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Archive for April, 2010

BP Celebrates Earth Day with Bonfire, Oil Spill:
Well Leaks 210,000 Gallons a Day into Gulf of Mexico

Monday, April 26th, 2010

But Seriously, Tragically, 11 Missing Workers Are Presumed Dead

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guard officials reported that the damaged Deepwater Horizon well on the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico was leaking oil at a rate of about 42,000 gallons (or 1,000 barrels) per day—since recalculated at 210,000 gallons per day, a fivefold increase. The leak, about 50 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, is some 5,000 feet (about a mile) below the surface. (Chris Kirkham of the Times-Picayune has written a detailed, illustrated report of efforts to cap the leak.) As of Monday afternoon, April 26, the Coast Guard said the oil spill measured about 48 miles by 39 miles, or 1,800 square miles, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. John Amos of SkyTruth reports that NASA photographs taken Sunday, April 25, show that oil slicks and sheen (“very thin slick”) covered about 817 square miles. Amos, who in Nov. 2009 was invited to testify at a Senate hearing on the risks posed by offshore drilling, wrote yesterday (April 25):

This is bad news—it means the blowout preventer on that well is not doing its job, and that several attempts by BP, Transocean and the Coast Guard to operate a shutoff valve on the well using a robotic ROV have failed. The oil slick has grown rapidly and now covers 400 miles.

A friend in New Orleans who is an industry insider says the Deepwater Horizon well “was as sophisticated a rig as has been built operating in the Gulf of Mexico (not a rust-bucket).” He adds:

So far, cleanup efforts haven’t done very well. 126,000 gallons of oil have been spilled, but only 33,726 gallons of emulsion (which is part water) have been picked up, and this is when conditions are calm. If you assume a 50/50 water/oil mix (a conservative assumption, IMHO), the cleanup has only been 13% effective.

Dig deeper here: WWL-TV reportCoast Guard unified command updateUSCG District 8 Flickr streamMMS article on closing blowouts (big PDF)

Our friend Aaron Viles of Gulf Restoration Network reports after a flyover on Sunday (read the entire post here):

We were shocked at what we saw. The main spill was at least 8 miles across . . . and stretching for 45 miles, in a Northeastern and Southeastern direction. The crude at the surface of the Gulf has been churned into a ‘chocolate mousse’ material that was easy to spot from our altitude of 4,000 feet. The mousse covered approximately 100 square miles, and then faded into a heavy, then light sheen, which faded about 20 miles from the Chandeleur Islands, critical bird nesting and migration habitat.

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Campaign to Save Ivor van Heerden’s Post at LSU

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Click this video to see testimonies to the critical work of Ivor van Heerden by such experts and friends as John Barry, Dr. Marc Levitan, Harry Shearer, Sandy Rosenthal, Mtangulizi Sanyika, Jed Horne, and Dr. Oliver Houck.

There is a chance—and here there’s a strong hope—that LSU hurricane expert and experienced gadfly / whistle-blower Ivor van Heerden may be able to keep his position at LSU, currently set to expire on May 21. (The university decided last year that it would not renew his contract.) U.S. District Judge James Brady has denied Van Heerden’s request for a temporary restraining order to compel LSU to rehire him when the contract expires, but the judge has agreed to hear a motion on a preliminary injunction that would require the university to rehire him on May 19, before his contract expires. Ivor has said that Judge Brady’s agreement to allow an injunction trial indicates there may be reasonable grounds for preserving his job.

Van Heerden contends that LSU is firing him—and has downgraded the LSU Hurricane Center that he co-founded and served as deputy director—because his criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina endangers LSU’s ability to bring in lucrative federal research grants. Click here (and see below) for our open letter to LSU Chancellor Michael Martin urging the university administration to retain this invaluable scientist and dedicated protector of Louisiana, its delicate landscape and infrastructure, its people and culture. As Harry Shearer asks in the video above, how is it fair that the one person to lose his job after Hurricane Katrina is a committed scientist who warned repeatedly that the state’s coastal defenses and flood protection infrastructure were vulnerable?

