LikeTheDew.com » Andrea Lee Meyer http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:36:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dew3_mh4feed.png http://likethedew.com 88 31 A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Five Years On. What can I tell you about Katrina? http://likethedew.com/2010/08/26/five-years-on/ http://likethedew.com/2010/08/26/five-years-on/#comments Fri, 27 Aug 2010 03:37:11 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=10814 What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember sitting on the floor, watching the Superdome as the roof began to peel away. I remember thinking that it was possible that I would lose my house. I remember finding out that New Orleans had “dodged a bullet.” I remember sinking to the floor as the first television coverage came out of Mississippi, showing the towns along the coast reduced to splinters. I remember looking at my mother as she absorbed this news.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember watching the news that Monday night, when it became clear that something was wrong in New Orleans. That we had not, in fact, dodged a bullet. I remember watching a news reporter drive down the highway a few blocks from my house in a boat.

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Here we are, five years on. What can I tell you about Hurricane Katrina? I can tell you that I’ve lived on the coast all of my life and that this was only the third time I’ve ever had to evacuate. The first time was for Hurricane David, when I was a 10-year-old living on St. Simons Island. David turned out to be nothing other than a great slumber party for me and my sister. The second time I evacuated was in 1998, and I had just moved to New Orleans about six months before. Whatever storm it was veered to the east at the last minute (they always do, my now-husband told me at the time). We tried to evacuate once, in 2004. I believe that was for Hurricane Ivan. I’ll never forget that experience, because I was about five months pregnant at the time. That and it took us about three hours to drive across Lake Pontchartrain, a trip that normally takes about 35 minutes. That’s when we gave up and came home. And I was terrified and cried a lot, which was not at all helped by the fact that I was pregnant. And couldn’t drink. The storm veered away to the east at the last minute, as my husband told me they always do. So Katrina it was.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember waking up on August 26th and going to work. I remember my father calling me from St. Simons and, among other things, mentioning that their weekend was supposed to be rainy, due to a little Category 1 storm named Katrina that was supposed to loop around in the Gulf and hit Florida and Georgia. I remember going to lunch with a co-worker. For some reason, we decided to take our time walking back to the office after lunch. We took a meandering route back to work, even though is was about 815 degrees outside, and just took in the sights and sounds of downtown New Orleans on a Friday afternoon. I remember picking up my five-month-old daughter and going home. I remember feeding her, taking her out on the screened porch to watch the birds, and then putting her down for a nap. While she was sleeping, I unpacked boxes and hung pictures. We’d just bought the house—our first house—six weeks earlier and there was still lots to do.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember watching the news that Friday night and finding out that Katrina had strengthened incredibly quickly. She was now a Category 3, forecast to become a Category 5, and was headed northwest — toward New Orleans.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember waking up on Saturday morning, not knowing what to do. Wanting to leave. Wanting to stay. Arguing with my husband about whether we should leave or stay. Freaking out because we didn’t have any plywood to board our windows. Freaking out because, for the first time since moving to New Orleans seven years earlier, I had let down my guard–a storm had traveled into the Gulf before I’d had the chance to act out my normal routine, which was to run around the house like a crazy woman, shoving our pictures and sentimental stuff into big Rubbermaid boxes, while my husband shook his head and told me to stop worrying, that the storm would turn to the east. It was finally decided that I would get into my car with our daughter, meet up with my mother in Bay St. Louis, 50 miles east, and that the three of us would drive to my sister’s house in Atlanta.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember packing a duffel bag — one duffel bag — with a few pairs of shorts and T-shirts for myself, a pair of jeans, some sandals. I remember picking up a handful of clothes for the baby and shoving those in as well. I was in a hurry, such a hurry. I was scared that if I didn’t leave pretty quickly that I’d get stuck in evacuation traffic –with a baby. I remember, crazily, that I wanted to take the time to unload the dishwasher. As a child, we were never allowed to go on vacation until the dishwasher was emptied and the floors were vacuumed. My mother always said that the house had to be clean in case robbers broke in. I really, really wanted to unload that dishwasher, but I didn’t.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember driving, with my mother and step-father, up to the bank on Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis. It was where we’d decided to leave my car so my mother and I could drive together to Atlanta, still worried about possibly getting stuck in 12 hours of evacuation traffic. And besides, my car would be fine. My mother and step-father were quite prepared, and they’d researched and found the highest points above sea level in Bay St. Louis. We left my car in the bank parking lot, 27 feet above sea level and about two miles from the beach.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember pulling out of my mother’s driveway while my step-father stood on the porch of their elevated house, at least 15 feet above us. I rolled down the window to tell him goodbye, and he jokingly told us not to worry — that if things got bad, he’d tie himself to one of the support pillars holding up the house and just tread water.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember sitting at my sister’s house, feeling as though we were at a wake. We alternated between nervous laughter and sheer terror. And the hours slowly passed.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember when my husband called me on Sunday, saying things looked bad. The storm wasn’t turning east. He was leaving for Atlanta. The city had called for a mandatory evacuation. I remember my step-father calling my mother to tell her that things looked bad. He was heading east and would stop somewhere in Florida, wherever he could find a room.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember sitting on the floor, watching the Superdome as the roof began to peel away. I remember thinking that it was possible that I would lose my house. I remember finding out that New Orleans had “dodged a bullet.” I remember sinking to the floor as the first television coverage came out of Mississippi, showing the towns along the coast reduced to splinters. I remember looking at my mother as she absorbed this news.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember watching the news that Monday night, when it became clear that something was wrong in New Orleans. That we had not, in fact, dodged a bullet. I remember watching a news reporter drive down the highway a few blocks from my house in a boat.