Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gay Adoption in Florida, the Squandering of Tax Payer Money, and Making Children Wait for Permanency


Attribution Unknown



There are some things I'm proud of in my state. Well, actually, currently about the only thing that comes to mind is the fact that our state had an effectively 19 year ban on offshore drilling, though it was set aside in April 2009 by our State House. Our Governor, who has an interesting history of flip-flopping (more on that later)  has been equivocal on the point but was recently advocating for it since he is running against Marco Rubio, who masterfully said only a few days ago that "offshore drilling is done safely all over the world".  Anyway, I consider the offshore drilling ban to be a political no-brainer at this point. Like you'd be committing political hara-kiri to advocate for it while oil washes up on the Panhandle beaches. But there goes Marco... He's brave, that man. Or bought and paid for. Whatever you will...

There are other issues, highly politicized issues, in my state that I'd also consider a no-brainer and of which I am the very opposite of proud. Chief among them at present is the issue of gay adoption. My state, Florida, is the only state in the United States that specifically bans gays from adopting children. The legislation banning gays from adopting has been in place since 1977 and grew out of the ever lovely Anita Bryant "I Hate Gays" campaign that was so touchingly called "Save Our Children".

As any frequent reader of my blog knows, my stance is that homosexuality has been very convincingly linked to genetics on the basis of brain studies. Telling someone that they can't adopt and be good parents because they're gay makes about as much sense to me as saying you can't be a good parent because you have blue eyes or black skin or too much body hair. But there are still plenty of people out there who think otherwise, or at least appear to think otherwise. Or maybe, just maybe, they're paid to think otherwise, because really I don't know how else you can spin these two facts:

1) Bill McCollum, our State Attorney General, paid $120,000 of our tax-payer dollars to a so-called expert witness,  anti-gay activist George Rekers, a purported child psychologist and Baptist minister, to testify at the evidentiary hearing against the advisability of permitting Martin Gill to adopt his two sonsGeorge Alan Rekers is one of the most prominent anti-gay activists in America. Mr. Rekers and his organization, National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), believe in conversion therapy. That's where you convert a homosexual to a heterosexual. I liken it to putting brown contact lenses on a blue-eyed person and standing them in front of a mirror and shouting "See! Now you've got brown eyes the way you should!" and giving lots of incentive for the person to nod in agreement and try as hard as they can to feel brown-eyed.  Rekers's testimony was not sufficient to convince Judge Cindy Lederman that Mr. Gill should not adopt his two sons, who had been with him since 2004. She said that the ban was unconstitutional and thus Mr. Gill and his sons were briefly at ease until the Florida Department of Children and Families appealed her ruling. Mr. Gill's case was heard before the Third District Court of Appeals in Florida in August of 2009.

2) This May, the Miami New Times offered up a very interesting little piece about Mr. Rekers, about whom Attorney General Bill McCollum reportedly wrote: (The State has) "been unable to identify any (witness) who would be available for this case, Gill, et al vs. the State of Florida." (Well, as more than a few people have pointed out, there might be a reason that they had trouble finding witnesses for this case to testify against gays adopting. Like no creditable person would give such testimony. Rekers was actually castigated by an Arkansas judge in 2004 for giving expert witness testimony that was little more than personal opinion rather than scientifically-based. Arkansas is a state that has now even banned any merely co-habiting adults from fostering children. They are so very gay friendly, but even they wouldn't have him.) Anyway, this little gem of investigative reporting turned up the fact that after his brown contacts fell off in a weak moment and Reker felt very blue-eyed... Oh I'm sorry... I got lost there for a minute... Well, Miami New Times reported that Rekers was attempting to convert "Lucien" aka Jo-Vanni Roman during a nice trip to London and Madrid. Rekers and Roman got introduced through Rentboy.com (be prepared if you click on that link... Rekers must have suffered so in finding, after two pages of scrolling, the one Rentboy that needed to be 'saved' the mostest.) Jo-Vanni didn't get saved. But he did give an interesting interview to Joe.My.Blogqueerty.com, unzipped and a bunch of others. The Miami New Times noted in this article that Mr. Rekers is himself an adoptive parent. His adopted son is now an adult but wouldn't comment to the New Times reporters. (Please slap me because of what I wonder about with respect to the younger Mr. Rekers after looking at the New Times images of Jo-Vanni, okay?)