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Obama Sends Wall Streeters to “Reform School”

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

[ Ed. note: The following account of President Obama’s remarks on Wall Street reform yesterday are not, strictly speaking, part of Levees Not War’s usual portfolio (we do have many interests!), but then again it’s not every day that we get to personally attend a presidential address. A variant of this post appears at Daily Kos. ]

President Obama came within a few zip codes of Wall Street yesterday to speak to a gathering of prominent banking executives (including Lloyd “I’m Doing God’s Work” Blankfein of Goldman Sachs) and illustrious Empire State politicos at the fabled Great Hall of Manhattan’s Cooper Union. It was a privilege to sit in the Great Hall where over the last 150 years audiences have gathered to hear Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists; Susan B. Anthony and other advocates for woman suffrage; speakers for the NAACP and the American labor movement; and eight presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Bill Clinton; and another illustrious (former) congressman from Illinois: Senator Obama the presidential candidate spoke at Cooper Union on “Renewing the American Economy” in March 2008, a half year before the crash.

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“Something Called ‘Volcano Monitoring’ ”

Friday, April 16th, 2010

[cross-posted at Daily Kos]

“[The Democrats’ stimulus] legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes . . . $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.” —Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, Feb. 24, 2009

Remember Bobby Jindal’s celebrated response to President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress in February 2009? It included some, uh, noteworthy moments, not the least of which was his sneer at such “wasteful spending” as “something called ‘volcano monitoring.’” Some speechwriter was probably pleased with that line, but this was a contemptuous display of ignorance on the level of Rudy Giuliani’s ridiculing “community organizer—what’s that?” (6:08) at the 2008 Republican National Convention, and just as deserving of a reality-based comeuppance.

The $140 million for the U.S. Geological Survey was partly intended to provide warnings of impending volcanic eruptions in the U.S. and around the world where American military bases are located. The Americans at Ramstein Air Base in Germany probably appreciate that monitoring equipment right about now.

With international air traffic to Europe disrupted for a second straight day following a massive volcano eruption in Iceland (some 17,000 flights were canceled Friday), we have to use the occasion to poke this over-ambitious governor in the eye and say: “Now do you get it?” Jindal the boy genius used to be respected for his intelligence (Rhodes Scholar) and precocious grasp of complex policy, but those days are over. He is not serving his state or the nation—and not his own career, either—by his know-nothing, anti-science statements and decisions. (See our earlier posts “Mr. Jindal, Tear Down This Ambition” and “From Rising Star to Black Hole.”)

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Tax Day: How Much Have You Paid for the War?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Most likely you’ve paid $7,334 of the $1.05 trillion that has gone to the Afghan and Iraq wars since 2001. Here is Tom Englehardt’s compelling introduction at TomDispatch.com to a piece (below the jump) by Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project, with data supplied by the NPP’s CostofWar.com:

If you’re an average American taxpayer, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have, since 2001, cost you personally $7,334, according to the “cost of war” counter created by the National Priorities Project (NPP). They have cost all Americans collectively more than $980,000,000,000. As a country, we’ll pass the trillion dollar mark soon. These are staggering figures and, despite the $72.3 billion that Congress has already ponied up for the Afghan War in 2010 ($136.8 billion if you add in Iraq), the administration is about to go back to Congress for more than $35 billion in outside-the-budget supplemental funds to cover the president’s military and civilian Afghan surges. When that passes, as it surely will, the cumulative cost of the Afghan War alone will hit $300 billion, and we’ll be heading for two trillion-dollar wars.

In the meantime, just so you know, that $300 billion, according to the NPP, could have paid for healthcare for 131,780,734 American children for a year, or for 53,872,201 students to receive Pell Grants of $5,550, or for the salaries and benefits of 4,911,552 elementary school teachers for that same year.

April 15th is almost upon us, and Jo Comerford, TomDispatch regular as well as the NPP’s executive director, decided to take a look at one restive American community under the gun (so to speak) as tax day rolls around again. Our wars seem—and are—so far away, so divorced from American lives. If someone you know well hasn’t been wounded or killed in one of them, it can be hard to grasp just how they are also wounding this society. Here’s one way. (Check out as well Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Comerford discusses military spending and the federal budget by clicking here or, if you prefer to download it to your iPod, here.) —Tom

[H/T to Dan Froomkin @ HuffPo ]

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“Kill the Bill” vs. “Stop the War”: A Tale of Two Protests

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

[cross-posted at Daily Kos]

Has anyone besides us found it kind of odd that there’s been so much “fire and brimstone” about the health care reform bill compared to Bush’s Iraq War?

