We Just Tore Up Our Contract With Mother Nature

Or, more vividly, we just pissed and shit all over said contract.

Let’s talk about the oil spill. I wasn’t going to. I know, it’s silly, and it’s selfish, but man, with selling a house and trying to juggle projects and planning a new novel, it’s like… I read the news and I feel overwhelmed by it. Swept away in its foul current. Easy to read the goings-in in the world and come to the swift conclusion of, “Oh, right. We’re all ruined.” It’s hard not to see Cormac McCarthy’s The Road not long down the pike.

And so I said, hell with this. I don’t want to blog about the awful.

But I don’t know that I have much other choice.

So. Thoughts. In no meaningful arrangement.

It’s The Animals, Stupid

It was the images of the animals that did me in.

I don’t think I’m supposed to post those pictures here, ’cause I don’t own them, though a part of me wants to say, “Hey, fuck that, everybody needs to see these no matter what, and failing to click the link is not an excuse.” I mean, everybody should see this stuff.

Whatever. I urge you: click this to look at animals caught in the oil spill.

And read this article about it, too. A quote from said article:

“When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at,” said a BP contract worker who took the Daily News on a surreptitious tour of the wildlife disaster unfolding in Louisiana.

I know. It’s silly that it takes pictures of sad animals to make me — or others — care. But hey, it works. The more you think about it, animals represent a kind of innocence. They’re just animals. They didn’t do anything to deserve it. Fish gets eaten by a shark, well, okay. That’s the circle of life. That happens. Shark drowns in an oil slick, that’s not life. That’s awful. That’s wanton disregard. That’s far outside the weave and weft of standard operating procedure. So, the animals represent a strong image in this: as humans, we’re inclined I think to self-hate. “Well, there’s oil out there, and we fucked up, and maybe we deserve it.” Maybe. Maybe not. But the rest of Mother Nature, she’s innocent in all this.

Dolphins, fish, turtles, dead, dead, dead.

Birds, dead.

Marshes, grasses, sea plants, all dead.

The cleanup efforts may deoxygenate the oceans, causing further instability.

That’s just in the Gulf Coast.

Yesterday, the oil was spotted nine miles off the coast of Florida. Heck, tarballs were found in Key West in mid-May. (“Tarballs” was also my nickname at Fat Camp.)

The oil isn’t stopping. Hurricane comes, they say the oil could go far and wide.

The Info-War Is On

Information about the oil spill is growing online. Took longer than expected, I think, given the speed with which the Net disperses stuff. But now I’m seeing more and more memes geared toward the BP disaster (i.e. “Deepwater Horizon Spill”) –

The “suck my dick” shark.

Spongebob, dead.

Fake BP ads.

The fake BP Twitter feed.

Equal parts funny and sad. Two things the Internet does very well.

It seems lazy. As if commentary alone fixes things.

But satire has a place in all this. Satire’s working to get me worked up. And when you see things like the above article where BP is trying to hide the dead animals, or where they’re trying to conceal the things they already knew about the problem — hell, they had whiffs of the problem in 2009 — you start to see that this is very much a war of information. Yes, obviously, it’s about the oil and the containment and capping and cleaning of oil, but beyond that, it’s about who knows what, and when.

The Internet is an unregulated flow of information.

It’s good if we use it to channel truth. Or, at least, something approximating truth (as could describe satire).

It’s bad if we let corporate interests use it to channel propaganda. (And this is another reason why we don’t want a corporate-controlled Internet, by the way.)

Hell, the touching, frustrating blog post by Cherie Priest put me on the path toward writing this blog post. (And may I again say, “Read Boneshaker?” Yes. Read Boneshaker.)

Information is power. And we have that power.

Blog about this. Talk about it on the Twitterspaces or the Faceyfeeds. Retweet the images of the animals. It’s not a huge thing. But it’s something.

One of the most clear and affecting sites? If It Was My Home. Click that. Spread it around.

Oh! Hey, Look! Halliburton is Involved!

…because that’s always a good sign.

Halliburton is like one of those fictional companies in genre stories that’s always at the center of really bad shit. It’s like they exist just to fuck stuff up. Hey, the Iraq War’s going really bad — oh, look! Halliburton won more contracts! And they’re overcharging America for their shitty service! And soldiers are dying! What’s that? Halliburton accidentally released a toxic cloud in Farmington, New Mexico? And they’re implicated in “improper cementing,” thus helping to cause the goddamn awful ocean-destroying oil leaks in the Timor Sea and the Gulf Coast? Good times, good times.

I expect to turn on the local news, see a story about a guy who kicked a puppy to death, and see him wearing a Halliburton jumpsuit in his mugshot.

Halliburton: a company even Osama bin Laden thinks is evil.

Regulation, Baby, Regulate

Hey, great. Another reminder why we need to regulate giant companies.

