million dollars given by BP for the entire project, they have already spent 30% of the money and only constructed 10% of the berms. Despite the closed commenting, several agencies are speaking out and just about all are against the completion of the project. The EPA, who actually has veto power over the berms, weighed in via a letter written to the US Army Corps where they questioned whether the 6-foot high sand bars are indeed blocking the oil, “Specifically, we question the timeliness of berm construction and the ability of the berm to substantially reduce the amount of oil reaching wetlands, barrier islands, and interior waters, especially in light of the capping of the wellhead…given the questionable effectiveness of this proposed project and the potential of significant adverse environmental impacts, we recommend that the Corps not permit construction activities in areas beyond the six reaches already authorized.”
This opinion hasn’t affected Jindal’s unwavering stance in favor of his project’s completion.
Graves responded to the EPA by saying the permit process could take another 12 months for the Corps to complete and by then the work on the six berms under the “emergency use authorization” will be complete, and Jindal still wants authorization to finish his 100 miles despite the environmental science, the EPA, and the lack of funds to finish the project. It only stands to reason that the Shaw Group would also like to see the berms go on, and as far as Jindal’s aspirations to national office? He’s been flying high on the press from the oil spill, a man of determination and decision; it would certainly be the blackest of black eyes to walk away from his one big bold idea.
And that is precisely what should happen.
British Petroleum gave $350 million dollars for coastal protection efforts, of which this berm idea has consumed over $100 million dollars already, and this in a time when money is very scarce. Wouldn’t this money be better invested in rebuilding barrier islands under a comprehensive plan? Barrier islands don’t wash away in a storm. Barrier islands have the strength to last and slow down hurricanes. Lately, Jindal has said the water behind his sand berms should be filled in to create marshes, possibly in an attempt to mitigate the coming damage if he is forced to walk away from his grand idea, but this piecemeal approach will not work. A comprehensive plan must be followed, and I would argue this comprehensive plan should be created by environmentalists and Gulf Coast scientists, not an administration that has done nothing but show hostility towards science all along.
To put it in perspective, the Army Corps of Engineers have a plan years in the making to build or rebuild seven of these barrier islands which will last for up to ten years or more. The islands will support mangroves, marshes, rookeries and become part of a healthy ecosystem. Congress has allocated only $124 million to this project, enough to partially rebuild one. Jindal has spent over a$100 million dollars building his fragile berms that will be a part of nothing, quickly by natural erosion, or all at once by way of one serious storm.
BP’s money would be better allocated elsewhere.
The sand berms were a bad idea from the beginning, as fragile as any presidential campaign built on tragedy. Giuliani found that out and I suspect Jindal will too, so to change course he should do what’s right for the state, and not what’s right for his own political ambitions.
Long after he is gone, Louisianans will still be here. Even though changing course now will cause his aspirations to take a hit, one further compounded by the Shaw Group’s loss of financial profit should construction stop, it is the right thing to do. It is the courageous thing to do.
Unlike he did with Louisiana’s universities, the state’s unemployment insurance, and health insurance for those most in need, it is time…this time, for Jindal to put his constituents first.
Build barrier islands, not sand berms.
For the good of the state and the good of its people, for a change.
On August 18th, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago to challenge the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. The Act, created in 1994, was put on the books to criminalize both private and public recordings made without the consent of all parties involved. Once on the books, the law was largely ignored by the police until the advent of cellphones turned the majority of Americans into amateur filmmakers and more specifically, made it rather simple for citizens to begin filming and recording the police while they were performing arrests and other official duties.
Once this occurred, the Act began to make a lot more sense to law enforcement officials.
The ACLU’s lawsuit mentions several Illinois residents who have faced felony eavesdropping charges because of the statute. They include an artist who felt it necessary to record his arrest as a form of protest, and a Northern Illinois University Student who filmed an encounter between the CPD and his brother at a drive thru. He felt it necessary to record the arrest because past experience taught him to be suspicious of the officers’ motives.
Unfortunately, many residents in the city of Chicago share this suspicion.
