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Rape and Spillage

What’s with the president’s war analogy on the oil spill? It’s as if some alien force, “The Invasion of the Slippery Sludge,” suddenly attacked us. “Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al-Qaida,” President Barack Obama said Tuesday in his White House speech, “and tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.”

What nonsense. The oil was minding its own business until some multinational corporations, enabled by a dysfunctional government regulatory regime, decided to wage war on the ecological balance of the oceans by employing technology that they were not prepared to control. Cleaning up the oil spill mess we made by raping the environment to satiate our consumer gluttony is not a glorious battle against evil but rather obligatory penance for the profound error of our ways.

You wound Mother Nature by punching a hole deep in her pristine ocean where you have no business going and when she bleeds uncontrollably you dare blame her for the assault? This from a president who shortly before this disaster had given the oil companies permission to pillage in the deep seas at will. At least now he admits to having been extremely naive in his belief that they knew what they were doing:

“A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe—that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken. That obviously was not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why.”

He already knows why! It’s the same ideological obsession that led to the deregulation of the banking industry based on the assumption that the unfettered pursuit of multinational corporation profits would somehow serve the public good. In every area of federal governance the story is the same; the mammoth corporations, through their lobbyists and campaign contributions, end up controlling the government agencies ostensibly regulating the activities of the military/industrial, health, financial and communications complexes. Why be surprised that the oil conglomerates are also in bed with their pretend Washington regulators? 

Obviously Obama cannot be blamed for the bipartisan endorsement of the Reagan Revolution’s siren song, a call to make the world safe for multinational corporations. The radical anti-regulation campaign—endorsed by Bill Clinton as well as the father-and-son Bush team—corrupted rather than improved the efficiency of the entire private sector, and what happened with the oil industry was the rule and not the exception. 

In explaining the failure of the Minerals Management Service, responsible for regulating the oil drillers, Obama stated: “Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility—a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.”

That damning indictment of the corporate corruption of our political process should stand as a cautionary tale to those like the majority in those red states now suffering so because of the offshore drilling of which their voters previously approved. Hopefully they, and the president who catered to such impulses, will take away from this very costly mess a justifiable skepticism about the risk assessments of plunderers who treat natural treasures as nothing more than potential profit centers. 

The public goes along because, as with the jobs created by military spending and the false wealth of financial bubbles, it is blinded by lavishly funded corporate PR to the true costs of such reckless corporate behavior. It is understandable that folks struggling to get by would fall for that line, but it is inexcusable when the political elite in Washington that know better goes along with such chicanery. 

The war that needs to be fought and won is against corporate dominance of every important aspect of our political culture. I hope this disaster, its impact revised upward by the government on Tuesday to represent an Exxon Valdez-size spill of oil into the Gulf every four days, will facilitate that. The difference between the new estimate, 60,000 barrels of oil a day, and BP’s original claim of 5,000 barrels a day is just another example of the systemic corporate deceit that has characterized this immense catastrophe. This is the wakeup call to fight corporate arrogance that we, and our president, desperately needed. 

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