Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Friday, February 01, 2019

'We haven't stopped.' (Lying, that is.)



Well, this is rich. It was laughable on Monday, Oct. 18, 1971, and it's a regular riot today, more than 47 years later.

Thanks to protectors of Louisiana's natural resources, like oil-and-gas stalwart Louisiana Land and Exploration Co., there's a lot less of Louisiana's natural resources to protect -- save for the saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico that's replaced the land and marsh where those oil derricks and oil-company canals once were.

Who knew that tearing up the marsh and digging expressways for saltwater intrusion weren't ecological best practices? More importantly, who cared? 

THE OBVIOUS answer to that one is "Not enough people."

It's a sad thing to live long enough to see your homeland commit suicide. But there we are.

At least we can appreciate the irony of this ad from way back when. (Insert bitter, knowing chuckle here.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Because we're so #*@!& brilliant


This is the part of the blog where I commit cultural suicide in the Age of Political Correctness by acting like a Catholic who actually believes all that sh*t.

This self-immolation moment was prompted by Rod Dreher's blog post correctly calling out "progressives" who have the gall to disingenuously hector social conservatives that if they'd only been nicer in opposing same-sex marriage. . . .

Yeah, right. Now we're getting lectures on civility from folks whose default position involves employing the word "hater" or "bigot" when referring to people like me who think marriage may be many things, but that none of them involve, nor ever in human history has involved, a union of two men or two women.

Human dignity is one thing. But recognizing the inherent dignity and rights of persons never has precluded society denying them any number of heart's (or groin's) desires for the sake of the greater good. Throughout history, sometimes "the greater good of society" has meant something as simple as not cracking open Pandora's box.

The long span of human history has taught us a few things about what works in building a stable, healthy society . . . and what doesn't. Sometimes this wisdom comes to us through the mists of time as part of the teachings and taboos of our great religions. Think of the Ten Commandments, for instance, as God's way of telling His children "Don't put your hand on the hot burner of the stove."


Eternal 2-year-olds that we are, this is rarely compelling. Likewise, as we see today, rarely do we find ancient religious teachings and societal taboos against any manner of things -- like homosexual activity and, now, gay marriage -- compelling.

FOR A COUPLE of centuries or more, we've treated the earth itself as another thing with which we might do as we will. As if all creation belonged just to us, to use as we will and to abuse as we might, laying aside the consequences for another day.

Another day has arrived. The consequences now asserting themselves include a radically warming climate, which we now know is a direct result of centuries of wantonly belching carbon emissions into the air in pursuit of industrial might, ever more creature comforts and three automobiles in every garage.

In 1870 or 1912 or 1957, we merely thought we were building a better life through industry. Prosperity through petrochemicals. Greater happiness from greater consumption.

In 2057, our children and grandchildren will be paying for our ignorance -- and arrogance -- with brutally hot summers, vicious storms (and more of them), wilder winters and coastal cities slipping under the whitecaps of the swelling seas. Who knew?

Well, 60 years ago, we certainly had no idea. We possessed more hubris than knowledge and more optimism than ecological imagination. This was reflected in our actions, and actions have consequences . . . which someone will have to pay.

REGARDING society's wholesale acquiescence to the "gay agenda" and the acceptance and normalization of same-sex marriage, we're now hell-bent on turning taboo and societal norms upside-down within a generation. What we today proclaim as normative and just, 25 years ago was deviant and unthinkable.

With that kind of overturning of the wisdom of the ages -- with that kind of societal rush to judgment -- what could go wrong?

What could have gone wrong with the explosive growth of no-fault divorce? The normalization of procreation outside of marriage? The resulting explosive growth of single-parent households?

What could have gone wrong with the attempt to fix some of the above with more and more legal abortion? With creating a contraceptive mentality instead of a let's-build-a-family mentality? Yes, we have our "freedom," but someone has to pay the bill for it. Oftentimes, that would be our children.

Every time, it's the taxpayer. If there's a recipe for widespread poverty and social instability, "First, you have a kid but not a husband . . ." is the sociological equivalent of "First, you make a roux. . . ."

But in 1960, or '65 or '72, who the hell knew? Well, yeah, those religious nuts, but they're hardly an objective source.

"Haters" never are . . . until we're counting on them to help us clean up one of those "Who knew?" messes we've made for ourselves and now can't escape. Not only are we arrogant and ignorant, we're also presumptuous.

Good thing those Jesus-freak Gumps are too hatefully stupid to catch on to that, right?

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."


(snip)

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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The legacy of lead: A heavy weight to bear?


Omaha has one of the poorest black populations in the United States, one unusually bereft of a middle class.

Educational achievement lags in this community, while unemployment and social pathologies soar.

