Worse or Worser?

Gulf Grief, Contractors, and Media Mania

Shock and awe, misdirection, the whole truth turned upside down? Could it be that the obscenity-driven confrontation between Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was a more exact replica of oil war shock tactics than I thought?

Kirk James Murphy, MD, argues in the firedoglake blog that the sand-barrier plan to block the oil slick on the Louisiana coast is being pushed to completion by interests who would rather be rid of the marshlands than save them.

Is our grief over the deathwatch at the Gulf Coast being crassly manipulated for the purposes of real estate development? Dr. Murphy’s blog-post quotes at length a May 8 report by Josh Wingrove of the News and Mail, pointing out that the barrier-island plan has been three years in the making.

What wrenched our hearts out this week was the CNN presentation of Anderson Cooper’s visit to a dead marshland, recently killed off by a gooey assault of crude oil. Not even the bugs had survived, we were shown. Nungesser pleaded for immediate action. James Carville bore witness to the fact that nothing was being done anywhere in sight.

Jindal and Nungesser have been arguing that barrier berms would stop oil from reaching more marshland. And their arguments make obvious sense under the circumstances.

The danger in the dredging plan, argues Dr. Murphy, is that the dredged material would be drawn from polluted shipping channels and washed ashore during the volatile hurricane season coming soon. The oil will not be stopped, yet the toxic damage will be multiplied.

There is money involved, of course. And already by Thursday evening Nungesser was on CNN demanding more.

The CNN media campaign this week has the shocking effects that we remember from oil wars past. And the effects are especially felt among those of us who, like Louisiana Congressman, Charlie Melancon, find it difficult not to cry at the sight of our dying Gulf. And there is no doubt that our shock is being played like a football on its way to one goal line or the other.

But why does Dr. Murphy opine that the berms probably won’t survive the hurricane season, while he argues that they would dry out the marshes? And what good are wetlands anyway once they have been covered by bubbling crude?

Dr. Murphy’s argument would place our shocked grief in alliance with the Corps of Engineers, who apparently resisted the berm idea until CNN tossed Nungesser a lateral pass this week. Given the velocities of these shock tactics, there is never very much time to decide things. And maybe the velocity alone is enough to raise suspicion. Except…

Except in this case there actually is an enemy attacking the marshlands, and Nungesser appeared to be making his arguments in the company of lots of people. The image of Nungesser in a crowded room makes it more difficult to believe that his plan runs counter to the interests of people who live along the marshlands and who are working up a campaign of self-defense. But this is the way shock psychology would work with the power of images.

It’s also curious that the Corps of Engineers is not more forthcoming for the cameras. Nungesser does make a point when he asks: where’s the plan? And compared with the images of oily death in the marshes, it would seem that the risk of drying wetlands is less inhumane to the doomed creatures of the Gulf. Once upon a time I walked to work through those coastal marshlands on my way to an offshore drilling job. On the Gulf Coast, from Corpus Christi to New Orleans, there is no such thing as a non-toxic option.

Marshland protection is one of at least three scientific issues that are being fought on the fly during this oil spill. Thursday evening brings news of an “oil plume” that is about 1,000 yards deep and six miles wide drifting in the direction of Mobile Bay, Alabama. Reports say the plume is a toxic cocktail of dispersants and oil. Is it better or worse than an oil slick? Oil slicks either repel life or kill it. Plumes, apparently, allow life but at the cost of a living toxicity that will work its way up the food chain. Cancer clinics for everyone.

When CNN flashes pictures of the oil operation, there is a ship spraying cascades of fluids onto the water. Is this the dispersant? Here and there we see comments from scientists saying that nobody knows if the dispersant is such a good idea. Is it better or worse than a slick of thick crude? LIke Nungesser’s berms, dispersants also raise questions of money trails.

The third scientific issue, of course, is how to plug the hole. Speaking on Larry King Live, the legendary oilman, T. Boone Pickens, says either you get lucky or you drill a relief well. August is the frequently cited expectation for when the relief well will be completed.

“We’ve been here 38 days,” said Pickens, “and we’ll probably be here 38 days more.” If Pickens is right, will it be possible to stop the oil from washing ashore?

They say the first stage of grief is denial, and I don’t want to believe that any of this is happening. What Congressman Melancon did in public yesterday, we have been doing in our homes this week all along the Gulf Coast. You cannot love the Gulf Coast, witness this shocking trauma, and control your tears at the same time.

But now on top of it all we have to watch out for the ways that our tears are being maneuvered into contracting strategies that may have no other uses beyond profiteering. I’m not convinced that there are worse things than a raw oil slick, not even if they are barrier berms or 6-mile plumes of noxious crap. But if it is the best thing for all God’s creatures on the Gulf Coast to just stand aside and accept the sacrifice that oil slicks bring once they are imminent, then it’s time we started moving from Denial to Acceptance at some improbable speed.

Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and a member of the Texas Civil Rights Collective.. Read other articles by Greg, or visit Greg's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Don Hawkins said on May 28th, 2010 at 10:00am #

    What journalism is really about – it’s to monitor power and the centers of power.

    – Amira Hass, journalist

    A hole about 23 inches across and a few more much smaller seem to be exerting a little power that the centers of power and the media are again hard at work with propaganda, and disinformation to handle the reality. Someone from the power center compared the leak to a hundred year storm last night on CNN. Give them hell people. As GM goes so goes the World. Just maybe as fish, turtles, birds, dolphins, shrimp, and many more life forms so goes the World but let’s put that little reality off for another day or two.

  2. Don Hawkins said on May 28th, 2010 at 10:20am #


    And not just the Gulf but Worldwide for fish, turtles, birds, dolphins, shrimp, and many more life forms including human’s. Yes let’s keep listening to the centers of power. Anymore I can maybe last 15 minutes watching these well dressed fool’s but probably just a personal problem.

  3. Don Hawkins said on May 29th, 2010 at 1:43pm #

    Hello hello South Georgia calling anybody read this transmission South Georgia anybody out there? We turned on the radio this morning and the best we can tell oil still leaking into the Gulf reports are hard to get and many of us don’t trust the reports. We still have food and water but starting to get hot again. The best we can tell a tropical storm moving into the Gulf next week and the oceans about 4 degrees’s above normal for the end of this month. Probably more people coming from Florida soon we will try our best. South Georgia anybody out there end of transmission.

  4. Don Hawkins said on May 29th, 2010 at 4:59pm #

    Breaking new’s top kill didn’t work it didn’t kill the well it’s still alive. After listening to BP and the coast guard telling us it didn’t work I guess now the best thing is for all of us to go shopping listen to our leaders heck buy a new car maybe just one share of stock some gold might be good take that vacation as it does appear these so called leaders have given up. Not on just the oil spill but the human race in general to do what is needed is just much to hard. The clean up in the Gulf seems to be just for show and health care again just for show and climate change bill just for show. It’s all just for show as we all go down the drain in not such slow motion. Think not let’s just see the next say six months and then tell me am wrong. Just for show.

    Victor Moritz: You’re crazy!

    Henry Frankenstein: Crazy, am I? We’ll see whether I’m crazy or not.

    Henry Frankenstein: Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, IT’S ALIVE!

  5. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 3:45am #

    Last night after the new’s came out that top kill didn’t work I went to Fox New’s and they were talking of course about the man that was offered a job in the white house to not run and more left right stuff. The oil spill I guess out of site out of mind it’s just better that way. Sometimes I feel like that man standing on the corner with the sign that reads the end is near sort of. My sign would read the end of the human race as we know it as a start. Of course nobody would read it as to busy stepping over someone laying on the sidewalk on there way to the store to go shopping or buy gold maybe one share of stock a new car. Going through the motions and very soon we should have our answer at least here in the States on how that going through the motions look’s all made to seem very important. It does appear that little game of going through the motions just for show has almost played itself out. I say that but it will continue like give those people t-shirts and a new hat we have oil to clean up. Cap and trade is the big one as it will not work just more foolishness going through the motions and the effect’s of climate change in just a few years make the oil spill look like a walk in the park. Hell just this summer and then winter will not be boring then we will hear somebody do something like what go shopping call call now. People of Earth we are in deep shit and when the going get’s tuff the tuff go shopping or give grand speech’s on hope and in reality nothing more than wimp’s. I still like what that one man said from Greenpeace we are the many and you the few. It will take a lot of us on the same page so to speak. How about a sign that reads win at losing no never work.

  6. mary said on May 30th, 2010 at 4:00am #

    I have just got back from a walk in our local *public park*. At the entrance on publicly owned land, a man was erecting a giant inflatable poster (the same size as a bouncy castle if you have them in the US) advertising a new branch of TK Maxx (junk clothing) that has opened in the town. TK Maxx is an offshoot of an American company TJ Maxx/Marshalls.

    I asked this man if his company had permission to do this but I got no answer. A generator using fossil fuel is keeping this monstrosity inflated and will be running all weekend which is a long holiday weekend extending to Monday. These opportunists, the advertiser and the company who erected the sign, have taken advantage of the fact that there are no local authority staff around to boot them out.

    What a terrible waste of resources and what a display of arrogance by private companies.

  7. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 5:02am #


    In very simple terms above web page show’s it part of it.

