The Apple Tree and the Gazebo

An Allegory

So this farmer has a section of low-lying land that is perpetually flooded with water, land that came as part of his family’s original grant more than a century ago. Right in the middle of it, miles away from anything, is a hill that rises up above the swamp. Getting to the hill requires mucking through the swamp, and chances are you’ll die in the process. So difficult is getting to this hill that no one in the farmer’s family has ever visited the hill. As far as the farmer knows, no man has set foot on this earth.

One day, his neighbor realizes he can see this hill from the breakfast nook of his own home. He believes the hilltop would make a suitable place for a picturesque stone gazebo and, say, an apple tree. Understanding that the land is neither accessible nor useful to the farmer, and knowing he will only ever visit it this one time, the neighbor approaches the farmer and arranges to purchase the hill for a small sum, leaving to the farmer the swamps, which are somewhat valuable as a backup source of irrigation water.

To build his gazebo, the neighbor charters a helicopter and flies out the crew, the materials, and a seedling. They work through the morning and into the night to build the stone gazebo and plant the small seedling. Then, their work done, they leave on the same helicopter that delivered them.

Years pass. The apple tree grows. The gazebo weathers, and sure enough, the neighbor possesses a completely private view of this hilltop. He has attained his goal.

One day, the sheriff realizes that the appearance of the gazebo coincided with the disappearance of a load of stone from the quarry. He believes the neighbor stole the stone and used it to install the gazebo. This is a grave sin, and the sheriff approaches the judge. The judge agrees it’s likely that the gazebo and the stone theft are related, and he grants the sheriff’s request to search the hilltop.

The sheriff goes to the farmer, who owns the land surrounding the gazebo. “Take me to the gazebo,” the sheriff demands. The farmer informs the sheriff he has no means of accessing the hill, has in fact never been to the hill. “The neighbor is the one who put that there. He owns the gazebo and the hill. Perhaps you could speak to him?” The sheriff is incensed. He demands again that the farmer take him to the hill, to the gazebo. “It is your land that surrounds this hill, and it was your land that made this gazebo possible. Take me there.”

The farmer hangs his head. “Sheriff, I’m sorry. But we have no way to the gazebo. There is not a road across the swamp.”

“So build the road,” the sheriff says.



Image credit: Naik Michel. See more amazing photos here:

The end of hatred on (our) airwaves?

(Or: Rush Limbaugh should just STFU.)

I believe we are witnessing the death of hatred on the public’s airwaves.

Let me start by saying that I will defend, to the death, the right of anyone to say anything they damned well please, so long as they do not represent a public threat (the classic “shouting fire” rule).  When Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves on his nationally syndicated talk radio program and verbally attacked a Georgetown student because she wants her insurance to pay for birth control, he inadvertently taught us a valuable lesson.

This is America, where every citizen has a right to say whatever vile, hate-filled and disgusting things they can think of. Thank the Founding Fathers and the First Amendment for that right. Rush is absolutely protected from prosecution from the government for calling the student a slut, a whore, and several other equally unflattering and, frankly, misogynistic names.

But that doesn’t mean Rush is free from the effect of his words.

Today, national advertiser “The Sleep Train” pulled its ads from Limbaugh’s show, citing intense blowback from the mattress manufacturer’s customer base, which took to the interwebs to defend the young woman against Rush’s fury. The advertiser made what it believes to be the prudent decision to cease a voluntary affiliation with someone who spouts hatred and venom, as Rush did in his attack on the Georgetown student. This will cost Rush and his investors precious revenue and will cut, however insignificantly, into that $20 million he makes a year. To his credit, Rush has yet to call out The Sleep Train on their withdrawal from his program.

But Rush and his somewhat-smaller bank book is not where the real story lay. For that, one has to understand how syndicated radio works.

Talk radio operates on advertising revenues. Rush makes money because Sleep Train pays him to run its ads during his program. Affiliates pay Rush for the right to broadcast his show, in which Rush has a certain number of advertising minutes reserved for The Sleep Train and other show sponsors. The show comes down with gaps in Rush’s programming, which the individual affiliates hope to fill with advertising of their own — enough to pay the affiliate fee and to produce a profit  justify carrying his program.  Pay attention, because this is where it gets a little tricky.