The first thing we’ll say about the violence and threats following Congress’s passage of health care reform—officially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—is that right-wing politicians and radio/TV “hate-spewers” have stoked outrage among their followers and are still fueling the flames. They thrive on conflict; it boosts ratings and fund-raising. The second observation, which we find more intriguing, is that there is a shocking disparity between the opponents of Obama’s health care reform and the anti-war protesters who opposed Bush’s drive to invade Iraq. Both presidential “initiatives” have been controversial, but the temperament and character of the public protests of each are different in the extreme. It is more than a little disconcerting that a push to expand public access to health care is more violently opposed than a determined march to a war of choice. Look at the aims, the purposes underlying the two initiatives, and think about which warrants the more passionate support, and which the stronger opposition.

Maybe the different responses are not so surprising, though, when you consider the traditional American readiness to wage war (as long as we personally don’t have to fight it, or have our taxes raised to fund it), and our reluctance to spend money on (rather, to be taxed for) public health, education, or other social programs. The Pentagon has the credit card.

“Break Their Windows. Break Them Now.”

In recent weeks millions of Americans have been alarmed by the death threats and bricks through office windows of Democratic members of Congress, the spitting and ugly slurs at the Capitol when the House of Representatives was debating the health care bill. Americans have been troubled, too, by the silence of the Republican leadership, who have opened their mouths only to say that “the American people have a right to be angry”—then to claim the Democrats are to blame for the threats and violence against Democrats. (This is akin to Iowa Rep. Steve King’s combining a near-justification of Joseph Stack’s flying his plane into a Texas federal building in Austin in February with self-promotion of his own calls to abolish the IRS. If only we’d listened!)

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Welcoming Committee Second-Lines for Louisiana’s State Hospital & Public Education System

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

While the GOP convenes in New Orleans with nary a mention of Katrina (who? that Nation editor?), here’s an event we’re sorry we missed, but we’re “retro-promoting” it a day late, for the message remains true:

From the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Welcoming Committee

There’s going to be a big, crazy second line in the CBD on Friday: the Stooges Brass Band, the Free Agents Brass Band, and a level of ass-shaking the business district hasn’t seen since the Second Line to Reopen Charity. We’re going to party and rage down Poydras, and we’re going to show the boy prince Bobby Jindal that the people of Louisiana have had it with his policies of privatization.

“A level of ass-shaking the business district hasn’t seen since the Second Line to Reopen Charity”

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) takes place April 8–11 in New Orleans, and is the largest gathering of Republican leadership short of the presidential convention. As Bobby Jindal is groomed for higher office, the Second Line for Healthcare & Education is our opportunity to present a unified response to Jindal’s assault on Louisiana’s state hospital system & public education.

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Infrastructure, Baby, Infrastructure!
A Defense of Stimulus Investments

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Joe Conason, a stalwart defender of infrastructure, has written a strong column defending the stimulus money dedicated to repairing America’s aging roads, levees, bridges, transit systems, schools, and other essential components of our nation’s physical framework. (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is working and America needs more of it.) Conservatives, says Conason, habitually decry federal stimulus spending as “pork barrel waste” and claim the stimulus failed and created no jobs; they insist Washington should cut taxes and not spend at all. (“Starve the beast.”) They say it’s wrong to burden the next generation with debt (an argument we never hear from the GOP concerning war spending). Well, friends, think of infrastructure spending as an investment, akin to paying college tuition. Here are some portions from Conason’s “Rebuilding an American Legacy”:

What would be left to future generations if the public functions symbolized by stimulus spending simply disappeared? What will the future be if government doesn’t repair and transform the roads, bridges, sewers, power grids, reservoirs, levees, airports, railways, subways, schools, parks, colleges and hospitals that we are leaving to our children in much worse shape than they were left to us? How will those facilities serve the future if they are disintegrating today? . . .

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