Now the whole point of this is that Mr. Rekers, who gives personally biased and unscientific testimony was paid $120,000 by the State of Florida for his "work" (I'm really having problems with that concept there) on the Gill trial. And while I really don't care if Rekers is gay himself and just incredibly and possibly delusionally hypocritical, that he pays for sex or at the very least sexual massages (read the article and interviews folks) from young men, I do care that my tax payer money went toward that $120K. You know why? The Road to Independence funding for a child who "ages out" of foster care in my state was just slashed back down to an abysmal $892 a month. Let me see.... Average cost of rent in Miami-Dade, $700, and average cost of electrical... Oh.... geee..... Hmmmmmmmm. And how about some math? Even at that totally meager level of funding, how many foster children's stipends would Rekers' compensation be in federally mandated (Road to Independence) RTI terms?

$120,000/$892 = 134 RTI Payments

Wow, 134 RTI monthly payments for aged out foster youth. But the real shocker is that Attorney Bill McCollum got himself another expert witness (no, really, this one even admitted some gay people might be okay under special circumstances) and what with all the money spent on making sure that gay people can't adopt children they've had in their care for years, the total McCollum outlay for the Gill case alone is reportedly $383,000. For those not fast on the arithmetic that is 429 RTI payments for a youth who aged out of foster care. Or, considering an average of $545/month board rate per average foster child, with only 85% funding for that child's adoption subsidy (surely you don't think the State of Florida will pay you the same amount to take care of a child permanently as they will for a child in foster care right? Why, there's that $15 a month allowance they're paying in that $545 after all!) we have:

$383,000/$463 = 827 months of Adoption Subsidy 

That comes out to 69 yearlong adoption subsidies (and that's the rate for an older child, not an infant). And Mr. Rekers' take from the Gill case alone comes to 259 months of adoption subsidy for an older, healthy child, or 21.6 years of adoption subsidy. Why split that amount in half and they would easily have covered the entire subsidy for Mr. Gill's two sons until they turn 18. They have virtually spent their entire adoption subsidy budget for "John" and "James" on fighting Mr. Gill's efforts to adopt, paying for an expert witness who rails against gays but rents them for European trips.

(Another wrinkle is that our Governor, now that he's running for the US Senate as an Independent, has recently realized that he's not in favor of the ban. This after nearly four years of silence on the issue and during which time his Attorney General at least $383,000 on enforcing the ban. He was never openly in favor of the gay adoption ban but he was certainly quiet about it while he was a running for elected office as a Republican...)

So as you can see from all the date stamps on these articles, this story broke back in May. I've stewed on it for quite some time. I really don't care if Mr. Rekers is secretly and self-loathingly gay. I don't care if he hires Rentboys from now until the end of time (2012???) as long as he treats them decently and pays them what he's supposed to. But I have to say that it really irks me that he's off partying hardy with Jo-Vanni when I'm pretty much envisioning that Martin Gill and his partner were home with their sons at the time, probably wondering if the State of Florida would take their children away. Because let me describe to you what "John" and "James" were like when they first arrived into Mr. Gill's foster home. 

Both children had been severely neglected. From the Wikipedia article, In re: Gill - (When the two boys) "arrived at the home of Martin Gill and his partner, 4-month old James had an ear infection, 4-year old John was dressed in dirty, ill-fitting clothing and both had a severe case of ringworm. John wouldn't speak, couldn't hold a pencil and hadn't seen a book before. John and James were only supposed to be with Martin temporarily, but plans for them to live with relatives fell through."

Both children have thrived in the Gill home. (Case Managers and Guardians ad Litem testify to these facts in high profile adoption cases like these.) What did the State of Florida in all its wisdom do? Well, my research shows that in July 2006 the State terminated Mr. Gill's status as the boys' parent because he's gay. (Mind you, the Gill home is the only home that "James" has ever known...) He might be really awesome at rehabilitating extremely damaged and neglected children but he's gay, and we don't want any of that. Mr. Gill sued the state of Florida and won. Although we are still, after ten months, waiting to see what little tricks the Third District Court of Appeals can use to support the State's adoption ban.

