Twilight for Gulf Coast

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Ten weeks into the oil gusher, Coast Guard officials claim more oil response assets are “urgently” required, and their need for more skimmers approaches “critical mass.” What a timely assessment! Can Professor Prompt award them all honorary degrees for foresight? And then the Obama administration informs us that the screening process to assess offers of assistance from foreign countries takes four to six weeks, and this week told  everyone that the world’s biggest superskimmer has finally arrived from Portugal. Whale of an idea, that.

Again, it’s more than 70 days into this mess.

The White House was pro-active on some fronts, however. They spent the past week assuring soon-to-be unemployed rig workers that they could apply to the so-called $20 billion compensation fund for wage relief due to the drilling moratorium. Then, Wednesday, the fund administrator “clarified” the previous statements by informing rig workers that if they wanted to get paid, and not merely apply, then they need to seek compensation from BP’s separate $100 million foundation (before it runs out). Nice.

This sclerotic federal disaster response is like a bad movie sequel. Maybe I’m just not enough of a twihard, but it doesn’t seem like such a romantic predicament to be caught between the “werewolf” of the oil gusher and the “vampire” of government incompetence.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers finally released its report on Category 5 flood protection for South Louisiana, over two years late. But instead of presenting an action plan for the $100 billion project, the report merely listed various flood protection options over the span of 8,000 pages. The Corps said it would need to study the issue several more years before it could decide which of the listed choices were the most optimal to pursue.

For its part, BP has tried to find the rainbows among the oil slicks, employing “journalists” who glowingly blog about response efforts. For example, BP house journalist Paula Kolmar experienced an aesthetic moment while viewing boat skimmers corralling toxic oil, describing them as a “spectacular ballet at sea as mesmerising as any performance in a concert hall.” Kolmar’s deserves her own “bravo” for such observational contortions.

Here’s a suggestion for Kolmar’s next post. Find a plucky group of Macondo Kids staring morosely at tar balls polluting their beach. Gently suggest that all is not lost, and show them how to – with the addition of a few sticks (or thin bird bones), plus gold glitter and paint – transform tar balls into fun Saints bobblehead dolls! Oh the sublimity of found art. And it works on so many levels, too, because the New Orleans Saints team colors were selected in tribute to the “black gold” that powers the region’s economy.

I’m concerned that the latest clamoring for BP funds to promote Gulf Coast tourism will similarly devolve into a bad joke. As oil blackens more beaches – some of which were formerly touted as the “world’s whitest” –  what precisely will coastal communities advertise? How will they fashion a tourism marketing effort that inspires summer vacation plans rather than eye rolls. What are they going to do, shoot a TV ad featuring lovers dressed in hazmat suits, re-enacting the famous embrace in “From Here to Eternity”?

Speaking of movies, did you hear about this incredibly sophisticated worldwide promotional event for the new Salt movie, starring Angelina Jolie as a suspected Russian spy? The Wall Street Journal, apparently fell for the ploy when they reported:

Cypriot police said a man arrested on U.S. charges of spying for Russia had vanished after being released on bail.

Christopher Robert Metsos, 54 years old, failed to report to police Wednesday as required, police said. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Mr. Metsos, who U.S. authorities allege was a ringleader of a group of Russian spies in the U.S., was arrested Tuesday in Cyprus as he tried to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary. Ten other people were arrested in various U.S. cities in recent days.

Cypriot authorities had released Mr. Metsos on bond despite U.S. concerns that he might flee. A Cypriot police official said Mr. Metsos had surrendered his passport. “Our investigation suggests he may still be in Cyprus because the only way he could leave is with a fake passport,” the official said.

See, that’s how you know it’s all a movie promotion. In real life, authorities would never discount the chance of a suspected spy acquiring a fake passport. This must be a clever movie promotion because, as Chris Rose recently noted, only in movies can people be that flipping stupid.

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