Showing posts with label BP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BP. Show all posts

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Eyeless shrimp, mutant crabs, oozing fish

If you live on the Gulf Coast -- and if you care to know how screwed you are -- you might want to listen more to Al Jazeera and less to local ostriches who can't see the blind shrimp for the sandy tar balls in their eyes.

Short version of the Arab TV network's report from Louisiana: BP did a real number on the Gulf, the marshes and every form of sea life out there. Longer version: The feds say Gulf seafood is safe to eat -- that is, while there still
is Gulf seafood . . . and if you don't mind eyeless shrimp, mutant crabs that rot from the inside before they're dead and seafood with sores and lesions all over it.

That's not what people want to hear, however, which is making life really easy (not) for the researchers bearing the bad news, being that facts are a bitch.

Here's an excerpt from the print version of the story:

"The fishermen have never seen anything like this," Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. "And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I've never seen anything like this either."

Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.

Cowan's findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP's oil and dispersants.

Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP's 2010 oil disaster.

Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp - and interviewees' fingers point towards BP's oil pollution disaster as being the cause.

Tracy Kuhns and her husband Mike Roberts, commercial fishers from Barataria, Louisiana, are finding eyeless shrimp.

"At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these," Kuhns told Al Jazeera while showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp.

According to Kuhns, at least 50 per cent of the shrimp caught in that period in Barataria Bay, a popular shrimping area that was heavily impacted by BP's oil and dispersants, were eyeless. Kuhns added: "Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets."

"Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico]," she added, "They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don't have their usual spikes … they look like they've been burned off by chemicals."


Dr Andrew Whitehead, an associate professor of biology at Louisiana State University, co-authored the report Genomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2011.

Whitehead's work is of critical importance, as it shows a direct link between BP's oil and the negative impacts on the Gulf's food web evidenced by studies on killifish before, during and after the oil disaster.

"What we found is a very clear, genome-wide signal, a very clear signal of exposure to the toxic components of oil that coincided with the timing and the locations of the oil," Whitehead told Al Jazeera during an interview in his lab.

According to Whitehead, the killifish is an important indicator species because they are the most abundant fish in the marshes, and are known to be the most important forage animal in their communities.

"That means that most of the large fish that we like to eat and that these are important fisheries for, actually feed on the killifish," he explained. "So if there were to be a big impact on those animals, then there would probably be a cascading effect throughout the food web. I can't think of a worse animal to knock out of the food chain than the killifish."

But we may well be witnessing the beginnings of this worst-case scenario.

Whitehead is predicting that there could be reproductive impacts on the fish, and since the killifish is a "keystone" species in the food web of the marsh, "Impacts on those species are more than likely going to propagate out and effect other species. What this shows is a very direct link from exposure to DWH oil and a clear biological effect. And a clear biological effect that could translate to population level long-term consequences."

Back on shore, troubled by what he had been seeing, Keath Ladner met with officials from the US Food and Drug Administration and asked them to promise that the government would protect him from litigation if someone was made sick from eating his seafood.

"They wouldn't do it," he said.

"I'm worried about the entire seafood industry of the Gulf being on the way out," he added grimly.
WE NOW return you to our previously scheduled BP propaganda spots and "Remain calm. All is well!" platitudes from state and federal officials.

HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

To shrimp, or not to shrimp

You don't need to pick up Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet to partake of a good Shakespearean tragedy.

All you have to do is head down to Louisiana.

The New York Times' Amy Harmon, I am sure, knew she had herself a good story when she started trekking down to Delacroix to chronicle the struggles of a shrimping family in the wake of the BPocalypse. What I wonder, though, is whether she knew she was committing Shakespeare -- albeit a Shakespearean tragedy that trails off before everybody's dead or bereft.

IF YOU'RE NOT from the state of my birth, you'll start to get what I mean pretty quickly:

While Americans were debating their reliance on fossil fuel in the wake of the worst offshore oil spill in United States history, Aaron Greco was trying to decide what to do with his life. His story illuminates the singular appeal and hardships of a livelihood in jeopardy.

And as the Obama administration paves the way for deepwater drilling to resume in the gulf, it is young men like Aaron who will shoulder the direct impact of the nation’s decisions about what energy to consume and what seafood to eat in the years to come.

Few of his friends born into the Gulf Coast’s fishing communities were following their own fathers and grandfathers in the pursuit of wild seafood. Long before the oil rig exploded, rising fuel prices and competition from Asia’s cheap farmed shrimp had made a risky and physically punishing profession far less profitable: only a few thousand Louisianans now make their living fishing, down from more than 20,000 in the late 1980s.

Yet Aaron was among those of his generation still drawn to an elemental way of life. He wanted to be his own boss, to spend his days on the teeming marshes outside his door, 30 miles south of New Orleans and a world away. He wanted to pace himself to the rhythm of the oysters, crabs, and his favorite quarry since childhood, the shrimp.

“I want to chase the shrimp more than anything,” he told his girlfriend. “But I’m stuck.”

When the spill closed the waters around St. Bernard Parish, Aaron bounced between doubt and determination. His sisters pushed him to go on to college; his uncles warned of the lingering effects of dispersants used to clean up the oil. Even after the well was capped, Aaron questioned his own abilities.
IF YOU ARE from Louisiana, and if "it was good enough for my daddy" is your motteaux, you probably think the damn Yankees are making fun of you. Read on anyway.

Better yet, go to the
Times website and read the whole thing. Not that it'll do any damned good.

For Buddy, who had dropped out of school in 10th grade without ever learning to read, there had been no choice: like almost everyone else in Delacroix, descendants of Spanish-speaking Canary Islanders, he never considered anything other than fishing.

