Despite the continued insistence of public relations hacks employed by the oil company hell known as British Petroleum that all in the Gulf is either well, or quickly on the mend, troubles persist:
“Researchers are trying to determine whether more than 100 dolphins stranded on the Texas coast, most of them in Galveston, died because of the BP oil spill, a deadly algal bloom or some undetermined cause.
The strandings also come after a NOAA study found that dolphins in Barataria Bay on the Louisiana coast were in poor health because of exposure to oil. Dolphins in the bay, severely affected by the spill, had low weight and liver and lung ailments.”
“Gloom infects the hard-working shrimp and crab docks of this gritty fishing town as the second full year of fishing since BP’s catastrophic oil spill kicks into high gear.
Usually folks are upbeat and busy in May, when shrimpers get back to work in Louisiana’s rich waters. This spring, though, catches are down, docks are idle and anxiety is growing that the ill effects of the massive BP oil spill may be far from over.
An Associated Press examination of catch data from last year’s commercial harvest along the gulf — the first full year of fishing since the 2010 spill — reveals merit in the fishermen’s complaints. According to the analysis of figures obtained through public-records requests, seafood crops hit rock bottom in the Barataria estuary, the same place where some of the thickest waves of oil washed in when a BP well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.”
So color my less cynical side surprised to read this:
“BP is pushing for a $15bn (£9.7bn) settlement with the American authorities to resolve all civil and criminal claims relating to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, substantially less than the $25bn demanded by the US department of justice.”
Okay, so an immediate question springs to mind:
What the fuck is there to even be negotiating about?
This damned company, by way of error kills eleven people and screws an ecosystem, then goes about obscuring flow rates during the response…is in negotiations to lower the dollar amount on penalties they’ll incur as a result of their very costly shenanigans…nice. This is the company taking responsibility. This is the company with all them fancy television commercials. This is the company whose smiling (dick)head Bob Dudley looks on warmly to reassure everyone not living on the Gulf Coast just how righteous, humble and truly sorry he and his corporation truly are…while on the Gulf, where people continue to pay attention, the facts do not bear this out…this guy…I tell ya.
He’s in negotiations with the justice department and reports are these talks are “accelerating.”
Yeah, but accelerating to what?
One more screw-job for the Gulf? One more in a really long list of shenanigans shoved onto a region, poisoning its environment for decades and almost destroying New Orleans, one of this nation’s great cities?
Unlike the Corps, BP must be held accountable, completely.
Maybe for the first time in what, who knows how long anymore, it’s time for the government to stop listening to what’s good for a company and pay closer attention to the people said company screwed.
But after watching these GOP fucks this past year…it would seem idealism is the only thing they want us to have anymore.
Ken Feinberg, British Petroleum employee and steward of the BP claims fund wrote himself a little editorial the other day in Bloomberg Businessweek titled: How to Give Away $5 Billion. The article came complete with an illustration of a man, presumably Ken, holding a money bag while outstretched, demanding hands come in from outside the border of the drawing and there, in a nutshell, is everything that’s wrong with the GCCF and Ken’s dismissive attitudes.
The people of the Gulf Coast are not looking for a hand out.
They are looking to be compensated for damages from the worst environmental disaster to ever hit this country.
In his rather self-congratulatory editorial, Ken writes the best way to give out $5 billion dollars is with “speed and fairness and consistency,” which not coincidentally are three of the biggest complaints about the claims process: questions about its fairness and consistency concealed behind an utter lack of transparency and the slow allocation of payments while people suffer untold financial hardships.
Really Ken…people aren’t clamoring for the GCCF to be audited because they are satisfied with the process, at ease with what you’ve done and are doing, many in fact are rather angry, which is why it’s no wonder you’ve learned to live with “the potshots and the criticism.” You’d have to be used to it by now. They’re coming and have come from the US Justice Department, politicians both local and federal, various attorneys general and claimants across four states.
Ken writes, “You try to err on the side of being generous without being Santa Claus. Anyone can give money away,” and that would be quite correct, anybody can. Anyone can also claim to be the second coming of Christ when they came down to the Gulf in June of last year making all kinds of promises about speed and fairness and generosity only to see these promises disintegrate into the reality that you were getting more than you bargained for. It was and is a big job, Ken and a difficult one, but when you set people up to fail with causality in health claims, when you make people wait for interim claims while completing the easier, less lucrative quick claims, when you force people to gamble with their future by signing legal waiver forms and when people become so fed up with your claims process they just want to take the money and run, not from a sense of satisfaction and being made whole, but from a sense of disgust with another corporation and their henchmen who screwed an entire region…Ken, you’re not Santa Claus, you’re not even a lowly elf, you’re a wealthy, self-satisfied Boston attorney whose making quite a tidy profit for himself in the claims business.
