Protecting BP From Your Eyes


Over the weekend, the government amped up the secrecy surrounding the BP spill:

See also this account of a ProPublica photographer harassed by the police, a story that strongly resembles the experience of videographer Drew Wheelan, blogged here late last month. For more tales of the government blocking access to information in the Gulf, see the ACLU's roundup here.

When the authorities try to centralize the flow of information, chances are good that they're centralizing much more than that. It's worth noting that the feds have not just waved away outside efforts to help but are making it difficult for the people who actually live in the affected areas to deal with the disaster. When the head of one town's volunteer fire department led an effort to set up a blockade of barges to keep oil out of the Magnolia River, for example, it amounted to an act of civil disobedience—the bureaucratic approval process just wasn't fast enough.

Sound familiar? Take a trip back to New Orleans in 2005:

[I]t seems more and more clear that, far from working closely with volunteers and rival authorities, the Department of Homeland Security–the giant new bureaucracy that absorbed the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2003–adopted a command-and-control approach that at times worked actively against the other responses. Anecdotes abound not just of well-qualified civilians being turned away from the disaster zone but of public employees being poorly deployed, such as the 1,400 firefighters who were assigned to do community relations work.

This is looking a lot like Barack Obama's Katrina after all. Not because the president was too slow to respond, as the first people to throw around the "Obama's Katrina" phrase meant by it, but because his team has been recreating the centralized, authoritarian approach that marked the last administration's response to the hurricane. Even the most ridiculous PR moments of the Katrina cleanup are being echoed today. As Mark Twain supposedly said, history may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.

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  1. First as tragedy, then as farce.

    1. Actually, still tragedy.

    2. It was a farce the first time, too.

      1. You’re right, it has been both tragedy and farce each time through.

        Engels should have done a better job of distinguishing his terms, dammit.

        1. Death to the Magyar, I say! Genocidal racism is the wave of the future! Genocidal racism, FTW!

  2. “We are not the enemy here!”

    Silly boy. Of course you are.

  3. More Mark Twain: “That’s the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don’t care, individuals do.”

    1. Oh, fuck me. Twain sounds like a libertarian. Just fucking great.

      1. Keep in mind, Twain’s one of those guys who’s had a LOT of quotes attributed to him that he probably didn’t say.

        1. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/119/119-8.txt

          “Well, then, it’s a government glacier,” said Harris. “It’s all the
          same. Over here the government runs everything–so everything’s slow;
          slow, and ill-managed. But with us, everything’s done by private
          enterprise–and then there ain’t much lolling around, you can depend
          on it. I wish Tom Scott could get his hands on this torpid old slab
          once–you’d see it take a different gait from this.”

          I said I was sure he would increase the speed, if there was trade enough
          to justify it.

          “He’d MAKE trade,” said Harris. “That’s the difference between
          governments and individuals. Governments don’t care, individuals do. Tom
          Scott would take all the trade; in two years Gorner stock would go to
          two hundred, and inside of two more you would see all the other glaciers
          under the hammer for taxes.” After a reflective pause, Harris added, “A
          little less than an inch a day; a little less than an INCH, mind you.
          Well, I’m losing my reverence for glaciers.”

          So he quoted someone saying it, which may or may not mean that it’s Twain’s quote. I report, you decide.

  4. This happened in Ron Paul’s district!! (thanks for the h/t, btw).

  5. I think this goes a long way to demonstrate that in modern America, everything not permitted is forbidden.

    That’s the single unifying bureaucratic theme of the cleanup fuckups.

    If the EPA and the Coast Guard and the White House haven’t stamped your papers in the right place, you’re supposed to just let yourself drown in oil. Because you aren’t “certified”, which is rapidly becoming one of the worst words in the English language.

    1. Should it be “everything not required is forbidden”?

      1. That’s the original quote.

        But I changed it to reflect the fact that these days if you don’t have specific and explicit permission to undertake an activity, the default presumption is that you can’t do it.

        Our system of licensing and regulation used to have holes in it – areas where the default presumption was that you could act as you saw fit. The default state was that you were allowed to act.

        Those holes are now all filled, and the new default state is that you aren’t allowed to act.

      2. Fifty years ago I heard it as, “Anything not prohibited will be mandatory.”

      3. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

      1. Me too.

  6. The lefty press–cheerleader and apologist all these many months since even before the election–are finally, gradually, grudgingly coming to terms with their own blind and venal servitude toward this Administration, an Administration that clearly distrusts and despises them. The master has bitten the dogs’ hand, and a few of them are starting to yelp.

  7. Obviously, there’s still a lot of people who don’t understand what’s really going on here.

  8. I continue to be disappointed in the soft treatment given this administration over this catastrophe.

    I can think of practically nothing that could have made it worse, that they haven’t done.

    But very little reporting on the serial fuckups of how they’ve handled this in the press.

    1. You clearly lack imagination then.

      1. We’re going to take a page from the wildfire playbook and fight oil with OIL!

    2. For the first few weeks or so, I ignored the “Obama’s Katrina” rhetoric because it sounded a bit too much like an ad-hominem political attack. That and it truly was BP’s mess to clean up at that point.

      Now after having read more and more about how the feds are standing in the way of local efforts to deal with the spill, it smacks of the same bureaucratic arrogance that marked the DHS & FEMA response to Katrina.