The time he did spend in school he used to advantage, singing “Sweet Caroline” to the pretty blonde in front of him on the bus, whom he soon prevailed on to marry him. But like many who grew up on the banks of the Bayou Terre aux Boeufs, he felt looked down on at the high school “up the road” — a designation that denoted social class as much as geography.

Others may have regarded them as poor, but the truth was teenagers could make good money in those days on the brackish waters that flowed into the gulf. In 1986, the year Buddy and Carolyn’s first child, Brittany, arrived, wild-caught gulf shrimp still accounted for nearly a quarter of the shrimp Americans ate, commanding the equivalent of nearly $2 per pound dockside.

And when Aaron was born, in 1990, Buddy covered the hospital bill with a few hundred sacks of oysters at $27 each.

“I paid for your stinky behind in that bayou,” he liked to remind his son, and it didn’t take long for the lesson to stick. Aaron spent his childhood catching minnows with a scoop net in the ditch near their home, his shrimper boots reaching up to his shorts. On fishing trips with his father, he lined up the little fish that dropped from the netting and stuffed them in his pockets.

“You take those out of there,” his mother commanded when she caught him. “They get in my washer and dryer, I’m going to have a smell out of this world.”

By the time Aaron was 13, he was lobbying to leave school himself. “Let me come on the boat,” he pleaded.

But Buddy wanted his middle child, and only boy, to have other options. The money in fishing was unpredictable, the work was dangerous, and there was no retirement plan. Carolyn’s father, a shrimper all his life, had had his hand ripped off in an accident with his rigging. Buddy’s father, stricken with lung cancer, hauled his oxygen tank with him onto the boat until a few days before he died in 2001.

“You finish school, Aaron,” he told his son. “You take after your mother — you smart enough to go to college.”

LARGE SWATHS of my home state -- millions of its citizens -- are the last of the Mohicans . . . or the Sioux in an eternal Wounded Knee. The world has fundamentally changed around them; they stay the same.

The economy upon which they have staked -- continue to stake -- their all is sinking as fast as what's left of the marshland under their feet. The only question is what will slip beneath the Gulf swells first, the land or the people who have populated it for generations.

Tradition is a fine thing. But it can turn deadly when it leads to ossification -- to turning one's back on education and new ideas. Holding fast to a way of life is a noble thing, except when it is untenable.

Louisiana is fast becoming untenable. All the things crucial to its survival are all the things in which it so desperately lags.

Ay, there's the rub . . . to adapt and forswear a way of life, doomed though it may be, or to follow in thy father's footsteps, yea, though they lead to, and over, a precipice.
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. . . .
TO BE, or not to be -- that is the question. I dread the forthcoming answer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bobby good. Feds stoopid. College godless.

I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

It's because this went down wrong. Of course, "this" is enough to challenge even the strongest stomach -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, proclaiming the wonderfulness of Himself to the perennially wacky Pat Robertson on The 700 Club as he ripped the federal government's inaction in the Gulf oil disaster.

"We kept tellin' them, lead or get out of the way," Jindal said while promoting his new book, "and the bottom line was we saw some of the same bureaucracy, the same red tape."

Urp. There I go again.

Listen, I know the gub'na likes to tell everyone what a strong Christian he is, so I know that he knows there's an old Hebrew proverb -- one quoted in the Good Book itself -- that says
"Physician, heal thyself." Or something like that.

I think it's
somewhere toward the back.

Anyway, you'd think that would be on his mind -- being such a fine and godly man and all -- when he's out on the road telling the world what a colossal screw-up Barack Obama is. Never mind that the headlines from Jindal's Louisiana don't exactly suggest administrative competence on the part of its absentee governor.

FOR EXAMPLE, higher education has been gutted because of an ongoing budget crisis. It will be gutted much, much more in the coming budget. This is Jindal's response to that:
Graduating only 38 percent of higher education students is unacceptable. My message to college administrators and everyone else is that we must find ways to live within our means and deliver more value. Budget cuts may result in fewer sabbaticals and may force professors to spend more time in the classroom teaching and interacting with students. But that is a good thing and will result in a better education for our students.
YOU'RE DOING a lousy job -- you'll do much better with far less funding. That's what he's saying.

When LSU leaders publicly fret over the disaster that awaits with further massive cuts next year, all the Jindal Administration can muster are straight-from-the-script red herrings about ending sabbaticals and increasing class loads as a cure for a looming cut of perhaps $60 million. No, really:

Jindal’s chief budget architect, Paul Rainwater, said Wednesday that universities must focus more resources on the classroom and make better use of taxpayer funds.

“We need to make sure the course load is maxed out and people aren’t taking sabbaticals,” said Rainwater, the state’s commissioner of administration, adding that LSU’s flagship campus has 19 faculty on sabbaticals. “That happens nowhere else in the real world.”

BOBBY JINDAL criticizes the president -- rightly -- for the federal government's lame response to BP's oily plague upon his state. Back home, the problem certainly isn't that Jindal has mustered a BP-type response to his state's myriad woes, most notably surrounding higher ed, public health . . . or just plain old fiscal responsibility.

No, back in the Gret Stet -- that place where the little lord Jindal has seldom laid down his sweet head -- the problem is that the gub'na is BP. And it's gonna be a hell of a blowout.

But that's OK. Whatever suffering . . . or surging ignorance . . . or mayhem . . . or sickness and death results from dismantling the concept of commonwealth is OK because when one asks "What would Jesus do?" -- that's it.


All because college professors are politically correct atheists, and the best way to fix a government that doesn't work is to destroy it altogether.

