Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brownie's back

I’m going to make a hazardous prediction: more than the economy, it is the murder of the Gulf of Mexico which will decide the elections of 2010.

In the broad sweep of history, or even the small vision of a mouse from a mousehole, American elections are a trivial and sickening event. Especially in balance with the incredible damage wrought by a sugar intoxicated, irresponsible, and servile population, in the throes of some regression to the feudal era by way of worship of the wealthy.

But however trivial the measuring instrument, the object is immense. The object here, of course, is the destruction of a 50 million year eco-system on a scale not scene in the Gulf region since a comet slammed into the coast of Yucatan 65 million years ago.

This is the size of the crime.

Obama took office and immediately disappointed his liberal supporters by, in general, continuing all the disastrous policies of the Bush years under the guise of ‘stability’ and the magic belief in the ‘free market’, in spite of the fact that the corruption, inefficiency, rent seeking, and ill effects of that market were naked for all to see. Still, his supporters – and I’d count myself as nominally one, since I will probably vote for him – swallowed every insult. So far, his strong card has been his calm, and his confidence. Those two things seemed to indicate that at least we were being ruled by a competent president.

The death of the Gulf, which is going to go on and on this summer and fall, will unwind this image.

Now, make no mistake. There are no solutions that are even close to being realized. The details of the capping process for Wednesday have, unsurprisingly, been kept under wraps, since, as has become clear, all these repairing moves are improvisations devised by people who never mapped out any disaster scenario. The press, in its infinite gullibility, likes to tell us that a new well is being drilled to relieve the old well, and that by August the gusher will be capped. What is lost in this discussion is that the new well is being drilled in the same deep water environment, with an even greater lack of safety provisions, in greater haste, by a company that still doesn’t understand how it blew up the Deepwater Horizon well. It is as if a drunk driver who crashed into your car now offered, whilst glugging a bottle of whiskey, to make amends by driving you home.

So – assuming, as I think is reasonable, that the current volume of flow into the Gulf is between 60 and 100, 000 barrels per day – we are speaking of a summer event that will burn itself even into the inane and addled mind of homo americanus, circa 2010.

At a certain point, the p.r. hallucinations will melt away. At a certain point, the giggly story about how BP is going to use dog hair and golf balls to plug the ‘leak’ will give way to stories about communities evacuating because their water source is contaminated. At a certain point, the dispersants poisoning the water will give way to vast rafts consisting of dead fish, dolphins, sea turtles and the like. At a certain point the humble, disposable Cajun fisherman ( an example of what the AEC would call “low use humans”, as they approved tests that shook fallout over poor southern Utah residents and other worthless scum) will give way to more suburban identifiable retired couples, looking in dismay as their beachfront property becomes a toxic dump.

Today one sensed a definite interior movement. Surely the White House knows that the interview with Admiral Allen, their point man in the Gulf, was a Brownie style disaster. Reading the transcript, one can even imagine the Admiral sitting there with a BP gimme cap on. Two parts stand out: once, when the Admiral claims that he can get “answers” from the BP CEO Tony Hayward – which avoids the problem of whether the answers are true or not, since they are almost certainly lies; the other part deserves to be quoted for pure farce:

“Allen compared the battle to contain the spill and its spreading slick to "fighting a multi-front war". He added that when the leak was finally sealed, the total amount of oil spilled would "probably start to approach" the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, the worst U.S. oil spill. The tanker accident spilled 11 million gallons (41 million litres) of crude.”

This kind of lie takes one back to the good old Bush days – indeed, I think it has the ring of authentic Rumsfeldianism. There isn’t a scientist outside of BP who believes that the estimate of 5,000 barrels a day, which the press swallowed for almost two weeks, is even remotely true. What we saw there was a rare, televised bout of regulatory capture. It should be shown to classes on the topic. It was outrageous, it was pitiful, and it will do a lot of damage to Obama’s white house. More, I think, than they know.

Behind every great fortune, Balzac said, there is a great crime. He was speaking of the Napoleonic era – in our era we can say, there is a great environmental crime. This looks to be a world class crime. As there is no real leftist discourse in the U.S., it will be an event that nobody can talk about. But I can suggest some vocabulary: nationalization; seizure of assets; the nationalization of every deepwater drilling project from now on out; the cancellation of all deep water drilling projects until there are failsafe procedures; the investment, by the government, in that emergency capacity; and the entire overthrow of the corporate and oligarchic control of our political apparatus. And, for good measure, lets us throw in the words exploitation, surplus value, social costs, government organized and financed crash programs to develop alternative energy sources, and a regulatory apparatus to control and oversee, with intense and irritating attention, the petro giants. Take down the latter, or live in a world that smells and feels like a giant toilet.

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