Radio stations sell those ads to local businesses. Some stations also take part in regional or national advertising networks that ship them ads to fill space. So, without having any real input, Molly Mabry Realty and Joe’s Seafood Emporium are advertising on the Rush Limbaugh Show, whether they realize it or not.  So are some national companies, like Century 21.

And lest you think Century 21 is unconcerned about this dilemma, they took to Twitter today to confirm that they are in point of fact not a sponsor of the Rush Limbaugh Program, in direct response to the Georgetown Birth Control flap.

Now the affiliates are involved in revenue loss, perhaps they will start paying attention to what goes on their airwaves. Just maybe, they’ll take notice of Rush’s antics and rein in the Big Guy. Or, maybe, they’ll find out he can’t be reined in and they’ll just remove him from the airwaves all together. Either way, this is the start of something very different, very exciting and quite new. And Rush doesn’t get to complain about this. It’s simply the effect of the free market.

God bless the United States of America.

It really is all George Bush’s fault

Dear Howler Monkey Chorus:

The current national debt, totaling some $15.9 trillion dollars, is easy to understand. One third of it, $5.4 trillion, existed prior to 2000. That means, in 11 years, the debt has gone up about $1 trillion a year.

Now, of that $11 trillion, fully half of that money can be attributed to two policies enacted between 2000 and 2001: the “tax cuts” (we really should call them deferments), and the two wars. Total cost of those two items: $5.18 Trillion.

That leaves, of the $11 trillion, roughly $6 trillion in “new” debt–since 2000. So we have to look at that breakdown as well. To examine the “new” debt, we must look at additional and new programs enacted–those things that we put into place *knowing* the money would have to be borrowed to pay for them. After all, how ridiculous would a family of four look if, instead of living in the mobile home their mama gave them for *free*, they paid $900,000 for a house in Frenchman’s Bend and then started griping about the mortgage?

The single most expensive new program in the last 11 years, aside of course from the aforementioned tax cuts and the two wars, was Medicare Part D. Total cost during that period of time: $980 billion…which we can, with interest compounded, safely round off to a cool trillion, bringing our total to $6.18 trillion of our *current* debt directly attributable to the policies of George W. Bush.

But we’re not done with the Bush Administration just yet. For we still must address the FOURTH most expensive new program in the last 11 years: No Child Left Behind. The president’s cornerstone educational program cost taxpayers some $600 billion in new spending over the life of that program, bringing the total cost of Bush’s largest spending initiatives to $6.78 trillion in borrowed money.

A quick note before we proceed: this is money that was *actually borrowed* to finance these new expenditures and not just an amalgamation of the “cost projections” over 20 or 30 years. In other words, when you carry out the Bush spending for another 3 decades, you can safely add another $16 trillion in debt, if the Congress and the various future administrations do nothing to curtail *just that spending*, which, to date, they have not.

We’re going to get to my point in a minute, but I wanted to address something. I called the Bush tax cuts “tax deferments.” They are a real-dollar cost because the lost revenue meant *borrowing* money to pay for existing programs. We didn’t cut spending–at all–to offset the taxes. Thus the Government will *eventually* have to generate revenues (the only way they can do this is through taxes, mind you), to pay for the tax “cuts”. Those taxes will *eventually* get paid by *someone*.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the last 3 years of this 11 year cycle. During the three years of the Obama Administration, the budget has run as follows:

  • 2009 – $5.9 trillion
  • 2010 – $5.9 trillion
  • 2011 – $6.0 trillion
  • 2012 – $6.2 trillion (projected)

Compare this government increase – literally less than than the core rate of inflation – with the the 8 years of the Bush Administration.

  • 1999 – $3.0 trillion
  • 2000 – $3.2 trillion
  • 2003 – $3.9 trillion
  • 2008 – $5.3 trillion

Go back to the 2009, 2010 and 2011. During that period, government expenditures have remained flat. There has been no significant upward trend in government spending. Yet the debt has increased more than $5 trillion during that period to bring us to that magic number of $16 trillion.

With no new spending, we’re $6 trillion more in the hole? How is this, you ask?

It’s quite simple.

We’re still paying for all of the Bush era spending policies and have not cut spending to compensate.

When you hear “Obama’s spending will bankrupt us,” just look at the Federal Budgets under his administration. If we’re spending the same today as we were spending when he took office, then it isn’t his spending that’s bankrupting us.