I'm sure the Deepwater Horizon never would have blown up if the feds' incompetent regulation had just given way to no regulation at all. Jesus said.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Maybe Lee was 'so drunk' . . . again

We have to give Lee Terry the benefit of the doubt for his support of BP's best buddy as chairman of the House energy panel. Maybe that lady lobbyist got him "so drunk" again.

Or maybe the congressman from Omaha is just such an expletive-deleted that he figures he can get re-elected no matter how much contempt he shows for justice, ordinary citizens or the environment. At least it looks that way from this article on Politico:
Eight Republicans Wednesday began circulating a letter indicating support for Texas Rep. Joe Barton in his longshot bid to lead the House Energy and Commerce committee.

Texas Reps. Ralph Hall and Michael Burgess joined with Rep. Lee Terry (Neb.), Cliff Stearns (Fla.), Joe Pitts (Pa.), Steve Scalise (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and John Shimkus (Ill.) on a “Dear Colleague” letter, signaling that they are recommending their “friend and colleague, Joe Barton, for the Chairman of our committee in the 112th Congress.”

“You know Joe,” the letter reads. “He has provided unyielding conservative leadership during our protracted partisan battles over cap-and-trade and health care reform.”

It’s the largest measure of public support for Barton, who is term-limited out of the chairmanship this Congress. His staunch lobbying has irked members of the Republican leadership, throwing further into doubt any chance he had at obtaining a waiver of the term limits rule.

What’s notable is that the co-signors are all members of the committee, and are drawing a clear line in the sand against Michigan Rep. Fred Upton. Furthermore, Shimkus and Stearns were both considered contenders for the gavel.

Barton’s main argument for a waiver, something Republican leadership seems averse to, is that his time as ranking Republican on the committee should not count against the term-limit rule – a point Republican leaders thinks is peripheral, and long-settled.

It’s been an ugly fight. Anonymous opposition dumps – which Barton denied having a hand in – have circulated around Capitol Hill, saying Upton is not conservative enough. The Republicans supporting Barton made that point in their letter.
IT'S CLEAR. Only two things matter in Congress anymore -- money and ideology. Matters of right, wrong, people and nation are just the detritus of the modern political process, to be discarded along with your empties after "policy discussions" with the lobbyists.

Maybe you can fool all the people all the time. Until you can't.

The question, however, is whether that "can't" moment in American history does or doesn't arrive before the "It doesn't matter anymore" moment.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The importance of being Bobby

The only thing that surpasses politicians' rank hypocrisy amid our never-ending Left-Right food fight is politicians' capacity for self-aggrandizement and lack of capacity for introspection.

This is how a ditwad governor of a failed Southern state manages to write a memoir at age 39, throwing in chapters about how to better run America while his own state sinks into a Third Worldish fever swamp and another complaining that President Obama was mean to him and Rahm Emanuel cursed his chief of staff.

(In Emanuel's defense, when dealing with a governor who named himself after Bobby Brady, and whose chief of staff is named Timmy Teepell, tamping down one's junior-high PTSD might be too much to ask of a man.)

AND, OF COURSE, Politico is on the story:
On Obama’s first trip to Louisiana after the disaster, the governor describes how the president took him aside on the tarmac after arriving to complain about a letter that Jindal had sent to the administration requesting authorization for food stamps for those who had lost their jobs because of the spill.

As Jindal describes it, the letter was entirely routine, yet Obama was angry and concerned about looking bad.

"Careful," he quotes the president as warning him, "this is going to get bad for everyone."

Nearby on the tarmac, Jindal recalls, then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was chewing out his own chief of staff, Timmy Teepell.

“If you have a problem pick up the f——n’ phone,” Jindal quotes Emanuel telling Teepell.

The governor asserts that the White House had tipped off reporters to watch the exchange on the New Orleans tarmac that Sunday in May and deemed it a “press stunt” that symbolized what’s wrong with Washington.

“Political posturing becomes more important than reality,” he writes.

What might explain why Obama and Emanuel were so angry at Jindal is that the governor released his food stamp request the previous day to the media and indicated that he wanted a response by the close of business Monday.
AND PEOPLE wonder why reporters drink.

Probably because vast quantities of hard liquor is the only thing that will stop the voices of politicians in your head. Especially if the politician is the anthropomorphized cognitive dissonance that is Bobby Jindal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The chains 'businessmen' forge in life. . . .

Halliburton and BP knew weeks before the fatal explosion of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the bottom of the well was unstable but still went ahead with the job, the presidential commission investigating the accident said on Thursday.

In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.

The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.

Another Halliburton cement test, carried out about a week before the blowout of the well on April 20, also found the mixture to be unstable, yet those findings were never sent to BP, Mr. Bartlit found.

Although Mr. Bartlit does not specifically identify the cement failure as the sole or even primary cause of the blowout, he makes clear in his letter that if the cement had done its job and kept the highly pressured oil and gas out of the well bore, there would not have been an accident.

“We have known for some time that the cement used to secure the production casing and isolate the hydrocarbon zone at the bottom of the Macondo well must have failed in some manner,” he said in his letter to the seven members of the presidential commission. “The cement should have prevented hydrocarbons from entering the well.”

The failure of the cement set off a complex and ultimately deadly cascade of events as oil and gas exploded upward from the 18,000-foot-deep well. The blowout preventer, which sits on the ocean floor atop the well and is supposed to contain a well bore blowout, also failed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Louisiana: The state it's in

Here's some good ol' Cajun cooking for you.

It's a popular dish where I come from, and it's taken from the perennial cookbook,
Louisiana: Recipe for Disaster. And here's how you make Endemic Toxic Stew:
-- Take 300 years of a deviant civic culture out of the bayous of Louisiana. Check to make sure the tolerance of corruption and the get-rich-quick scheme has ripened sufficiently.