In 96, while an activist engaged in protests at the Democratic National Convention, I can recall an incident where a large gathering at Grant Park in downtown Chicago took place. A band was onstage performing an admittedly incendiary song directed at the Chicago Police Department while I, and many others watched with growing concern as several white vans pulled up on Michigan Avenue. The vans soon discharged several dozen police officers in riot gear. While they were assembling into formation, a CNN news truck also pulled up to the scene and as their cameras began to roll, the police officers climbed back into their vans and drove away. This was only my experience, but the newspapers of Chicago run rampant with stories of police abuse and scandal, similar to many other large cities.
Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, said he believes the state’s eavesdropping law is a good one. Allowing people to make audio recordings of arrests “could potentially inhibit an officer from proactively doing his job,” Donahue said.
I would simply ask how this might be so, assuming the officers are doing their jobs correctly without any abuse of authority. In fact, it could be argued that if the police are doing their job as it is meant to be done, following the same laws they are sworn to protect, video and audiotape of an arrest could only be used to exonerate false accusations made against officers.
Mr. Donahue, at least in the article, did not expand on how officers might be inhibited, “proactively.”
The lawsuit, directed at Cook County State Attorney, Anita Alvarez said it received a copy, but had not had a chance to review it.
Whatever side of the debate one falls on, I do suspect CNN saved my ass fourteen years ago.
And in my opinion, police officers should have very little expectation of privacy these days, especially if the audio recordings aren’t enhanced to pick up voices below normal speaking levels, and especially as they are public servants performing public services.
If you’re just doing your job, what’s the problem?
Meet Pheobe Jones: honest and direct, giving her opinion on the government’s rosy assessment of the oil spill. Wouldn’t it be nice if the feds had the frankness of Ms. Jones and perhaps, the credibility?
Jones: “If they’re doing so good why are all those people down here working? Why? Because they’re not done.”
CNN: “So you don’t believe what you’re being told?
Jones: “No, I don’t. I mean they sprayed all these dispersants and stuff and it made the oil sink, so of course the oil’s going to be off the top, cause it all sunk.”
CNN: Why would they be saying they’re making all this progress if it wasn’t true?”
Jones: “Because they want to cover their butts, they actually want to cover their butts. Because they know they got more problems ahead. Because when all these other people around here start getting sicker and sicker, they’ll see it.”
Ken Feinberg said today he hasn’t been able to start writing claims checks because BP PLC has not yet deposited any money into the $20 billion escrow fund it promised to create.
“I don’t want the check to bounce,” Feinberg said.
BP spokesman Justin Saia said the company’s agreement with the White House is still being finalized. “Funds will be made available immediately upon the conclusion of this process,” he said.
Well, okay then…
Sorry Justin if you’re not necessarily trusted…put the money where your oil is. As this article points out it would be a really dishonest thing for BP to leak a profit margin of 5 billion dollars in anticipation of their shareholders meeting on July 27th, for the purposes of gauging response, only to declare bankruptcy before August 10th if their stock doesn’t get a strong enough boost. August 10th is the date Feinberg gets control of the account…yes, it is complete speculation and perhaps even a worse case scenario, but seriously, it’s getting hard to expect anything less from British Petroleum than the worst case.
Here’s what Kenneth Feinberg had to say to CNN:
In an accompanying link, the payment system is discussed and it does raise some interesting questions. Basically, according to Feinberg:
1. For 90 days after the spill is permanently stopped, Feinberg will give emergency payments worth six months of lost wages or business income to those with valid claims.
2. 90 days after the spill is permanently stopped, any claimant has three years to ask for a lump sum payment that will cover a lifetime’s worth of damage from the spill.
3. To accept the lump sum payment, the claimant has to give up their right to sue BP at a later time.
4. Anyone who doesn’t believe the lump sum offer is enough can refuse and sue BP for the amount they feel they deserve.
This begs a number of questions…What constitutes a valid claim? I’ve read numerous articles discussing the oft-times poor record keeping by many fisherman, what will that cost them now? Also, how does one estimate a lifetime’s worth of damage? Is that Feinberg’s role, to determine this? How the hell does he know? And, giving up the right to sue BP, the fisherman have a three-year window…that window is too small, especially for those who have been out helping clean this mess up…some health effects won’t be known for much longer than three years and I doubt potential medical bills will be considered by Feinberg in his estimations. By the time everyone starts getting sick, the lump sum payment window could be closed and then you’ve lost the right to sue. The workers in Alaska cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez had it worse than rough; their life expectancy was only 51 years and two-thirds of the workers got sick. How to estimate the future costs of getting sick? How sick?