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember helping my husband load up his car with extra tanks of gas and cases of bottled water as he headed back to the coast. We hadn’t heard from his mother in three days. I remember my husband calling, about 18 hours later, to say that everyone was okay, but that there were now only three walls left on his aunt’s house, where they’d all ridden out the storm.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember getting official confirmation from my husband that our house was totaled. And then finding out that my mother and step-father’s house was totaled. And that my husband’s families’ homes were gone. His mother’s. His father’s. His grandmother’s. His sister’s. I remember finding out that my parents had gotten 32 feet of water. I remember my step-father joking about tying himself to the pillars. I remember laughing to my mother that my car, as it turned out, was not so safe after all at 27 feet above sea level.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember my sister telling me that a friend of a friend of a friend  had heard about our plight and had offered us a house they had for sale. It was a tear-down and it wasn’t furnished, but we could stay in it as long as we needed. We went and bought a mattress. The salesman gave us a 10% discount when he found out we were from New Orleans. I remember the kindness of complete and total strangers.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I don’t remember much about the next three months, other than getting curious looks everywhere I went in Atlanta, driving around in my husband’s car, with the Louisiana license plate and the New Orleans Saints sticker on it. I remember an elderly lady asking me for directions in the grocery store. I told her I didn’t know because I was from New Orleans. She started crying and hugged me and said she was, too. We stood there next to the olives and pickles and talked for about 15 minutes.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember my husband going back and forth, every week, between New Orleans and Atlanta, to return to his job and then to visit us. I remember fighting a lot about whether we should move back. I remember not wanting to — not with a baby — but knowing that my husband was desperate to do so. I remember screaming at each other, because neither one of us wanted to be responsible for that decision—to stay or to go—a decision that could end up making one of us miserable.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember driving back in on a cold night in December. My mother and daughter were with me — a weird reverse of our trip to Atlanta more than three months ago. I remember driving across Lake Pontchartrain, into New Orleans. And there was complete and total desolation, in an area that used to be lit up 24 hours a day. Dark businesses, dark houses, dark streets. And I cried and cried and cried as we drove further into town, just completely overwhelmed by the losses that this city and its people had to bear.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember going to our first staff meeting, after all of us had come back to Tulane after being shut down for the entire fall semester. The dean asked everyone who had lost their homes to raise their hands. And I raised my hand and looked around the room, as about two-thirds of the 150 people in the room raised their hands as well. And as sad as it was, it was also a relief — because every single person in that room knew how I was feeling.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember walking into my house for the first time in four months, to the day. I remember opening the front door and thinking that my husband had ripped the carpet out without me knowing it, because the floor was cold, and gray, and rock hard, and it had to be the slab, right? It took a few minutes for my mind to process that it really was our carpet. I remember walking through our house in a daze, never having actually experienced before what floodwaters can do. How did the couch get over there? I remember looking at the mold, covering everything that wasn’t already a water-logged, decaying mess. I remember looking in the dishwasher and thinking about how I’d debated about whether or not to unload it, four months earlier. If I had, the dishes my grandmother had given us as a wedding gift would’ve been above the flood line, which was right around the kitchen counters. I remember my husband and I hauling all of our belongings out onto the curb and then watching a guy come by in a pick-up truck and dig through our things, taking any furniture he thought was salvageable, including our daughter’s crib.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember the debates that the country began to have. Should we rebuild New Orleans? And just what kind of people lived there, anyway? Who were these people who were living below sea level? Didn’t they know this was going to happen at some point? And why didn’t they get off their asses and help themselves instead of sitting around whining and waiting for a government handout? Fourteen whole blocks in some town in Iowa flooded back in 2002 and there was a really bad snowstorm in Minnesota in 2004 and you didn’t hear those people complaining. They helped themselves and didn’t depend on the taxpayers to do it for them. I remember feeling despair and anger, so much anger.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember finding out that the levees were breached, not over-topped. That is to say, the water did not just rise so high that it went over the levees. It went through them, beneath them — they failed spectacularly. I remember reading the newspaper about six months later and finding out that some of the levees were stuffed with newspapers; as you can probably imagine, those weren’t on the list of approved levee-filling materials.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I remember driving around the flooded-out areas of the city, over and over again, taking pictures of what should have been unbelievable but was no longer. Cars on roofs. Refrigerators in trees. Semi-trucks overturned. Spray-paint tags on buildings. One dead. Two dogs dead. One live dog barking. I remember walking up to an abandoned house to take a picture of the inside and being immediately repelled by the scent of death. I remember watching the news the next night as they pulled a body out of that house, six months after the storm.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I can tell you about the punch-in-the-gut feeling that overtakes me every year about this time. I can tell you that for about two weeks in late August each year, my body tenses and refuses to relax, as if it’s prepared for flight. I can tell you what it physically feels like when a part of your heart breaks. I can tell you that, even five years later, I can’t watch the anniversary coverage without crying.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I can tell you that this is a city that has been brought to its knees. I can tell you that our murder rate is shocking. That our schools still have a long way to go. That what appears to be a pretty good portion of our police department is corrupt. I can tell you that as we speak, Hurricane Danielle is in the Atlantic and that Earl and Fiona are waiting in the wings. I can tell you that my evacuation list is made, but that I still need more Rubbermaid boxes.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I can tell you that this oil spill, and the fear of what may be its ongoing effects, is breaking our hearts and dredging up all of these feelings that we had thought — that we had hoped—were gone. What if we have to leave, again?