You fuckfaces who think we need to de-regulate? Fuck off. Fuck you. The GOP has twisted a message and somehow turned people (like the Teabaggers) into defending Giant Corporations Who Are Rich And Will Go Stompy-Stompy On Your Ass If Given Three Dollars To Do So. To make an extra two cents on the dollar, these companies will poison you. Your children. Your dogs.

The anti-regulation crowd has tied the fortunes of Middle America to the fortunes of Big Companies. It’s insane. Newsflash, asshats: those people are rich, you people are not. The gulf between the rich and the poor in this country is growing just as fast as this damn oil spill and is easily as toxic.


Shut up.

Seriously? You really trust Humongous Faceless Corporate Interests over the interests of your fellow man? You’re saying we should trust them to do the right thing? Are you fucking apeshit? Companies do what’s in their best interest. And you can’t blame them. That’s Capitalism. But you can regulate them. You can put fences in place so they don’t leave their predefined area and go, ohh, I dunno, dumping oil in the bellies of baby seals. You can make sure they don’t repackage septic mortgages. You can make sure they don’t create and legalize corporate scams. You can make sure they’re not putting pesticides in our baby foods.

(Of course, the Teabaggers and the “deregulate!” crowd trust all the big companies, pretending like they have implicit confidence in humanity. Of course, “humanity” really means “white people.” They trust Monsanto and their terminator seeds, but they don’t trust… oh, that black guy over there. Or, God forbid, Mexicans in and around Arizona.)

We’re pretending like regulation damages Capitalism. Hey, dumbfucks, it’s not called Ethical Capitalism. It’s not called Compassionate Capitalism. Capitalism is just an idea. It’s just an economic model. You know what matters more than economic models? People. Actual, living, breathing people.

Also: dolphins.

Dolphins are more awesome than Capitalism.

We need to remember that the dollar serves us. We don’t serve the dollar.

And so I say: regulate. Regulate the unmerciful fuck out of giant companies. They have untold power. They have the ability to sway government in ways you could not possibly imagine. You’re for small government? You’re for the common man? Fine. Then own that. Mean it. Act on it. Giant companies create giant government. Giant companies stick an asbestos boot up the poop-chutes of the common man.

We don’t trust the common man: it’s why we have police.

So why do we trust big companies? Why don’t we have laws in place to protect us there?

How can you support that?

Write your legislature.

Demand regulation. Demand a criminal investigation into BP. Demand that lobbyists be shot in the head like the zombies they are.

Are We Fucked?

Probably. I sometimes think that things are just too big. The problem’s like a bad cancer. Not just this problem. Not just the oil spill. But everything. It’s like a mold problem. Or termites. “It’s everywhere.” You want to clean it out, you gotta just burn the house down.

Man, this is starting to sound like a crazy person’s manifesto. For the record, I am not advocating violent recourse. Please do not shoot lobbyists. Just, y’know, spray them in the mouths with bear mace.

It also doesn’t help that I’m watching The Wire. Seriously, if any show will make you doubt society’s ability to maintain itself, it’s that one.

But, even in the face of overwhelming awfulness, we can try to do some stuff, right?

What You Can Do

I was always told not to bring up a problem unless you have some solutions.

Okay. Solutions.

Some big, some small. In no particular order:

Stop sucking on the teat of bottled water. It’s a bullshit industry. No, really, check it out.

Design BP’s new logo for them.

Do not fill up at BP stations. Also: remember that some companies are subsidiaries of BP.

Donate to the National Wildlife Foundation.

Send a message to Congress. This one’s easy. The letter’s already written.

Cut oil consumption. Or, for every dollar of gas you buy (or oil for your oil tanks), send ten cents (i.e. 10%) to a charity like NWF or Oxfam.

Blog about it. Talk about it. Spread the word.

What else? What else can we do?


  • Man. I’m a biologist, a nature lover — not to mention a real live human person — and the reaction to the news, the reports, the images goes beyond anger or sadness or frustration. It’s violent. Physical. It’s the same damn response any forest-dwelling animal has when it hears the crackle of burning foliage, catches that faint first hint of smoke.

    We’re breaking shit. We’re breaking shit so bad, we may never fix it. Scratch that; we don’t fix shit, we just contain. We’re breaking shit so bad, it may never fix itself.

    Shortly after the advent of the atom bomb, Martin Heidegger put forth the idea that humankind was an eventual evolutionary dead end, because our capacity to destroy far outstripped our ability to procreate and support ourselves as a species. He thought we would’ve been better off had we gotten just smart enough to grow crops and build shelters, and then stopped. When shit like this happens, that theory sounds dead on to me.

    • @Chris:

      That is a terrifying and probably all-too-true thought. Evolutionary dead-end, indeed.

      Still — that’s the trick. It’s easy to fall into a feeling of, “Well, we’re pretty much fucked no matter what we do,” and so we feel like we’re putting a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound and then do nothing at all. But if everybody puts a Band-Aid, it might actually do something. It’s hard not to get sucked down into feelings of dread complacency.

      — c.

