Another disaster, another delayed response. Another round of finger-pointing, another chorus of denial. The San Francisco Bay oil spill isn’t getting the nation-wide attention of Hurricane Katrina, the Minneapolis bridge collapse or the SoCal wildfires, but its aftermath is depressingly similar.
Having been in the Bay Area since the spill happened a week ago, I have no feel for Seattle’s level of awareness. Think of it this way: If inner Puget Sound was coated with brown gobs of sticky goo, if beaches were closed to the public (even to volunteer cleanup), if boats at local marinas had tarred bathtub rings marring their hulls, and if waterfront property owners had days of cleanup on their hands…well, you might be seeing some play in the local media.
Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay have a lot of physical similarities, which makes it all the more puzzling that oil-spill experts from the Seattle area were not hustled down here as soon as the magnitude of the spill became apparent. (They may have been, as were crews from Texas and elsewhere, but it reportedly took three to four days to summon any outside assistance.) In any case, once oil spills in an enclosed estuary, it doesn’t exactly disappear in the wash. Expertise in current patterns, containment technology, weather and other variables is badly needed, and response time is absolutely critical.
So what did we have in the Bay? The Cosco Busan, a 902-foot-long container ship heading out of harbor in a heavy fog, apparently was warned by the Coast Guard that it was on collision course with the Oakland Bay Bridge, but kept going because, as the ship captain evidently radioed back, radar showed the ship position to be safe. One might think you call a time out in this situation to do some trouble-shooting, but the boat kept going. The next thing anyone knew, it had “touched,” as Capt. John J. Cota termed it, a bridge tower. He could have said “kissed,” he could have said “nicked.” But what really transpired was a demolished wood-and-wire tower bumper and a 160-foot-long, 4-foot-deep tear in the vessel’s side. Within half an hour, 58,000 gallons of really toxic diesel fuel had seeped out, the bay’s biggest spill in 20 years.
But we didn’t know that, either. Initial reports were that only 140 gallons had spilled. It took more than 8 hours before the full magnitude of the spill became apparent, more than 12 to send out a full alert. The fog had something to do with this, hindering air surveillance. But let’s face it, some folks weren’t using much common sense, either.
The initial fumble made everything else about the spill just that more awful. Bay Area jurisdictions weren’t notified in a timely fashion. Additional equipment and expertise took that much longer to get in motion. Days after the spill, hundreds of volunteers still were being physically barred from the beaches (at least one was arrested for disobeying authorities) with the warning that they could do more harm than good, and might get sick from the stuff. Hundreds of oiled birds, many dead, were found, the crab and oyster seasons have been affected, and experts say that the bulk of the oil will never be recovered and may play havoc with the bay’s ecosystem for decades. Next to history’s really big oil spills, 58,000 gallons seems like a spitball. But diesel fuel is heavier, more toxic and more persistent than oil, and the Bay is more bathtub than washing machine. The stuff doesn’t have anywhere to go.
Official response has ranged from the ludicrous (Dianne Feinstein called it a “learning experience” — like Exxon Valdez wasn’t?) to the litigious, with one attorney estimating damage claims will total “well into nine figures.” The crew, all Chinese, has been subpoenaed. After visiting the magnificently restored (before the spill) Crissy Field, which must have taken a nasty hit, Nancy Pelosi suggested it might be time to double-hull retrofit fuel tanks of container ships, a costly requirement surely to be resisted by the shipping industry. The Coast Guard, now in high dudgeon, says the incident was “preventable human error” without embracing an iota of culpability. There’s even the suggestion that Coast Guard resources have been so diverted to Homeland Security that it cannot be bothered with mere oil spills any more. But hey, couldn’t anyone at least have ordered the ship to cut engines or something?
Meanwhile, a solitary eeriness haunts Bay beaches during remarkably balmy 75-degree, sunshiny, Indian summer days. If you doubt martial law could succeed in the U.S., all you have to do is spend a little time encountering guard after guard, blockade after blockade, barring access to the Bay’s multitude of public beaches.
Like Katrina, the Minnesota bridge and San Diego fires, the Bay oil spill will fade all too soon into our domestic-disaster woodwork. But one more brick has been laid in a disturbing bulwark of flubbed response and feckless hand-wringing, with the expectation of eventual cultural amnesia and resultant whitewash.
It all may seem like institutionalized ineptitude, starting at the top with G.W. Bush and his pernicious band of neo-con merrymakers. Listening to the Coast Guard commandant on the radio gave me the deja vu of Heckuva Job Brownie and Do Not Recall Gonzales, putting on airs of genial but simple-minded folk in way over their heads.
Instead, watching Bush himself fly over the devastation of Katrina back when, it occurred to me that incompetence is the strategy. We know neo-cons hate government, that they want to, as Grover Norquist puts it, drown the baby. But were they to act like it and execute on it, they know a compassionate and democratic public would revolt. So they simply act like they just can’t do any better. They appoint political hacks to make sure all the public’s money gets given away to their lackeys, and when a real crisis hits they simply fart around. Let the levees breach and the bridges collapse and the fires rage and the oil slime. What better opportunities to show how evil, useless and unnecessary government really is?