Finally, Ken adds:
“These programs should be the exception rather than the rule. Bad things happen to good people every day, but I didn’t see a program after Katrina or Joplin. Policymakers need to be wary about doing an end run around the traditional way of resolving disputes in this country.”
What the hell does that even mean?
Here’s a thought, maybe the reason you didn’t see a claims process after Joplin and Katrina is 1. its pretty fucking hard to take a tornado to court and 2. Taking the Army Corps of Engineers to court for the failure of the levees has been near impossible and if going after Katrina itself, well, see #1 again, only replace tornado with hurricane. British Petroleum’s poor management and the resulting explosion of the Deepwater Horizon was not a natural disaster, it was man-made, and came as a result of time-saving and profit-seeking by an oil company that was already making money hand over fist.
Greed, Ken…simple greed…that’s why there is a claims process.
Rather than trying to publish your bullshit at Bloomberg where maybe you hoped people wouldn’t see it, why don’t you hold another town hall in the Gulf so you can tell the people to their face what a great job you’ve done.
Hell, you can even bring your security team, again.
Have a nice day.
Especially to Mark Moseley at The Lens for pointing out to yours truly Feinberg’s lovely gem of an article.
Though I grew up in Green Bay Packer territory, grew up watching the likes of Lynn Dickey, Don Majkowski and early Brett Farve…to this day, there’s only been one authentic football jersey I’ve ever owned and it was the New Orleans Saints, Pat Swilling #56.
Jersey’s long gone by now, but not a loyalty to a team that’s come to define something much more than just a sports franchise to so many. I won’t pretend to fill in said definitions for others, but I will say that when the Saints played that first game back in the Superdome, I was living in San Francisco at the time, watching and having a helluva good time. Believe I imbibed a beverage or several as well that Monday night…
So here’s to the first game of the season on a triumphant campaign…oh, and in my current living situation, I find myself almost entirely surrounded by Packer fans so please, I really want to make them pay for the next several weeks.
I want bragging rights.
Hell yeah, the New Orleans Saints!
And FYI…for excellent Saints coverage, if not familiar as of yet, please check into the wonderfully stylized and informative writings of one Grandmaster Wang at moosedenied…
Back in the first week of January, I wrote a little something about how the reparation money paid to claimants should be tax free. In the hard times across the Gulf Coast, the last thing people need is to budget 25% of their payment to the IRS, especially people receiving the quick payment: 25% of $5000 dollars to an individual or $25,000 dollars to business. Well, it would appear the IRS has confirmed that yes, these monies are indeed taxable and Gulf Coast residents are going to have to pay up.
In one of the more amusing quotes to come out of the Gulf I’ve read recently:
“Therefore, the IRS said, it’s important that people, if possible, budget for the tax liability on their payments from the claims fund.”
“Budget for their tax liability.”
Hmm, what are the words I’m searching for…they’re there, hang on, it’s early…wait, wait…they’ll come…tip of my tongue…umm, oh yeah, okay…I remember, here they are:
Go to hell.
Barack, Congress, all of you who are doing nothing about this…go to hell.
First off, you go and give the wealthy ridiculous tax breaks that won’t filter down, never do…haven’t since Reagan came up with the ridiculous notion in the first place, and then you start talking spending cuts due to the budget deficit that will wind up hitting a lot of poor people, the poorer people in the Gulf, from Pell Grant cutbacks to LIHEAP energy assistance to community block grants. Yeah, you jack-asses start talking about “tough choices.”
Every time some idiot politician starts talking about tough choices, the one thing you can be sure of is how the tough choices won’t affect them personally. “Tough choices” is nothing more than a BS term used to try to show empathy or demonstrate an understanding of how they know the realities their choices are about to affect.
And that’s a lie.
If they did, they wouldn’t do it.
