Jim Brown

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

New Orleans, Louisiana


When the deep water Horizon well first began spurring thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf, sympathy from around the nation poured into Louisiana. The country and the world watched in horror as the Bayou State once again wrestled with the elements of nature and the manmade disaster that followed. “First Katrina, now the oil. How many hits can the state take?” was a common expression of concern. But as more states become directly affected by the polluted waters, and the Louisiana political and business leadership continues to call for more drilling, national sympathies are beginning to wane. Is Louisiana pushing the envelope, and trying to have it both ways?

With a few exceptions, Louisianans are in lock step, demanding that the BP well be capped, that a monumental cleanup effort be undertaken and paid for by BP and the Feds, and that deep drilling in the Gulf be allowed to continue. It’s hard for many onlookers throughout the rest of the country to comprehend why a state undulated in an oil spill hat could well destroy marshlands and the fishing industry for decades, still is demanding the right to continue drilling.

Even as the ecological damage to the Louisiana marsh increases daily, a number of recent polls reflect that some 75% of Bayou State residents favor continuing deepwater offshore drilling. `But across the nation, support for such drilling is dropping as sharply as BP’s stock. The most recent Pew research center nationwide poll showed that a majority of Americans surveyed (52 per cent) oppose increased offshore drilling.

Florida residents, who just two months ago strongly favored drilling in the Gulf (66 % favorable-27% unfavorable), now oppose such drilling by 51-42 percent. And Florida governor Charlie Crist said this week he may call for a special legislative session to put a drilling ban on the November ballot. A Florida candidate for Attorney general reflected the feelings of a cross section of Florida residents, saying: “I believe there are millions of Floridians who, as they watch in the horror unfolding…want the state government to say, ‘Stop it, we don’t want it here, we don’t want it anymore.'”

The spill, and whether or not to drill, has become election year fodder far beyond the Gulf. Candidates in a number of states are waging emotional campaigns in what looks like a frantic effort to turn the oil spill into referendums of who is a fault, and whether or not to continue production efforts in the Gulf.

In several of Michigan’s congressional races set for this fall, republican and democratic candidates alike are campaigning for a permanent state ban on drilling in the Great Lakes. Canada alone has drilled 513 natural gas wells in Lake Erie. In the Pennsylvania Senate race, Democrat Joe Sestak is accusing his Republican opponent, Pat Toomey, of putting “Big oil ahead of the American people” by not supporting the moratorium while accepting $96,000 from the oil and gas industry. The rallies against Big Oil and for a moratorium, with some TV ads using sound effects from horror-movies, set the campaign tone in a host of other states including Missouri, California, Illinois and even Kentucky.

New Orleans federal Judge Martin Feldman sure didn’t do Louisiana any favors in his ruling last week rejecting the federal government’s imposition of six-month moratorium. It wasn’t the ruling that heaped more criticism on deep water drilling in the Gulf as much as the perception that the judge was financially involved in the oil companies that his ruling helped. Feldman, according to numerous press reports, filed disclosure reports, required by all federal judges, showing that he held investments in a wide range of oil related companies doing extensive business in the Gulf. In fact, on the same day that his ruling was issued overturning the drilling moratorium, Feldman sold his stock in Exxon Mobil Corporation.

According to federal law, federal judges are required to step aside from cases that present financial conflicts or cases in which the judge’s impartially might be questioned. His “impartially” is being “questioned” in editorials and other news commentary nationwide. Feldman is also receiving criticism from conservatives who are not as concerned over the moratorium as much as Feldman’s “judicial activism,” a no no to those on the right. Still others feel that Feldman reached the right result, but with questionable and even sloppy reasoning in his written opinion, that may give leeway for the federal government in its coming appeal.

Another New Orleans judge, with no ties or financial investments in the oil industry would probably have reached the same result and overturned the moratorium. A judge with no conflicts and who might issue a much better researched and reasoned opinion, would be less open to attack when the appeal reaches the Fifth Circuit Court Appeals next week in New Orleans. The perception of many across the country is that it’s just one more example of judicial impropriety, and typical of “the Louisiana Way.”

Louisiana is also taking its share of national hits for not doing more to anticipate and protect its marshes. The New York Time wrote a front page article this week concluding that the state’s response plan was inadequate largely because the state failed to fully develop a plan. Included in the lack of an adequate response were:

The state’s oil spill coordinator’s office has had its budget slashed by 50% over the last decade.

Last year, the legislature cut funding from the state’s oil spill research program.

The state’s oil spill contingency plan included “pages of blank pages and charts that are supposed to detail available supplies of equipment like oil-skimming vessels.” A plan for a worst-case scenario was labeled “to be developed.”

Louisiana officials attacked the federal response plan, after having approved and signed off on the same Coast guard response plan just a few weeks before.