What can I tell you about Katrina? I can tell you that New Orleans is, at the same moments in time, one of the most maddening and beautiful places I’ve ever lived. I can tell you about the seemingly never-ending hassles of life here. Or I can tell you about the night about four months after the storm, when my husband and I sat in a bar that had no electricity and drank beer from a cooler by candlelight, surrounded by and laughing with other people doing the same. I can tell about the melancholy I experience when my daughter, who is now five years old, asks me about the “broken” houses that we pass by every day. Or I can tell you about the night the Saints won the Super Bowl and how we stood in front of a friend’s house after the game and listened, as all around us, the city exploded in pure, unadulterated joy. I can tell you that I oftentimes question my sanity for living here. Or I can tell you that I now understand why my husband wants a jazz funeral—that it is, quite frankly, the essence of this place—a slow dirge to mourn the departed and to grieve, followed by a raucous celebration to symbolize the life that goes on.

What can I tell you about Katrina? I can tell you that, despite everything, I am home.

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Horror and Heartbreak http://likethedew.com/2010/06/04/horror-and-heartbreak/ http://likethedew.com/2010/06/04/horror-and-heartbreak/#comments Fri, 04 Jun 2010 23:35:06 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=9585 The horror continues here on the Gulf Coast, as each day news of the oil spill becomes more and more dismal. Each day, another attempt to staunch the flow of oil fails. Each day, more coastline is covered in oil—more than 140 miles thus far. Each day, more “protective” booms fail. The heartbreak continues, as each day, more wildlife dies. Each day, the estimate of the amount of oil gushing forth into the Gulf seems to rise. I am so angry that I begin and end each day with a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat. How can they do this to our coast? How can they do this to our wildlife? Why won’t anyone step in to say enough is enough?

So far, we don’t know whether the latest attempt to “cut and cap” the spill will work. Although the cap is in place, oil continues to spew. The Coast Guard now estimates that the amount of oil escaping is somewhere between 500,000 and one million gallons of crude per day. And here we are, on Day 45.

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With Louisiana's barrier islands in the background, oil streams into Barataria Bay, inundating the inside waters north of Grand Isle on Wednesday - Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune

The horror continues here on the Gulf Coast, as each day news of the oil spill becomes more and more dismal. Each day, another attempt to staunch the flow of oil fails. Each day, more coastline is covered in oil—more than 140 miles thus far. Each day, more “protective” booms fail. The heartbreak continues, as each day, more wildlife dies. Each day, the estimate of the amount of oil gushing forth into the Gulf seems to rise. I am so angry that I begin and end each day with a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat. How can they do this to our coast? How can they do this to our wildlife? Why won’t anyone step in to say enough is enough?

So far, we don’t know whether the latest attempt to “cut and cap” the spill will work. Although the cap is in place, oil continues to spew. The Coast Guard now estimates that the amount of oil escaping is somewhere between 500,000 and one million gallons of crude per day. And here we are, on Day 45.

A bird is mired in oil on the beach at East Grand Terre along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010 – Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

The message boards are filled with debates—is this Bush’s fault? Is this Obama’s fault? Is this our, the American public’s fault, a result of our all-consuming need for oil, our selfishness, our short-sightedness? The debate is a worthy one, but it’s not helpful to those currently living along the Gulf Coast who are devastated by what’s happening now and are fearful of what the future may hold.

Yes, offshore drilling holds risks, but this catastrophe did not have to happen. The Deepwater Horizon explosion was caused by greed on the part of BP, with help from Transocean, Halliburton, and the Minerals Management Service. In BP’s rush to cut corners, in their desire to speed up the drilling process, they gambled with the lives of the workers on the rig and with the future of the Gulf Coast.