Now, in all fairness, does the current administration bear the responsibility to reign in these problems? Absolutely. Are these problems the fault of Obama, though? Not at all.

That’s not fair, some of you think? Well, I was not the one who was stupid enough to run for president, now, was I?

An Open Letter to the Bully Tracy Morgan

Or: Why people ignore celebrities, even when they’re right

Dear Mr. Morgan,

As a huge fan of NBC‘s 30Rock,  I’ve grown accustomed to your on-screen persona, Tracy Jordan, spewing any amount of stupidity. So it really came as no surprise to me when I read on that you had taken to the stage at the Ryman Auditorium and unleashed a string of unfunniness that I can only hope you intended as a joke. A really bad joke.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe you did intend this as an unfunny joke but instead were attempting to be legitimately funny by singling out in a crass or otherwise shocking way a minority (gays in this case) in order to endear yourself and entertain the majority (everyone else). We have a word for this in our language, Mr. Morgan: bully.

I am not surprised that you think bullied gay kids should just toughen up and deal, Mr. Morgan. Why am I not surprised? Because you, sir, are a bully. You’re part of the problem. But it goes beyond bullying.

As a media celebrity, you have a pulpit from which to speak that many of us — even the more reasonable amongst us — will never have. Because of your hard work and your talent (and more than a little luck, as you yourself have admitted on many occasions), you have a platform from which you can enlighten and edify the people around you.

Take for examples Lady Gaga, Bono, Madonna, Sean Penn, George Clooney and Princess Dianna.  Right there you have individualism and tolerance, international monitary policy as a tool for fighting poverty, children’s rights, disaster relief, genocide awareness in the Sudan, and anti-landmine legislation the world over.

Of course, these individuals will find their messages a little more dulled today because, after all, they’re just celebrities and they don’t know anything. Just look at what that silly Tracy Morgan at the Ryman. That’ll tell you all you need to know about “celebrities”, don’t you think?

I have another solution, Mr. Morgan, for my own personal manner in which this will be handled: I’m turning off your T.V. show as long as you’re on it. Sorry Tina Fey, Sorry Jane. And, Mr. Baldwin, my humblest apologies. I just can’t stand to look at someone who I thought was acting who turns out to really be the person he’s playing on television, not when there is that much venom and hatred behind his “act.”

Yours truly,

Michael DeVault

The Lies People Tell

Or: Demythologizing the Politics of the Gulf Oil Spill

It seems like years ago that I was standing on the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, with a 4th generation shrimper who was watching wave after wave of oil-contaminated water lap onto the shore.

In that moment, this nameless man was no longer a shrimper. He was a “contractor” working for the “containment effort” and, instead of keeping the oil out to sea and cleaning it off the relatively calm waters there, he was inexplicably tasked with shoveling up pounds of sand and loading it onto trailers behind gas-powered golf carts, to be hauled off to some facility some where for some purpose no one could define.

I had seen ten thousand acres of oil coating delicate marsh grass in the ‘prairie’ between Port Fourchon and Grand Isle. And on the beach at Grand Isle, countless miles of orange “barricades” stacked three, four and even five high a few dozen yards away from the water’s edge, the last line of defense so to speak for the “bits of oil” that might sneak through the oil booms or Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s “burm” project. On those beach barricades, there wasn’t a run of more than five feet that didn’t see thick, dark crude running over it.

Every morning I would open my email and read about the newest discoveries of oil patches, the lengths of new slicks, and the areas of rapid response deployment. Then we would trek down to whatever carefully controlled media event we were sent to in order to control the image of the response. And in the afternoon, we’d spend the time between lunch and Gov. Jindal’s afternoon presser talking to people and trying to catch a glimpse of the devastation. Our days at “work” would usually end with the Governor, standing at a podium, the gulf gleaming behind him as he told CNN, Reuters, Agence France, and Pravda of the “miles and miles of oil,” inches and inches thick in places with exotic names like “Belle Terre” and “Barataria Bay.”

But that was then and, my how much has changed in the last eight months.

A new, insidious myth is spreading throughout the American body politic. It is spreading because many see Jindal as a great hope for a renaissance of the Conservative movement, a chance to take the Grand Ol’ Party back from the Tea Party interlopers and return it to a more genteel, refined version of Republicanism favored by Reagan, Nixon and even Eisenhower.