CBS News also raised questions about why Louisiana was not putting to use help that had been authorized by the President. Six thousand National Guard troops had been approved and funded by the Feds, but the troops needed to be called up by the Louisiana Governor. After weeks, only 1600 guardsmen had been activated by Louisiana officials.

Maybe political analyst James Carville is correct in suggesting that that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed up the war effort in Afghanistan until being fired last week by the President, be hired to take command of the entire Gulf oil spill response. I’m a big McChrystal supporter, and would endorse such an idea. McChrystal has a reputation for “kicking some butt.” Perhaps his boot could include some Louisiana officials as well as the whole federal response team.


“A little less conversation, a little more action please. All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me. A little more bite and a little less bark.”

Elvis Presley

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am central time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

9 thoughts on “Jim Brown”

  1. Editorially we’re pretty much in lockstep with the sentiments expressed by Jim in his column.

    Regarding Feldman and his conflict of interest, Jim implies what I am going to say that his ruling will be vacated and not because of the shoddy reasoning he used to justify his actions. Rather his conflict of interest and subsequent refusal to recuse himself will kill the injunction. It is also very possible the 5th Circuit will kick this case to another federal court district.

    There is a price to be paid for politicizing this oil spill and Jindal is finding out the meaning of the term blowback as people are now looking beyond the talking points to his actions. The more you peel back the greater the stench.


  2. Feeding closer to shore I keep seeing Deano Bonano from Jefferson Parish. If he is the Emergency Services Director for the Parish :
    1. What are his credentials?
    2. Why didn’t he go out into the deep water sooner, before the oil got into the marshes?
    3. Why didn’t he have a plan on paper, researched , reviewed and signed off on by experts , state and Feds? He had plenty time before the oil got to La. Now we are in Hurricane season.
    4. And again: what are his credentials for being the Jefferson Parish point person ?
    5. And why hasn’t the media questioned any of this? Why hasn’t the media asked where Parish President Theriot is? Why is Fox 8 so chummy ( pardon the pun) with Bonano? And where is Val Bracy? Why is her contract not being renewed? Where is the golden child Zurik? Too chummy with Freddie Heebe and his Landfill Buddies? Land Shark. Slabby Gram.

    I’ll be circling back by after I get this oil washed off by Alex.


  3. I hate to circle behind Sharky again, but I commend Jim on this column.

    Sop and I usually agree, but I don’t think I agree with his assessment of what the 5th Circuit will do. My guess is that almost any panel of that court will overlook Feldman’s conflict and affirm his ruling. In this instance I hope I am wrong. And if it goes to the supremes, it will result in a 5-4 vote, just like Bush v. Gore, the recent gun ruling, and so many other politically charges cases.

    As a former Republican and now long-time registered independent voter, I am appalled at the manner in which Jindal and Steve Scalise have used this disaster to advance their political careers. From the outset these two have made it an us vs. them situation with the Feds. The rancor and inflammatory rhetoric from these two have been so extreme, that one would think they are trying to divert the sheeple’s collective ire from the evil-doers (BP Transocean).

    Don’t get me wrong, this regulatory catastrophe happened on Obama’s watch and his administration was slow to react. So, in that regard, the buck stops with Obama and this will dog his legacy. Just like when Richard Clarke sent memos to Bush telling him Al Quaida would fly our own planes into buildings.

    In any event, Sop uses the work “politicize,” and I could not agree more. The political lines on this event are far more pronounced than what they were for 9-11 or Katrina. What a shame people cannot think past their close-minded, knee-jerk ideologies. PEOPLE ARE BECOMING DESENSITIZED TO THE CRUDE GEYSER GUSHING INTO THE GULF.