It didn’t have to be this way, but BP does not hold all of the blame solely. I am furious that our government has allowed oil companies to drill deeper and deeper offshore in their quests for oil and yet requires no feasible plan for action to prevent a catastrophe like this one or to contain it once it occurs. As quoted in a USA Today article, BP spokesman Steve Rinehart said that BP officials had to improvise  because of the “unforeseen circumstances” of the event. “Nobody foresaw an incident in which something like this occurred,” Rinehart said. How is it that no one could foresee this? Why are we allowing oil companies to drill for oil a mile beneath the surface of the ocean with no plan for how to respond when the unthinkable happens?

A Brown Pelican sits in heavy oil on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast Thursday, June 3, 2010 – Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

Each day, more and more evidence of BP’s outrageous safety record is unearthed—as noted in another post, BP has been cited for 760 “egregious, willful” safety violations in the last three years. The runners-up, Conoco-Phillips and Sunoco, each were cited for eight violations during the same time period.

Of course, this should come as no surprise from a company that once wrote up an analysis that compared its workers to the “Three Little Pigs” and advanced the use of cost savings over more costly safety measures. It’s maddening that this catastrophe, which has already cost hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup and containment measures with no end in sight, may have been prevented with the purchase of a $500,000 acoustic switch which, as you may recall, BP opted against.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Minerals Management Service could have required the acoustic switch, as do many of the other major offshore oil producing countries. However, the MMS  decided “the remote device wasn’t needed because rigs had other back-up plans to cut off a well.”

And what were those back-up plans? Well, it appears that BP was allowed to just copy and paste its Gulf Coast emergency response plan from an old one it had lying around. Seals, sea otters, and walruses are listed in the emergency response plan as the animals that could be affected by an oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon—animals that must have somehow managed to migrate into the Gulf from the much cooler climes they normally inhabit. The emergency equipment provider BP lists for the “rapid deployment of spill response resources on a 24-hour, 7 days a week basis” is, in actuality, a Japanese home shopping site akin to QVC. This is the emergency response plan that our government found adequate for deep water drilling.

Boom on the beach at Grand Isle State Park, Wednesday May 26, 2010– David Grunfeld/The Times-Picayune

On Thursday, Tony Hayward admitted in an interview with the Financial Times that it was an “entirely fair criticism” that BP was not prepared to deal with an oil leak of this magnitude and justified the lack of a response plan by saying it was a “low-probability, high-impact” incident. Hayward also commended BP’s containment efforts to date, saying, “Considering how big this has been, very little has got[ten] away from us.” The people of the Gulf Coast certainly don’t agree with this assessment.

And now that the worst has happened, now that the things that could not be foreseen have occurred, we hear over and over from the Obama administration, from BP, and from the Coast Guard about all of the hundreds of hours of manpower and thousands of feet of boom that have been deployed to prevent the oil from reaching our shores. And then we hear the real, heartbreaking truth of this situation—of the ineffective and ineffectual response. There are reports that BP bused in as many as 400 extra cleanup workers in advance of President Obama’s visit last week. Less than a week later, the workers had disappeared. “They’re all but gone,” said a local official.  Several residents of Grand Isle called into the New Orleans talk radio station on Friday morning to report that the hundreds of workers are back, again in advance of the President’s latest visit. One can’t help but wonder if this charade is only for the President’s benefit or whether it’s for the benefit of the nation at large.

BP contract workers are coming forward, stating that they have been required to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from talking to the press. And BP is apparently in charge of deciding which affected areas members of the press may visit. When a reporter from Mother Jones asked a BP representative why she was not allowed to see a local wildlife refuge where oil has come ashore, the response was because “it’s BP’s oil.”  In an interview with the New York Daily News, a contract worker stated “There is a lot of cover-up for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals [to get out]. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence.” Fortunately, as difficult as it is to view them, pictures of the devastation are making their way into the public eye.

Nesting pelicans are seen landing as oil washes ashore on an island that is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests as well at terns, gulls and roseated spoonbills in Barataria Bay, just inside the coast of Louisiana, Saturday, May 22, 2010 – Gerald Herber/AP Photo

On Thursday night, Rachel Maddow reported from Grand Isle, Louisiana on the “pitiful” response to the oil spill and on the ineffectual use of protection and diversion booms that neither protect nor divert. She showed miles and miles of boom that have not been maintained and have broken away from their moorings—moorings, by the way, that consist of nothing more than bamboo poles stuck in the water. This, in the 21st century, is BP’s response to an oil spill. Bamboo poles and booms. And of course, millions of gallons of toxic dispersants, which BP continues to pump into the Gulf, weeks after the EPA told them to find a safer alternative. Technology has advanced to the point that we can drill more than a mile underneath the surface of the ocean for oil, but nary a thought has been given as to how to respond to a catastrophe like this, once it actually happens.

