Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Priorities Of Republicans

Rep. Joe Barton

"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown. In this case, a $20-billion shakedown with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20-billion slush fund. It is unprecedented in our nation's history." - Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)

The blast killed 11 men right off. Tens of millions of gallons of crude oil have been released into the Gulf of Mexico, so much that it can clearly be seen from outer space (picture above). Hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants have been dumped into the Gulf to... well I don't know exactly what they're supposed to do, disperse the oil I guess, which ultimately makes it harder to clean up. Oil and natural gas are now being captured and burned which adversely effects and exacerbates global warming concerns. "A comprehensive inventory of offshore species in the Gulf of Mexico completed in 2009 counted 15,700 species of sea life, with those in the area of the oil spill numbering 8,332 plant and animal species, including more than 1,200 fish, 200 bird, 1,400 mollusk, 1,500 crustacean, 4 sea turtle, and 29 marine mammal species."* All threatened. As of June 18, there had been 1,292 dead animals found in the spill zone including 885 dead birds, 363 sea turtles, and 44 dolphins and other mammals, with some reports of dolphins being spotted running low on food, and 'acting drunk' apparently from effects of the spill. Louisiana is in a State of Emergency due to the advancing oil slick. Shrimping season began early in anticipation of the advance of oil. Oil had encroached upon wildlife refugees and seafood grounds. The spill is devastating blue crab and oyster fishing markets and related businesses. On May 24 the federal government declared a fisheries disaster for the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Initial cost estimates to the fishing industry were $2.5 billion. Governors of the Gulf states are falling all over each other in PR campaigns assuring potential tourists not to cancel hotel reservations because of oil encrusted beaches. "Everything's fine," they say. Still Initial cost estimates that the impact on tourism along Florida's Paradise Coast could be $3 billion. Economist Abraham Pizam said the oil slick may become "the worst disaster in the history of Florida tourism." According to the insurance brokerage firm Willis Group Holdings, total insured losses could amount to $30 billion. Some have called the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which is still spilling by the way, with no end in sight, the greatest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. I will agree to the point that it is the worst since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, which also affected the security and livlihoods of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of citizens. Added are the affects the spill itself, and the damage it is doing to the seafood industry of the Gulf, this "accident," has global consequences as yet undetermined.
The point I'm trying to raise is this question, are the Republicans concerned about the damage this spill has had upon the thousands of ordinary citizens of this country, or are they concerned with the health and profitability of Big Oil, specifically at this time, British Petroleum?
In recent weeks past I've seen Republican leaders in Congress, and others around the country claiming that they agree the spill is a horrible thing, that BP should be held responsible for all costs (after a quashed effort by the United States Chamber of Commerce and House Minority Leader John Boehner to stick the American tax payer with part of the clean up costs, claiming the federal government was partially at fault for the accident. They are right for once, the federal government is partly responsible for the spill, and is already paying for clean up efforts in the Gulf with the participation of the Coast Guard. Other more significant costs and payments will undoubtedly be incurred). They claim to sympathize with the residents of the affected areas, and criticize President Obama for not responding soon enough and forcefully enough to the crisis. They say this over and over and over again as if it were true, hoping that their talking points will adhere to the American psyche rather than just to their base who will believe the moon is made out of green cheese if told to them by Rush Limbaugh. They call this Obama's Katrina, trying to equate the loss of an entire American City with an estimated 81 billion in property damage, and resulting loss of hundreds of human lives, and displacement of thousands more, to this spill.
They are morons. As of yet only the eleven workers on the rig itself have died due to this accident (eleven too many). The response to the rig explosion was swift compared to that of Katrina, and the deregulation of the oil industry and the corruption at the Minerals Management Service, the supposed government watchdog of said industry, had it's roots firmly planted by the previous administration.
The Republicans chant: How long are you going to blame President Bush?
The answer: for as long as he is responsible, and he certainly still has a good deal to answer for.
The Republicans wouldn't even be happy if Obama put on his magic Superman suit and went down a mile underwater and shut off the leak himself. They'd say he was just grandstanding for political advantage.
Because that's just the way they are. Most of them at least. Most of them who open their big yap.
The President's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel (sounds like a damn foreigner to me) appeared on "This Week," Sunday and made an interesting observation about how the Republicans would behave and govern during this crisis. Talk about another Katrina...
For an example he pointed out Texas Republican Representative Joe Barton's apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward quoted above, (apologizing for a 20 billion dollar escrow account to be funded by BP in order to settle immediate claims against it, and other costs associated with the spill, an account that BP itself suggested) as representative of the Republican world view, and I have to agree. Very shortly after Barton made this frank and startling comment he was asked to recant it by the Republican leadership, and is still in danger of having to give up his position as the senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce committee because he made it in the first place.
The above is not an apology, it is an admission of Republican principles and idealogy, dismissive of the pain and suffering of the victims of the oil spill disaster (the "small" people so tellingly described by BP's Chairman of the Board, Carl-Henric Svanberg), siding instead with a huge multi-national corporation, and not even an American one at that (although much of BP stock is owned and controlled by American interests, including members of Congress).
This admission would be disturbing in and of itself, but it's more than that. It's representative of the entire Republican frame of mind. From Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Rand Paul, John Fleming, Jim Jordan, the Republican Study Committee, and space alien Exeter, er, I mean Rep John Cornyn all have echoed Barton's sentiments to one degree or another. They express their concern for the poor billion dollar company, the 4th largest on the planet, rather then their own constituents whose lives have been ruined because of BPs devastating ineptness and greed. It's nothing less than amazing.
Right wing commentators like George Will and Bill Kristol, and Republican Governor Haley Barbour want to get back to business as usual ASAP, stating the off shore oil drilling moratorium that President Obama imposed following Deepwater's explosion (so that safety protocols could be reviewed) will be more devastating to the country than the spill itself (neglecting to mention the $100 million fund already set up to compenstate those who will be affected by it, and that the moratorium affects only 33 exploritory drilling rigs out of 3,600 working rigs in the Gulf). The Republicans were pleased that a judge in a US District Court blocked the moratorium yesterday (a judge appointed by Reagan, and who has owned stock in a number of petroleum-related companies). More Drill, Baby Drill, despite the possible consequences. Drill, Baby Drill, even though the oil drilled doesn't come back to the U.S., although you'll never hear that from the Republicans. No it goes to the world market, where all oil goes, and it may or may not come back to us, at an inflated cost of course.
The White House and Dept of the Interior said they will appeal the decision.
What is sad about this is that so many Americans, good honest, hard working people, some affected directly by the spill, some indirectly, are being taken in by the Republican lies and misinformation that is spewed out 24/7 by the likes of Limbaugh, and Fox News, and are siding with the Republicans against their own best interests.
For example... the Republican Party is often considered the party of traditional Christian values. Well I can't think of a more godless entity than a corporation, a man made device which has no soul, and it's only purpose is that of making money, to the detriment of everything and everybody else. That's who the Republicans choose to champion. That's who they are. That is their top priority.
Is that who we want to be in charge of this country once again? Is that the way to govern a country for the people, of the people?
That's a question the American people answered in November of 2008. There's still so much to correct and clean up from the last time they were in power. We've only just begun.

* Biello, David (2010-06-09). "The BP Spill's Growing Toll On the Sea Life of the Gulf." Yale Environment 360. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Retrieved 2010-06-14. Shirley, Thomas C.; John W. Tunnell, Jr., Fabio Moretzsohn, and Jorge Brenner (2010). "Biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico: Applications to the Depp Horizon Oil Spill. Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University.

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