Mr. Gill and his partner are not the only couple who have challenged the adoption ban. Vanessa Alenier and Melanie Leon also pursued and won the right to adopt Ms. Alenier's relative and now son, Ethan. Of course, the State of Florida has also challenged their adoption, which is now to be reviewed by the Third District Court of Appeals. Wayne LaRue Smith of Key West is a bit luckier. His battle is finally won. Mr. Smith, an attorney, fought to adopt his sons for ten years and at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars of his own money. After a federal appellate court in Atlanta found that Florida's law was unconstitutional, the State of Florida gave up on trying to overturn Mr. Smith's adoption of his sons. (The State of Florida had been fighting to avoid paying the adoption subsidy for Mr. Smith's children but recently lost that battle.) I have no idea how much the state spent on the Smith legal battle. What I do know is that I'll never forget two statements from these parents:

When interviewed by the New York Times shortly before his federal appellate battle, Mr. Smith was quoted as saying:

''Nobody wants to adopt a 6-year-old with developmental problems who is biracial,'' he said, bitterness tinged with hope.
He paused, because he had been too sweeping.
''I do,'' he said.
Wayne LaRue Smith, right, with his sons and his partner, Dan Skahen. 
(Image Credit: Tom Oosterhoudt)


And then there is Ms. Alenier, who examined that pesky question on the form she was filling out to adopt her son Ethan: (from the Miami Herald)

"... the application included a simple question.
Are you gay?
Alenier, 34, said she did not want to begin her journey as a parent with a lie. So she told the truth..."

Ethan, Melanie and Vanessa
(Image Credit: Barbara Fernandez)



Not every family has the wherewithal that Wayne LaRue Smith has. Not every family has the commitment that Martin Gill and his partner; Wayne LaRue and his partner; and Vanessa Alenier and hers have to offer a child. Not everyone is as truthful as they are either.

George Rekers certainly hasn't been.

The State of Florida has probably spent easily a million dollars trying to keep these fine people from adopting the children they love. And that's money that is taken away from the 19,000+ children in foster care in our state. And taken from the pool of funds to pay to adoptive parents who change lives, one child at a time.

It's realizations like these that make me ashamed to be living in this state... And that is no lie.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Iceland PM Marries Her Partner!

In the midst of moving, being totally blue over something GAL-related, and too tired to finish off my gay adoption post as timely as I'd like, the magnificent Sally has sent me this Marriage Equality pick me up:


Ms Sigurdardottir, 67, married the day a new law took effect defining marriage 
as a union between two consenting adults regardless of sex. (AFP : Halldor Kolbeins )




Iceland's Gay PM Marries her long time partner... Iceland has just legalized marriage as a union between any two consenting adults.


I wonder if our US Congress will have to be as old as the Alþingi Íslendinga  before we get the same kind of legislation?


© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seeking Beauty...

To make some of those moments in life more bearable.

PiccoloNamek, Cirrus Cloud Field, 2007




© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Palate Cleanser #52


Descending the Torugart Pass in Kyrgyzstan



Image credit: Ellen Mack, © 2010, used with permission

You can follow the photos of El-Len on her Flickr photostream. She's recently back from a monthlong tour of Central Asia. In keeping with her Iran and Cuba photographs, I'm sure we'll see a stunning album of her trip, the land and the people of Central Asia as she uploads more images. 




© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Gillard's Ascension!

Aussie PM Julia Gillard (Image Credit: Fairfax Media)


Julia Gillard has just become Australia's first female Prime Minister! Born in Wales in 1961, her family emigrated to Australia in 1966. A 48 year old lawyer, she now leads Australia's Labor Party. By all accounts she is a strong leader and has fared well in ignoring drivel polls such as this one (which came up as one of the highest hits on my Google search) while Deputy PM. CNN quoted her as saying "The government was losing its way..."  so I'm seriously hoping she can have a chat with Australian Senator Steve Fielding (Family First Party) because the man is not just lost but confused and rather objectionably misogynist.

My friend Sally seems hyped and quite proud about Ms. Gillard's ascension to PM. She sent me an article with a list of all the women leaders of the past fifty years. I'm excited for Sally and for all Aussie women. I hope it ushers in a positive change for their leadership and the political ethos Down Under. Mind you, Sally tells me that not only is Ms. Gillard not married to her partner Tim Mathieson, but she's also a declared atheist! I'm loving her more and more and thinking that Australia must be worlds ahead of the US.

