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Nasty Cover-Up Gets Exposed

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Ever since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster occurred on that horrible, twentieth day of April 2010, I have been criticizing the cover-up concerning the true extent of this tragedy.  Sitting here in my tinfoil hat, I felt frustrated that the mainstream media had been facilitating the obfuscation by British Petroleum and the Obama administration in their joint efforts to conceal an ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Corexit.  On July 22 of that year, I wrote a piece entitled, “BP Buys Silence of Expert Witnesses”.  On August 26 of 2010, I expressed my cynicism in a piece entitled “Keeping Americans Dumb”:

As time drags on, it is becoming more apparent that both BP and the federal government are deliberately trying to conceal the extent of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

I got some good news this week when I learned that the mainstream media are finally beginning to acknowledge the extent of this cover-up.  While reading an essay by Gerri Miller for Forbes, I learned about a new documentary concerning the untold story of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster:  The Big Fix.

Once my enthusiasm was sparked, I began reading all I could find about this new documentary, which was co-produced by Peter Fonda.  The Guardian (at its Environment Blog) provided this useful analysis of the movie:

The Big Fix, by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, re-opens some of the most persistent questions about last year’s oil spill.  How BP was able to exert so much control over the crisis as it unfolded?  What were the long-term health consequences of using a toxic chemical, Corexit, to break up the oil and drive it underwater?

Rebecca Tickell herself had a serious reaction to the chemical after being out on the open water – and as it turned out so did the doctor she consulted in an Alabama beach town.  She still has health problems.

Josh Tickell, who grew up in Louisiana, said the Obama administration’s decision to allow the use of Corexit, which is banned in Britain, was the biggest surprise in the making of the film.

“The most shocking thing to me was the disregard with which the people of the Gulf region were dealt,” Tickell said.

“Specifically I think that there was sort of a turn-a-blind-eye attitude towards the spraying of dispersants to clean up the spill. I don’t think anyone wanted to look too deeply at the consequences.”

Gerri Miller’s article for Forbes provided more insight on what the film revealed about the injuries sustained by people in the local shrimping communities:

Dean Blanchard, whose shrimp processing company was once the largest in the U.S., has seen his supply dwindle to “less than 1 percent of the shrimp we produced before.  We get shrimp with oil in the gills and shrimp with no eyes.  The fish are dead and there are no dolphins swimming around my house.”  He knows five people who worked on cleanup crews who have died, and he suffers from sinus and throat problems.  Former shrimper Margaret Curole‘s healthy 31-year-old son worked two months on the cleanup and became so sick from dispersant exposure that he lost 52 pounds and is now unable to walk without a cane. “Most of the seafood is dead or toxic.  I wouldn’t feed it to my cat,” said her husband Kevin Curole, a fifth-generation shrimper who, like Blanchard, had friends who died from Corexit exposure.  “I used to be a surfer but I won’t go in the water anymore,” he said.  “The last time I did my eyes and lips were burning.”

EcoWatch warned us that the movie can be emotionally upsetting:

When you watch how the the Gulf residents captured in The Big Fix have been affected by Corexit and the spill, beware, it is both heart wrenching and frightening.  When you see Gulf residents driven to tears by this environmental tragedy, you want to cry with them. Rebecca, herself, was seriously sickened by Corexit during their filming in the Gulf.

When you listen to eco-activist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of champion of the seas Jacques-Yves Cousteau, state so emotionally in the film, “We’re being lied to,” you realize the truth about the Gulf oil spill is being covered up.

The most informative essay about The Big Fix was written by Jerry Cope for The Huffington Post.  The “official trailer” for the film can be seen here.

Ernest Hardy of LA Weekly emphasized how the film hammered away at the mainstream media complicity in the cover-up:

Josh Tickell, a Louisiana native, had two questions he wanted answered when he set out to make his documentary:  What were we not told by the media in the days and weeks immediately following the April 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and what haven’t we been told since the story faded from the news cycle?  If The Big Fix had simply tackled those questions, the story uncovered would be maddening:  BP’s repeated flaunting of safety codes; their blatant disregard for the lives of individuals and communities devastated by the spill; collusion among the U.S. government (from local to the White House), the media, and BP to hide the damage and avoid holding anyone accountable.  The film’s scope is staggering, including its detailed outlining of BP’s origins and fingerprints across decades of unrest in Iran.  By doing smart, covert reporting that shames our news media, by interviewing uncensored journalists, by speaking with locals whose health has been destroyed, and by interviewing scientists who haven’t been bought by BP (many have, as the film illustrates), Fix stretches into a mandatory-viewing critique of widespread government corruption, with one of the film’s talking heads remarking, “I don’t have any long-term hope for us [as a country] unless we find a way to control campaign financing.”  And yes, the Koch brothers are major players in the fuckery.

The theme of regulatory capture played a role in Anthony Kaufman’s critique of The Big Fix for The Wall Street Journal’s “online magazine” – Speakeasy:

Tickell says that U.S. politicians, both in the Democratic and Republican parties, are too closely tied to the oil and gas industries to regulate them effectively.  “Even if these people come in with good intentions, and what to do good for their community, in order to achieve that level of leadership, they have to seek money from oil and gas,” he says.

While the film promises to take a crack at BP, Tickell says the company is more held up as a “universal example, in the way that resource extraction companies have a certain set of operating paradigms which have lead us to a situation where we have Gulf oil spills and tar sands.”