In the meantime, BP has spent $50 million to launch a new commercial in which Tony Hayward says that BP “has taken full responsibility for cleaning up the spill in the Gulf” and again promises that the company will “honor all legitimate claims.” This is in stark contrast to a press release disseminated by the State of Louisiana, announcing that it has requested that BP give the state access to its procedures for approving or denying claims related to the spill. Not surprisingly, BP has refused. The state reports that of the “37 claims categories ranging from loss of income for shrimpers, crabbers, oyster processors and fishermen to loss of rental property income and damage to animals and property, 26 categories have 70 percent or more of unpaid claims. In 17 business categories, 71 percent of claims are still pending. For commercial loss of income, 57 percent of claims are unpaid. Less than 25 percent of business interruption claims have been paid.”

And so, we continue to watch, and wonder, and wait for the end of this catastrophe. For the oil to stop flowing in hopes that the cleanup effort can begin in earnest. And people in this area continue to wonder if they are watching the slow, painful death of life on the Gulf Coast.

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Oil and Water http://likethedew.com/2010/05/21/oil-and-water/ http://likethedew.com/2010/05/21/oil-and-water/#comments Sat, 22 May 2010 02:49:15 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=9441 As a resident of Louisiana, I'm so sick about this oil spill that I can't even begin to tell you.

BP has been sticking to its initial "guesstimate" that approximately 5,000 barrels a day of oil are spewing forth into the Gulf, despite numerous reports saying that the real amount of oil being released is more likely in the range of 56,000-80,000 barrels per day. Even if you go with the lower estimate of 56K barrels a day, that means more than 2.3 MILLION gallons. A day.

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A cleanup crew wearing protective suits pass a small child as they comb the beach for toxic materials from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Michael Appleton/The New York Times)

As a resident of Louisiana, I’m so sick about this oil spill that I can’t even begin to tell you.

BP has been sticking to its initial “guesstimate” that approximately 5,000 barrels a day of oil are spewing forth into the Gulf, despite numerous reports saying that the real amount of oil being released is more likely in the range of 56,000-80,000 barrels per day. Even if you go with the lower estimate of 56K barrels a day, that means more than 2.3 MILLION gallons. A day.

BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, has had the gall to try to downplay the damage being caused to the Gulf. “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” Hayward said.

But thanks to the “hot tap,” the smaller pipe that BP has shoved into the gaping pipe that is hemorrhaging oil, we’re saved, right? BP began proudly reporting on Thursday that the “hot tap” is now siphoning off 5,000 barrels of oil per day. However, as BP has maintained that only 5,000 gallons of oil a day have been leaking, and significant quantities of oil are STILL gushing out, this puts them in a bit of a quandary. You can watch a live feed of the oil leak here. (Note: the site has gone down, due to the high volume of traffic.)

Oil from the oil spill off the coast of Mobile, Ala. There are now gigantic underwater oil plumes in the Gulf, as large as three miles wide by 10 miles long, which were most likely caused by the dispersants that are being pumped into the oil at the site of the well. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Watkins)

The situation just keeps getting worse. Earlier in the week, we learned that there are now gigantic underwater oil plumes in the Gulf, as large as three miles wide by 10 miles long, which were most likely caused by the dispersants that are being pumped into the oil at the site of the well. Do you get the feeling that it’s much better for BP if the oil is forming into giant slicks underneath the surface of the ocean? Out of sight, out of mind, right? And again, BP doesn’t want us to have any concrete estimate of the actual amount of oil being released, as shown in my favorite excerpt from the New York Times story:

“BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

“The answer is no to that,’ a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said. ‘we’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. it’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.’”

The sheer arrogance — refusing to allow scientists to more accurately measure the amount of oil actually being released into the Gulf because it’s not relevant? Not relevant to what? To BP’s public relations efforts? Might it not be relevant to know how big of a problem we’re actually dealing with?

And then let’s talk about the dispersants, shall we? Even though there is a dispersant called Dispersit that has been proven by the EPA to disperse 100 percent of south Louisiana crude oil and has also shown to have much lower levels of toxicity, BP is using a dispersant called Corexit, which has only been shown to disperse 55-63 percent of Louisiana crude. So why are we using a less effective dispersant? Let’s take a look at who’s on the board of directors of Nalco, the makers of Corexit:

More than 600,000 gallons of Corexit have been released in the Gulf so far. Corexit has been banned in the UK, BP’s home country, for over ten years, is toxic to marine life and is less effective than safer alternative and available dispersants. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

“In 1994, Nalco and Exxon’s chemical division, Exxon Chemical Company, formed a joint venture focusing on oil and gas products like the dispersants in use in the Gulf. Daniel Sanders, and a vice president, Steve Taylor, both came from Exxon. Another Nalco board member, Rodney Chase, worked for BP for 38 years. In an interview, Nalco spokesman Charles Pajor says that former oil industry officials are ‘not by any means a majority’ of the company’s corporate leadership. Nevertheless, the cleanup effort has been good business for Nalco: the company has reported that it expects to sell $40 million worth of dispersants by the end of this week.”