-- Add a significantly uneducated and compliant population.

-- Make a roux with BP crude oil and contaminated sediments.

-- Simmer in a cracked pot for many generations in befouled water over tropical heat.

-- Add oil- and dispersant-contaminated seafood.
(If you desire, add a number of Louisiana state deadheads for a more robust flavor.)

-- Season to taste with complacency, corrupt politicians, waste, incompetent government and a Gallic shrug.

-- Serve with dirty rice, cancer sticks and too much booze.

(Makes enough to serve as many legislators' brothers-in-law as possible. Serves fewer "unconnected" citizens every year. Eat at your own risk.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Répétez après moi: The oil is gone

Move along. Nothing to see here on the Gulf Coast.

Everything's fine. The oil is gone.

Pay no attention to all the dead birds in Louisiana, or to the men in black fatigues spraying Corexit -- the most toxic variant of Corexit the feds and BP say hasn't been used in months -- all along the Alabama shoreline.

Really, remain calm.
All is well.

THE FOLKS at the Louisiana Environmental Action Network are just troublemakers. Yeah, that's the ticket:
We continued our sampling efforts last week in Terrebonne Bay with Chief Chuckie Verdin of the Pointe Au Chien indian community.

LEAN's relationship with Pointe Au Chien began after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita when we delivered relief supplies there at the request of Chief Chuckie. LEAN was again contacted by the Pointe Au Chien community in recent days with concerns about impacts from the BP oil spill disaster on the bays and estuaries that they depend on. On Thursday, August 19, 2010 LEAN/LMRK sampling team (Technical Advisor Wilma Subra, Michael Orr, Jeffrey Dubinsky and myself) went on a sampling trip into Terrebonne Bay led by Chief Chuckie and Kurt Dardar.

We were also accompanied by Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau and environmentalist and filmmaker in her own right, and her crew. Last year Alexandra and the crew traveled to Louisiana to learn about the impacts of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone on locals from Wilma. This year they returned to document Wilma's work on the BP oil spill disaster so we took them out with us on a sampling mission.

In "Julia," the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper Boston Whaler and a local fishing vessel we made our way south from Pointe Au Chien across Lake Chien and Lake Felicity to Modoto Island. What we encountered there stunned us all. The ground was littered with dead birds. So many dead birds that we aren't sure how many were out there, many dozens of dead birds just in the small area which we surveyed on the island. The dead appeared to included mostly seagulls and terns though some were badly decayed and identification was difficult. It was clear to me by the various states of decay, from scattered bones to a tern that couldn't have been dead for more than a day and everything in between, that this is an ongoing situation.

OH . . . pay no attention to this video, either. It's the "lamestream media," and those troublemakers at WKRG in Mobile are just trying to get folks agitated.

They're almost as bad at the extremists over at Washington's Blog. We pass this scurrilous tidbit of alarmist bloggage along just so you'll know what kind of stuff to ignore:
A few days ago, Naman was sent a sample of water from Cotton Bayou, Alabama.

Naman found 13.3 parts per million of the dispersant Corexit in the sample:More imporantly, Naman told me that he found 2-butoxyethanol in the sample.

BP and Nalco - the manufacturer of Corexit - have said that dispersant containing 2-butoxyethanol is no longer being sprayed in the Gulf. As the New York Times noted in June:
Corexit 9527, used in lesser quantities during the earlier days of the spill response, is designated a chronic and acute health hazard by EPA. The 9527 formula contains 2-butoxyethanol, pinpointed as the cause of lingering health problems experienced by cleanup workers after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and propylene glycol, a commonly used solvent.

Corexit 9500, described by [Nalco's spokesman] as the "sole product" Nalco has manufactured for the Gulf since late April, contains propylene glycol and light petroleum distillates, a type of chemical refined from crude oil.
Moreover, Naman said that he searched for the main ingredient in the less toxic 9500 version - propylene glycol - but there was none present. In other words, Naman found the most toxic ingredient in 9527 and did not find the chemical marker for 9500.

Since BP and Nalco say that no dispersant containing 2-butoxyethanol has been sprayed in the Gulf for many months, that either means:

(1) BP has been lying, and it is still using 2-butoxyethanol. In other words, BP is still Corexit 9527 in the Gulf


(2) The dispersant isn't breaking down nearly as quickly as hoped, and the more toxic form of Corexit used long ago is still present in the Gulf.

Naman told me he used EPA-approved methods for testing the sample, but that a toxicologist working for BP is questioning everything he is doing, and trying to intimidate Naman by saying that he's been asked to look into who Naman is working with.

I asked Naman if he could rule out the second possibility: that the 2-butoxyethanol he found was from a months-old applications of the more toxic version of Corexit. I assumed that he would say that, as a chemist, he could not rule out that possibility.

However, Naman told me that he went to Dauphin Island, Alabama, last night. He said that he personally saw huge 250-500 gallon barrels all over the place with labels which said:

Corexit 9527


Naman further said he saw mercenaries dressed in all black fatigues, using gps coordinates, applying Corexit 9527 at Dauphin Island and at Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The mercenaries were "Blackwater"-type mercenaries, and Naman assumed they must have been hired either by BP or the government.

Naman also confirmed - as previously reported - that the Corexit 9527 is being sprayed at night, and that it is being applied in such a haphazard manner that undiluted 9527 is running onto beach sand.
PLEASE. Pay no attention to the irresponsible elements challenging the New Corporate Order.

Or else.

And remember, boys and girls, greed is good!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If you can't dazzle 'em with cleanup. . . .

Some say the government is in complete disarray when it comes to dealing with the BPocalypse in the Gulf of Mexico.