  4. O.K., I’m waving the white flag, but simultaneously planning my next “attack” (Didn’t one of our adversaries in World War II “appear” to surrender, and when Medics and other “humanitarian” troops approached them, BLOW themselves and everybody else up with a hand grenade? – I don’t “go” for the blow yourself up part, but the part about what happens to the ones attempting to accept surrender is O.K. with me). Since I’m no longer dependent for my livehood (I no longer HAVE a “livelihood”) on the Offshore Oil Industry, and since witnessing the oiling of MY island, namely Oueen Bess Island in Barataria Bay, and the killing and oiling of MY waterfowl on the island, including pelicans, our “State bird”, I’ve HAD ENOUGH! So, NO MORE DRILLING OFF LOUISIANA’s COAST! (We’ll deal with “on-shore” drilling in due course). THAT ought to turn “public opinion” in the rest of the Country around! (Are we sure the the polls about Louisiana aren’t so low because of: (1) the illiteracy rate; (2) the average income of the citizenry, which lags below most other States; (3) the CRIME rate, particularly VIOLENT crime, in urban areas (don’t we “lead” the rest of the Country on this one?); and (4) the indelible image BURNED into the brains of TV viewers elsewhere that New Orleans more closely resembled Rawanda that the United States (from whence does BP GET those “beach cleaners” – on temporary “vacation” from their “vacation” due to “weather”). So here’s my “PLAN”. First we STOP all containment, clean-up, removal and disposal efforts until BP (and Obummer, who’ll take the “credit”) stops the GUSHING of oil from the “runaway” WILD well. It’s not doing a damn bit of good, anyway. Really. Next, we “re-focus” all of those efforts and energy and resources and finances on the following: (a) IMPEACH Feldman and ALL other Federal Judges in the Eastern District of Louisiana who are guilty of impeachable offenses (space does not permit a complete listing at this time); (b) Do whatever is necessary to initiate the CRIMINAL prosecution of EVERYONE responsible for the DEEPWATER HORIZEN disaster. I mean, hell, it only took the Federal Bureau of Constipation 9 1/2 hours to take me into custody, and keep me in custody (and in solitary confinement) for 34 days for a “crime” which an honest Federal Judge recently said didn’t exist). Here, we had 11 actual deaths, an injury count somewhat higher, “beaucoup” property damage, and economic losses, etc. which required BP to establish a $20 billion fund and a separate $100 million fund (boy that last one involved a bit of “trickery”, didn’t it?). What the hell is taking so long to begin making arrests, of Tony Hayward, Doug Suttle, BP employees who were on the rig, but who invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked to testify before Congress, those who testified before Congress, but LIED, etc., etc., etc. I mean, I was only accused of making a THREAT involving bodily injury. There was no THREAT about what happened on April 20, 2010, and which continues to happen now, on day 73. (c) Contrary to the opinions of many “pundits”, I want to see BP’s corporate existence DESTROYED, and every “sou” in its coffers here in the USA, in England, in Middle Eastern banks, or “wherever”, SUCKED out and distributed to claimants. If this means “bankruptcy”, fine (And if BP DOES file for bankruptcy in the USA, then its executives and lawyers and consultants will LIE – the penalty for “perjury” in a US Courtroom can include referral to the U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecution). I am quite sure that with the actions identified, supra, in place, the “attitude” of the rest of the Country towards Louisiana will increase EXPONENTIALLY. There’s only one “thing”: I don’t give a shit WHAT anyone else thinks. Ashton O’Dwyer.

  5. Gee whiz sharkpuppet, do you think you can leave enough of the corpse to need the use of a slabb. With pending news I have made arrangements to expand the capacity of the holding room here in the slabb blogosphere to accommodate the list of future customers, and I must say the list keeps getting longer. With that in mind, the plan is to construct a lower level to slabbem after we stabbem. Why a lower level you may ask? Because deep deep down, they are really…good.

  6. Until you can get the Federal government & wacko environmentalist to not prevent the drill for fossil fuels on the lands of he United States, the only place to drill is offshore.

    However, you are aware that the relief wells are being drilled in much shallower waters and the original could have been also. How they work the leases, how they monitor the work, how they perform their inspections are all suspect. You know it’s bad when you have to change the name of the agency and make some of the top officials resign! I wonder why their criminal acts didn’t require proscution and possible jail time. White collar crime is actually worse than blue collar or commen crime. They may not use a gun but they take more money and do more harm than an individual criminal. The Feds are just another gang of criminals with the power to destroy the ones supporting them, the citizens who work or own a business.

    This government “lessons learned” is on the same plain if not higher than the Katrina “lessons learned” and that one cost over $70 Billion for this local area and even more for the rest of the state.

  7. Ditto, Sock Puppet…I’m in the same choir, singing the same song you wrote, and belong to the same INDEPENDENT church. Ideologues of either the Democratic or Republican banner can best be described as incompetent fascists. Need I mention Vitter or Obama, Jindal or Pelosi, the list seems endless. The desultory polarization caused by these self-absorbed disingenuous fools is an ominous sign of our future should we chose not to push back, to vote, to blog, to speak out.

    Kudos to you, Jim Brown…again

    And thanks to Sop, Nowdy and the SlabbedNation for the opportunity to participate in some honest discussions of both fact and opinion.

  8. Whitmergate:

    You’re right, ideologues don’t care about judicial impartiality. Yesterday, I had lunch with some friends, who happen to be Republicans. One of my oldest and closest friends was railing against the moratorium. We got into a discussion of Feldman’s monumental conflict of interest. I admittedly engaged in some hyperbolic rhetoric in describing what I believe to be the taint on the injunction. My friend, a non-lawyer, laughed and said to one of the other Republicans in reference to Feldman , “At least he’s our cheater.” This is a good friend and a good man, but like so many others, he would prefer a politically-favorable result to having fair justice where the law leads the judge to the result, instead of the judge bending the law to whatever pre-ordained decision the judge and his political benefactors clearly desire.

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