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 email@example.com.
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.