  • In line with “cut oil consumption,” use mass transit. If your area has a rail service that takes you from anywhere near your home to anywhere near your dayjob, use it. You’ll save money, reduce your stress and bend big companies like BP over a rail because you refuse to guzzle their poison.

    • @Josh:

      No doubt. I wish they’d finally commit to putting in a rail line from the Lehigh Valley to New York City. Ain’t gonna happen, I figure, but it’d be soooo nice.

      — c.

  • Words cannot do justice to this situation the way those pictures can. Still, words can add to the impact and maybe push more people to react.

    I live in the south. The “bible belt.”. Every day I hear how “If Bush were in office, this would be fixed already” and shit like that. Yeah, that’s why Bin Laden’s been captured you dumb fuck. I’m surrounded by ultra-conservative tea baggers. My wife’s brother even cut all contact with her when she expressed opposition to the situation in Arizona. Public transportation options here are almost non-existent, as it’s seen as a last resort for poor people and mostly minorities and no self-respecting person in our area would ride a bus (the closest functional commuter rail is in Atlanta, about 6 hours and a state away). The ignorance here is staggering.

    If nothing else, I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the ignorant masses, though they’re already blaming it on Democrats, liberals, environmentalists, etc. And I hope it’s not too late.

  • Ok, I’m probably going to get flamed for some of what I say here. But here goes…

    First, Nigeria. Look it up. Before we all start moaning and groaning about the Gulf Coast, let’s look at a country that we fuck up just as bad on a regular basis for exactly the same reason. And no one gives a fuck because it’s over there. If we’re going to tackle the problem of Big Oil, let’s do it on behalf of the whole planet, not just us.

    Second, boycotting BP stations is a dumb reaction. Your $40 of gas isn’t going to mean squat to the corporation. What it is going to do is drive small businesses into bankruptcy. Each of those stations is independently owned and operated. When you skip BP for the ethical alternatives of Exxon (nee Valdez) or Citgo (aka Venezuela), you’re just hurting people who had nothing do with this crisis.

    I’m totally with you on the Halliburton thing. I keep expecting BP to produce an analysis of the blowout that proves that it is Halliburton’s fault. Because I’m pretty sure it is.

    I think that BP is unfairly taking the shaft on this one. This was an unprecedented catastrophic failure of equipment. Did they know it was possible? Probably. But, hell, that’s just Monday morning quarterbacking. They know lots of things are possible. They can’t stop them all. They make a call on how much redundancy and safety is “good enough.” In this case, they came up short. In a lot of cases, they are probably going overboard on safety. But we’ll never see that, because things that work don’t make the news.

    Did BP react appropriately? Maybe. They stepped up and took responsibility pretty fast, once they made their lawyers stop talking to the media. They are definitely trying to hide the full impact of the spill. But, hey, who among us doesn’t try to spin shit like that when we fuck up? Especially when everyone is going to assume they’re lying anyway?

    My biggest beef is that they didn’t have the domes and top-kill equipment already built and standing by in a facility in the Gulf Coast. That it took them over a week to deploy the first dome is a failure of due diligence. Again, Monday morning quarterbacking, but it is one thing I’m disappointed by.

    Incidentally, I’ve bought BP gas almost exclusively for close to two years now. Check out their record sometime. Prior to this failure, they have consistently been one of the most ethical, ecologically aware, and socially conscious oil companies out there. Admittedly, that’s not a high bar. But, I generally approve of BP.

    And the final point. Regulation is stupid. Passing laws is stupid. It’s totally the wrong response to this crisis. You know why? Because we already have all the laws we need. The oil rigs were already properly regulated. The problem came from the fact that those laws and regulations weren’t enforced. You can pass all the new laws you want. If you don’t have enforcement, the companies won’t give a shit.

    Most federal law enforcement agencies, especially the niche ones, are woefully underfunded. I saw a number somewhere (I can’t lay my hands on it now), that the MMS budget gave them roughly $100 per oil rig in their jurisdiction per year for inspections and enforcement. How much investigation do you think they can really do with that? So, they are forced into a position where they have to trust the companies working the rigs to honestly fill out their paperwork, and then just do spot checks on rigs that show issues.

    Then, of course, underfunded agencies with little exposure and close industry ties are ripe for corruption. Which we see in the MMS. They’re probably damn cheap to buy off. Apparently, a lot of them got bought off for a few rolls in the hay. Even if we think the oil companies’ girls are $500 a night hookers, that works out to a couple thousand a year. Cheap.

    What we need is not regulation. What we need is enforcement. We need to have agencies in place with the resources and will to make the regulations stick. We need to have strong parent agencies that will actually keep an eye on the smaller agencies. (Why did the DoE not notice how bad things were with the MMS?) We need to create a culture in our government in which following the rules is easier and more attractive than breaking them.

    If we can do that, then maybe the next time a disaster of this magnitude happens, we can actually be surprised, and not just saddened.

    • @Lugh:

      Agreed that, yes, Nigeria was awful. The list of “worst oil disasters in the world” outranks what we have going here, now.