Tax increases for the wealthy…that’s a tough choice for the politician…because that is a reality they understand. Cutting services which cuts the money the poor have to work with is outside their present understanding so they should stop pretending it isn’t. And sure, Congress can march out one or two congress people who came from “hardscrabble” backgrounds and “working class” neighborhoods to refute that point, much in the way climate deniers march out a few isolated scientists to say that the weather ain’t changing because of man-made effects, or some buffoon who says climate change won’t happen because God won’t let it.
Screw your exceptions, we’re talking the rule.
And the rule is the spending cuts will affect thousands of residents across the Gulf Coast who got slammed by this fucking oil spill and now, after they get meager payouts from the GCCF, so meager the Justice Department is writing letters criticizing the amounts and the President, and Congress won’t even call of the IRS dogs? Somebody’s losing their house and car and because they are so sick and tired of dealing with Feinberg and the GCCF, so they take a quick payment or a final payment that doesn’t even come close to repairing their losses now or in the future and government officials come calling demanding 25% of it because it is taxable income?
And you, Barack, Congress, you do nothing about it. Implying it is okay. Implying it is fair or reasonable or, implying you don’t care either way.
A simple suggestion: if you don’t want to give up your precious money from the Gulf Coast, why not pressure your newest buddy, Bob Dudley into adding enough to every payment to cover the taxes on said payment. If someone gets the average, a measly $11,000 dollars, make BP make Feinberg pay them an additional $3,000 dollars to cover the taxes. Tell them to do it or you’ll go elsewhere to get military fuel. Tell them to do it or you’ll prevent them from receiving any new oil leases. Tell them to do it if they really want to “make things whole.”
Or do nothing.
In the Gulf Coast, Obama, doing nothing is the one thing everyone knows you know how to do. Like G.W. Bush during Katrina, you go on your merry way…with grim expression, a serious nod of the head, making “tough choices.”
Doing nothing isn’t tough.
Doing nothing to stop the IRS from taking what little money Gulf Coast residents have been able to squeeze out of the fund?
Barack Obama gave his State of the Union speech last night and did his best George W Bush impression by not mentioning Louisiana and coastal restoration. He also did his best to avoid such a foreign concept as global warming, and when it came to Ken Feinberg’s GCCF and that oil spill, that whole British Petroleum thing that happened down there in the Gulf, well…
It would appear that was so last year.
Too bad that for the people of the Gulf Coast, it remains so today, so right now.
From Florida Oil Spill Law:
“Really Alarming” No baby oysters being found in most productive areas of Louisiana – “Scientists are baffled.”
And then, some congressional democrat had to further go and screw up Obama’s lack of mention by bringing up a few e-mails to point out that the Fed’s whole response, or lack of response can be blamed in part by, you guessed it, public relations and politics:
A Democratic congressman wrote a scathing letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama accusing the White House of valuing public relations over science when it made public pronouncements about the effects of the BP oil spilland the government’s role in fighting it. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., a liberal conservationist and avowed opponent of expanded offshore drilling, charges that spin control won out over scientific reasoning during discussions late last summer about how much oil remained in the Gulf. The congressman went so far as to liken Obama’s handling of scientific information to that of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, often accused by Democrats of placing his political agenda ahead of science.
Didn’t he pledge to do precisely the opposite?
Many scientists supported Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 which culminated in the promise to “restore science to its rightful place” in his inaugural address.
Course, then the science got a bit inconvenient to poll numbers, public perception, and the new narrative that all is well in the Gulf…reported on national television by the now resigned, Carol Browner.
In one e-mail cited by Grijalva, a NOAA official complained about getting “strong pushback” from the White House regarding scientists’ plan to announce that the total amount of oil spilled might be higher than the official government-endorsed figure of 4.9 million barrels. The final report stuck with the 4.9 million barrel figure, which was near the high end of the scientists’ estimate of 3 million-5 million barrels spilled.
Another e-mail sent July 31 from Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe warned that it would be a mistake to present the exact percentage of the oil broken down by chemical dispersants, a controversial part of the government’s response, because the numbers were only “rough estimates.” But he was overruled and told the White House wanted a “communication product” that would highlight the success of its spill-fighting efforts.
And just as interesting, turns out one of the “independent” scientists who assisted in the review of the infamous oil budget that stated half the oil was gone, was a British Petroleum official whose name was removed from later drafts and not included in the final version of the report.
To which, Representative Issa expresses the obvious concern:
I am concerned not only about any changes BP may have suggested to the report that were not publicly disclosed, but about how a report of this magnitude can be considered independent when the company under investigation had a staffer review a pre-publication draft.