The city's African-American community, centered on the near north side of town, also is the center of violent crime in Omaha.

The near north side of Omaha also happens to lie within an EPA Superfund site, where scores of millions of dollars are being spent to clean up widespread lead contamination, the unwelcome legacy of some 120 years of the area's history. The legacy is that of the ASARCO lead refinery, which called Omaha home for all that time and where several smelters were consolidated at the corner of Fifth and Douglas in 1899.

The combined operation eventually became the largest lead smelter in the world, and it stayed in business until 1997.

It belched massive amounts of toxic lead particles into the Omaha sky. For decades and decades the pollution spewed, and where it landed, we pretty much knew -- the near north side, largely.


THE NEAR north side, the heart of black Omaha. Largely poor black Omaha. Often uneducated black Omaha. Often dysfunctional black Omaha.

Often violent black Omaha.

You think a century or more of lead contamination -- lead ingestion by decades of inner-city children -- might have anything to do with any of the above? After all, we do know of the neurological effects of chronic lead exposure. They're not good, FYI.

You ever wonder -- after accounting for socioeconomic, family and cultural variables -- how much of the intractable majority-minority achievement gap in education might be due to chronic lead exposure? I'm starting to.

AND IT SEEMS, concerning violent crime in America, some Tulane University researchers and others have been wondering, too.

That wondering led to extensive research and number crunching, which led to a just-published paper concluding
"Yes. Yes, lead does play a part." A story about the research appears on the Science Daily website:
Childhood exposure to lead dust has been linked to lasting physical and behavioral effects, and now lead dust from vehicles using leaded gasoline has been linked to instances of aggravated assault two decades after exposure, says Tulane toxicologist Howard W. Mielke.

Vehicles using leaded gasoline that contaminated cities' air decades ago have increased aggravated assault in urban areas, researchers say.

The new findings are published in the journal Environment International by Mielke, a research professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Tulane University School of Medicine, and demographer Sammy Zahran at the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University.

The researchers compared the amount of lead released in six cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans and San Diego, during the years 1950-1985. This period saw an increase in airborne lead dust exposure due to the use of leaded gasoline. There were correlating spikes in the rates of aggravated assault approximately two decades later, after the exposed children grew up.

After controlling for other possible causes such as community and household income, education, policing effort and incarceration rates, Mielke and Zahran found that for every one percent increase in tonnages of environmental lead released 22 years earlier, the present rate of aggravated assault was raised by 0.46 percent.
IF CAR EXHAUST can do that, one has to wonder what societal havoc the onetime world's largest lead refinery might have wrought, and to what degree, upon our fair city . . . and its most vulnerable population.

You just have to wonder.

Perhaps it's high time the city's newspaper, the
Omaha World-Herald, started wondering, too. Every little bit of information helps in tackling the most intractable of maladies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A confederacy of dunces


Getting between the oil industry's posterior and Louisiana politicians' lips is a tight spot only Rhett Butler could love -- "I've always had a weakness for lost causes once they're really lost."


Odd that it was a Yankee academic and not Capt. Butler embarking on such a quixotic scheme Monday before a joint meeting of state House and Senate natural-resources committees. Either he was making the kind of profit the fictional Butler did from running guns to the Confederates, or the man just had no idea what he was walking into.

The Oregon economics professor's first mistake, sad to say, was in going to Louisiana in the first place. Nothing good could come of it.

His second mistake was in telling Louisianians --
politicians, no less -- what he took to be the truth, instead of what they wanted to hear.

THE THIRD mistake, as reported by The Advocate in Baton Rouge, was a doozy. He told the legislators that an LSU professor was dead wrong (and guilty of sloppy research) in his report arguing that the state was losing beaucoup revenue and jobs by not throttling lawsuits over environmental damage from old oilfields.
W. Ed Whitelaw, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, said the widely quoted analysis omitted relevant facts, including any mention of two hurricanes.

David Dismukes, an LSU professor who works for the LSU Center for Energy Studies, released an analysis in February that found that during the past eight years, Louisiana missed out on more than 30,000 oil and gas jobs and support positions because of what
are called “legacy lawsuits.”

The lawsuits are over the extent of cleanup of environmental damage caused by oil producers’ drilling practices years ago.

A joint hearing of the Louisiana House and state Senate committees on Natural Resources met Monday to “informally discuss the issues” involving legislation that would change the procedures leading to lawsuits over the environmental damage.

“Legacy lawsuits are strongly and negatively correlated with Louisiana drilling activity,” Dismukes’ report says. “Increases in legacy lawsuits are correlated with reductions in conventional Louisiana oil and gas drilling.”