I disagree.

The accusations of disarray and incompetence only stick if you assume the aim of the federal response is to protect the public and the environment. As this whole corporate catastrophe drags on and on, the less this assumption actually holds water.

From the start, though, BP's game plan has been clear -- cover up anything that will cost the oil giant money. But what one would think is the government's game plan only exists in some old textbook from high-school civics.

Instead, what we have is a federal government totally compromised by Big Oil and the political cash and Washington lobbyists in which it invests, as opposed to . . . safety measures. This means the top federal priority doesn't involve the American public or resources, but instead has everything to do with covering up its own complicity in the catastrophe.

BASICALLY, it's like this: If you can't dazzle 'em with effective regulation and governance, baffle 'em with bullshit.

Thus, the feds' whole
"Oil? What oil?" act as fishermen keep finding gobs of the stuff and researchers begin to laugh at the government's latest "science."

And now, from
The Daily Beast, comes the latest installment in our ongoing series, a little something we call If BP and the Feds Say It, You Know It's Not True:
While officials claim most of the oil from America's worst-ever spill has disappeared, fishermen hired by BP are still finding tar balls—and being instructed to hide their discoveries.

Two weeks ago, as federal officials prepared to declare that some three-quarters of the estimated 5 million barrels of oil released into the Gulf over three months had disappeared, Mark Williams, a fishing boat captain hired by BP to help with the spill cleanup, encountered tar balls as large as three inches wide floating off the Florida coast.

Reporting his findings to his supervisor, a private consulting company hired by BP, the reply, according to his logbook came back: "Told—no reporting of oil or tar balls anymore. Don't put on report. We're here for boom removal only," referring to the miles of yellow and orange containment barriers placed throughout the Gulf.

Williams' logbook account, which I inspected, and a similar account told to me by a boat captain in Mississippi, raises serious concerns about whether the toll from the spill is being accurately measured. Many institutions have an interest in minimizing accounts of the damage inflicted. The federal and local governments, under withering criticism all summer, certainly want to move on to other subjects. BP, of course, has a financial incentive.

The miraculous disappearance of the oil and the pending transfer of $20 billion to Ken Feinberg, who is independently overseeing the claims fund, have resulted in the oil giant cutting back its response operations. With a recent halving of the Vessels of Opportunity program, which hired fallow charter and commercial fishing boats, captains and deckhands are now less reticent to describe their experiences.

This includes Mark Williams, who worked in the program until he was deactivated last week. Williams' saga is typical. In May, he arrived in Alabama from Atlantic Beach, Florida, to captain a charter boat. He got one day of red snapper season before Roy Crabtree, NOAA Fisheries Southeast regional administrator, shut down the Alabama waters for fishing.

"That morning [June 1], we took a charter out to the 'Nipple' and saw what looked like a lot of grass," said Williams, referring to the part of the Gulf where the continental shelf gets very deep, a favored habitat for large fish. "When we got closer, we saw it was mattes of oil in solid slicks. By that afternoon, oil was getting in our reels. Crabtree shut down fishing the next day."

For the rest of June and much of July, Williams worked off and on as a deckhand on boats enlisted in the Vessels of Opportunity program, including a boat called Downtime that in early June first sighted tar balls and oil sheen in the Pensacola Pass.

Williams was also part of the skimming operations at Orange Beach when miles-long mattes of oil washed on to its shores the following weekend. Untrained, Williams remembers putting more than 100 pounds of oil-soaked absorbent boom in debris disposal bags that he was later told should have held no more than 20.

Subsequently, Williams saw seven large shrimp boats, with two Coast Guard vessels accompanying them, five miles off shore. "Plumes were everywhere," says Williams, referring to thin layers of crude oil floating on the water's surface. "Every time another boat would approach the shrimp boats, the Coast Guard would get on the radio and tell the boat to veer back to shore." Williams says he believes the boats were putting dispersant on the oil, even though the Coast Guard has denied using dispersant off the Florida and Alabama shores. "The plumes were gone the next day," Williams says.

Back in Florida on July 27, his boat, Mudbug, was activated into Vessels of Opportunity. While the media, BP, and the Coast Guard were reporting no more oil, Williams and other boat captains were assigned to find it.

Three days later, Williams found remnants of dispersant in a canal in Santa Rosa Sound north of Pensacola Beach. He reported it to his supervisor, who worked for a company that BP hired to help with cleanup, O'Brien's Response Management.

Williams wrote in his logbook, "Returned p.m. for check-out. [Supervisor] said, 'Oh, they sent someone out there and it was algae'—No fucking way—Idiots."

O'Brien's was founded in 1982 by Jim O'Brien, a retired Coast Guard officer, who originally called his firm O'Brien Oil Pollution Service, ironically known in the industry as "OOPS." Over the years the company has been acquired and merged with other response companies; it was hired by BP and Transocean prior to the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig as an emergency-response consultant.

On Saturday, July 31, Williams found a "tea-type" stain on the water and followed it toward Fort Pickens, which is the western tip of Pensacola Beach. He wrote in his logbook, "We found massive tar balls—both in quantity and size, in small gulley. They ranged from ping-pong ball to coconut in size not 3' from beach line."

After that, Williams was taken off spill and tar ball watch and put on boom removal. In an inlet north of Pensacola Beach, his crew sighted more tar balls. He wrote in his logbook: "Middle of Sound to off-load boom. 1" to 3" tar balls—floating—must be old—told [supervisor] at end of the day." That's when he was told not to make the report, but rather to simply gather up the boom.

