Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hollowed Out

I happened to watch Rachel Maddow last night. She did a great report on the nexus of stories circling around the oil leak in the Gulf--how the corporations are all located out of the US, how the leak is ten times worse than it's being reported, how the Federal agency responsible for oversight is under investigation for corruption (drunken sex and drug parties with lobbyists and other oil industry people--sheesh!) and how even as our current Secretary of the Interior announces that there is a flat out moratorium on new wells, this same agency continues to issue new permits and even denies it in the face of the evidence. A watchdog person says this agency has been more or less like this for at least two decades, which gets us back beyond Clinton. But then I always figured Clinton to be what back in the day was called a Rockefeller Republican.

If this were 1972, and if Sam Ervin was still alive and sitting in a powerful Senate chair, maybe something would happen, some serious effort to get at this corruption, which has finally let to something so monstrous that before it's over, the whole Gulf of Mexico is likely going to be so damaged that we will remember this summer as a turning point. I don't know what Mr. Obama can do--can he legally fire a whole department or do the protections that keep political pay-back at bay also protect these corrupt government employees from swift management accountability.

I do know this. The idea that there is something called a "public good" has been hollowed out systematically until there's almost nothing left but a few specially designated national parks, and they're starved for funds. The Gulf of Mexico? It's just a place that nobody owns, and there's oil, i.e., money, on the bottom, for the taking. The GOP actually ran a Presidential campaign on the slogan "Drill, Baby, Drill," in 2008, with a dottering geezer as its standard bearer, and a cutesie bimbo with a mean streak as its main spokesman. If the American Voter doesn't remember this in the coming mid-term, and votes in lots of right-wingers who think off-shore drilling is the top priority, we really are living in fantasy land.

Democracy depends on informed decision-making. Since the late '70s the people who see all out capitalism as the meaning of life have worked to undermine all sources of objective information, down to the very bottom. In their view--a self-serving epistemology which they mostly don't operate on themselves--there is no truth, everything is just a matter of "balance," competing interests in a "marketplace of ideas." Mr. Limbaugh can point to his listenership as proof that he's telling the truth in such a world, and he does--frequently. And about this spill he can theorize that perhaps the Obama Administration somehow sabotaged the well to create a climate of distrust for all off-shore drilling, and then point to all concerns about further off-shore drilling as proof of his theory. And then he'll have a constituency ready and willing to argue this with their neighbors in every little hamlet in the US. It might not go over down in Mobile or Gulfport. Or even there, perhaps people will simply blame the Democrats for the oil that keeps washing up on the beaches, and the empty beach cottages.

One of the best ad campaigns I've seen in a good while has been those BP ads, with the very nice folks talking about a wide mix of energy sources, about working together, about American can-do. They've been running those ads for a good number of years, and I've tended to stop at BP stations versus Exxon stations because of the seemingly environment-friendly BP attitude. Meanwhile, according to the investigations underway, the government agency responsible for permitting off-shore drilling and also for collecting royalties from oil companies has been snorting crystal meth off of toaster ovens at big parties, and sleeping over at industry-owned resorts because they were too drunk to drive home. And somebody is sure to say, "See, we've told you over and over that gubment can't do anything. Now don't you believe us."

We've had corporation fuck buddies in charge of this country since Reagan, who earned his stripes as a spokesman for GE before he ever got into politics as an elected official. The Supreme Court just decided, last winter, that a corporation is a citizen with the same rights to fund elections as any one else. And as Rachel Maddow noted last night--who do you put in jail when a corporation destroys a fishery? With the Exxon Valdez, the allegedly drunk captain got the knife. In this case, the guys on the rig, who might have been doing their jobs correctly in any event, are dead. The company that was running the rig, Transocean--they are headquartered in Zug, Switzerland. Haliburton is now in Dubai. BP is in London.

We may have let it go on too long. We may be living in a building so eaten away that the next hurricane could just blow it right down. Toaster ovens! Why do they keep coming up in these stories.

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