Friday, June 25, 2010

Requiem for a Coastline, Part 2

Here we are at day 67 of the Gulf oil spill and things are still going to hell down there. After much fanfare they partially topped off the gushing oil pipe with some kind of cap, which worked sort of well until some underwater robot came by and screwed it up. So they had to open up a bunch of valves and recalibrate something which allowed the oil to gush out again just as before. This is what passes for progress in this situation.

Meanwhile the oil is spreading to the beaches and has wreaked havoc on Pensacola Beach, Florida. It was really heart-rending to see how emotional the residents of that city became when they realized this was only the beginning. They could see their former way of life slip and ebb away just like the tide, except that it will probably not be coming back for a very long time. Probably the hardest things to see go away are the most intangible - qualities that you can't feel or touch, but their absence will change everything. There are ominous stories of oil not only on the surface, but under water where it cannot be seen, and where we can't track where it's going or how extensive it is. And now, the possibility of the season's first hurricane looms further south in the Caribbean Sea. What that will do to an already cataclysmic situation will probably redefine the term "disaster" for the entire world.

And who knew the Brits would suck so badly at public relations? From the very beginning BP seemed to have tremendous luck finding one enormous PR pothole after the other to fall into, the first being a put-upon CEO Tony Hayward complaining that he "wants his life back." Well, I'm thinking the Gulf coast residents want their lives, their livelihood, and their way of life back, too. Have a cup of Earl Gray and a scone with clotted cream on me, Tony, and come back when you've thought about what you said. Then some other high muckety-muck in the company said he felt sorry for the "little people" who are having such a rough time. Some of these aforementioned "little people" felt like they had been sucker-punched in the mouth and then told they were a punk-ass bitch just for good measure. In the BP official's defense, English is not his primary language and probably didn't exactly mean that as it came across. But in this sound-bite world, that doesn't matter - the damage is done and people were steamed about it. Then Tony Hayward again threw oil on that fire by taking a day off to race his yacht in the pristine waters near the Isle of Wight off the English coast. That SO did not play well with the more egalitarian American audience. Add to all that BP's relentless low-balling of their estimates of how many gallons of oil are actually being spewed into the gulf, and their multi-million dollar advertising campaign telling all of us not to worry because they are doing so well in handling the cleanup and paying out claims (a campaign which is having exactly the opposite of the intended effect), and you have all the ingredients of a screw-up of epic, Biblical proportions.

And then Congress, who has never met a bad situation that it couldn't mess up even more, came through for us again big time at a Congressional committee investigation of the oil spill. The day before, the top brass at BP came to the White House for a good old-fashioned spanking by President Obama, and then this idiot Congressman from Texas (name is unimportant since they're all idiots) gets up at the committee hearing and apologizes to the BP executives for the shoddy treatment afforded them at the White House. Oh that made such a lovely sound bite all over the news programs for like three days. This brought a veritable flood of apologies from the lip-flapping Texan and a number of other Republican leaders but amazingly, they still allowed this moron to keep his seat on the Congressional committee. I really hope the Democrats can make political hay out of this one, and make the country realize that the "GOP" should really be the "GOBP."

And while we're on the subject of disgusting, loathsome, toxic spills, Sarah Palin, Queen of the Inbred, let a vast quantity of stupidity gush out of her mouth again at some speech last Friday in Turlock, California. Palin lent her "star power," such as it is, to raise money for a worthy cause, California State University-Stanislaus - a seemingly generous act until you understand that she still found it within herself to charge a $75,000 speaker's fee and request $18,000 in first class travel and accommodations for her scrawny worthless ass and all the crack whores and meth addicts she drags with her from Wasilla, Alaska. Way to raise money, Cal State Stanislaus, drop nearly $100K just to listen to some ignorant hillbilly rant about the evils of the "lamestream media" while being only dimly aware that if it weren't for the "lamestream media" that she so gleefully criticizes, she would be stuck in some 2-by-4 cage in a Wasilla breeding farm, popping out litters of babies to ensure that the prisons and drug dealers will be in business for decades to come.

This oil spill is far, far from over, and I fear it's going to one of those national catastrophes that will demarcate time into "before the spill" and "after the spill." The effects will be with us for decades and the impact of the destruction to the environment is only just begin felt. It probably won't be seen as on a par with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, since that incident was immediate, highly visual and instantly horrifying. The oil spill is a completely different event - much slower, not particularly flashy, and much more long-lasting - but in terms of sheer awfulness it will be up there in the rankings of infamy. But I do believe it will change how things are done in this country forever, as the terrorist attacks did, and maybe in the long view of history that will turn out to be the only good thing that comes from it. But right now all I see are soiled beaches and sea birds, turtles and dolphins dying from this expanding oil plague that the hubris and recklessness of man has inflicted on a singularly special and unique area of the Gulf coast.

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