      That said, it’s easier for us as Americans to make sure that *our* corner of the world isn’t fucked up first, and that’s why this is a problem now.

      BP’s response has been at times measured, at times abhorrent. Hayward’s comments have been… uhh, naive. And they sound like the words of a rich white fucking fat-cat.

      They are trying to hide its impact, which, by the way, isn’t an appropriate response. They’re not unfairly taking the shaft. They knew about potential problems before anything went wrong. Then it went wrong. Then they said stupid shit. Then they’re caught trying to hide the fuck-up. This isn’t an 8-year-old who stole a goddamn cookie. This is an ecological disaster in a part of our country that already suffered at the hands of laissez-faire human fuckups.

      Regulation versus enforcement — really? “Passing laws is stupid.” What does that even mean? Are we expected to live in a lawless world, assuming that we’ll all take care of one another?

      Regulation happens before shit goes wrong.

      Enforcement only happens after.

      We need better clean energy regulation.

      We need better regulations on safety. In all industries. The mining industry alone is a snapping death-trap, and isn’t much better now than it was 50 years ago.

      We need to be able to better hold companies liable for stuff like this.

      Regulation is like preventative medicine. “Eat right, don’t get sick.”

      Enforcement alone is like cutting out the cancer after you’ve already found it.

      Not buying BP gas, by the way, is still a viable way of protest, and a way to poke them in the pocket. Their stock is already dropping. Good. And as for punishing the small business owners — hey, that’s sad for them, it really is. But they have a boat anchor around their waists. I can’t help everybody. I don’t go buy crack so I can keep the dealers and their children fed. I don’t go buy a Hummer because, man, I feel sad for those Hummer dealers. We are allowed to vote with our dollar. It is, in a capitalist society, an excellent way of spending money ethically.

      So, you’ll excuse me if I politely disagree with a lot of that.

      — c.

  • I’m not trying to say that understating the impact is appropriate. But, it’s understandable. And, in the long run, what difference does it really make? “Worst ecological disaster” is still “worst.” They still acknowledge they fucked up. They’re still paying for the fix and the cleanup. It’s not like they’re trying to pretend that there isn’t oil in the Gulf.

    And it’s not like the media has been scrupulously honest, itself. There have been numerous reports that have grossly overstated the situation. Mostly, its newscasters failing to draw a line between “current impact” and “potential impact.” Or, this morning, when I heard that the brown pelican, recently removed from the endangered species list, is now “endangered” again. While I’m sure a bunch of them have died, and that’s really sad, I’m pretty sure the government hasn’t put them back on the list yet. But reporting that is calm and fair doesn’t gain you market share.

    Especially when even the scientists involved can’t figure out how to properly track and predict the behavior of the oil. The scientific community can’t agree on what’s actually going on with the plumes and estimating flow from the video and whatnot. Everybody knows it’s bad. They just can’t say for certain how bad. BP takes the estimates that make them look the best (not surprisingly, those are the estimates from the scientists that work for BP). The media takes the estimates that make the best press.

    So, BP knows the media is going to overstate the case. So, they understate the case. The media knows BP’s going to understate, so they overstate. Pretty soon, even the people talking don’t know what the truth is.

    • @Lugh —

      The media’s response in any situation is its own problem, yes, but that doesn’t change the circumstances on the ground. Because the media is one way doesn’t mean BP should be another. That’s a slippery slope — “Oh, the whole world is fucked up and corrupt, so BP is just counterbalancing.”

      — c.

  • The Gulf disaster is seriously overwhelming me. Every time I read or hear something about it, I think of my home covered in oil. It sickens me, it frightens me, it enrages me, and it makes me sad.

    This needs to be further incentive. If anything comes of this clusterfuck nightmare, I hope it pushes our need to get off the fossil-fuel dependency quicker. I am not so naive to think we can just wave a magic wand and have cold fusions or anything, but I hope this shows Americans the immediate need we have to get off this crap. I have no doubts that we’ll find ways to fuck up the world with any energy source we come up with, but hopefully we’ll approach new technologies with a modicum of reason and science, so that safety to the environment and the people benefiting from the source is part of the initial equation.

    I just can’t talk about what’s happening in the Gulf. I have no words beyond anger, and part of that is directed not at BP, but at us… the people from the Gulf. Those platforms provide a lot of work for people down there. We invited them in, and they fucked us for it. For the longest time, my stepdad worked on the rigs. Our family was directly supported by the likes of Shell, Haliburton, Exxon, and BP.

    Fucking hell.

  • I do have one thing to say. The fact that I and my family have to (and I mean HAVE to) buy water for consumption due to the quality of our well water pisses me off to no end.

    We buy in gallon jugs for the most part to avoid the umpityjillions of 16.5 oz drinking bottles, but there it is. The MOMENT someone knocks on the door and says, “Would you be willing to fork over $300 or so to connect to city water?” I’ll be all over that like white on rice.

    When you’re over a barrel getting your ass fucked sideways and you’re actually paying for the privilege it can make you want to throw up.