It goes something like this:

B.P. was the victim of a minor oil event and a major public relations disaster when the alarmist, Leftist, agenda-driven media hopped on the bandwagon and used the crisis to further its own anti-American wacko green movement agenda. For his part, Jindal was able to rise above the crisis and see the truth: that there was very little oil in the swamps and on the coast of Louisiana.

That is the new paradigm of oil spill history. And, to be fair, Jindal has had nothing to do with the creation or propagation of this myth. He has simply benefited from it.

So, let’s be clear on some facts:

1.) Eleven men were killed in the initial explosion and fire. Subsequently, more than 200 individuals were treated for cleanup related injuries or illnesses. The longterm health effects of the chemicals used in cleanup are still unknown.

2.) More than 320 miles of Louisiana shoreline were impacted to the point of “serious damage”. For perspective, the Louisiana coastline stretches from Mississipp to Texas, totaling 397 miles.

3.) More than 4.9 million barrels of crude oil poured into the Gulf. Of that, less than 1 million barrels were recovered.

4.) Though the spill dwarfed the Exxon Valdez incident, warmer water and a host of environmental factors could mean the oil itself will cause the least damage to life in the Gulf (exclusive of the marshes, which one ecologist said will disappear as a result of this  disaster). The biggest long-term effect of the spill will be the millions of gallons of chemical dispersants pumped into the water.

5.) The loss of wildlife is staggering: 6,814 dead animals were collected through November. Among them, 100 dolphins and 609 endangered sea turtles. Since November, another 68 dolphin carcasses have been collected, including more than a dozen malformed infant dolphins. Also, scientists are noting a new, more disturbing trend: serious birth defects in higher marine mammals.

I could keep going, but you should be at least starting to grasp the picture.

Do not let this new myth become the new paradigm in Gulf Oil Spill history. By keeping this issue active and alive in the inboxes of your representatives, talking about it to your friends, and passing on links to this post and other stories, you can play a part in making sure the American People are not the victims of a massive hoax perpetrated for socio-economic gains.

Meanwhile, write your congressman, your senators and, if you’re in Louisiana, the Governor and your state Legislators, to demand justice for the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Do not let the unscrupulous among us turn this into a political advantage or, worse, a lie to perpetuate the myth of the “responsibility” of B.P.

There is no weapon like a well-educated populace. The responsibility is ours.

Dreams of the Great Debate

NOTE: I’ve often heard or read of writers describing the vivid dreams that led them to write their great novels. Sadly, only twice have such dreams happened to me. The second occurred two nights ago. I’m just now writing about it. Enjoy. -md


There was a great debate raging in that space that exists only in the distance between consciousness and sleep. Twenty or so people crowded in around the table to yell their justification for why they are this character or that. In the corner, Maria Ramirez held her forehead in her palm, shaking her head in embarrassment. These are the people of her world, after all, and many of them are family.

Her father, Sam, is the next quietest one. He only occasionally steps forward to quietly contradict some edict issued by his wife. “What she meant to say was,” he states almost as effortlessly as breathing. That’s why he’s the King of Hearts.

Mrs. Ramirez seems to be in competition  with Susan Griffyn, the editor of University Press, which is anxiously awaiting the book Robert Felder is supposed to complete sometime in the next four months. Griffon and Ramirez and their increasing animosities only illustrate too well why one is the Queen of Hearts and the other is the Gryphon: they are both overbearing bullies who think theirs is the only judgement that should matter.

For his part, Felder is seated, Mad-Hatteresque, at the head of the table waving a solitary hand in the air, as if he is the maestro conducting a symphony of his own composition. He is blind, though, and cannot see the non-verbal cues suggesting what sounds like good, old fashioned arguing is in fact accelerating quickly to the point of a brawl.

There are faces, too, I do not recognize. These still-to-be cast individuals might carry some minor functionary role or could be the drivers of major, untapped plot-lines, the harbinger of some major, yet-unearthed theme or just a bit player in the larger tapestry my mind is weaving.

And somewhere between sleep and consciousness, in a cold-medicine haze, their personalities begin to take shape. Barbara Branden was right all those years ago when she told me writing is the work of the subconscious.