Frankly, in recent days, as I contemplate the Obama administration and the BP oil spill, I have to say I wonder if Hillary Clinton would have given that weak speech that Obama did last week from the Oval Office. Somehow, I just have to think she might have had a stronger voice and a stronger response to the whole issue. But maybe that's my naïveté in thinking that Big Oil hasn't bought Washington lock, stock and *cough* barrel.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

R.I.P.

"Unfortunately, we have also found one dead sperm whale floating 150 miles south of Pensacola...."


Image Credit: Peter G. Allison, M.D. for National Geographic Society


Oh yeah, the perfect end to my Wednesday: Oil gushes into gulf following accident in containment effort


© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Comfort food

Dutch baby pancake with flamed cherry & lily of the valley, originally uploaded by o_lesyk.




Same attribution but really you can't have enough Olesya*.



Me: Lily of the Valley

You: Olesya's pancakes.

Recipe is here. (If you use Google Chrome, you can ask it to translate for you...)


*The degree of fabulousness is epic with this woman. Her photos make me hungry and smell scents that are floral and foodish simultaneously.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Palate Cleanser

Reflections Of Norway, originally uploaded by Nicolai Kjærgaard.

Not oil-spilt, not frac'd, not colony-collapsed and not my new house.

Simply gorgeous.

Whiplash

The Sound of Falling Water, 2009, by Milen Milenovic


New House, soon, maybe soon, someday soon ➔ Paternity leave in Sweden vs. Australian legislator with redundant stupid and offensive commentary genes? ➔ What do you mean it failed the Zoning Inspection? ➔ Hey Baby video game violence ➔ Board Meeting ➔ Horrendous mental health facilities in Jakarta ➔ Oil companies will lie to us about anything (← and we let them!) and can self-regulate about as well as a fox can regulate itself with chickens ➔ Small world grows smaller when Flip's BFF Connor's mom's PhD advisor is one deceased Peter Lutz I wanted to keep all these books why? ➔ Joe Barton must secretly be trying to help the Democrats look respectable  ➔ Eugenics? You mean Huxley was really onto something there? ➔ Will the work on the house ever be done? ➔ People get so angry when you use their photos without permission but, like, only Julie really even bothers to reply to emails and she's the one photographer you'd think would be too busy to reply, right? (C'est vrai Michel et Natalya, c'est vrai) ➔ I'm sorry, Cornell is allowing this doctor to do what to little girls? ➔  Yes, you really have to pack your things and get all this stuff done, no the movers won't do it for you, really they won't A female condom that hurts the rapist sounds good in theory but what if the rapist gets angry and kills you? ➔ Poor little Evil Princess of Darkness... ➔ Hydraulic fracture for 'clean' natural gas and *cough* Halliburton? Danger Will Robinson! ➔ House, house, house ➔ Seriously, how brave is Kalima Salik? ➔ Board MeetingJudge Martin Feldman says that moratorium is all wrong ➔ And then all we have to do is finish the painting, install the new alarm system, call the plumber to look at that drip, get some furniture delivered, get the zoning inspection, stain the wood on the decks again ➔  ➔  ➔  ➔ Looks back at past few days....


Ow! 


























© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gasland by Josh Fox

I've been so busy the past two days and have not had a chance to finish a single post. What I did make time for and what EVERYONE in the US needs to make time for is Gasland by Josh Fox. And really if you're in Europe, Australia or Africa you probably should as well. I urge you, if you are fond of drinking water, to watch this film any way that you can. You think that BP and the petroleum industry lies threaten your future? Check out the drinking water after hydraulic fracturing of shale. It's happened across large swaths of this country.







Read more about Gasland (be sure to check out the map, folks) and see how to contact your legislators to advocate against hydraulic fracture methods, go to Gasland.


© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Palate Cleanser #50

Well, in spite of the fact that I'm in the midst of researching solitary bees and still mulling over my in-progress but much stalled post on parental leave in various countries and the US, and the really odd, small world connection of a deceased sea turtle expert and the mother of my youngest's best friend, I thought I'd slap up another pretty. 


Apologies to those expecting a James McAvoy  palate cleanser. I really have to see what I can dig up for you. It turns out not just La Comtesse revisée likes JMcA. There are other 'takers' out there.... Oh dear. Hmmmmm.