“We found massive tar balls–both in quantity and size, in small gulley.”
Williams was deactivated from Vessels of Opportunity last week. Last Tuesday, the day before he was dropped, the boat captain wrote, "Coming back p.m. from Ono Island. Counted 12 oil plumes small in comparison to offshore between range marker and decon barge." This was a week after Carol Browner, a top energy adviser to President Barack Obama, announced 75 percent of the oil had been contained, evaporated, or dispersed.
I HAVE long said the last casualty of the BPocalypse will be whatever legitimacy the U.S. government has. That day draws nearer with every official lie -- with every public-relations obfuscation aimed at a public Washington desperately hopes is otherwise occupied with the misadventures of Snooki. Or cable-TV cage matches. Whatever.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, during his unsuccessful Senate campaign against Stephen A. Douglas, famously quoted the book of Matthew when he prophesied that "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Today, I'd like to think he would say the same about a nation buried in bullshit, because it's true.

You know the saying "You are what you eat"? Well, while we might well avoid consuming BP's finest Corexit-petroleum soup du jour, it's not so easy abstaining from the fragrant entrée every segment of our society -- most notably our leaders -- put before us daily.

And that's as deadly as anything BP can spew into the Gulf of Mexico.

Monday, August 09, 2010

What we don't know won't hurt BP

We don't know what we don't know about what BP has done to the Gulf of Mexico . . . and all the fish in the sea.

And the Angel of Oily Death is happy to keep it that way.

When you're suspected of criminal acts, and surely liable for God knows how much civilly, you'd just as soon the Almighty be the only one Who knows the full extent of what you've done.

I suspect that's why BP . . . British Petroleum . . . the Angel of Oily Death . . . Those Lousy Rotten Capitalist-Pig Bastards -- whatever the hell you wish to call that destroyer of worlds -- is balking at paying for long-term testing of Gulf seafood.

THIS LITTLE THING is merely crucial in determining whether or not your oyster po-boy is going to send you to an early grave, or whether you're getting a heapin' helpin' of petroleum and Corexit with that shrimp etoufée or crab au gratin. New Orleans' WWL television reports:
State Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham says so far, BP is refusing to commit the dollars.

"BP has been slower and slower in responding to us and seems to be dragging their feet in making a commitment to fund the studies that we're going to need to ensure that this multi-billion dollar industry is viable in Louisiana," said Barham.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles says the company is still considering the seafood testing plan.

"Some of those requests went quite far out in time," said Suttles. "They were looking at up to 20 years. At this point in the response, it just isn't appropriate to actually look that far out."

Suttles suggests that the state look at paying for the program with money BP has already pledged to the oil spill recovery effort.

"The gulf research initiative, the $500 million we have made available to do long term impact assessments here in the gulf," said Suttles.

Secretary Barham says if BP doesn't voluntarily agree to the long term seafood testing plan, there are both criminal and civil remedies the state can use in an attempt to force BP to pay up.

It may be more and more difficult to talk to BP," said Barham. "It may be their attorneys that we're talking to."
IT'S ALL ABOUT confidence. It's about whether people are confident that Gulf seafood won't hurt them. It's about whether the Gulf fishing industry will survive or not.

But, hey! The well's no longer gushing! BP figures it's not their problem -- at least not until the law tells them it is.

And the "small people," fishermen and consumers alike, get drilled again.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Life in these United States: Shores apart

On the Jersey shore

"I'm the best thing in this town," she arrogantly declared after cops busted her for being a drunk nuisance Friday, according to an insider.

"She was bad-mouthing everyone who walked by her [in the police stationhouse]. She was saying 'I'm a star, you can't do this to me.'"

Snooki unleashed a boozed-up, expletive-filled rant after being arrested for disorderly conduct, and attempted to use her new-found fame as a "get-out-of-jail-free" card.

"You can't tell me what to do - I'm Snooki," she yelled at officers, according to witnesses. "Do you know who I am? I'm f------ Snooki. You can't do this to me. I'm f------ Snooki. You guys are going to be sorry for this. Release me!"

Not surprisingly, her harsh language didn't do the trick.

The pint-sized reality TV star was hauled away from the Jersey shore boardwalk in cuffs Friday as her oversized shades slid down her nose. A photo of her looking dishevelled with mascara running down her face while in custody also surfaced yesterday, as locals took stock of her unruly behavior and lashed out at the reality show cast.

On the Louisiana shore

"My world's been turned upside down," says Chris Wilson, a charter boat captain in Venice, La. "Our life as fishing guides and marina owners — and everybody down here. We used to fish every day. Now we ride around and look for oil, or ride people around, you know. They say we're working, they say they're paying us, but nobody's got paid yet ... I guess it's coming."

This quotation comes from photographer David Zimmerman's latest series, "Gulf Coast." A fine-art photographer based in New York and Taos, N.M., Zimmerman relocated to Louisiana just after BP's April oil spill and, for the past few months, has been using a large-format view camera to put faces to the oil spill. "For all the devastation I saw offshore," Zimmerman writes in his artist statement, "the worst of what I saw was onshore; in the faces and voices of the people who call this place home."

Monday, August 02, 2010

They died for your sins

Never has there been a more appropriately named place than Delacroix, La.

Delacroix. De la croix.

Of the cross.

Two millennia ago, civilized society hung the Son of God on a cross and killed him due to practical concerns, as recounted in John 11:
So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation."
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You
know nothing,

nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish."
He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
TWO MILLENNIA LATER, modern, industrial society hung Delacroix, its people and their way of life on a modern, industrial cross and killed it due to practical concerns, as recounted in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune:
On a blustery spring day, Delacroix native Lloyd Serigne stands on the banks of Bayou Terre aux Boeufs, 30 miles south of New Orleans, talking about the village that raised him in the 1950s. Reaching into a deep well of memories, he paints an idyllic picture: A community of several hundred fishers, farmers and trappers whose homes were surrounded by a wetlands paradise of high ridges, marshes and swamps. The outside world -- unwanted, unneeded -- seemed a thousand miles away.