Now if I can get any one of them to stop yelling long enough to begin putting down their stories on paper, this new book will take shape.


(What Would Ayn Do?)

I’ve always heard people say negative things about Ayn Rand, the 20th Century writer and philosopher and, quite arguably, one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th Century America. Usually, the comments seem benign to the average listener. But to someone who grew up arguing about how to “properly parse that phrase,” and under the belief that “words have meanings,” the comments quickly turn into backhanded compliments.

So without mucking about, and to use an oft-repeated phrase: I read Ayn Rand when I was younger and she was an important part of my formative years. But I outgrew her.

The truth is, though, I haven’t really.

The ethics and epistemology of her philosophy, Objectivism, are so ingrained in my brain that there are times where my conscience speaks to me in a heavy Russian accent through the butt of a cigarette. While I have grown, I cannot say I’ve outgrown anything. Her novels We the Living and The Fountainhead still rank in my top 20 books and I can quote long parts of Atlas Shrugged in my sleep. The fact is, I hold a special place in my soul for Ayn Rand and her teachings, and hers is among the “my inspirations” wall just above my computer — and the “me wall of quasi-fame” in the study.

That’s her, sandwiched between Chaim Potok and William Shakespeare on the wall of fame.

My point is this: I don’t agree with Hillary Clinton or Clarence Thomas when they say, “she influenced me early on but I outgrew her.” No, you can’t say that. She becomes a part of you — just as anything else you take in does. Some things may form a bigger part of your makeup than others, but Chairman Mao‘s Little Red Book is an influence if you read it. That influence – positive or negative – doesn’t go away.

I say all of this to talk about an upcoming event. It’s something for which Randroids, Objectivists, and little-O objectivists have been waiting decades. The Atlas Shrugged movie.

“Tragedy” and “Epic” do not begin to describe the story of how this book – all 880+ pages of it – has made its way to the Big Screen. To call its path circuitous would be unfair to circuitous paths the world over. At various times Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have been attached to the project, casting rumors including Harrison Ford (as Hank Rearden) and Michelle Pffeifer (as Dagny Gaggart) and at one point Rand herself was working on a 17,980-part miniseries for CBS. (Remember, she died in 1982.)

So it was with not a little trepidation that I’ve followed this movie project. After all, how could a cast of “relative unknowns” do justice to characters that have towered over the subconsciousnesses of so many Libertarians for 63 years?

Having said all of that, I sat down today and watched the trailer for the first time. It’s up on YouTube and the movie’s site. I encourage you to watch it.

It helps that some Objectivists (note the big-O, ARI crowd) have been involved in the movie process and have reviewed the script. But I leave it to you to decide. Watch the trailer and tell me what you think. (Especially those of you who aren’t familiar with her magnum opus.)

Thoughts on the Governor

UPDATE: 4:57 p.m. I erroneously suggested below that Mr. Rogers made claims about Jindal’s future plans beyond the Governor’s mansion. This is not the case, as Rogers made no such claim. Any such thoughts about a potential Jindal bid for the Presidency or some other high office is either speculation on my part or attributable to other members of the state and national media. Updates to the original post are in bolded italics.

Anyone who follows my Facebook and Twitter feeds will know I’m all about politics. However, I very rarely blog about politics on my personal site. This morning, I read the analysis of Jindal’s future prospects by Chad Rogers of “The Dead Pelican” and had an additional thought worth mentioning.

I believe the pundits are spot on in their tea leaf readings. Jindal is not planning on sticking around. The Governor is pondering his next move. One point worth noting, though, is the timeframe in which a Jindal resignation might take place.

Current conventional wisdom is that Jindal will wait until Roger Villere wins the race and is sworn in. Jindal will resign, Villere will become governor and have to deal with the political fallout of the various and sundries of the Jindal-Blanco era. Meanwhile, Jindal will move on to bigger and brighter things — either a run at the Senate or some elder statesman role in the GOP ahead of the 2012 presidential race. This is one possibility.

However, there is another possible scenario to consider.

Currently, Scott Angelle holds the reigns of the Lt. Governor’s office. A Jindal appointee tapped to fill the unexpired term of Mitch Landrieu, Angelle is vested with the full weight and power of that office until a full-time replacement can be elected to fill the spot. It’s a tight field of candidates, too. And some of the names on the list are sure to raise  the ire of a sitting governor known for his fiscal conservatives.

