Last month, British Petroleum hired Talon, another wouldbe Blackwater mercenary outfit, to keep onlookers and press away from the cleanup workers. Then, about three weeks later, with the most hideous timing imaginable, right before the 4th of July, the US Coast Guard, obviously at the behest of BP and their contract employees at the Obama White House, made the clampdown on media and citizen access official by imposing a 20 meter buffer zone around recovery and cleanup efforts. Infractions of this arbitrary violation of the 1st Amendment constitutes a Class D felony involving draconian penalties such as years in prison and a $40,000 fine.
BP, meanwhile, has not been fined one penny after negligently presiding over the greatest ecological disaster in American history, in which its CEO Tony Hayward whined about wanting his life back then shrugged his shoulders, appointed some other talking head to represent the company and went yachting off the Isle of Wight.
Shades of Hurricane Katrina, Blackwater beating FEMA to the Gulf Coast by days and Michael Brown shrugging his shoulders and hightailing it back to Washington for a Mexican dinner and a Margarita in between self-conscious emails about his sense of fashion. The parallels would be eerie if we didn’t remind ourselves that negligence and apathy has its own psychological profile. But the parallels are there and always will be there where the poor black people and fishermen of Louisiana are concerned. Except we’re not hearing so much about FEMA this time around, are we?
And, really, is it so unusual that BP would publicly say from one side of its mealy mouth that cleanup workers were free to express their observations and opinions to the press only to order on the sly its mercenaries guarding the beaches to keep the press from those very same workers even while on break? The very fact that so many of those same poor, black people were so vehement about talking to the press meant that BP had reminded them in no uncertain terms their contract jobs would be immediately forfeited if they did. When the cleanup winds down, the stories of corporate and mercenary intimidation will come out, trust me.
In the meantime, what are we to learn by all this? Well, many before me have tried and succeeded admirably to sum it all up but it bears repeating: The Obama administration, which has been caught time and again covering up for BP and allowing them and other oil companies to drill off the Gulf coast while exempting them from even the very most basic oversight and regulation, is now protecting foreign corporate rights to privacy at the expense of our First Amendments rights. Our southern shoreline, which has been invaded by the British and their casual neglect, pales in comparison to the privacy of a foreign oil giant.
Let’s not forget, our President is a constitutional law scholar and knows damned good and well what’s in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
And to him, constitutional law means nothing compared to a foreign oil company losing face in the media and in citizen-written blogs that show the booms are being neglected and actually are having opposite the desired effect, since they are being used inappropriately in shallow waters (Sen. Mary Landrieu reminds us that booms only work in deep water).
BP would have you believe this is what life on the Gulf coast is like, with people kayaking without a care in the world, with clean, redundant booms in the foreground and not a trace of oil anywhere. And the Obama administration would love for you to believe that so we can continue to drill, baby, drill for profits at the expense of worker safety, the local economies and the ecosystem of at least a quarter of our nation's shoreline.
Since a black man is in the White House, we can’t level charges of racism in this latest massive blunder and failing of the Gulf coast. But New Orleans was failed time and time by stupid, greedy white men in 2005 by not fixing the levees and pump stations, by letting FEMA drag its feet, by allowing relief supplies to get diverted to where they weren’t needed, by letting Laura Bush co-opt a Red Cross aid station for eight hours over a photo op, by jamming and packing thousands of poor, black people in two buildings and not allowing them to cross the bridge where help awaited in neighboring Gretna, by interning them in contaminated FEMA trailers under armed guard, by bulldozing their homes, privatizing and pricing them out of their own schools, for giving millions in contracts to Blackwater to shoot looters and to Halliburton for cleanup work for which it was unsuited and generally gentrifying New Orleans so future Mardi Gras looked a little less exotic and whiter.
But is it any better to say that, instead of overt racism and undeclared class warfare, the Obama administration is acting in the interests of multinational greed because BP, as do so many, many, many other corporations, now officially own our government and our land and have the right to arbitrarily abridge our constitutional protections and rights on a dime?
The almost all-white Bush administration did what white good ole boys are expected to do: Kill off dark-skinned people with neglect and through attrition. We expected as much. But racism is understandable, something we can call out and deal with. Corporate lackeyhood at the highest echelons of our government is something far more insidious because it involves all of us, is harder to fight and prove and is infinitely more disparaging because it’s originating from a guy that we elected on a mantra of hope and change.
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