Awww Thanks Paul for giving a more realistic assessment!
I figured there was more going on there than what we’re hearing. Dang!
Daddy Love spews:
The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it. ~P.J. O’Rourke
I think for me, the story is just beginning, since I will likely be involved in assessing the environmental damage from this spill….just like Exxon Valdez, the North Cape oil spill, Hurricane Katrina aftermath, etc.
Oil spills are bad news, as many of the components are extremely toxic to marine life, get into sand and soil and are then around for decades to continue damaging marine resources. Just ask the folks in Prince William Sound.
So they simply act like they just can’t do any better. They appoint political hacks to make sure all the public’s money gets given away to their lackeys, and when a real crisis hits they simply fart around.
That’s it in a nutshell. Why can’t people wake up to this? Or enough people anyway. You can’t trust government to people who strut back and forth bleating that they hate government while it turns that they love lining their pockets when they seize hold of it.
Hmmm… The Coast Guard has always been involved with our maritime security. Maybe Paul you don’t like the section I bolded?
The United States Coast Guard is a military, multimission, maritime service within the Department of Homeland Security and one of the nation’s five armed services. Its core roles are to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America’s coasts, ports, and inland waterways.
The Coast Guard provides unique benefits to the nation because of its distinctive blend of military, humanitarian, and civilian law-enforcement capabilities. To serve the public, the Coast Guard has five fundamental roles:
Maritime Safety: Eliminate deaths, injuries, and property damage associated with maritime transportation, fishing, and recreational boating. The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus—(Always Ready), and the service is always ready to respond to calls for help at sea.
National Defense: Defend the nation as one of the five U.S. armed services. Enhance regional stability in support of the National Security Strategy, utilizing the Coast Guard’s unique and relevant maritime capabilities.
Maritime Security: Protect America’s maritime borders from all intrusions by: (a) halting the flow of illegal drugs, aliens, and contraband into the United States through maritime routes; (b) preventing illegal fishing; and (c) suppressing violations of federal law in the maritime arena.
Mobility: Facilitate maritime commerce and eliminate interruptions and impediments to the efficient and economical movement of goods and people, while maximizing recreational access to and enjoyment of the water.
Protection of Natural Resources: Eliminate environmental damage and the degradation of natural resources associated with maritime transportation, fishing, and recreational boating.
These strategic goals are used for tracking program performance and making sound resource decisions. They also offer a blueprint for thinking broadly about the Coast Guard’s ability to influence future national security issues positively and meet the needs of a seafaring nation.
Interestingly enough in August 2006, SF had a oil spill simulation disaster drill called Safe Seas 2006. Hmmm…
Paul writing about those San Diego fires, if we did forest management like getting rid of dead trees, clearing our brush and other fire accelerants like the USFS used to do before the greenies got involved with “forest management”, the fire loss would have been less. I have a buddy of mine who lost his house in the fire. Things can be replaced, not memories.
I’m sure the ASSWipe (TM) missed this last month.
Even the leftist LA Times wrote about it!
Yet when Michell Malkin discusses the fires the whack-job libs go nuts like always.
You log out the dead or dying trees and remove the dead undergrowth people. What is wrong with this picture?
Hmm, let’s see:
Katrina – Long term democrat-run city in a democrat-run state.
San Fran – Long term democrat-run city.
Yep, it’s all George Bush’s fault. No other possible explanation…
Roger Rabbit spews:
@7 If stupid rich Californians didn’t build their homes on hillsides that have burned over every year since the birth of Christ, their homes wouldn’t burn down every year.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@8 The problem with your non-analysis is that levees and oil spills are federal responsibilities — not city, county, or state responsibilities — and what we’re seeing from the Bush administration in every case is:
c) Not caring
Roger Rabbit spews:
Roger Rabbit spews:
I’m sure I’ll think of some more as I go along. What it boils down to is:
YOU CAN’T TRUST REPUBLICANS TO RUN GOVERNMENT
Gee, I wonder if this principle applies to the FBI and CIA, also:
“A former FBI agent who pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship and then improperly accessing sensitive computer information about Hizbullah was working until about a year ago as a CIA spy assigned to Middle East operations, NEWSWEEK has learned.
The stunning case of Nada Nadim Prouty, a 37-year-old Lebanese native who is related to a suspected Hizbullah money launderer, appears to raise a nightmarish question for U.S. intelligence agencies: could one of the world’s most notorious terrorist groups have infiltrated the U.S. government?”