Topping the list of Jindal non-starters is Republican Sec. of State Jay Dardenne. Long considered a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only), Dardenne’s support base is wide. After all — he’s the only candidate in the race to run for and win statewide office. That’s no small feat in a state with diverse cultures and political climates. Yet, Dardenne fairs well statewide. But he’s no Friend of Bobby.

Likewise, virtually any of the relative-unknown Democrats in the race would surely get the Governor’s blood pumping. The specter of a  popular, newly-minted and contrarian Lt. Governor breathing over his shoulder would surely make Jindal think twice about remaining in office. At the same time, though, resignation would elevate an anti-Bobby lieutenant governor to the level of influence to undo many Jindal policies and practices while giving some members of those decidedly ‘anti-Bobby’ factions of the Republican Party and virtually all of the Democratic pundits plenty of “See, he ain’t all he’s cracked up to be” ammo.

After all, who wants to run for President on their record while that record is being largely undone by his successor?

That brings to the fore one potential outcome no one has discussed — at least not publicly.

Buddhists talk of a “middle path” and Jindal has the unique opportunity available to get both outcomes: a new lieutenant governor to fill Landrieu’s term and a successor governor who will not undo his legacy before he can ride that popular wave to the Republican nomination in 2012. And it’s a scenario that, while frightening, is an all-too-possible outcome.

You see, anyone elected to the post of Lt. Governor will have to wait for their election to be certified. Then, they’ll have to set up a time to go to Baton Rouge to be sworn in. Until that moment, Scott Angelle will continue to serve as Lt. Governor — meaning he is Jindal’s constitutional successor until he’s out of the race.

In other words, Jindal can take a “wait and see” approach. If he likes the guy who’ll be Landrieu’s permanent replacement, he can swear in that person and then clear the way for a Jindal resignation. But what if he doesn’t like that individual? What if Dardenne pulls through or one of the Democratic upstarts takes the office? Well, it’s simple.

Jindal resigns before that person can be sworn in. Scott Angelle will immediately assume the governor’s job and the newly-elected Lt. Governor will remain just that — the guy holdin’ a spot emptied by Landrieu.

Far fetched? Maybe. But remember. This is Louisiana.

Gulf Coast – Final Thoughts.

Last week, I spent 5 days on the Louisiana Gulf Coast to bring a first-hand perspective from a Louisiana journalist. While I intended to blog daily about it, by Day Two I was so overwhelmed with what I saw, it has taken me a week to adjust to the staggering devastation I saw and to prepare these final thoughts. If you have questions or comments, leave them here or email

In the opening episodes of the Scyfy hit Battlestar Galactica, newly-minted President Laura Roslin and Cmd. Bill Adama have the following exchange:

Roslin: Commander, the war is over. We lost.

Adama: It hasn’t begun yet.

It’s a poignant moment between two people whose opinions are diametrically opposed to taking the actions recommended by the other party. Adama’s point: we haven’t begun to fight. Roslin’s, that fighting ended before it began. I prefaced this post with that exchange because it highlights part of the ongoing debate in the American Gulf Coast, specifically in the worst-hit portions of Louisiana — the Louisiana marshes and fisheries, upon which depend the seafood industry.

The Galactica metaphor holds up further when, later, we meet the impotent presidency of Gaius Baltar, who — due to events of his own making and some beyond his control — is reduced to an impotent proxy for an occupying force. In the “Oil Spill as Space Opera” metaphor, Adama is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Baltar is President Barack Obama. Laura Roslin, the fictional colonial president from BSG, is the yet-to-emerge capable and reasoned leader that is yet to arise.

Jindal does not recognize the war for the marshes, for the way of life on the Gulf Coast is lost. It was lost the day oil invaded Baritaria Bay and the marshlands on the other side of East Grand Terre. It was lost when oil surged over the containment booms and inland, poisoning the grass-filled waters. Those marshes, according to ecologists, will not recover and no amount of sand berms can save them now. The oil is there, the damage is done. Yet Jindal returns, time and again, guns ablaze, spending some $360 million to construct the sand berms championing a lost cause of “saving our way of life.” That way of life is gone and it is time to cease the expenditure of limited and valuable resources pretending its not. That $360 million is better spent relocating the affected communities and transitioning them into their next careers.