  • OK, “passing laws is stupid” was probably not the best way to say that. What I meant was, “Passing laws in reaction to a specific event to try and retroactively prevent that event is stupid.” That’s how you end up with laws on the books like “It is illegal to sleep on top of a refrigerator outdoors.”

    I think that you’re viewing regulation and enforcement incorrectly. Regulations are the rules of the game. They lay down what is and is not allowed. But, that’s all they do. By themselves, they do nothing at all. Enforcement is the method of making sure people stick to the rules. And it can happen before or after the event.

    In this case, the regulations were on the books to make the rig operate safely. The MMS ruled on one regulation to not force BP to put an additional redundancy on the blowout preventer. Otherwise, all the regulations were there.

    The problem is that there are definite indications that the rig was not following the regulations. The inspectors were overworked and oversexed, and let things slide. The companies ignored red flags, because nobody was actually watching them. Those red flags did, in fact, violate the regulations. So did ignoring the red flags. But, oddly enough, the regulations couldn’t walk over there and do anything about it on their own.

    The call for legislation at this point is one of my pet peeves. Just because something goes wrong, you don’t need to change policy, procedures, laws, or regulations to prevent that thing going wrong again. I see it all the time in the workplace. Somebody fucks up. Rather than just going “hey, Bob fucked up,” fixing it, and smacking Bob on the nose with a newspaper, we have to create a new rule. Even when there’s already a rule in place that Bob broke. If we don’t create a new rule, we don’t feel like we’re doing anything.

    New rules aren’t going to stop another disaster. They just aren’t. Not unless those rules, and the rules we already have, are actually being enforced. Not unless we have inspectors checking out the rigs. Not unless those inspectors can remain reasonably uncompromised. Not unless we have a system whereby workers on the rigs can report a problem to somebody like the MMS, and get something done about it.

  • Yeah, those of us that live by the gulf have been upset for a while, I guess it must seem too far remote to people not living in a border state. Which was why Katrina was so devastating, too – people write off this region for a variety of reasons. I’ll try to not spew my rage about why, however.

    My husband used to work in the oil and gas industry and good lord, just the number of SUICIDES among the workers is pretty telling as to how shady the industry can be.

    I bought up all the shrimp I could get my hands on when the explosion happened. Because shrimp, fish, oysters… All the food that we here eat like it was bread? Gone. Probably for decades. The ramifications of the death of the fishing industry here is going to reverberate through out the country. An entire group of people that don’t rely on government intervention (The Vietnamese fishermen, 80% of the work force on the gulf) are now going to have to turn to outsiders for help. This is going to have massive social effects, too.

    And contrary to other, new rules and regulations (ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE IMPLEMENTED) will have TREMENDOUS effect on these rigs. I’m not even going to address the asinine comparison of sleeping on fridges law. JFC. As someone that grew up in the Land of Oil and has seen change brought about through regulation, yeah. More rules as to how to contain this shit are needed. Nothing has been done since the early 70s, and the big spill in ’79 brought about no change and guess what? The exact same thing is happening, except in deeper water. And no new ideas, no new rules… 30 years? Thanks for the deregulation, Reagan.

    Whoops, I got a little rage on your blog, sorry. This whole nightmare is really upsetting for those of us in Gulf States. This isn’t some “Theoretical discussion” topic, it’s real life for us.

  • The pictures make me sick. And I know those aren’t even the true picture of how BAD it really is out there.

    These are the times I am sure we are a horrible, putrid virus destroying the Earth.

    And Sarah Palin IS stupid enough to believe that environmentalists really are to blame – you know, rather than the oil company.

    As far as the media vs. BP spin…ya – they are both spinning it – the truth is somewhere in between I’m sure – but whatever the final number – it’s going to be big.This disaster is going to be far reaching, and a VERY, very long time before it’s over.

    We DO need more regulation. But Lugh is right too – regulation without enforcement is a joke. We need more regulation and then give the agencies who are supposed to be policing the HUGE companies the ability and BALLS to go in and actually kick some ass and take some names. Nothing will change until we do that.

    I have no doubt Halliburton is involved. I also have no doubt it will come to light they were probably somehow involved with creating this disaster and at the same time will find a way to financially benefit from it too. They are like Wolf, Ram, and Hart from Angel – always behind everything and always finding a way to financially reap the rewards of it. Oh and run by Satan himself.

    Thanks for this blog post. I’m pissed off all over again – and that is a GOOD THING. We need to stay angry, OUTRAGED, incensed. It’s too easy to get complacent. The anger makes me need to do something about it. Or at least to try.

    Off to make phone calls (again) and send more emails.

    • A real quick comment before I bug out for a couple hours:

      Yes, regulation without enforcement is a joke.

      More of a joke, though, is enforcement without regulation.

      Without regulation, we have nothing to enforce.

      Without laws to break, a contravention of nature or human morality is not enforceable.

      First must come regulation. Then comes enforcement.

      Maybe my brain is broken, but I don’t see that working well any other way.

      Hence, I remain firmly pro-regulation.