Until then, we'll have to make due with this lovely Aquilegia. I'm très grateful that Annie's Annuals doesn't have this in production right now because I'd be desperate to try to get my mom to try it in her fuss garden. (The one where she tries to fuss over all the things that have no business growing in So. Florida where the overnight low was 82 F according to my thermometer) Le Sighs...


Aquilegia chrysantha  'Wild Form'


So more later. Bees, oil executives sailing in yachts while oil spills all over the Gulf of Mexico (*cough* Hayward again?) and maybe something on video games in which women shoot men who talk to them in ways that are annoying.


Happy Saturday! À bientot...


text only© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Palate Cleanser #49

Cynical Nymph sent this lovely earlier in the week. It's time to share...






© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Jon Stewart continues to be our generation's Edward R. Murrow

Really, the only things that keep me watching US political news commentary at all are Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Day 59 - Judgment Day - The Strife Aquatic
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party









© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Status Quo Bias vs. Simple Veritas

Day 45: Peter Samson, reporter for the Sun puts his hand in an oil patch on the surface of Barataria Bay. 
(Image, Caption Credit: Julie Dermansky, jsdart.com, used with permission)


Status quo bias: "The status quo bias is a cognitive bias which leads people to prefer that things remain the same, or that things change as little as possible, if they absolutely must be altered. While the status quo bias can provide a certain amount of self-protection by encouraging people to make safer choices, it can also become crippling..." (from WiseGeek.com)

I don't know about you but the thought that President Obama basically told us we should just pray about the Gulf oil spill situation seems rather hollow to me. If I'm going to pray for anything, it's that this administration and our Congress come up with a better plan than prayers. In the midst of this catastrophe, our legislators are pretty much frozen in their status quo biased positions, unable to find consensus on what needs to be done to avoid more of the same in the future. For instance, look at the Energy Bill, which is stalled in the Senate where the Democrats cannot agree even among themselves. The cap-and-trade system of penalizing heavy polluters cannot even find full support among Democrats? Of course, the Republicans think that any legislation should be tied exclusively to the oil spill. On and on they go... How is it different from any other times they've dealt with energy issues? It isn't.

I, for one, am just completely disheartened by this administration and by our Congress. I am tired of large corporations and their equally large lies, and tired of politicians who appear to pander to them and allow them to continue to exploit those lies (preparedness? I give you walruses in the Gulf of Mexico and long dead sea turtle experts...) to extract their private profits and spread their liabilities and debts to all of us and to all our environment, as well. And I am utterly disgusted with politicians who apologize to heads of corporations for Congress and the American people calling corporations on their lies (however late that calling is). A $20B USD slush fund? A shakedown? Rep. Barton's comments so offended his own party (or at least it gave them pause for thought about what their voters might think of their party) that he was forced to apologize for his apology or lose his standing as ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce subcommittee. What was the man thinking I wonder?

Veritas: Truth, which has been in short supply. (Largely thanks to BP. You're likely to see more of the same- lack of truth- thanks to BP's evidently beholden legislators and judges.)

You've heard from Jen what the Gulf Spill and its cleanup are really like. If you want to see what the real spill cleanup story is (the images Jen couldn't bear to capture) check out photographer Julie Dermansky's multimedia coverage for The Atlantic, "BP's Slippery Cleanup Effort" and her often poignant Flickr gallery. What do you get to see on the evening news and in your morning paper? Not the truth. You see what BP wants you to see, what they wanted Obama to see. Julie Dermansky shows us more truth than probably many of us can bear. Like Jen, she says it's worse than we think. Listen to Chris Hernandez's story of a day on the beach. A beach you or I hope never to set foot on in its then (probably still) state.




Julie lives in New Orleans and drives down to the Buras area to get these photos. Her camera sees the truth and you should watch, especially because it's exactly what BP doesn't want you to see. Maybe show a few people her video and share it on your Facebook page. I sure did.

I really want to believe that change is possible in this country. But the fact that every politician seems so beholden to some special interest or large corporation makes my hope falter. 

Once again, I suggest that if you really want to see change, you tell your legislators that you do, and your president that you do. Because they are not going to change until you let them know the status quo bias business just isn't working for you any more.