And this brings us all back to last night’s State of the Union address.
The SOTU highlights an agenda, the presidential agenda and it attempts to set the agenda out there for the American people and the mainstream press to follow, to report on, to discuss. When the science doesn’t support the narrative that the Gulf is okay, when the facts don’t support the idle dream that the people in the Gulf are being taken care of or British Petroleum is owning up to its responsibility, this president who promised to bring science back into the fold and not ignore the Gulf Coast, did what the previous president did, and many of the presidents did before him, he simply left the problem off the agenda, dismissed it from the speech altogether and in doing so sat idly by while the whole issue of the spill, the claims process and coastal restoration is left to drift further from the minds of the average American.
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida had a chance last night to be put back in the spotlight as they rightfully should have been. British Petroleum had the chance to have the scrutiny placed back onto their promise to “make things right.” Ken Feinberg had the chance, two days before his appearance at congress, to be put on notice that the White House wants answers.
But instead, Barack Obama gave nothing, no mention, just like George W Bush before him during Katrina’s aftermath. It took a congressman from Arizona of all places to raise the question of politics in the Gulf Coast response.
And today, the Gulf Coast still waits for Obama’s answer.
And first off, I just wanted to extend a hearty handshake, a nod of the head, I’d even be willing to give a little lead time to every French Quarter resident who voted down the French Quarter Security District.
Yes, that was nice, too kind and now that those two to three security guards won’t be wandering the Quarter and getting in my way, I am completely free to accept jobs there. Just put an “X” in chalk on the farthest left, third pew to the back inside St. Louis Cathedral and walk away. Don’t worry, I’ll find you and perhaps we can do some business. Despite usually doing only government work, I like to oh, I don’t know…”give back” so to speak and keeping that in mind, I am here to let you in on a bit of a secret. Call it a thank you, just a small token of my appreciation.
Okay, your government?
They really don’t care about you. I know, I know…big surprise, but I don’t mean that in that in the “disgruntled throw away comment over a beer at your favorite bar – grousing” kind of way. No, I mean, they really do not care. You should hear the shop talk my brethren and I have. You know we refer to citizens as “cogs”? We do, but lately I’ve been thinking even this is a stretch. To imply that people are mere cogs in a machine would indicate that if one of you is removed, the machine might break down and this is simply not the case. I think a more apt metaphor would be like people are the dirt on the floor below the machine. When necessary you’re just swept away, and the machine keeps running, just fine. I know, kind of hurts, don’t it?
Sorry, but I think after you all did me such a solid, I had to return the favor even if that favor is a little painful.
And this brings me to that whole BP oil spill thing. What I want you to realize is the spill and all its after-affects is not a be all, end all to a situation, it is just a symptom of the main problem, kind of like Katrina. It isn’t the disease. It’s merely a symptom to the greater, overall virus.
And the virus itself?
To the top 1%, you are mere chattel.
But don’t take my word for it. Want some proof?
Let’s talk food safety in the Gulf. How many times have you all heard by now from “your” government the food is safe, go ahead, eat away, we opened the waters for fishing, have fun? This is absolute crap of course. Look, your government, what they want are people to have jobs and the tourists to come back, and whereas this could be construed as admirable, unfortunately they are willing to risk the health of everyone in the Gulf Coast in the process. Opening waters for fishing and tourists being about revenue, revenue for states means more government services and fewer cutbacks. This brings about votes for those in power and those in power want to keep their power. So, the FDA uses shoddy tests that don’t detect PAH’s and toxic metals and then go about telling everyone how safe it all is, despite the fact that PAH’s and toxic metals cause cancer. Meanwhile, independent scientists are finding all sorts of goodies in the seafood, even seafood that is already on its way to market for consumption and nobody, I mean nobody seems to want to look at the long-term effects of eating this stuff on a regular basis. You might be inclined to think if the government cares, they should care about the long-term health of its people. Yeah, you’d think that, but they’re far more focused on short-term politics and cash. A health catastrophe twenty years down the road is a problem for those assholes twenty years down the road.
How many of you out there have accounts at Bank of America? That “too big to fail” thing is primed for a comeback. Yeah, the largest bank in this country is in trouble and they are doing their best to conceal it, but when appraisers estimate your institution as being only worth half as much as you say it is, it ain’t going to end well. Your government is going to be again put in the position of giving them a bunch of money, all while the bank CEO’s give each other bonuses, all while they use fraudulent paperwork to foreclose on your homes, all while letting all of you out there lose everything.