      Game’s gotta have rules, people.

      — c.

  • @Chuck – I’m not necessarily saying “Oh, the whole world is fucked up and corrupt, so BP is just counterbalancing.” I’m saying “Oh, the whole world is fucked up and corrupt, so BP is fucked up and corrupt.” Calling them on being fucked up and corrupt when they’re actually being halfway decent (not perfect, or even good, but better than I’ve been trained to expect) seems a little disingenuous. It’s like when people got all shocked that Wall Street stockbrokers are greedy short-sighted fucks who don’t care about the people they fuck over. That’s what they’re bred to be.

    BP is just following the classic corporate playbook, right out of Harvard business school. Why is that the playbook? Because that’s what works. The corporations are what they are because that’s how the economic pressures have shaped them.

    Does that suck? Yeah, pretty much. But then, people suck.

    My point is that BP is not Enron. They aren’t Goldman Sachs. They cut a few corners to improve their profit margin. In this case, they cut one too many. When it happened, they stepped up and said, “Whoops. Our bad. Give us a minute, and we’ll fix it. Oh, and we’ll pay for the cleanup.” As their efforts to fix it keep failing, and the problem keeps getting worse, and people keep getting angry, PR 101 kicks in and they try to downplay how severe it is.

    That’s not evil. That’s just run-of-the-mill selfish and incompetent. It’s the American way.

    That’s all I’m trying to say here.

  • Amen brother.

    And to you commenters (Lugh). Thank ye for mentioning Nigeria…the devastation in our Niger Delta region is truly astounding,

    It is so fascinating to see how corporate America has deceived the lower and middle classes that their destiny lies with capitalism and deregulation. Methinks it’s a masterstroke of evil genius that “The Party” in 1984 would be proud of.

  • @Lugh: Sometimes stepping up to say, “Whoops. Our bad. Give us a minute, and we’ll fix it. Oh, and we’ll pay for the cleanup,” just isn’t enough, even if it was the right thing to do. And they only need a minute, really? Is that what we’re calling 6 weeks these days — a minute?

    I feel like your posts fail to acknowledge the devastation this has caused. Did you see the pictures? I see the points in much of what you’re posting, and yet this may be the worst ecological disaster our country has ever seen. The ramifications of that cannot be imagined by you or I. Every invertebrate that comes in contact with the oil will die, the scientists report. We have NO idea what effect that will have on “the food chain” or the balance of life in the oceans, rivers, marshes, etc. None.
    If missing honeybees can destroy life as we know it, then millions of dead invertebrates can surely do the same.


    We deregulated the meat industry in the 80s and now there are no laws that say the feds can recall tainted meat. The feds CANNOT tell Tyson, ConAgra, etc. to recall meat with e. coli. So how do those recalls happen? The meat industry monitors itself. And then someone gets sick, the hospital reports it, and they scramble to recall meat so they don’t get sued. No one walks through the meat packing plants monitoring the process to make sure that people wash their hands after pooping and then wrapping up some ground round for you. Awesome? That’s like asking drug addicts to not touch the mounds of coke on the table, and if they do, go ahead and let us know they did, mm’kay?

    We deregulated the oil industries in the 80s as well and we have no one double checking that Halliburton’s parts actually work, that BP’s parts actually work, and that the folks working on said products are following procedures as outlined. Oh, they have notebooks with all of the processes written on it, but that and a cup of joe will get you a nickel, or something like that.

    When you have regulations, you have people that can’t go to the next step before things have been checked out. Like, say, turning on the gas to a newly built house. This is a good thing.

    And to the person that said BP is no Enron, that’s a fucking joke. It’s the SAME THING. “How can we make even more money? Fuck the rules, we’ll rewrite them. It’s cheaper to hire lobbyists to allow us to do what we want than pay for safety/rule following.”

    This wasn’t about making money, this was about making MORE money, and shit tons of it. The people running the show out there do not care one fuck about animals or the self-employed fishermen (that by the way are providing 75% of America’s shrimp) trying to keep his family fed. They care about ledgers and spreadsheets and getting back to their polo matches because they “just want their life back.”

    The natural gas and oil industries spend MILLIONS to NOT follow the rules. They haven’t invested ANYTHING in technologies to fix problems like we’re faced with right now. Nothing. They had an opportunity to do that back in ’79 when a gusher ran for TEN MONTHS. They have all sorts of amazing ways to GET oil, but that’s it. Regulation would require that a certain percentage of profits be devoted to keeping things like this from happening again.

    I’m appalled at the “well, they cut a few corners this time” NO. They’ve been cutting corners for a LONG time. Those of us within breathing distance of Texas City would like to send a big huge toxic cloud of burning oil up into YOUR home and see if you can still be so cavalier about this. BP has committed almost 800 violations in the same time period that Exxon committed ONE. One. 1 vs. 788.

