Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. . . .
And now the Obama Administration is out-Bushing the Bushies with an outright ban on the public -- or the press -- seeing what's going on with . . . anything. No one will be able, under penalty of federal law, to get close enough to clean-up boats or oil booms to see our government at work.
FROM A story in Thursday's Times-Picayune in New Orleans:
The Coast Guard has put new restrictions in place across the Gulf Coast that prevent the public - including news photographers and reporters covering the BP oil spill - from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches.SOMEONE NEEDS to explain to President Obama and his enforcers that bad PR starts at the point where you begin to make tea-party paranoiacs' looniest pronouncements begin to look . . . prescient.
According to a news release from the Unified Command, violation of the "safety zone" rules can result in a civil penalty of up to $40,000, and could be classified as a Class D felony. Because booms are often placed more than 40 feet on the outside of islands or marsh grasses, the 65-foot rule could make it difficult to photograph and document the impacts of oil on land and wildlife, media representatives said.
But federal officials said the buffer zone is essential to the clean-up effort.
"The safety zone has been put in place to protect members of the response effort, the installation and maintenance of oil containment boom, the operation of response equipment and protection of the environment by limiting access to and through deployed protective boom," the news release said.
The Coast Guard on Tuesday had initially established an even stricter "safety zone" of more than 300 feet, but reduced the distance to 20 meters - 65 feet - on Wednesday. In order to get within the 65-foot limit, media must call the Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans, Edwin Stanton, to get permission.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the oil spill, said in a press briefing Thursday that it is "not unusual at all" for the Coast Guard to establish such a safety zone, likening it to a safety measure that would be enacted for "marine events" or "fireworks demonstrations" or for "cruise ships going in and out of port."
Allen said BP had not brought up the issue, but that he had received some complaints from county commissioners in Florida and other local elected officials who "thought that there was a chance that somebody would get hurt or they would have a problem with the boom itself."
Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert, who has been documenting the oil spill, raised concerns about the restrictions within his news organization on Wednesday. He has asked for a sit-down with Coast Guard officials to discuss the new policy - and the penalties - but has not received a response.
Acting like a bunch of thugs while performing official duties like the mayor's incompetent brother-in-law appointee is no way to inspire confidence in the federal government's response to a national environmental catastrophe. As I've said and said, the final crisis coming out of the BPocalypse will be one of governmental legitimacy.
And, ultimately, Obama won't be able to blame that one on George Bush.