Government & Politics

Twilight for Gulf Coast

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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About Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and the Federal Flood he helped create the Rising Tide conference, which grew into an annual social media event dedicated to the future of New Orleans.

  • Medium Jim

    Benevolent Bivalve:

    In his universally acclaimed film, Michael Moore used a stopwatch to mock Bush’s response to 9/11, ticking away seconds of indecision as he digested the intel and decided what to do (in front of a room full of school kids). Four years later, the left excoriated Bush for taking three days to marshall a federal response to Katrina. My how times have changed. Obama’s response to this spill has been a languid, disgusting joke filled with indecision, incompetence and indifference at every level of his adminstration. Your recent posts seem to suggest a slight thawing of your admiration for Obama. I know you’re not a reporter. You’re an opinion guy (and a great one at that). But when can we expect to see a stopwatch applied to Obama’s response? Louisianians need people like you to unleash on Obama the same biting wit and criticsm you applied to Bush at YRHT circa 2005-2007. You made a difference back then and you can make a significant difference now given your political inclinations. Carville flirted with it a few weeks ago. It’s time.

  • Re salvaging tourism, there are are more than just beaches in the Gulf Coast areas, and local CVB’s should be playing them up. I recently published a piece called “Gulf Coast Vacations Even Without the Beach”:

  • Re: the Katrina comparison, nice try, and one that appeals to lizard brains all over, but…no, the oil spill is not the same as the federal flood. While it’s refreshing that conservatives are finally admitting, at least tacitly, that government MUST be large enough to possess or procure the resources to protect citizens from the negative side effects of drill, baby, drill, the blame Obama contingent is simply politics as usual from people who have nothing useful to contribute. The same mentality that kills job bills and then complains about unemployment.

    The Katrina comparison would be appropriate IF there had been numerous published and publifized reports before the fact stressing the inevitability of a massive disaster resulting from a blowout in deepwater–and the now very plain truth that NO ONE–not BP, not big oil generally, not the federal government, not scientists working in labs, not James Bond villains plotting global takeover from man made islands–NO ONE–had any clue as to how to stop one. The Katrina comparison would be appropriate if, a week or so prior to the blowout, the Obama administration had been advised that a blowout at Deepwater Horizon was imminent, and if the date of the blowout had been determined with a reasonable degree of accuracy…and if the Obama administration had responded to this briefing with no questions and no indication that it otherwise understood or comprehended the ramifications of the impending disaster. The Katrina comparison would be appropriate if, having known and been informed of the inevitability of the disaster (including the date of the disaster), and either owning or being able to procure mitigating assets, the Obama administration chose not to pre-position or otherwise deploy these mitigating assets.

    The Katrina comparison would be appropriate if the Obama administration had begun an aggressive political campaign from Day 1 to blame Bobby Jindal, the State of Louisiana, and/or Plaquemines Parish for not having, procuring, or deploying resources to mitigate the effects of the spill. The Katrina comparison would be appropriate if the Obama administration insisted the Jindal administration cede control of LNG assets to the federal government and subsequently began to not-so-subtly question his competence if not his sanity.

    But, most important, the Katrina comparison would be appropriate if oil drilling and exploration was specifically a function of the federal government. But…BP didn’t build the levees/floodwalls, and the ACOE didn’t drill the hole.

    In fact, I continue to be amazed that conservatives aren’t demanding the head of Tony Hayward on a stick, since the disaster in the gulf is proof positive that the so-called free market, far from being the apex of efficiency and the bulwark against atheistic secular socialism as so ordained by the Supreme Christian Deity, is in fact a rather dim bulb at times. The free-market contingency plan in the event of disaster was a copy/paste job promising to protect Gulf of Mexico walruses and/or a junk shot. BP apparently saw no reason to warehouse or stock boom, saw no reason to keep skimmers on standby, obviously saw no reason to pre-drill relief wells…and yet, by free-market reasoning, they should be most uniquely positioned to understand what to stock and how/where to deploy it. They stand as exhibit A against the concept of unregulated markets.

    Unless the idea is “privitize the profits, socialize the liability.”

  • Mark Moseley

    Medium Jim: I just compared the Obama administration’s response to a “Twilight” sequel. Not sure how much rougher one can get than that.

  • FYI- I’m not 100% convinced “A Whale” will work. From what I’ve seen, it looks like they just cut some holes in a supertanker without installing any real separation equipment and are now trying to use media pressure to get BP to hire it. We’ll see how well it works once it’s out there… That’s NOT to say that a Whale-like converted FPSO or something along those lines COULDN’T work (I could design a pretty nifty system given a few months and a few hundred million $’s), but I’m just skeptical about this particular one.

    As far as the Corps thing goes, I heard we were getting another “menu of options” months ago:
    The morning presenters was especially critical of the “Menu of Options” idea:

    8:45am • Morning Plenary Session

    Chair: John J. Kelly, III, PhD

    Coastal Restoration/Flood Protection

    Robert A. Dalrymple PhD, Willard & Lillian Hackerman Professor of Civil Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Chairman of the National Research Committee on the Review of the LACPR

    John J. Boland PhD, PE, Professor Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University, Member of the National Research Committee on the Review of the LACPR

    John T. Christian PhD, PE, Consulting Engineer, Member of the National Research Committee on the Review of the LACPR

    Denise J. Reed PhD, Professor and Interim Director of Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNO

  • “A Whale” looks to be “a bust”:
    Told ‘ya so.