    Stop hand waving this as some “unfortunate freak accident that isn’t that big of a deal.” This is a huge fucking deal. And seeing as NOAA is projecting that the oil will be washing back up on BP’s land (UK) by day 83 of this disaster… I can’t fathom how everyone isn’t seeing how this is affecting the majority of the US. Not to mention the Caribbean, the Yucatan, etc. etc.

    Just because we lubed up the earth before we fucked her in the ass doesn’t make this not wrong.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m packing up to take the kids to the FL panhandle to get involved in some of the clean up efforts. Chuck linked to some good places to donate/get involved for anyone interested.

  • Goddammit, why did I click those links. I haven’t even read the whole post, or any comments, I’m just… too upset now. I hope whoever took those pictures didn’t just say “Well, we’re done here!” afterwards and helped pull some birds out of the muck.

    About a year and a half ago I did a project on oil spills for a class I was taking. I focused mainly on Exxon-Valdez and the lasting impact, but there were some other more recent ones I talked about too. I would have never guessed there’d be another major one in American waters so soon after I did that project.

  • While I am totally onside with regulation and enforcement and all that good stuff, we do need to get it through our skulls that risky behaviour is profitable for all oil companies. BP just got caught with the short straw this time around. As long as we demand more and cheaper oil (and each of us has done that from just about the very moment we first stuck a gas pump nozzle in our lovely sweet cars) we increase the payoff for high risk exploration and exploitation.

    Now, regulation and enforcement of those regulation changes that equation, but only by adding more risk. There’s still plenty of space in there, given the profits involved, to behave badly when even the worst reasonable punishment will still leave the company intact and profitable because it is against our best interests to let huge companies fail for any reason.

    We could continue along this line and put the blame on capitalism or on corporatism or even on large centralized organizations of all kinds, and we would probably be on the right track. But it’s all basically deflection: you and I are to blame here. We need to get our shit in order and change the demand side of “supply and demand”. We need to applaud rising gasoline prices. We need to cheer line-ups at the pump. We need to vote for governments that spend on trains instead of highways. We need to wonder if we should join that cyclist rather than wish she wasn’t in the way.

    We are not fucked, but we certainly have the power to do that.

  • Can’t say whether I’m pro- or anti-regulation until you tell me the regulation. I’m pro good regulations and anti stupid regulations. And i certainly won’t pretend to be some kind of expert that can tell you whether sufficient regulations were in place to prevent this clusterfuck and just weren’t enforced, whether insufficient regulations were in place and they should be enhanced, or whether it’s just one of those cases where we humans are out there doing really complicated shit and something happened that we didn’t anticipate.

    But I will say this. When we do attempt really complicated shit, like, say, drilling holes in the ground for oil from floating platforms in really deep water, we should at a minimum anticipate consequences. It seems to me a foreseeable consequence that something awful could happen that would leave a leaking hole at the bottom of the sea. We should have a plan in place for plugging that hole. Probably more than one. We shouldn’t be sitting around a month after the shit hits the fan with our thumbs up our asses trying to make up shit on the back of envelopes and praying it works.

    At this juncture, I’d say take over the effort from BP, turn the best minds we’ve got loose on it, get the damn hole plugged, and then send BP the bill, along with the bill for the clean up, along with a huge ass fine. A fine along the lines of their profits for the year. They don’t like it, then, like Marcellus Wallace would say, they’ve lost their US privledges.

    But when I start getting too enraged and self-rightous, I try to remember that I’m also one of the guys that was whining when oil hit four bucks a gallon. We’re addicts, they’re the cartel, and if you think you’re not part of the problem, then you haven’t looked in your garage lately.

    • @Dan:

      Well, sure — I’m not arguing we wantonly regulate without regard for, say, logic. But right now that’s how we’ve deregulated everything. At the bare minimum, I want to know that someone who has *our* best interests looking at dangerous shit and saying, “Hey, stop that.” Or, “Hey, if you keep doing that, I might have to choke a bitch.”

      Right now, everything’s laissez-faire, and that puts more money in the hands of the Big Companies, less money in the hands of the Little Consumers (but just enough to keep us buying stupid shit). Further, when we also have a deregulated political process, it means that politicians can more easily become shills for Big Companies and their Big Problems.

      So, yes. Smart regulations. But still, regulations.

      — c.

  • @Chuck —

    My point is this. I don’t think it’s ever healthy to start with an assumption that we have too much or too little regulation, as that then creates a bias either to regulate or to deregulate. I believe we should approach each situation with a dispassionate analysis of the facts at hand and then make an enformed decision about what regulatory efforts are necessary in that instance. Emotionally, it’s easy to look at this unholy mess and think “By God! We should have had more regulations!” And that may be the case. But I don’t know that to be the case, as I certainly am no expert on what regulations oil companies are subject to when it comes to drilling, nor am I an expert on whether or how effectively whatever regulations there are were enforced in this instance.