But the scene surrounding him only mocks that vision.

Naked slabs and raw pilings that once supported homes stand like tombstones in open, soggy ground. Bare tree trunks rise from a salt marsh that used to be a vegetable field. Battered home appliances, ice chests and derelict boats litter the bank while a high tide moves through the remains of a hardwood forest. And a steady stream of heavy equipment heads down the road to fight the invasion of BP's oil.

None of it matches memories that seem as sharp as yesterday's news.

"Really, what we had here was a paradise -- a natural paradise," Serigne, 70, says with a smile of fond remembrance. He pauses to shake his head, a gesture half of wonder, half of despair.

"But when I try to tell the young people about this, they just stare at me like I'm crazy. They just can't imagine what was here such a short time ago.

"And now it's gone. Just gone."
DELACROIX. It died for your sins -- or, more specifically, for your SUV and all your stuff. A people, a culture and a now-gone landscape have born a cross of our society's making.

And the blood of people, cultures and whole places that are no more is upon us and our children . . . and our avarice.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The deadly cover-up

Now this has been a problem for a very, very long time. You can see that corporations were illegal at the founding of America. And even Thomas Jefferson complained that they were already bidding defiance to the laws of our country. Okay, people who say they're conservative, if they really wanted to be really conservative and really patriotic, they would tell these corporations to go to hell. That's what it would really mean to be conservative. So what we really need to do is regain the idea that it's our government safeguarding our interests and regain a sense of unity and common cause in our country that really has been lost.

-- Carl Safina,
author, marine ecologist

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BP's unwitting allies

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Ignorance kills.

When you're ignorant, you don't have options. You're an easy mark, because you lack power and, oftentimes, because you're too ignorant to know you're being played.

Or if you are savvy enough to know you're being played, what are you going to do about it?

Say you're a fisherman in Louisiana. You may or may not have much education -- and being that it's Louisiana we're talking about, chances are, not. All you've done is fish. All your daddy has done is fish. All your family has done for a hundred years or more is fish.

You have no options, because other options --
at least in many cases -- never have occurred to you. School, in all likelihood, wasn't a priority for you, just like it wasn't a priority for your daddy, or your daddy's daddy, or for the whole dying culture down there, for Pete's sake.

Same deal for all the other workers whose best option in life right now is to work cleanup for BP, sopping up or skimming up a toxic soup of crude oil and chemical dispersant that has a nasty habit of exploding the cells of mammals and fish.

PEOPLE on the Gulf Coast = mammals. For some reason, I felt the need to make that clear.

From the Facing South online magazine:
Today, 27,000 workers in the BP-run Gulf cleanup effort may still be in danger. Some are falling sick, and the long-term effects of chemical exposure for workers and residents are yet unknown.

Workers lack power on the job to demand better safety enforcement. They fear company retaliation if they speak out and are wary of government regulators who have kept BP in the driver's seat.

BP carries a history of putting profit before worker safety. A 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 and injured another 108 workers. The Chemical Safety Board investigation resulted in a 341-page report stating that BP knew of "significant safety problems at the Texas City refinery and at 34 other BP business units around the world" months before the explosion.

One internal BP memo made a cost-benefit analysis of types of housing construction on site in terms of the children's story "The Three Little Pigs." "Brick" houses -- blast-resistant ones -- might save a few "piggies," but was it worth the initial investment?

BP decided not, costing several workers' lives. Federal officials found more than 700 safety violations at Texas City and fined BP more than $87 million in 2009, but the corporation has refused to pay.


Now workers in the cleanup effort face similar challenges to those Jason Anderson and his 10 slain co-workers woke up to each morning. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy analyst Hugh Kaufman says workers are being exposed to a "toxic soup," and face dangers like those in the Exxon Valdez, Love Canal, and 9/11 cleanups.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez experience should have taught us about the health fallouts of working with oil and chemical cleaners, but tests to determine long-term effects on those workers were never done, by either the company or OSHA. It appears they have faced health problems far beyond any warnings given by company or government officials while the work was going on.

Veterans of that cleanup, such as supervisor Merle Savage, reported coming down with the same flu-like symptoms during their work that Gulf cleanup workers are now experiencing. Savage, along with an estimated 3,000 cleanup workers, has lived 20 years with chronic respiratory illness and neurological damage.

A 2002 study from a Spanish oil spill showed that cleanup workers and community members have increased risk of cancer and that workers with long-term exposure to crude oil can face permanent DNA damage.

So far, Louisiana has records of 128 cleanup workers becoming sick with flu-like symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, and headaches, after exposure to chemicals on the job. BP recorded 21 short hospitalizations. When seven workers from different boats were hospitalized with chemical exposure symptoms, BP executives dismissed the illnesses as food poisoning.

BP bosses have told workers to report to BP clinics only and not to visit public hospitals, where their numbers can be recorded by the state.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has said that without the benefit of studies, or even knowing the chemical makeup of the Corexit 9500 dispersant (which its manufacturer calls a "trade secret"), scientific opinion is divided on long-term health impacts to the region.

Workers in the Gulf are not receiving proper training or equipment, says Mark Catlin, an occupational hygienist who was sent to the Exxon Valdez site by the Laborers union.