I felt that my conspiracy theory concerning this tragedy was validated after reading a review of the movie in AZGreen Magazine:

The Big Fix makes clear that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is far from over.  Filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell (makers of groundbreaking films Fuel and Freedom) courageously shine the spotlight on serious aspects of the BP oil spill that were never addressed by mainstream media.  Central to the story is the corporate deception that guided both media coverage and political action on the environmental damage (and ongoing human health consequences) caused by long-term exposure to Corexit, the highly toxic dispersant that was spewed into the Gulf of Mexico by millions of gallons.   The Big Fix drills deeply beyond media reports to demystify the massive corporate cover-up surrounding the Gulf oil spill, and BP’s egregious disregard for human and environmental health.  The film exposes collusion of oil producers, chemical manufacturers, politicians and their campaign funders that resulted in excessive use of Corexit to mask the significance of the oil, and thereby reduce the penalties paid by BP.

Reading all of this makes me wonder what happened to the people, who were discussed in my July 2010 posting, “NOAA Uses Human Canaries to Test Gulf Fish”.

The movie received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, as it did in its initial screenings in the United States.  Once audiences have a deeper look at the venal nature of the Obama Administration, it will be interesting to watch for any impact on the President’s approval ratings.


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My Friend Lloyd

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July 30, 2009

If you came to this site hoping to find a favorable article about Lloyd Blankfein, I feel sorry for you.

I just returned from a visit to my old home town, a little place up north called Chicago.  Whenever I go back there, I like to check in with a woman I consider “The First Lady of Chicago Music”:  Lonnie Walker —  musician extraordinaire and owner of The Underground Wonderbar.  If you enjoy blues and jazz, it doesn’t get any better than what you will hear from Lonnie and her band.

Back in the early 1980s, my then favorite “First Lady of Music” in Chicago was a nightclub DJ named Suzanne Shelton.  She recently organized a 30th anniversary reunion party at the club where she worked:  a bar named Neo.  Back during the bar’s early years, Suzanne was cute.  Today she is beautiful.  At the party, she introduced me to her son, who is now just two years younger than my age when I first started hanging out at Neo in June of 1980.  The nightclub eventually got a bit of exposure in a Robert Altman film entitled:  The Company.  The movie was about a dancer in the Joffrey Ballet (portrayed by Neve Campbell), who held a second job serving drinks at Neo.  As the film reveals, one enters Neo by walking down a small alley running west from Clark Street.  During the early years of the club, the alley walls were festooned with graffiti.  One of the spray-painted postings was the statement:  “Neo = Home”.  For many of us, it certainly did.  I met a few girlfriends there during the ten years after my introduction to the place.  The last girlfriend I met there became my companion for five years.  Those of us who returned to Neo last Friday, rekindled long-lost friendships and reminisced over the valuable relationships we had developed with so many people, some of whom no longer walk among us.  I wasn’t the only one who flew in from out of town for the event.  The club’s original manager, Tom Doody, now owns a resort hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with his wife, Pamela.  It’s called The Blue Parrot.

One old friend I enjoyed seeing was a fellow named Lloyd Bachrach.  Lloyd started coming to Neo in the second half of the eighties and was recognized there as “The Guy with the Cane”.  I remember many occasions when Lloyd would approach the DJ booth to chat with his old friend, Jeff Pazen, who spun records there.  (Records were on the verge of becoming obsolete at that point).  As Lloyd would approach the DJ booth, the faces on the kind-hearted people standing around that area revealed a degree of concern and an apparent decision to help convey Lloyd’s music request to the disk jockey.  Before anyone could move, Lloyd placed his cane on the ledge atop the five-foot wall in front of the booth, grabbed the ledge, pulled himself up and quickly maneuvered around, 180 degrees, sitting down in front of Jeff to discuss girlfriend issues or whatever other subject was of interest at the time.  The faces of the would-be Good Samaritans all revealed the same reaction:  “Uhh … I don’t think I could do that.”  For my part, I would stare down at my Cuervo Gold and tell myself:  “I know I can’t do that — despite the assurances to the contrary coming from the stuff in this glass.”  Rather than thinking of himself as disabled, Lloyd always perceived himself as differently-abled.  This attitude eventually led him to become a motivational speaker, operating a business called:  Yes You Can.  Lloyd’s website features a video telling his life story.  Given the current economic situation, I think Lloyd’s story is an important one, providing inspiration to cope with the adversity we are all experiencing, to one degree or another.  His video reinforces the notion that we’re all hard-wired — perhaps by something genetic — to adapt, survive and thrive.  The “survival instinct” is just at the core.  The baby abandoned in the dumpster, who lives for a few days until someone finds her  —  the short kid who gets picked on by bullies but goes on to get a black belt — and the alcoholic on the curb, who sobers up to pull his life together on his own — they all find something within themselves to take control over their lives and succeed.  I’m reminded of the old “nature vs. nurture” debate.  When one lives in an adverse situation, can whatever setbacks he or she encounters ultimately be overcome by something in that individual’s nature?  Lloyd’s approach seems to allow one to reach in and find whatever that is  — to “unlearn” whatever mental processes became obstacles to one’s well-being and success.  This process should be important to us — both as individuals and as a society.

At a time when America’s largest corporations rely on mass layoffs to create the illusion of prosperity for their quarterly earnings reports — it’s nice to know that there are people like Lloyd Bachrach, who help others to cultivate their better instincts.  I’m proud to be his friend.