Dear President Obama,
I know it’s been a rough ride. You were handed two wars, you wrestled a financial crisis to the ground that nearly threw us into a second Great Depression, you’ve managed to pass both healthcare and financial reform, and you did this all in less than two years. Well done. And so much else is on your plate; global warming, nuclear threats, immigration reform, homeland security, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, a whole host of others. I can see from here, from way down yonder in New Orleans, that you’ve been whittling away at it all, slowly but surely, and you have my respect for that. And I know that the clown car of misinformation on the far right – the one starring Rush, Palin and Beck – has not made any of it easier.
You haven’t done much for the recovery of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish like you promised, but most of us have given you a pass on that. We know Rome wasn’t built in a day, and God knows we’re used to taking care of ourselves.
But now, on top of all that other stuff, there’s this oil spill. And to borrow a phrase from your veep, it’s a “big fucking deal.” Maybe the biggest fucking deal you’ll deal with in your presidency – which is saying a lot, I know.
Still, it’s your baby now. And guess what? Baby needs a new pair of shoes in a big damn hurry. So let’s move.
Five years ago your predecessor left New Orleans out to dry – figuratively and literally – when the federal levees failed us so spectacularly. Many speculated, perhaps rightly, that Mr. Bush & Co. were showing contempt for the one part of the Big Red State of Louisiana that voted heavily for the other guy in the last election. Even if that perception wasn’t true, it sure did smell true. And now here you are, quite simply not doing enough while our coastal wetlands die before our eyes. There are people who will say that you might have done more had the people of the coast not voted so heavily for the other guy in the last election. They’re probably wrong, but there’s that problem of the smell again.
So, just in case, let me tell you something. When the shit hits the fan in Louisiana, we all go bright purple around here. Red and blue go the way of the vinyl LP. People who normally bicker and fight about every little thing are suddenly family. So let’s not play that game. We can always cut each other’s throats some other time, when this is all over, if it ever is.
You say you’re open to all ideas. I don’t want to hear that. I want action. Here’s an idea. Admit that you’ve just been handed a third war, because that’s what this is. And whether you meant to or not, you have allowed the enemy’s generals to command our troops. Yes, BP is our enemy, and let’s please stop pretending otherwise. There is no reason on earth why BP should be giving orders to Louisiana officials. BP needs more than just to be “held accountable” – they need to be stripped of all authority, and they must be made to take their marching orders from our elected representatives. BP may own this mess, but they don’t own our land, or our gulf, or the sky above it. The people who have so much to lose must be in the driver’s seat. Only we have the passion and the fighting spirit to make this right – or as right as it can be made. But you allow BP the upper hand, despite their continuous deceit. You allow them to treat us like children. It is like an abusive relationship where the abuser is constantly given “one more chance” to change his ways and “make it right” to the abused. It’s a cycle that never ends well. This absurd faith in the good intentions of the ones who have done us so much harm is beginning to feel like Stockholm Syndrome.
Make no mistake, BP is not our friend. Their objectives are not our objectives. An internal BP document that was recently brought to light maps out what company policy would be in case of a spill similar to the one we are now experiencing. Among other things, the document instructed its employees to behave thus:
“No statements shall be made concerning any of the following: (including) promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal.”
That is some pretty plain talk, and it provides a clear window through BP’s current fog of propaganda. These objectives have not likely changed: Reduce liability. Maintain company loyalty. Make no promises. Watch that bottom line. Sorry, but I don’t know how else to read this.
General Russell Honore was a breath of fresh air in the aftermath of the failure of the federal levees, and he’s a breath of fresh air now. He recently suggested that BP’s U.S. assets be frozen, and that they be fined 100 million dollars for every day the gusher continues to flow. He’s got the right idea.
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal want barrier islands built to help protect the coast from the flow of oil. These are guys who I don’t normally agree with politically, but they are right about this. The barrier islands should have been rebuilt years ago for hurricane protection anyway. You can make this happen, and you should.
We need all available technology to save and rehabilitate our coastal wildlife. Currently, the survival rate of birds rescued from the oil is only one for every one hundred. The survival rate is low, in part, because the hand-washing of these birds is time consuming and traumatic for the birds, not to mention toxic for the rescue workers. There are bird-washing machines available that are much more effective. These devices clean birds thoroughly in seven minutes, increasing the survival rate of the birds and posing less danger to the workers. Why are these not being used in the cleanup of our gulf? Considering the billions in dividends BP recently paid out to its stockholders, and the tens of millions that they continue to spend on propaganda designed to shine up their image, surely they could afford to purchase a few dozen of these machines. It might even help their precious image. But we all know they won’t do it on their own – to do the right thing their hand must be forced. Try to understand that although washing birds may seem a trivia, it is huge. Saving wildlife is a major component to the larger “big fucking deal” at hand.
We need skimmers and tankers – big ones and a lot of them – and we don’t care where they come from. I understand there is a law on the books that says only U.S. manufactured and manned ships can operate in this capacity in the gulf. Fuck the law. This is a housefire. When your house lights up you don’t check some goddamn rulebook before you allow your neighbors to throw some water on it. We are not under attack from the people who want to help us. The only hostile forces I’m aware of are the BP executives who appear to be in charge.
Billy Nungesser recently said: “I still don’t know who’s in charge. Is it BP? Is it the Coast Guard? … I have spent more time fighting the officials of BP and the Coast Guard than fighting the oil.”
Mr. President, you should be in charge. And the politicians elected by the people of Louisiana should be in charge. Because, like it or not, they represent the people who are most affected by this. And, whether they like it or not, you are our president. So let’s put all that other stuff behind us for now and keep things purple.
I recently read a “cleverly” racist news piece written by some guy named John Blake for CNN, one of the many recent articles that question whether you are “angry enough,” and asks the absurdly childish (and hateful) question of whether most Americans can handle an “angry black man” in the White House. People like Blake seem to think it’s okay to make divisive declarations like “many white Americans don’t like angry black men” as long as they begin the sentence with “But scholars say…”
Don’t listen to these people, Mr. President; you go on keeping your cool like you do. I’m already coming unglued – if you come unglued, too, I’ll probably come unhinged altogether, and that would probably be very annoying for my wife. Your “whose ass to kick” comment was cute but not helpful. Don’t worry about rage. Let us worry about rage – we’ve got that covered, we’ve got more than enough. After this situation is under control maybe we can focus on that more – I’m sure some of our good ol’ boys won’t mind rounding up a posse of angry shrimpers who would be more than happy to take Tony Hayward and his band of billionaire thugs on a good old-fashioned Mafia trunk ride out to the swamp, Cajun style. You let us do the ass kicking, Mr. President. But let’s leave all that sort of talk for another time.
Right now we need to organize so that we may fight this war more effectively. We need generals who are willing to make dificult decisions, and we need to disregard any out-dated laws that are tying our hands. We need a commander-in-chief who will cut through the bureaucratic bullshit and defend the coast, whatever it takes. We needed all that weeks ago – but better late than never, as they say.
Another recent quote from Billy Nungesser: “A small tropical storm could push all that oil into the marshes and destroy coastal Louisiana. If that happens, may God help the people who stood in our way.”
Those are tough words, but these are tough times. The point I’m trying to make with that quote is this: please don’t be one of those people who “stood in our way,” Mr. President. I’d like to see you elected to a second term, and I’d like to be able to cast my vote in good conscience.
Yes, it’s been a rough ride – and it gets rougher. Be that as it may, no one can stop us from doing what’s right for our coast if we have a leader who is willing to step up and take charge. Be that leader.