More than 600,000 gallons of Corexit have been released in the Gulf so far. Did I also mention that Corexit has been banned in the UK, BP’s home country, for over ten years? Have I mentioned that Corexit is toxic? I hate to quote almost an entire article, but this drives home the point better than I can:

“But environmental experts have warned that Corexit could add to the ecological disaster in the Gulf rather than alleviate it. Oil companies designed the dispersants to reduce the amount of oil hitting land. That may spare BP the PR nightmare of oil-coated birds washing up on Louisiana’s shorelines. However, as scientists such as marine toxicologist Dr. Riki Ott point out, BP’s chosen dispersants will simply push the problem underwater. The chemicals, says Ott, have ‘the potential to cause intergenerational harm’ to marine life. Corexit has been banned in the United Kingdom due to environmental concerns.

“[Oil companies] want to make the visible part of the oil spill disappear — for political reasons, for limiting liability to the spillers,’ says Richard Charter, government relations consultant for Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.’If we were looking at food chain impacts and biomagnification in the marine ecosystem, we probably never would have invented Corexit.’”

A dolphin lies on dead on a beach on Horn Island, Miss., in the Gulf of Mexico. 162 sea turtles have been found dead so far. About a dozen dolphins have died so far. Over 20 oiled birds are dead so far. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Simply push the problem underwater. Could that result in an underwater plume that’s ten miles long and three miles wide? Could that plume result in intergenerational harm to marine life?

The only good news I’ve seen thus far is that according to the Washington Post, the EPA is scheduled to announce today that it will demand that BP begin use of an alternate, less-toxic dispersant within 72 hours.

Dead animals are washing up on shore. 162 sea turtles have been found dead so far. About a dozen dolphins have died so far. Over 20 oiled birds are dead so far.

And finally, we have the weeks it has taken to come up with a viable option, an option other than waiting the 90 days necessary to drill a relief well, to finally stop the flow of oil. we’re still waiting, on day thirty. And the oil is here.

Many, many options have been discussed regarding how to prevent the oil that’s already been released from damaging the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. As you may or may not know, the booms are not working — they can’t handle any wave action higher than three feet. And the booms are currently being used — in the ocean — to try to prevent oil from getting onto the coast. As I’m sure you know, the waves in the ocean frequently exceed three feet. Additionally, thanks to the underwater dispersants, which have resulted in the plumes, the oil can now travel under the booms to the coast.

But guess what? There are other ideas — ideas that could actually work. The state of Louisiana put forth a plan almost two weeks ago to dredge and pump sand into the endangered areas, thereby creating artificial barrier islands that would stop the oil before it gets into the wetlands. In the days that we’ve been waiting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess the “environmental impact” of this plan on the coastline, oil has made its way onshore. And it is thick oil. Not the “light sheen” that BP has been insisting on.

Sheens of oil reaching land on the northern Chandeleur barrier islands. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

So far, 24 miles of Louisiana wetlands have been impacted. Oil has made its way into the Bay of St. Louis on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And still we wait, for someone to do something. Which do you think will have a bigger adverse environmental impact on the coast? Thick oil continuing to encroach on the wetlands because no one will do anything to stop it? Or temporary barrier islands, composed of sand, that would absorb the oil before it’s allowed to enter even more wetlands, where it’s impossible to remove? Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish (the site where the oil has made landfall), has said that the oil “has laid down a blanket in the marsh that will destroy every living thing there.”

Just as we did five years ago, the people of the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast are watching a storm come ashore, a storm that could affect the lives and the livelihoods of people in this area for generations to come. And just as we felt during Hurricane Katrina and the resultant levee failures in New Orleans, we are becoming increasingly frustrated that viable help has not yet arrived. Louisiana produces more than 30% of the oil and natural gas used by the entire nation. But the state of Louisiana is paying the cost and is currently losing its wetlands at the rate of one football field every 38 minutes.

So if you want to help, please contact your elected representatives and demand the following:

(L-R) BP America Chairman and President Lamar McKay, Transocean President and CEO Steven Newman and Tim Probert, president of global business lines, and chief health, safety and environmental officer at Halliburton, are sworn in before testifying to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. During testimony, BP laid some responsibility on the deepwater oil rig accident on Transocean; who, in turn, has laid some blame on Haliburton. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  1. That the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers immediately approve the emergency federal permit for the artificial barrier island plan and require BP to pay the estimated $350 million in project costs.
  2. That Congress immediately pass the “Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act,” sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, and Bill Nelson of Florida. Currently by law, BP is limited to only $75 million (not billion) in liability for non-clean-up costs and containment of the oil spill. But as a post on the site the Maritime Lawyer states, “the fact is that even after the Gulf of Mexico is cleaned up, there’ll be several communities along these shores who will be devastated by the effect of the spill. These communities are heavily dependent on fishing, tourism and other related industries for their livelihoods. The economic impact of such a spill could last for generations in these areas. BP has to be held accountable for those costs too.” Currently, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is blocking this bill. And I ask you to keep in mind that if BP is not held liable for ALL losses associated with this oil spill, we, the American taxpayers, will be.