      As you said it seems like they have taken a list of the options that could make matters worse and are working their way down it one item at a time.

    3. very little reporting on the serial fuckups

      At what point does the press bear some responsibility for the ongoing disaster? Their almost fetishistic obsession with Tony Hayward early on is indicative of how low the fourth estate has sunk. They do personalities well; it’s pertinent fact-finding and prioritizing where the press has failed miserably.

      1. At what point does the press bear some responsibility for the ongoing disaster? Their almost fetishistic obsession with Tony Hayward early on is indicative of how low the fourth estate has sunk. They do personalities well; it’s pertinent fact-finding and prioritizing where the press has failed miserably.

        The fourth estate has been running out of credibility since at least 1993, when they did that report on exploding gas tanks on pickup trucks.

    4. Well, to be fair, they didn’t take the Russian advice to nuke the site from orbit.

      1. If they had nuked it the first week, we’d all be much better off right now.

        1. If by “it” you mean DC, perhaps you are correct.

  9. Just a nit-pick with AC’s characterization. 65 feet is not too far away to take photos or report on any of the things he claims the rule prevents reporting on. 65 feet from an abandoned boom is within range of a zoom lens.

    That said, I don’t think the rule would stand if a news agency broke the rule and ended up reporting from closer. Kinda surprised they don’t do more than complain…why not push back?

    1. Good point. Who are these pussies in the news media who are following these clearly ridiculous and probably illegal rules?

      1. Obama is our president, too.

  10. In Obama Administration-speak, how long before the mantra becomes , “We need to move forward instead of looking backward,” and Americans find it impossible to hold BP accountable because attention is no longer being directed at BP and the Gulf? Certainly, it seems the Administration and BP would like Americans especially journalists to concede that there’s nothing to see here (or there) and, yes, they should move along.

    Seeing the scales fall from their eyes, I derive a certain grim satisfaction.

    This undoubtedly makes me a bad person. And probably racist.

  11. I have to laugh at the how Katrina was made worse because the feds didn’t show up in time, but the spill is made worse because the feds were there all too quickly, enforcing picayune rules left and right to hobble the cleanup.

    (1) Cutting the effective workforce by one-third via OSHA rules and on-site inspectors.

    (2) Keeping clean-up barges ashore so the Coast Guard can count life preservers.

    (3) Banning the worlds best skimmers (Dutch) because they only remove 99% of the oil, not the 99.75% required by EPA.

    (4) Banning any foreign help at all.

    (5) Banning state efforts to build barrier reefs.

    I’m sure there’s more.

    1. One of the worst things about the Feds’ response to Katrina was that they showed up late and then refused help from private individuals and organizations who arrived at similar times (their lateness due to lack of media coverage).

    2. I’m sure some cleanup process was banned because it didn’t use SEIU or AFLCIO labor.

  12. Thank god oil has finally reached Texas. Maybe now we can get enough push back to get something done. This is worse than Obama’s Katrina, this could well be Obama’s impeachment.

  13. I have to laugh at the how Katrina was made worse because the feds didn’t show up in time, but the spill is made worse because the feds were there all too quickly, enforcing picayune rules left and right to hobble the cleanup.

    They did that in Katrina, too.

  14. This media constriction is necessary. Suck it up, freedom-mongers.

    1. Freedom being absolutely imperative, we must force them to be free. They could be in danger if they got to close. By restricting them to a safe distance we have in fact increased their freedom by increasing their safety. If we put them in small rooms protected by bars they would be even safer still! Oh, wait a minute ..

      1. Shut up, Wesley. The adults are talking now.

    2. no you fucking sockpuppet, that’s what Tony would say. Can’t you tell the difference?

  15. Here’s the punchline – “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

    Is there anyone who doesn’t know the joke?

    1. I don’t get it.

  16. Here’s the punchline – “I’m from the Dutch government and I’m here to help.”


    1. Instead of “help us help you”, it’s “help us f$&* you” …

  17. Thank God that Obama is at least our 15th greatest president ever. John Adams would probably be blowing up other oil rigs, too.

    1. That list is so full of bullcrap and not just the pro-Obama, anti-Bush slant. Thomas Jefferson was a 7 on Foreign Policy Accomplishments? Embargo Act anyone? That alone would set him back to the 20s.

  18. The only thing that is transparent with the Obama administration is that they have no regard for the constitution or the bill of rights.
    Chicago thuggery is his style.

  19. Why are they so worried if they have nothing to hide? Only criminals have something to hide.

  20. The CNN anchor in the video from that last link did just about everything possible, short of turning off the local guys mic and doing a voice over, to defend BP.

  21. As we always hear how ‘brave’ the press is, one of these profiles in courage needs to get him/herself arrested and charged and convicted, and then appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court if necessary.

  22. I was hoping that history would repeal itself.

  23. Yer doin a heck of a job Thaddie!

  24. this is nothing new in my former home town of “toxic city”………..I remember back in ’86 after (BP)amoco’s
    infamous hydroflouric acid release, i was on a public road taking pics of amoco’s chem plant and was detained by security, turned over to local pd and “taken into custody” for suspicious activities…….this was before 9/11 and hsa…….the excuse back then was ‘legal liability’……….

    1. BTW………I was refering to the ProPublica reporter incident……..

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