On the converse side of our metaphor is the president, hobbled by his own political pandering before the event and further rendered incompetent by a string of events set in motion decades before his tenure began. Because of our national military’s technological incapacity to address this type of disaster, we have had to rely on the foreign agents who allowed it to begin in the first place. Adm. Thad Allen, as the president’s proxy, has been reduced to rubber-stamping BP’s disastrously useless “response efforts.” We now have the very real situation where our military (National Guard and Coast Guard), civilian authorities (FAA, Wildlife and Fisheries, and NOAA) and independent businesses are taking orders from a relic of the British Empire (BP) more than two centuries after our last soldiers died to drive this very empire from our shores.

Money spent “saving the marshes” is wasted. Orders issued from BP to U.S. assets are tantamount to the Indian Rajahs under the Colonies. And meanwhile, the National Media fiddles while the coast is destroyed.

Yet, through the disaster are rising some leaders. Environmental advocate Erin Brockovich has become an outspoken voice for the workers handling potentially deadly chemical dispersants. Farsighted Hollywood insider Kevin Kostner has been tapped to provide a unique oil removal device — but only after both BP and the Federal Government were ridiculed in the international press for turning down his offer repeatedly. What we need now is our Laura Roslin to step forward and take charge, to relieve Jindal and Obama of the responsibilities of quick and intelligent decision making, a responsibility that both men have more than proven they are ill-prepared to assume.

And somewhere in it all, the national media needs to step up and begin telling the true story of what is happening in the Gulf states. That story starts on Grand Isle, where people there have been reduced from productive and self-sufficient citizens to the recipients of handouts, left begging for alms from the corporate giant whose irresponsibility, negligence and crimes have deprived them of a livelihood. But those are my words.

While down on Grand Isle, I spoke to one government official on the condition of anonymity. This person said it better than I could.

“We know we’re through. We’re just fighting over the table scraps and trying to hold on to whatever we can.”

There are three industries south of I-10: Seafood, Tourism and Oil and Gas.

Because of this disaster and our government’s disastrous response to it at all levels, all three of those industries will be decimated. The time has passed for us to avoid this unmitigated disaster. There is plenty of blame to go around, from the oil regulators to BP’s “company man” on the Deepwater Horizon, from Gov. Bobby Jindal to President Barack Obama. And criticizing any individual to the benefit of another is a fruitless and futile gesture in the most depraved and base partisanship imaginable. The disaster is equally the love child of BP and all levels of government, of the national economy and the international oil market. And, like a real child, the various players are 100 percent the parent. It isn’t divisible by percentages. They all have blood on their hands.

Today, I articulated my thoughts on this disaster and where we go from here. I repost it here as my final thoughts.

1.) Federalize the Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas National Guards. Place them under the direct command of Adm. Allen.

2.) Nationalize any and all domestic holdings of BP and place them in a trust to be managed by an independent third party until this crisis is over and everyone has been adequately compensated. Any profits generated by those holdings should be placed in Escrow as collateral to the expense BP has racked up on the backs of the individuals in the Gulf.

3.) Accept any and all offers for assistance. Any and all decisions on deployments of the vital resources and commodities are to be signed off on at the highest executive level. One person is in charge from here on out.

4.) Send the governors back to their capitols to do the work of their people not related to this Federal issue. While I respect their plight, this is no longer an issue they should independently handle. It’s time for one person to be responsible and direct the solutions.

5.) Close the hole, regardless of the possible affects on the oil at the bottom of it. If that means slamming it shut with 20 bunker-busters, so be it.

6.) Lift the moratorium on shallow water drilling and extend permits to shallow water operations off all coastal zones where there may be oil. Fuck your views and vistas California and North Carolina. We don’t know how to drill in deep water yet so you’ll just have to suffer with the rest of us.

7.) Place a permanent moratorium on deep-water rigs in U.S. waters until such a time we can demonstrate an ability and technological prowess to adequately address emergencies at those depths. That technology does not exist at present. If you can’t drill safely, then you don’t drill. Period.

8.) Immediately begin the controlled diversion of water through the Achatfalaya Basin from the Mississippi through the Old River Control Structure. I understand this is going to impact the superport temporarily, but we’ll just have to suffer for a few months while the waters from the Mississippi wash the oil out of our marshes.