To contact your House Representative and your Senator, you can go to:



And write to your President at:


Baby tern stuck in an oil patch on Grand Isle beach, rescued by Chris Hernandez 
(Image, Caption Credit: Julie Dermansky, jsdart.com, used with permission)




© original text, Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tired of Power Outages....

After having countless power failures over the past 24 hours, in lieu of putting up my intended post on parental leave policies in Sweden, Australia and the US, I'm putting up a BP Satire because I'm frustrated and needed a really bitter and dark laugh. 


UCB Comedy: BP Spills Coffee



Current Leader in the BP logo redesign:
LogoMyWay Competition






Text © Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mourning in my household....



There was this article published earlier today on US News and World Report about mental health being boosted by the World Cup. Clearly, the authors and researchers are NOT Spanish.





© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You know you're liberal when...

in spite of the fact that you hate the totally ruined Gulf of Mexico, you're massively offended by Rep. Cao (R-LA) saying that in the past BP execs in another place and time would have committed Hara Kiri.


Okay, WHAT? I'm sorry, did I get that straight? Did a US Representative from Louisiana just somehow implicitly suggest that executives from British Petroleum Corporation and Transocean Corporation should commit suicide?


HELL NO.


First, there's this little thing I have about thinking life after birth is rather valuable. Even BP executives represent life. 


Yeah, I know, that whole twelve to sixteen fetal weeks thing is such a kicker for me. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm pro-life-that's-already-here. No news there. And so, 


I don't think that BP execs should get the easy out and inappropriate and immoral (in this specific situation) exit of suicide.


No indeedy.


British Petroleum needs to stick around. To make things RIGHT. They need to be a role model for society by sticking their nose to the grindstone and cleaning up the mess they wrought and taking the public criticism while they do so. Because their company, their decisions, their shortcuts (oh man were there shortcuts... Jen and about three other readers emailed me the same article...) are both their responsibility and ours.


Why ours?


We let them make those decisions because of our addiction to SUVs and Big Cars and Driving and OIL. (Unless you use only public transportation all the time, don't even think to argue...)


So they don't get the easy-out and WE don't get the easy-out.


They suck. Really they do. But you know what? All of us, including me, Ms. Hybrid Car driver, probably have some degree of responsibility. Unless we're using entirely solar, geothermal, hydro or some other energy source, we are likely petroleum or in general carbon-based, energy consumers.


It's all our fault and NONE OF US get to commit Hara Kiri in my world view. 


What we get to do is figure out how to fix things. 


Not just leaks, but longterm plans.


Give me solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear, in locations appropriate for each.


Give me, and my children and grandchildren, a FUTURE.


NASA satellite image.


Edited to note: In case it's not clear from the foregoing, which admittedly became rather tangential to Rep. Cao's comments, I think that Rep. Cao is incredibly inappropriate and obnoxious. What he said was 26 ways of wrong and he ought to be made to apologize or face censure.




© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Golden Fairy Slumber

Nymph Palate Cleanser

Corydalis flexuosa Blue Panda, originally uploaded by growin.


Palate Cleanser Version Vert

England, Brontë-like Moors (public domain wallpaper)

Comtesse Palate Cleanser


Pour ma chère comtesse

Monday, June 14, 2010

Escrow and the Dead, Plus Ways to Help

(Image credit: Julie Dermansky, paid feature photo)


Well, here we are at Day 55, though actually, looking at my clock, in another ten minutes of writing it will be Day 56. A reader noticed I have the number of  days listed on the caption of the little boycott BP image. I just wanted to keep track so I know how much oil's been gushing, that's all. I'm gonna make a formula, something like (35 x 50,000/day) + ( 10 x 45,000/day) + (10 x 40,000) + (# of days for next insufficient intervention x whatever increment reduction of flow) = # of barrels the Gulf of Mexico, all its wildlife and countless denizens of every species, are screwed by.

So what's new besides the fact that BP now wants to start burning the oil because the cool containment dome is just totally out of storage space? (*cough* Boy, that means they're really awesome at estimating the volume that was flowing right? Because they weren't even capturing a quarter of the outflow.) What's the big deal? It would have ended up being CO2 and CH4 anyway, right? Now, later, what's the difference?