As Rachel Maddow stated weeks ago, “America has a choice to make about the State of Louisiana. Is Louisiana part of our country or isn’t it? Because if Louisiana is part of America, then the American people and the American government have to begin to defend Louisiana…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZoOJga5wbc

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Editor’s note: The photos shown in this post are from a shared gallery on the Denver post web site. Click here, or any of the photos to view the gallery.

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Strange and Beautiful Days in New Orleans http://likethedew.com/2010/02/02/strange-and-beautiful-days-in-new-orleans/ http://likethedew.com/2010/02/02/strange-and-beautiful-days-in-new-orleans/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2010 01:14:59 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=7763 Around Christmastime, there was an article on espn.com written by Wright Thompson that detailed the strange and beautiful days we’re experiencing here in New Orleans lately, thanks to our Saints. Everyone in this city is walking around on cloud nine, and I mean everyone. Regardless of where you go or who you talk to these days, everyone has a goofy grin on their face and a little extra spring in their step.

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New Orleans — Around Christmastime, there was an article on espn.com written by Wright Thompson that detailed the strange and beautiful days we’re experiencing here in New Orleans lately, thanks to our Saints. Everyone in this city is walking around on cloud nine, and I mean everyone. Regardless of where you go or who you talk to these days, everyone has a goofy grin on their face and a little extra spring in their step.

I became a Saints fan in 2001, in the unlikeliest of places — my hometown of St. Simons Island, Georgia. My husband and I were living there, during the brief experiment in which he tried life outside of New Orleans. As anyone who is or loves a native New Orleanian knows, they can’t stay away too long — they always come back, eventually.

We didn’t last very long in Georgia. My husband tried to like it, and we had a lot of fun along the way. But there were just too many things that were foreign to him, like getting off of work at midnight and being unable to buy beer. Or last call. Or not being able to buy vodka at the drugstore. No Mardi Gras, no Jazzfest, no crawfish, no where y’at?

Around month two of living on St. Simons, we decided to go to a sports bar and watch a Saints game. I’d lived in New Orleans for four years prior to our brief experiment of living in my home state, so I’d been to a few games. (One of the best days of my life, to this day, revolved around watching the Saints-Rams playoff game of 2000 with friends, followed by a raucous celebration in the French Quarter.) And as a native Georgian, I had the thrill of seeing Herschel Walker in action, so it wasn’t like I’d never watched football before. I mean, how can you go to the University of Georgia and not immerse yourself in the football scene? I think it might be required. But college football with friends was one thing; the NFL scene was an entirely different animal.

So, mostly to make my husband happy and to try to alleviate some of the homesickness he was feeling, we started going to the few sports bars around St. Simons Island on Sundays and tuning into the Saints games. We soon discovered that if we showed up at Loco’s, a local bar, right around opening time at 11:00 a.m., we could claim one of the satellite televisions for ourselves and tune in to the Saints games. Loco’s had a first come, first served policy when it came to their satellite TVs, so even if everyone else in the bar wanted us to change the channel (and often pleaded with us to do so), we had gotten there first and had thus staked our claim.

At first, I just went to get out of the house, to hang out with my husband and give him moral support. But then, sitting there watching those games week after week, I started getting into it. And before long, I knew all of the players’ names. I was rooting for them. I was high-fiving my husband when the Saints made a good play, which didn’t happen very often, and jumping up and down with him when they won a game, which happened even less. In one of football’s finest grandstanding moments, I watched Joe Horn, aka Hollywood Joe, pull a cell phone out of the goalpost padding and make a call to his sons after scoring a touchdown. My husband and I would camp out in Loco’s, Sunday after Sunday, having a ball and telling people that they couldn’t change the channel and we didn’t care how much they wanted to watch the Cowboys or the Packers (the Falcons weren’t real popular on St. Simons). We had gotten there first, and we were watching the Saints.

I continued to watch after we moved back to New Orleans and continued to learn what a labor of love it is to be a Saints fan is. The Saints have never been known to be a winning team. I certainly wasn’t around for the “Aints” days, or the fans wearing paper bags over their heads during the season that ended with an abysmal 1-15 record, but God knows, I’ve heard my fair share about it.

I think I watched maybe two games during the 2005 season. We lost our home in the levee failures after Hurricane Katrina, and life took on a surreal quality that didn’t include watching football. And besides — it was just too depressing, watching the Saints being shuffled back and forth between San Antonio and Baton Rouge.  They were homeless as well.