And while people are losing everything, the Obama administration, as much as I appreciate all they and the previous administrations have done for me, they agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts thus further reward those who are making life so difficult for all of you. With the loss of revenue, there will have to be further cutbacks, and rather than take back the money they so gratuitously gave to the wealthy, Obama’s own fiscal commission has recommended severe cutbacks to the poor by way of social security and medicare cuts, all while suggesting the retirement age be raised to 69 0r 70.
So yes, I’m sorry to be the barer of bad news and yes, I do understand how some of you might wonder how I feel that what it is I tell you could be considered a “thank you,” but it is.
As an assassin, I work in cold, hard facts: trajectory, wind speed, rifles, bullets, distance and time.
And as a citizen, once you realize the facts, this prompts newer, more effective insights, thoughts and finally, solutions.
If your government has broken the “social contract,” is it necessary for you to continue the struggle to fulfill its obligations?If I walk up to you on the street, shake your hand, smile and then slap you in the face, would you continue to stand there while I apologized and then did it again? How about the tenth time? The twentieth? The hundredth?
Think about it.
As for me, as I am sure you can understand, business is booming. Especially now that the French Quarter has been freed up. Still making plans on my condo. The dog’s doing well. I stay away from the shrimp, work out, read when I have the time. Check out Will Self’s “Quantity Theory of Insanity.” It’s a good read, for a Brit. Oh, and if you want an idea about how you might take the power of your community into your own hands, check out Common Ground Relief for a few ideas. If you can’t reform the government, substitute the lost function of government with an organization of your own.
Believe me you, a few of the people running that place are being watched but I won’t accept any of those jobs. I may be a killer, but I got a strong sense of right and wrong.
So, couple of days ago, Mr. Hayward was questioned about British Petroleum’s safety record in England by the MPs and apparently, he had more to say to his local pol’s then he did when Congress had their go a few months back, you remember, when he gave an hour-long version of “Oh, I didn’t know.”
This time around, he offered up these gems:
In discussing all BP had spent on safety previous to the Deepwater Horizon Explosion that killed eleven men, “And it is undeniably the fact that because of all of that, this particular incident is so devastating to me personally because we have made an enormous amount of progress (on safety) in that three-year period.”
He also denied that cost cutting had anything to do with the disaster, despite all the money they saved by making risky choices in constructing the Deepwater Horizon, telling MPs “safety is the first call on every dollar BP invests. Before we invest in anything, we invest in safety”.
Okay kids…please turn your heads…
Please…allow me to express my opinion here, just for a moment, just a second or two, just a few comments about you and your company’s “safety.”
First off…are you serious? Fuck you.
Second…safety comes first out of every dollar you spend?
I for one would hate to see what happens when it is second, third, or fourth. Had that been the case, rather than spilling 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, you might have found some way to dump some substance even more toxic to make the whole oil spill even worse…something like, oh…I don’t know…Corexit. Yeah, that really would have fucked it all up.
Oh, and personally devastating to you?
I don’t give a goddamn if you obsess yourself blind every minute of every day for the rest of your life, or at least to the point of insanity, you pathetic, personality disordered narcissist. Course, a personality disorder makes a hell of a lot of sense as anyone who works in the mental health field understands the first point of a personality disorder is the person will have zero insight into their disorder, and the way you keep uttering these wholly inappropriate statements of personal pain and loss definitely indicates an asshole with zero insight.
But, I suppose I could concede one point, your oh so fucking hard work on your safety record over the past three years…yeah, that.
When your company blew up the refinery in Texas, fifteen people were killed…and this time, when the oil rig blew up, only eleven died so yeah, I guess that could be considered improvement…except for the fact that in the past three years you jack-holes have racked up over 750 safety fines by OSHA while Exxon had…one. One? Versus 750?
I haven’t been so disgusted with you fucking oil guys since that prick of a failed oilman from Crawford Texas got elected president and then sat back jacking while the city of New Orleans drowned. Yes Tony, you know him; he’s the one responsible for deregulating everything at MMS…but back to OSHA, in two separate disasters prior to the Deepwater Horizon, 30 BP workers were killed and over 200 injured, and your refineries in Texas and Ohio? They are responsible for 97% of the “egregious and willful” safety violations handed out in the past three years by OSHA.
97% of the safety violations.