Now, before we get too excited, we should remember that the only charges Ms. Prouty has pleaded guilty to are related to engaging in a fraudulent marriage to get permanant resident status, and using that residence status to gain citizenship, and improperly accessing FBI files regarding her family, friends, and former employers. She was hired by the FBI in 2003 in a campaign to bring in arab-speaking agents, then transferred to the CIA to work as a covert agent with respect to the middle east, and then transferred to a less senstive assignment when the FBI realized that she was linked in another investigation, and they informed the FBI.
So she could simply be an illegal immigrant who illegally tried to “clean up” her status and get a respectable job using her language skills to aid her new country; or she could be a Hezbolah plant feeding sensitive FBI and CIA information to the Hezzbolah in Labanon, warning them of the status of investigations against Hezzbolah targets. It’s hard to say, because she may be working with the FBI and CIA now, which might account for the relatively minor charges currently being levelled against her, and her prompt guilty plea to those charges.
But you have to wonder – how much of a background check was the FBI and CIA doing on these agents back in 2003 ~ 2005? You would think that a fraudulent marriage for the purpose of obtaining residency would be a little difficult to hide from an intensive background check.
I don’t think this is planned incompentence, like we suspect was the problem with the Katrina response. I don’t think it applies here, because the Republicans always want to claim “homeland security” and “national defense” as their baliwick, justifying greater assumption of power.
But I do think it shows that the FBI and CIA were in turmoil in 2003-2005, primarily because of the turf war and finger-pointing which was going on at the time. First, there was the attempt by Bush to pass the blame for 9/11 to the CIA, and the CIA fighting back. Then there was the absence of MWD’s in Iraq, or attempts to purchase uranium in Niger, and Bush again attempting to point the finger at the CIA, and Joe Wilson and the CIA fighting back. With the “outing” of Plame, the agency became even more hostile to Bush.
In the meantime the higher levels of the FBI were taking advantage of their position in the Justice Dept. under Gonazales to profit from the increasing emnity between Bush and the CIA. What happened afterwards isn’t widely reported, but there was a substantial house-cleaning at the CIA, as thousands of professional agents but with suspect “loyalty” (such as Plame)either asked to resign, fired, or re-assigned to posts designed to get them to resign on their own. Thus, by the time independent prosecutor was investigating the Plame leak, the CIA was largely back under the control of the White House.
But in the meantime, while political credentials were becoming the primary job qualification for anything above the clerk/typist level at the CIA and the FBI, nobody was performing sufficient background checks on newly-hired agents under a program designed to quickly fill an language skill-set.
Or, could it be that Ms. Prouty was not so much Hezbollah’s mole inside the FBI and CIA, as she was the FBI’s mole inside the CIA?
Rhp6033: You had me going along until you whipped this in there:
“attempts to purchase uranium in Niger,” Hmmm… I think the Senate Report told us all about Ol Joe Wilson… eh? And if Ol Joe Wilson was so credible why did John Effin Kerry drop him like a rotten egg as one of his “foreign” advisors?
Then you add this pearl nugget: “With the “outing” of Plame, the agency became even more hostile to Bush.”
I thought this was put to bed already with Richard Armitage on CNN. Do I need to post his words again rhp6033.
I guess the “sticky white kool-aid” (TM) of falseness still does your mind good too right?
13 It apparently also applies to the TSA, whose director is dancing a frantic jig trying to ‘splain away the letter that someone in Congress obtain that was circulated prior to a round of supposedly secret airport-security checks, letting the screening personnel know in advance.
One can’t help but wonder how far in advance they wrote the press release crowing about the results.
Did I miss something in your recitation? Yes, I did! The fact that child pornographer and traitor Lewis “Scooter” Libby was convicted on four of the five counts in his indictment: one count of obstruction of justice; two counts of perjury; and one count of making false statements to federal investigators.
I think you need to stay after class.
This is exactly the same tactic Reagan and his pals employed in the 80’s: discredit Federal programs they didn’t like by appointing the most corrupt, incompetent boobs they could find to run them.
The process has been tweaked this time around, so that while serving the original purpose of making a shameful mess of all things governmental, the perpetrators are making sure they benefit as greatly as possible from massive looting of the public purse.
Ms. Tlazolteotl: I need to stay after class…? What a crock.
Did you read the Controlled News Nutcakes (CNN) transcript between Wolfie and Dick Armitage? No, those facts would hurt that argument you put forth above. Ol Dick was first to out Plame to Novak.
And we know Dick was no Bush lover.
I realize revisionist history is the most used debate method on ASSWipes (TM), because facts hurt the liberal mind.
Regarding Scooter yes he was stupid, but he was not the one who gave Novak the story. Dick Armitage confirmed that.
Maybe you should read more and get off the liberal web sites.
“What better opportunities to show how evil, useless and unnecessary government really is?”
Given that the San Francisco clowncil folks want all military OUT of the City, perhaps the Coast Guard finally said, “Fuck ’em!”
RE: The Rabid Rantings of Roger Rabbit: see “Projection” –
-“projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one “projects” one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else.”
“In this way one can see that projection is related to denial, arguably the only defense mechanism that is more primitive than projection.”