On the news front, the US Senate wants BP to set aside a $20B USD escrow fund to cover damages. (Sometimes I just love Harry Reid and company) It seems the Obama administration is fairly sure that they will be able to use the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to their advantage. There are totally awesome components to the OPA 1990. For instance look at this cute little section on liability:

§1002(d) Provides that if a responsible party can establish that the removal costs and damages resulting from an incident were caused solely by an act or omission by a third party, the third party will be held liable for such costs and damages.

Frankly, I'm thinking that is the stuff of a BP and Transocean wet dream. They can just blame each other ad infinitum and drag out liability judgment for years. Heck, we've already seen a dress rehearsal up on Capitol Hill, haven't we?

(Attribution unknown and I can't read cartoonist's signature)

There's also this little useful subsection:

§1016 Offshore facilities are required to maintain evidence of financial responsibility of $150 million and vessels and deepwater ports must provide evidence of financial responsibility up to the maximum applicable liability amount. Claims for removal costs and damages may be asserted directly against the guarantor providing evidence of financial responsibility.

Damn. More of the same.

But personally my all time favorite (remember this was written right after Exxon Valdez) is:

§4202 Strengthens planning and prevention activities by: (1) providing for the establishment of spill contingency plans for all areas of the U.S. (2) mandating the development of response plans for individual tank vessels and certain facilities for responding to a worst case discharge or a substantial threat of such a discharge; and (3) providing requirements for spill removal equipment and periodic inspections.
Wow. I am just so impressed about the foresight they had and that they have put all of that in place now, 20 years later. Aren't you? Nothing like a federal law to give you confidence. Yes, indeedy.

So I've been prowling around looking for statistics on the number of animals lost in the Gulf spill and came across this marvelous site from UC Davis, The Oiled Wildlife Care Network. In addition to having massively depressing stats like these:

(from OWCN.org, updated Deepwater Horizon Spill statistics for June 13, 2010)


and so you can see the bump from day to day:

(from OWCN.org, updated Deepwater Horizon Spill statistics for June 14, 2010)

they have all manner of really useful information, including what to do if you find any oiled wildlife along your coastal areas and various facts about wildlife that has been oil exposed. Interestingly, many, many of the animals who have perished have no sign of external oiling.

Of course, there were also eleven men who lost their lives on that rig. I cannot fail to think of them. Adam Weise, 24; Aaron Dale Burkeen, 37; Donald Clark, 49; Roy Kemp, 27; Jason Anderson, 35; Stephen Curtis, 39; Gordon Jones, 28; Blair Manuel, 56; Dewey Revette, 48; Karl Kleppinger, Jr., 38 and Shane Roshto, 22.

I look at those men's names and feel much sadness for their families, many of whom still support offshore oil drilling.

So much loss and so much sorrow. Lives, livelihoods and futures destroyed.

Oiled Wildlife Care Network has a Facebook page where you can look out for volunteer opportunities. They have a great blog at http://owcnblog.wordpress.com/. If you have an interest in volunteering or making donations, you can contact them at http://www.owcn.org/network/training-and-outreach if you live on the West Coast (follow links for training partners in network) or on the East Coast you can contact Tri-State Bird Rescue.  Don't forget to check out Uzza's excellent article on the subject of helping wildlife.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Caleb Critchfield. (Deepwater Horizon Response Flickr page)


BTW, in the LA Times article above they make mention of the fact that the Coast Guard is now saying, "Come on, man, get serious. Come up with a plan already!" BP's spokesman Jon Pack promised that they really, truly are (pinky swear) but they just can't make that plan public. Anyway, they were headed for a board meeting today and the agenda was a deep dark secret. But there have already been rumors of the big, bad B. You know, you do what you have to do. Until you just don't want to do it anymore.

The Deepwater Response Website is here. We owe the men and women of the US Coast Guard and all the people involved in cleanup and rescue of any sort our sincere thanks. If you listen to Jen or my friends in LA, the shenanigans that BP pulls to keep people in the dark are absolutely endless.

Meanwhile, the most excellent Uzza has availed us of some rather spectacular contests. The first is the real meaning of the acronym BP. Thus far, my fave is Beyond Prosecution. The other is for BP's new logo and and you can go here to see entries. The number one entrant thus far is:



although I'm also rather taken with:


but I'm not so sure I can only blame BP for that. After all, we let them.








© Bright Nepenthe, 2010