BP has said it will provide workers with respirators and proper training if necessary, but the company has yet to deem the situation a health risk for workers. The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) provided respirators to some workers directly, but BP forbade them to use them.
THE TENDENCY of anybody looking for a good story, one that engages the heart as well as the mind in such situations, is to spend much time romanticizing the poor and the vulnerable. The majority of the media coverage of the BPocalypse follows this well-trod path into the morass of sentimentality and, ultimately, cognitive dissonance when the cold, hard (and complicated) facts of life break through the spin and screw up the narrative.

The facts of the matter is that many of the people we're supposed to be feeling sorry are victims of not only BP, but also of accidents of birth, the deficiencies of a culture that too often hasn't valued all the things that immunize a people against victimhood, and a crapload of poor choices accumulating throughout one's lifetime.

If you're in Grand Isle, La., faced with a royal screwing by a multinational oil company -- and, for that matter, one's own government -- it's all too easy to just take it out on the "animals," which is postmodern Southern-speak for "n***ers." Who happen to be cleaning up the multinational oil company's hazardous waste off your beach and out of your marshes.

And if you're one of those cleanup workers -- poorly paid, without respirators and working under ATV-riding "overseers" in a setup that looks so much like a fast-forward of what slavery might look like had the South won the Civil War -- you further screw up a good narrative by getting shitfaced in a titty bar and treating a bunch of strippers like the pieces of meat you know yourself to be. At least in the eyes of your "betters."

Who, you can be assured, will collect their piece of the pie
(and yours, too) no matter how much they screw up the lives of others by hook . . . and by crook. Why? Because they can, that's why.

THE POOR . . . the "victims," who resist all attempts at romanticizing their plight much more successfully than they fend off humiliation and depredation by them that's got, will not fare well here. Neither will a state like Louisiana, home to so many of the poor, and likewise so much more adept at resisting all attempts to romanticize its desperate plight than it is at fending off humiliation, depredation and marginalization at the hands of Corporate America and the government it has bought and paid for.

Knowledge is power.

Culture is destiny.

The Gret Stet is screwed.

Playing with sugar daddy's money

Once upon a time, Grand Isle, La., was your average, everyday, sleepy Gulf Coast fishing mecca and tourist trap.

No more. BP changed that in a heartbeat.

Or . . . could it be that the BPocalypse -- this stress-inducing gumbo of lawyers, guns and money
(and a big, big oil spill) -- merely has broken down inhibitions enough, just like extreme stress or extreme drink can do to people, so that now it's just more of what it already was beneath a carefully constructed facade?

This is the kind of question we'll be pondering all across the Gulf for a long, long time as klepto-capitalism rides the waves, crying "Havoc!"

IF YOU'VE NOT been regularly reading the oil-spill dispatches of Mother Jones' Mac McClelland already, now would be a good time to start:
I hear about the race riot at Daddy's Money almost as soon as I arrive on Grand Isle, Louisiana. My friend and I are going to the bar tonight to catch the "female oil wrestling" oil-spill cleanup workers have been packing in to see on Saturday nights. When we stop by the office of the island's biggest seafood distributor, he tells us that two days ago a bunch of black guys and a bunch of white guys got into a big fight at the bar. It spilled out all over the street and had to be broken up by a ton of cops.

According to the Census, 1,541 people live in this slow Southern resort town. An estimated 2.9 of them are black. That was before the spill. The seafood guy gestures in the direction of the floating barracks being built on barges in the bay to house the lower-skilled cleanup workers, and says that people think the barracks will keep those workers—who are mostly black—from "jumping off" onto dry land and causing trouble.

That night, dozens of men in race-segregated packs crowd around to watch strippers dance around and then tussle inside the bouncy inflatable ring set up inside Daddy's Money. Female oil wrestlers need, obviously, to be oiled. Plastic cups full of baby oil are being auctioned off, along with the right to rub their contents all over one of the thong-bikinied gals. "I hope there's no dispersant in that oil!" someone quips. The bidding before the first match starts at $10; it ends pretty quickly when some kid offers $100.

"He outbid me!" the guy next to me yells. His name is Cortez. He bid $80. He has dollar bills tucked all the way around under the brim of his hat, and piles of them in his fist. He has spent $200 of his $1,000 paycheck already tonight. "I am coming here every Saturday from now on," he says. He gestures expansively at the scene—writhing women; hollering, money-throwing men. "Sponsored by BP!" he yells, laughing, then throws his arms around me and grabs my ass.

Upstairs, on the open-air deck, the supervisors and professional contractors drink. One comes over to talk; he calls me a Yankee when I don't get that when he says "animals" he means black guys. Another tells us about the crime-prone "monkeys." I have already stopped counting how many times I've heard the n-word on Grand Isle today.
THE LONGER I live away from Louisiana, the more I think I'd consider it a badge of honor to be called a Yankee by some good ol' boy.

That said, chances are, Grand Isle -- and the rest of the eroding, subsiding Louisiana coast -- will sink into the toxic sea before the spill-induced societal Armageddon has run its course there, giving way to the everyday, ordinary Louisiana pathologies that have proven so resistant to enlightenment.
"We'll be here as long as oil keeps washing up," the contractor says.

"So..." I laugh sort of helplessly. "A year?"

"Three years..." he says. "Five years..."

"Hopefully forever," the guy next to him says. "I need this job if I can't work offshore anymore." Last week, the emcee that accompanies the oil wrestlers yelled into the microphone, "Let that oil gush! Let that money flow!" The workers -— part of the new Grand Isle scenery of helicopters, Hummers, and National Guardsmen, serious people in uniforms and coveralls and work boots -- the workers around the wrestling ring, drunk and blowing cash from jobs that might kill them, cheered.
THE HUMAN CONDITION can be an ugly thing. And leave it to a titty bar in some oil-soiled backwater of a too-poor, too-ignorant and too-hateful Southern state to "kick it up a notch."