    Alaska is on fire

    Update: The Granite Tors Trail in Chena River rec area has been closed due to wildfire activity south of the trail. We’ll post a story shortly. FAIRBANKS — Wildfires across the state are increasing because of high temperatures, low humidity, and lightning strikes, escalating fire danger throughout the Interior.

    Fairbanks hit a new record high at the airport Thursday — 82 degrees. Forecast is for the same kind of temperatures through Sunday.

    Fire officials are reporting 53 active fires around the state with 10 staffed by fire personnel.

    That’s new record high, that’s new record high as we go through the motions and the show must go on no no no.

  8. mary said on May 30th, 2010 at 5:06am #

    I dislike the title of this Guardian article as it is saying that there’s a competition to claim to be the worst polluted place on God’s earth but it graphically displays what our desire for the ‘black stuff’ has done to the planet.

    Nigeria’s agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it

    The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades

    I agree with Bern on medialens who says about it –

    I have two reactions

    One is the sheer arrogance of corporate capitalism, driven by the logical necessity of production and profit, they really do believe there is no catastrophy to(o) great which should give them pause to question their doctrine.

    The other is that, while we might not be surprised by the powerlessness in Nigeria against world oil corporations, Obama on the other hand is supposed to be the most powerful political representative in the world. Yet he is similarly powerless and humiliated, is unable to do anything to stop BP, because he’s himself in the grip of the same logic of capital.

    The production of oil from the tar sands in Alberta can be added to this list of course.

  9. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 12:22pm #

    But healthy to do what? To go where? To grasp what dream?


    Going through the motions just show and the show has lousy ratings or does it?

  10. Don Hawkins said on May 31st, 2010 at 2:57am #

    By September 2007, the ice cap had retreated to 40% below the average. The news sent shockwaves through the scientific community. The melt rate this year is on track to break this record.

    The NSIDC’s Mark Serreze told news agency Canadian Press on May 19: “Could we break another record this year? I think it’s quite possible.

    “We are going to lose the summer sea-ice cover. We can’t go back.”

    NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally told EarthSky.com that studies had confirmed the Greenland ice sheet was also losing ice fast — at a rate of about 150 gigatons a year.

    He said: “One way to think about how much 150 gigatons is, [is] that if you had earth movers that carried 150 tons each, it would take 2,000 of them each minute to dump the excess ice into the ocean.” Simon Butler

    But healthy to do what? To go where? To grasp what dream? Friedman

  11. Don Hawkins said on May 31st, 2010 at 3:07am #

    Yesterday on CNN I watched an interview with Bill Gates oh crap if that man represents the power centers or whatever they call it he should have stayed with computers as it appears the money he made from all those zero’s and one’s has effected his mind to say the least. For me the best way to describe what Gate’s said yesterday was la la la la la. Going through the motions as we all go down the drain in not such slow motion.

  12. Don Hawkins said on May 31st, 2010 at 3:35am #

    What do you think has Atlas Shrugged and now a few go off to the mountain top and yes don’t build the motor.

  13. Don Hawkins said on May 31st, 2010 at 3:54am #

    Maybe I shouldn’t have written that last comment wouldn’t want to give these few any idea’s as they are not to bright. Stuck on stupid high school just couldn’t move on, oh well.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 31st, 2010 at 8:08am #

    Don, did you see the revelation of the shennanigans that went on at Copenhagen?I forget whether I alerted the world to the menace of choosing Copenhagen of all places as the venue, but selecting Denmark,home of denialist par flatulence Lomborg, the source of the Svensmark ‘cosmic ray’ laugh and home of a far Right,market fundamentalist, regime right in Uncle Sam’s anatomical back pocket, screamed ‘The fix is in!’ to my cynical mind. Did I forget Denmark’s sterling service to that other Rightwing Holy Crusade, Islamophobia, seen in the Mohammed cartoons obscenity? Now it transpires that the far Right,market fundamentalist, Danish regime, deliberately sabotaged the talks by trying to impose an agenda favourable to the US and rich countries and deliberately hostile to the poor world. What a surprise! Then there were the interminable delays to registering NGO delegates, widely commented on at the time. All this coming on top of the ‘Climategate’ lies, just shrieks conspiracy by the Right, who seem more determined than ever to ensure mass death in the coming decades. As well as your timely observations regarding Alaska and the rapid loss of Arctic ice cover, there is the chilling prospect of monsoon failure in India. India is experiencing an unprecedented heatwave even for it, with temperatures topping 50 degrees, and widespread death and suffering amongst both humans and wildlife.If the monsoon fails or is insufficient,as last year, we could witness a real calamity.