    Regulation aside, we, as humans, need more humility. We need to understand that shit goes wrong. And the more complicated the things we try to do, the more likely that shit might go wrong — regulated or not. Which means we need to ask ourselves what the consequences of shit going wrong might be. It seems a leaking hole at the bottom of the ocean was a forseeable consequence to shit going wrong in this case, and it seems that nobody had a plan to deal with it — not BP, not our government, and not, so far as I can tell, any of the other oil companies (or you think they would say, Hey, here’s what we were planning to do if this ever happened). And for that, BP should be help accountable, big time.


    • @Dan —

      What you’re saying isn’t wrong — but I don’t think in this case we’re looking at a nuanced assumption. From what I have read (not experienced, obviously), the deregulation of the oil industry has lead to riskier drilling in area, in equipment, in training, in personnel. Right? So, what that means is, deregulation has loosened the restrictions. It’s made it easier. Which has made it more profitable. It’s not hard to see: year after year, the oil companies post profound, unholy profits.

      So, I’m not an expert, no, but from what I can tell, the regulations have been pretty well obviated.

      You’re right to suggest that shit goes wrong. More complicated shit = greater chance of going fucking haywire. The issue is, this *was* a foreseeable consequence, it’s happened before, they have memos detailing it, and they had no real good plan. Them, or us (meaning, gov’t). The gov’t doesn’t have plans because there exists, drum roll please, no oversight. BP had no plans or minimal plans because, drum roll please, no oversight. No oversight means nobody’s feet are held to the fire before shit goes wrong.

      It also means that the feet aren’t held to the fire afterward, either.

      Because the (too lazy to look it up but I think this is the name) Oil Liability Act (okay, fuck it, I’m looking it up) limits the liability pay out to $75 million, we’re limited in what we can do to BP. And there’s the rub: deregulation on the front end makes it hard to, as you say, hold people accountable big time.

      I’m not saying the gov’t isn’t partially accountable here. They are. They are because they have no plan, and they have no plan because they have no oversight, and they have no oversight because they do not recognize regulation as a reasonable means of prevention and enforcement.

      Hence, I’m pretty pro-regulation. I’m not for wanton, unreasonable regulation. I’m for regulation that protects the American people. Not big companies. But little people.

      — c.

  • You know, everyone is mad at BP.

    Let’s get things straight:

    1. they are one of 5 responsible parties, but the only one not hiding in the shadows
    2. oil companies do what they do because there is demand. Stop driving our cars and buying plastic-encased PS3 games and there is no demand.

    This shit sucks, but WE asked for it.

    • @Dan:

      I don’t entirely disagree, and I see your point, but as it stands, that’s a bit dramatic. (Says the guy who said something about murdering lobbyists. I keed! I keed!) Thing is, yes, we want cheap gas. And that’s dumb. Me, I want expensive gas. In the long run, it’ll push us faster toward energy independence. When gas prices were high, everybody was getting freaked out. Prices went low, and we Americans get sleepy. Low prices are like ether to the average American.

      That said, I don’t demand my PS3 (or, appropriately, Xbox 360) games are in plastic. Someone else made that decision.

      Further, if I say, “Gosh, I really want cheap meat,” it doesn’t excuse unethical practices to get that meat. I agree that we need to have a greater sense of consequence, but that doesn’t mean we *asked* for it, either.

      As for the five parties, who are they? I know: BP, Halliburton, and the US government. Who else?

      — c.

  • My emotions run far too deep to join an intelligent conversation. I’d just like to remind everyone that humans will eventually destroy ourselves if the asteroid doesn’t get us first.

  • There is some good discussion going here. Thanks for sharing the links. I’ve been following this, but I hadn’t seen the pictures of the animals. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. I get so upset by this that I can’t seem to do more than sputter incoherently while pointing at the pictures and saying “LOOK!”

  • In the vein of “use less oil”:

    1–Use less plastic. Not just bottles, but ALL plastic. Period. Bring your own bags to the grocery store, or ask for paper instead. When your Tupperware or GladWare finally gives up the ghost, switch to mason jars or Pyrex containers. They’ll last longer (if you don’t drop them from huge heights, anyway) and they don’t leech into your food. Buy clothes made from natural fibers rather than synthetic ones, unless you’re allergic. And if you’ve got to buy polyester or rayon, at least go to a thrift or vintage store. Buy stuff that needs a purpose rather than something some kid made in a sweatshop in Thailand.

    2–Use fewer detergents, which are made from petroleum. Switch to soap, which isn’t. Unless your dermatologist forbids it, use soap instead of body wash, too. It’s also more detergent than soap. Didn’t know there was a difference? Take it from someone who knows, and have a gander over here: http://www.clearwatersoapworks.com/site/1501105/page/588981

    3–Since the oceans may now be FUBAR, try to offset it by helping other parts of the environment. Plant a tree. Clean up litter from the side of the road. Hang your clothes to dry. Recycle everything. Repurpose damn near everything. Compost. Speaking of which. . .

    4–Grow some of your own food, or buy from local farmers, at least. Not only will you know where your food comes from, you’ll support your local economy, AND help use less oil due to buying fewer shipped goods.

    And I’m spent. *flops back in her office chair*

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