But then came 2006 and that magical season, starting off with the Monday Night Football game against the Falcons and the reopening of the Superdome. It may sound silly to you, but ask any Saints fan who went through Katrina and they will happily admit to you that they openly cried at least once during that night. And we were all thrilled with that season, all the way to the end of it, with the heartbreaking loss to the Chicago Bears, which was made even worse by the behavior of some pretty heartless Bears fans. But…during that incredible season, when the Saints finally made it to the NFC playoffs, do you know what their record was? A not-all-that-remarkable 10-6, although that was one of our best seasons on record.

Every year that I’ve lived in New Orleans, die-hard Saints fans have told me that this will be the year. This is the year that the Saints are going all the way. We all nod our heads and agree that this is it. This is THE year. Until the Saints start losing, which always happens. Always, until now. We have a cartoon on our refrigerator in which a little boy tells his parents that he’s going to ask Santa to let the Saints go to the Super Bowl. His parents are then shown whispering that they should break it to him that there’s no such thing as the Saints going to the Super Bowl. My husband now plans to burn that cartoon at a Super Bowl party.

So this year, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. I remember how excited we all were when the Saints went 4-0. I have the text messages to prove it. And then they went 5-0. And 6-0. And 7-0. And every game became a do-or-die game.  I think the residents of this city had a collective heart attack during game 12, when the Redskins’ kicker, Scott Suisham, missed a field goal at the bottom of the fourth quarter and gave the Saints the opportunity they needed to tie up the game and win in overtime. 12-0. And then, somehow, we made it all the way up to 13-0. The Saints earned home field advantage in both the NFC divisional playoffs and the NFC playoffs.  Then they beat the Cardinals.

And then, last week, came the night of all nights.  The Saints held off the Minnesota Vikings (thanks in no small part to the many fumbles made by the Vikings) and Gulf Coast native Brett freaking Favre, and this city went insane like you cannot imagine. Everyone was in the streets, jumping up and down, screaming and hugging their neighbors (including me). Fireworks lit up the sky. The 504 area code became completely impossible to get a call into or out of, and I think it’s safe to say that at least 250,000 text messages that said nothing but “Who Dat!” were sent out that night. It was, quite simply, a thing of beauty.

And to be quite honest, we’re all still freaking the hell out. But in a good way. How is this possible? We’re used to being the loveable losers and now people are talking about how we’ve replaced the Dallas Cowboys as America’s team. Really?  We still all walk around yelling “the Saints are going to the Super Bowl!” to each other. Because it’s just. That. Amazing.

But can I tell you a secret? We don’t want to be America’s team. We’re not used to this spotlight and are unsure of what to do with ourselves. We like being the underdogs, and to be completely honest, I think people around here are relieved to hear that the Colts are currently favored to win the Super Bowl by about six points.

There are more rules to NFL football than I’ll ever learn; although I can now tell you what a safety is, what a pick-six is, and what it means when a penalty is declined. This is the year I’ve begun scaring my husband by asking for the sports section of the paper.

I’m not a sports writer, obviously.  All I can really tell you is what this season has meant to us, the fans. We’re all walking around pinching ourselves, trying to believe that this really is the year that the Saints are going all the way. And by God, it’s scary. And wonderful. And strange. And beautiful.  The Saints have done something magical for this city. It’s a love affair unlike any I’ve ever seen before. Our football team gets it. They get us. And we’ve all been rewarded by the relationship.

Has the Saints euphoria we feel around here erased all of the post-Katrina problems we have?  Of course not. Our mayor is a train wreck and we can’t wait for him to leave office. Our crime rates are staggering. We have to drive 20 mph down many of the streets in this city, even on streets with higher speed limits, because of the damage you’d do to your car if you tried to drive any faster. Our public school system is now a confusing tangle of privately operated charter schools, all of which have different admissions standards and deadlines. Most days, it seems that a large portion of this country hates us for living here — even though they’re more than willing to come here on vacation and vomit in our streets, urinate in our yards, and then complain about how dirty our city is.

But you know what? None of that matters right now. Because we’re going to the Super Bowl, people. And win or lose, we’ll be waiting for the Saints at the airport upon their return from Miami.  Win or lose, we’re planning a parade for them.  Win or lose, this will be the biggest Mardi Gras you’ve ever seen.  It’s been a hell of a ride, and we’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.

And in a city where everyday living has taken on an alternate universe feeling since 2005, we’ll take it. New Orleans gets a lot of bad press, some of it deservedly so. But as someone who’s lived here for quite some time, I can tell you that this is a city whose people are lovely and loving. A people who can’t talk about this dream, finally realized after 43 years, without tearing up just a bit. The Saints deserve this. We deserve this. And win or lose, they’ve already made us proud.

As Jaclyn Fujita, the wife of Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, told him recently in a text message before one of the many big games this season, “The people of New Orleans love the Saints not because they provide a distraction from their fall, but because they are a reflection of their rise.”

Strange and beautiful days, indeed. Pigs have flown. Who Dat!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrdwq9LR9iI

More Dew on the Saints: It was more than a football game | Who Dat?  Join in the fun in the Big Easy

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