Whitelaw, founder of ECONorthwest, a Portland, Ore., company that provides financial
analysis for businesses and governments, said Dismukes’ widely quoted analysis has several major flaws.

“Understand that these errors, and there are three or four big ones, any one of which is enough to render his analysis nonsense,” Whitelaw said. “These are rookie errors.”
OOOOOOOOOH. Bad move.

In the Gret Stet, legislators reserve the right to starve Louisiana universities to death, but they'll be damned if some damn Yankee is gonna come down and tell 'em they're getting what they pay for. Or not getting what they refuse to pay for.

At any rate, ancestral hatred, a raging inferiority complex, a genuine lack of intelligence and good old bayou buffoonery combined for a quite predictable display of pique and posturing. Like I said, I hope Whitelaw's making obscene money for his expert testimony.
In the joint committee hearing, state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, came to Dismukes’ defense, asking former U.S. Rep. Chris John, who now heads the Baton Rouge-based industry group Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, how he felt about Whitelaw’s testimony.

“It always chaps my hide when folks come in here from out of state and degrade our universities and our faculty,” Chabert said.

John agreed, saying the oil and gas industry works closely with LSU, his alma mater.

“It is something that we should consider when a person from the Oregon Ducks would actually sit at this table; we’ve had our issues with the Oregon Ducks,” Johns said.
WHAT (expletive deleted) morons. What clowns.

It says nothing good about Louisiana that it's occurred to no one that so many of the state's political maladies could be solved by no longer reminding its politicians to breathe.

It also says nothing good about the place that it's occurred to so few there that the rest of America isn't laughing
with Louisiana, but instead at Louisiana.

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.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

F*** stuff


God bless the Landless Peasant Party.

And God save Angus X, wherever he might be after his unfortunate loss in the British national elections this spring.

An old friend was musing about the present doings of Land Is Power -- the party annual meeting is coming up Saturday at an Edinburgh cafe -- so I wandered over to the website of Angus X and the landless peasants . . . and found an amazing video.

No, really. That's it above --
The Story of Stuff. Please watch it.

WHEN I was watching this amazing presentation by Annie Leonard, I thought "This is pure Catholic social-justice kind of stuff here. I'll bet Glenn Beck hates it." And sure enough. . . .

Gosh, I feel so dumb now. The conservative ubercapitalists quickly reassured me by saying market efficiency and ongoing miniaturization will solve many of the problems of the sustainability and disposal of our abundant stuff.

Besides, we have a whole planet to be mined. We've barely scratched the surface. Why, if we mine deep enough -- through the earth's crust and well into the mantle, which we could do as technology advances -- we could have all the raw materials we need to make more and more stuff.

Deep extraction, that's the ticket. What could go wrong with that?

Like I said, The Story of Stuff is pretty standard Catholic social teaching. Don't believe me, look it up.

This little fact -- in addition to making Glenn Beck even crazier than usual -- also is likely to dismay one of the film's producers, the Tides Foundation, which believes we can best care for the poor and powerless of the world by helping them abort their poor and powerless offspring.

Sigh . . .
in a fallen world, nobody bats 1.000. Well, at least fetuses are biodegradable, right?

WE NOW return you to Angus X, who remains not safe for work . . . or the kids. But kind of spot on, nevertheless.

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

or

(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


(snip)

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.

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:
47
So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs.
48
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation."
49
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You
know nothing,
50

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."
51
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,
52
and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
53
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.


(snip)

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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bloody Priceless is wot it is

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Hey, BP! Don't sweat Greenpeace.

All the eco-activists did was shut down your London petrol stations for a day, as we learn here from
MSNBC:
As BP CEO Tony Hayward resigned under a cloud Tuesday, thousands of British motorists got an unexpected reminder of the oil spill that's wreaked havoc in the Gulf of Mexico.

Protesters with the environmental group Greenpeace said they shut off fuel supplies at 46 BP gas stations across London just in time for the morning rush-hour. Small teams of activists used a standard shut-off switch to stop the flow of fuel oil at the targeted stations. The switches were then removed to prevent most BP outlets in the capital from opening.

And to ensure there was no chance of drivers buying gas, demonstrators in fluorescent vests and helmets locked green metal fences around some sites.

"What BP needs to do is not just change CEOs it needs to actually come up with a new strategy," Greenpeace U.K.’s chief executive John Sauven said at one of the shuttered stations in Camden, north London.
ACTUALLY, poetic justice would have involved blowing those stations up and filling your headquarters building with crude oil.

But that wouldn't have been sporting, would it?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A foundation of . . . sand


Oh, what a tangled web he weaves when Bobby Jindal first practices to deceive.


