Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Great On Point w/ Douglas Brinkley and Naomi Klein Plus Good Resources on Spill

On Point w/ Tom Ashbrook on NPR put out an excellent program today on the Gulf oil spill that I highly recommend. Tom talks with Douglas Brinkley, Naomi Klein, and Julia Reed about the spill in wake of the President's Oval Office speech yesterday. So much of the coverage of the politics of the oil spill has focused on perceptions and political consequences, such as whether the President is showing sufficient anger or what the electoral implications of the spill might be. It's incredibly refreshing to hear a program that presents analysis of this administration's actual response, not just his words.

It's also nice to hear an avowed leftist like Naomi Klein on NPR, which normally elects panelists with safe, predictable views from the powerful DC think tanks, like Heritage or AEI on the right and Brookings on the center-left. Ashbrook does seem to have the most unique show widely broadcasted on NPR stations, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Like most of us who think the Democratic party is too tight with monied interests and too militaristic in its foreign policy choices, she has criticized Obama from the beginning for his lack of action on global warming and his rather accommodating treatment of financial capital. As expected, she continued to critique him in this vein. What's really interesting is to see historian Douglas Brinkley, more of a liberal than a leftist and a pretty mainstream guy, agreeing with her and lambasting the President without mincing words.

The consensus from these three is that, while talking tough for the cameras, the President in practice has deferred to BP and even protected the company rather than taking charge of the cleanup. To some degree we are at the mercy of BP and its engineers when it comes to stopping the gusher, but the President could have taken control of the broader cleanup and coastal protection from Day 1. Formerly Secretary of Labor Robert Reich proposed that the President put BP under temporary receivership, something quite within his powers (if you can do it with AIG, you can do it with BP) (see this post on his site here). Yet the President would rather let BP take all the heat and protect his approval numbers, which despite public anger might be better for BP's shareholders than serious action like receivership and putting all our resources to bear on protecting the coastline.

In a side note, Brinkley wrote an interesting article in the Financial Times today (if you register, you can get a daily email update and 8 articles a month, it's worth the minute it takes) calling on the President to allow the Mississippi River to revert to its natural, undiverted state to rebuild the wetlands. The canals and levies on the river, constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent flooding in the Mississippi Delta, have caused a gigantic amount of wetlands to disappear as the river's sediment settles out deeper in the Gulf, where it cannot accumulate and create wetlands. This is a pretty radical idea that I haven't heard even a lot of environmentalists propose, but the situation demands its implementation. The oil will likely speed up the already rapid rate at which the wetlands are lost. We need our wetlands as a crucial home for wildlife (including fisheries crucial to the area's economy) and component of the broader Gulf ecosystem, which is already suffering from oxygen-poor dead zones due to agricultural pollution running down the Mississippi as well as this massive, massive spill. On top of the ecological benefits, more wetlands would provide the natural protection from storm surge the New Orleans once enjoyed. And, as Brinkley notes, why not make BP pay?

Finally, check out the Center for Biological Diversity's excellent page on the spill. It includes breaking news as well as a constantly updated history of the spill. The Center brought to the media's attention the Salazar/Obama administration's continued granting "categorical exclusions" from doing environmental review since the spill, 27 times in fact. If you peruse my blog, you will see that I have been no fan of oil- and rancher-friendly Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and we need to keep up the heat on him as well as the President.

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