Zero insight. You have zero.
And Mr. Hayward? Just in case your statements are some craptacular attempt to try to rewrite history through the wonders of repetition, through the unquestioned reporting of your distorted, bullshit words as fact by members of the mainstream media…let’s repeat this again: 3 BP accidents – 41 workers dead. BP – 760 safety violations by OSHA. Two refineries owned by BP – 97% of willful and egregious safety violations handed out by OSHA over the past three years.
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.
Dan Hampton, former Chicago Bear and present day jack-ass, in offering his expert commentary to the NFL network had this to say about the upcoming Thursday night match-up between the Vikings and New Orleans Saints at the Superdome, “If you watch that playoff game last year, the Vikings need to go down there and hit that town like Katrina. I think the Vikings go down there and get it done.”
Good for you, Dan, brilliant.
But he didn’t stop there…
He added that Carolina will fly into the new Giants Stadium and blow it up like the Twin Towers, Indianapolis will go all Enron on Reliant Stadium and turn the Texans into another bunch of broke pensioners, Atlanta’s going to shove Pittsburgh into a closed off, bar bathroom for allegedly consensual sex, Detroit will burn up the Bears like they were citizens in the Chicago fire and San Diego will ride on the warpath into Kansas City, scalping every last Chief they can find or at least slow down their run game with smallpox.
Inevitably, when he is forced to apologize either by released statement or in person, is it too much to ask that someone just kick him in the balls? Really…my birthday’s coming up; consider it a present…just go find Dan and “get it done.”
I discovered this essay in Quigley’s book: Storms Still Raging – Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice, but the essay has existed online for quite some time; it was written three years ago.
William Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans where he heads the center for Social Justice, the Clinic, and the Poverty Law Center.
Take a look, no need for me to comment except to ask, though initially published in 2007, how many of these steps still echo in New Orleans today?
Step One. Delay. If there is one word that sums up the way to destroy an African-American city after a disaster, that word is DELAY. If you are in doubt about any of the following steps–just remember to delay and you will probably be doing the right thing.
Step Two. When a disaster is coming, do not arrange a public evacuation. Rely only on individual resources. People with cars and money for hotels will leave. The elderly, the disabled and the poor will not be able to leave. Most of those without cars–25% of households of New Orleans, overwhelmingly African-Americans–will not be able to leave. Most of the working poor, overwhelmingly African-American, will not be able to leave. Many will then permanently accuse the victims who were left behind of creating their own human disaster because of their own poor planning. It is critical to start by having people blame the victims for their own problems.
Step Three. When the disaster hits make certain the national response is overseen by someone who has no experience at all handling anything on a large scale, particularly disasters. In fact, you can even inject some humor into the response–have the disaster coordinator be someone whose last job was the head of a dancing horse association.
Step Four. Make sure that the President and national leaders remain aloof and only slightly concerned. This sends an important message to the rest of the country.
Step Five. Make certain the local, state, and national governments do not respond in a coordinated effective way. This will create more chaos on the ground.
Step Six. Do not bring in food or water or communications right away. This will make everyone left behind more frantic and create incredible scenes for the media.
Step Seven. Make certain that the media focus of the disaster is not on the heroic community work of thousands of women, men and young people helping the elderly, the sick and the trapped survive, but mainly on acts of people looting. Also spread and repeat the rumors that people trapped on rooftops are shooting guns not to attract attention and get help, but AT the helicopters. This will reinforce the message that “those people” left behind are different from the rest of us and are beyond help.
Step Eight. Refuse help from other countries. If we accept help, it looks like we cannot or choose not to handle this problem ourselves. This cannot be the message. The message we want to put out over and over is that we have plenty of resources and there is plenty of help. Then if people are not receiving help, it is their own fault. This should be done quietly.
Step Nine. Once the evacuation of those left behind actually starts, make sure people do not know where they are going or have any way to know where the rest of their family has gone. In fact, make sure that African-Americans end up much farther away from home than others.
Step Ten. Make sure that when government assistance finally has to be given out, it is given out in a totally arbitrary way. People will have lost their homes, jobs, churches, doctors, schools, neighbors and friends. Give them a little bit of money, but not too much. Make people dependent. Then cut off the money. Then give it to some and not others. Refuse to assist more than one person in every household. This will create conflicts where more than one generation lived together. Make it impossible for people to get consistent answers to their questions. Long lines and busy phones will discourage people from looking for help.