9.) Immediately and without delay secure from the French the designs of their safe, reliable nuclear reactor design and duplicate their Nuclear regulatory permitting process. Immediately. Why? Because it’s the best and safest system in the world and removes the decades of red tape necessary to get a safe design permitted in America.

10.) End Federal subsidies to Big Oil and remove the trade barriers on the world’s largest producers. At the same time, establish a rule: if you engage in protectionist energy prices with U.S. produced crude oil, coal and natural gas, expect the same in return.

11.) End the purchase of oil by American companies through the Global oil market. You want oil, it comes from our soil. Period. No more funding our enemies at the gas pump.

12.) Conduct a thorough investigation into the DWH incident and, if criminal acts occurred (as I suspect they did), prosecute them at the highest levels and with the strictest application of the most stringent sentencing guidelines.

I leave you with that and encourage you to do whatever you can for the people of the American gulf coast who have lost their livelihoods to this unmitigated disaster. If you are religious, pray for them. If you are charitable, donate money. If you have time, volunteer your abilities.

And write to your congressmen, your senators and to the White House, to the governors, the state Legislatures and to the corporate titans whose policies and practices allowed this to happen and let them know. Their days are numbered.

Gulf Coast – Day Two: Grand Isle.

For the next few days, I’ll be blogging live from the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, to bring a first-hand perspective from a Louisiana journalist. If you have specific questions, feel free to e-mail them to: I’ll try to update this blog at least twice a day.

One of the most impacted areas so far has been Grand Isle, La., a tiny island community about two and a half hours southwest of New Orleans. Accessible only by a two-lane road, Grand Isle is remote, isolated and home to about 1,500 permanent residents and in the peak summer months, as many as 20,000 tourists and vacationers. The island stretches barely half a mile wide and runs for more than 10 miles. At its highest point, Grand Isle is seven feet above sea level.

The main thoroughfare through town is lined along both sides with elevated beach houses, apartments and even a few mobile homes. There are several local restaurants, a half-dozen motels, and two bustling marinas. In addition to the town’s permanent residents, a number of people typically rent homes for the summer. Typically.

This year, Grand Isle is lined with an infestation of “For Rent” signs. A local realtor said the summer rental season this year saw the most last minute cancelations they could recall. Meanwhile, the Army National Guard has taken up residence in several of the vacant structures, as have Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies and a number of workers. Grand Isle town council member Leoda Bladsacker said the town is thankful for the money being spent, but “it’s not the same,” she assured me.

Leoda was just one of the many people still in shock some 49 days into the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Mrs. Bladsacker said BP has been pumping money into the area to make up for lost revenues from tourism, fishing and shrimping. “They’re payin’ right now, but for how long?” she asked. For now, that’s a question BP representatives are hesitant to answer.

There’s a new “company man” on the ground, too. A semi-retired BP man, Bob Dudley, has become the public face of the company after several high-profile gaffes by BP CEO Tony Hayward. Though Dudley was quick to point out Hayward is “still the CEO of BP,” it was Dudley who finally secured the blessings of the world’s fourth largest company to begin paying for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sand berms — an exhaustive network of six-foot sand levees just beyond the barrier islands.

Despite BP’s release of the first $60 million in funding to state officials for the sand berms, I didn’t forget Mrs. Bladsacker’s question. Following an internationally-covered press conference, I approached Dudley with that very question. He declined to answer it and said he had “been instructed to not answer any media questions.” The reason he gave: he was traveling with the Governor and was told not to “delay his flight.” Perhaps Dudley didn’t realize Gov. Jindal was traveling on a Louisiana National Guard pave hawk and that the man in charge of that helicopter, Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau, answers to Gov. Jindal.

In other words, the flight wasn’t going anywhere until the Governor was good and ready.

Nevertheless, Jindal praised Dudley for his swift action in securing the $360 million needed to build the berms, but Jindal’s praise came with a bite: it wasn’t until a BP representative saw oil in the bay, inside the barrier islands, that the money started flowing. Forty-nine days into the disaster and more than 30 days since oil first invaded the barrier islands, today was the first time a representative of the company had seen the oil, Jindal said.

More tomorrow on today’s trip to Grand Isle…including an interview with environmental advocate Erin Brockovich, notes from Gov. Jindal.