Here's a good one, from an op-ed piece the Louisiana governor had today
in The (Shreveport) Times:
When booms did begin to arrive, it was too little and too late in many areas, so we proposed a 24-segment sand berm plan to protect our shoreline by using the natural framework of our barrier islands to help block and trap oil for collection before it gets into our marshes. Even after we demonstrated the effectiveness of sand berms, it took us weeks to convince the Coast Guard to approve even six segments from this plan, and then longer for us to force BP to fund the work.

In what has now become a pattern, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife shut down our dredging operations on the northern Chandeleurs
[sic] Islands recently where we had already created 4,000 feet of land to protect our interior wetlands from oil impact, and indeed it has already worked to stop oil. A U.S. Department of Interior official said they were worried that our dredging operations would hurt a bird habitat nearby. The only problem with that is we were dredging in a permitted area in open water and there isn't a place for a bird to land for a mile.
IN THE PHOTO above, you can see all the earth-moving equipment several feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico, atop one of the governor's "effective" sand berms.

The trouble with building sand berms in the middle of the ocean, however, is that the waves wash them away absent something to hold them together -- riprap, or grasses and other vegetation, for example. Obviously, nothing's holding these berms together.


ABOVE is one of the berms off the Chandeleur Islands on June 25. Next is that same berm July 2, photographed from a higher altitude.


AND THEN . . . last week. Even accounting for the possibility of a really high tide, that doesn't look like engineering success -- or an effective oil-spill barrier.


YOU UNDERSTAND the need to try even iffy propositions, given the urgency here and the consequences of doing absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, the chance of doing anything useful on the Louisiana coast is diminished by the Mexican standoff between the dithering, incompetent Obama Administration and the hyperventilating, mau-mauing (and clueless) tag team of Jindal and the perpetually apoplectic president of Plaquemines Parish, Billy Nungesser.

I had wanted to think the best of folks like Nungesser and Jindal in this, even though I see Jindal as, alas, an even bigger disaster as governor than Kathleen Blanco. In short, I've been away from Louisiana long enough that my Spidey senses have atrophied some.

In other words, I f***ed up. I trusted that a collection of Louisiana politicians couldn't be that stupid or --
alternatively -- cynical.

READ for yourself what Discovery.com had to say Monday about what a boondoggle this is, a news item based on a retired professor's blog post. And reflect now that this crew is all about building giant rock jetties across an inlet by Grand Isle.
A dramatic series of of aerial images show that plans to build artificial islands to block oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill from reaching Louisiana's sensitive marshland appear to be crumbling. Literally.

Two months ago, against the advice of many coastal scientists, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal began furiously campaigning for the construction of six artificial islands to hold back the advancing oil. The federal government quickly granted Jindal his wish, and construction on the islands has been continuing apace.

But images taken of one construction site near the northern edge of the Chandeleur islands appear to show the sea washing away a giant sand berm over the course of about two weeks.

The first image . . . was taken on June 25. The second and third . . . were taken from roughly the same vantage point on July 2 and 7. All three images were first published yesterday by coastal scientist Leonard Bahr on his blog, LACoastPost.

Bahr, a former researcher at Louisiana State University, spent 18 years in the governor's office, advising five administrations on their coastal policy.

"There have been a number of plans over 20 years to save the coast," he said. "But after Katrina, it morphed into 'coastal protection,' which gives me pause."

The crucial difference is that within the Jindal administration, coastal policy has been cast as a war between man and the sea. Plans have been devised to build massive levees and other earthworks to defend the Mississippi River delta and its marshes from the Gulf of Mexico.

(snip)

"Building what they call 'the Louisiana wall' makes sense at first, but the science doesn't support it," Bahr said. "The science should be leading this issue, but it isn't. It never has."

Unfortunately, the berms project has charged ahead in this vein, seeking to build (and spend hundreds of millions of dollars) first, and ask questions later.

LET ME say again: I was wrong. And CNN and Anderson Cooper are just as wrong -- probably more so -- for giving mau-mauers like Jindal and Nungesser a nightly pass to swamp unsuspecting viewers with pure propaganda when they no more know their ass from a hole in the ground than do Obama's nincompoop bureaucrats.

Then again, these Yankees can be forgiven, I suppose, for not knowing the score. I should have known better, that Louisianians -- particularly their elected officials -- have an almost limitless capacity for losing their s*** in a crisis. This almost always results in people running around, wild-eyed, saying crazy things and doing things even crazier.

Remember Ray Nagin's and police chief Eddie Compass' blood-curdling-yet-utterly-false reports about all the rapes and murders in the Superdome after Katrina? And the FBI is still cleaning up the aftermath of New Orleans cops killing innocent civilians in Algiers and on the Danziger Bridge.

God knows what fresh hell will come out of this one-two punch of federal deadheads and Louisiana pieces o' work.