26 May 2010


TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Race, class, courage, compassion, the loss of innocence. These themes and more appear in Harper Lee's seminal novel To Kill A Mockingbird, which was published fifty years ago. Considered by many to be the finest American novel to emerge from the twentieth century, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, and was made into a movie which ranks 25th on the list of 100 greatest American films of all time. TKAM remains a standard in American Lit classes. It is also the only book which the reclusive Lee ever wrote.
Lee's narrative has touched so many lives that this year the novel is being honored at events around the country. Atticus Finch lives.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS. In The Idiots Responsible for the BP Oil Leak Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there appears a rogue's gallery containing nine entries, with mug shots and brief bios. The list is well worth memorizing -- it contains well-known names and one or two surprises.

Now also comes the realization that BP was a major player in the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound. BP had a controlling interest in Alyeska, the oil consortium which owns and operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and was responsible for cleanup. Then, as now, planning was shoddy to non-existent when it came to operational safety and accident cleanup. (At least they're consistent.) The estimated 10.8 million gallons of crude oil which despoiled Alaskan waters and shorelines, has already been dwarfed by the Gulf of Mexico debacle, which is ongoing. Oil continues to gush from the wellhead, offshore waters continue to accumulate oil and toxic dispersants, beaches and coastal wetlands continue to be fouled, and the decimation of marine life, the coastal fishery and wetlands wildlife has only begun. This, not even counting the eighteen human lives lost during the initial well rig explosions.

Civil and criminal charges must be filed and aggressively prosecuted, against both corporate entities and against individuals (both within corporations and within federal regulatory agencies). In addition, monumental fines must be imposed on BP (operator and principal developer of the oil field), Transocean (the drilling contractor and rig owner), and Halliburton (the energy conglomerate which was supposed to cement the drill hole at the Deepwater Horizon rig), and a complete overhaul of oil industry operations and oversight must be initiated -- including an indefinite moratorium on all offshore oil drilling. The environmental, economic and human costs of systemic criminal negligence and malfeasance are too great to ignore. The satellite image below, taken yesterday, shows the current extent of the ever-expanding oil spill. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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