Two disasters: tornadoes and the oil spill

The sky was an alarming color Thursday night. If you didn’t see it, Twitter was there to tell you: “[R]eminds me of the yellow windowed room at the Guthrie, creepy,” one opined; “It’s freakin’ GOLD outside,” another informed us; “Post storm: it’s the color of O Brother Where Art Thou outside,” said another, and she wasn’t kidding: Musician Matt Wilson posted a photograph he took of the yellowed sky, saying “And that, my friends, is a Minnesotan, post-storm sky,” and it’s spectacular.

Dazzling though it was, these sepia clouds were hinted at the destructive power of nature: Elsewhere in Minnesota, tornadoes took three lives, as reported by KSTP. Hart Van Denburg of City Pages rounds up storm information and videos, revealing that, according to the NOAA, 35 tornadoes struck Minnesota Thursday. The Associated Press interviews a survivor of the storm: “They say it sounds like a freight train,” he says. “It does.”

WCCO, in the meanwhile, interviews photojournalist Dale Baer, who witnessed a tornado touchdown in Kiester, Minn.; the tornado was massive, with Baer estimating it as being three-quarters of a mile long. “The amount of farm houses [with] destruction was probably uncountable,” he tells WCCO. “Fifteen to 20 at least. Literally destroyed. Silos completely tipped over. Farms torn up.” The interview presents images of destruction that sound genuinlely apocalyptic, including a destroyed pig farm surrounded by the corpses of pigs killed in the storm.

WCCO also reports on Wadena, Minn., which was also struck by a tornado, and suffered damage that the mayor calls “devastating.” Included in the damage: The total destruction of their community center. One local summed up the storm on Twitter: “Western Wadena is gone.”

Unfortunately, the logical transition at this moment is from a local environmental disaster to a national one; as the oil spill in the Gulf is still a pressing, and overwhelming concern. (Roger Ebert wrote an interesting essay about how the spill defies our narrative understanding of the world; we don’t know what to make of a problem without a clear fix when we’ve been conditioned to stories ending with problems being solved). For a sense of a perspective on the size of the problem, a site called If It Was My Home overlays the outline of the oil spill over a map of wherever you happen to live. Laid over Minneapolis, the spill stretches as far north as Duluth, as far south as Fairibault, west almost to Benson and east to Medford, Wis.

So, of course, the spill is on everybody’s minds — Minnesota Independent’s Paul Schmelzer rounds up tweets about the subject from local politcos. GOP House candidate Greg Knutson ponders if Obama plans to use money from BP to pay for the “Obama forced layoff of Gulf Oil workers”; you can tell he feels strongly about this, because at one point he uses two exclamation points. One presumes he is talking about the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling, but it’s a strange case to make, as one could easily argue that it’s not Obama that is causing these layoffs, but instead questions about the safety of deepwater drilling that inevitably arise when a deepwater rig explodes, killing 11 people and spilling as much as 4,200,000 gallons per day into an area just miles from two wildlife refuges.

But there is nothing that some conservatives won’t attempt to use as a hammer to beat Obama with. Most notoriously, Texas Rep. Joe Barton, who has received at least $27,000 from BP and related PACs and indivuals since 1990 (and as much as $1,448,380 total from  oil and gas industry professionals), actually apologies to BP for Obama asking them to set aside $20 billion for cleanup, calling it a “shakedown.” Barton apparently quickly realized this was an unpopular position, so backtracked.

But, of course, Barton wasn’t the only one to come racing out of the gate with criticisms of Obama, as a video produced by the Democratic National Committee (you can see it on Minnesota Independent) points out: Among those mentioned is, of course, Minnesota’s own Michele Bachmann.

As Daily Glean mentioned Thursday, Bachmann had expressed concern that BP was getting “fleeced” by this and characterized it as a “redistribution of wealth,” proving that, for some politicians, any movement of money for any reason at all, if it goes to people poorer than them, is suspicious.

The Washington Post pointed out that this sort of rhetoric might put conservatives in a “tight spot,” saying, “If that kind of spin seems out of touch with public outrage, the GOP also risks falling out of step with parts of its own base,” which might explain Bachmann’s quote on Thursday: “I want to make sure everyone knows I’m not a shill for BP.” That quote was reported in a story by Jason Hoppin of the Pioneer Press, and Bachmann’s comments were almost certainly in response to her challenger in the next race, Tarryl Clark, who has been taking Bachmann’s position and running with it, saying, “Congresswoman Bachmann has made it clear where she stands: with BP, and against us.”

We at Glean would suggest a simpler explanation: Bachmann will simply, and reflexively, take the opposite stance of whatever Obama suggests, and will see any decision made by Obama’s administration as being socialist actions designed to expand federal government. Of course, that means that if Obama came out against cannibalism, Bachmann would have to come out for it, but that’s what happens when you paint yourself into an ideological corner.

She’s generated some outrage, but that’s nothing new, and wouldn’t really be worth reporting if it wasn’t so novel: Local rapper G-Biz’s promoted a show titled with a vulgar reference to Bachmann. As Andy Mannix of City Pages reports, the congresswoman was not amused, complaining on Sean Hannity’s radio show, “This is something that, when it’s done to conservative women, we don’t see an outrage coming form the media.” Perhaps the problem is that G-Biz didn’t misspell his flier; that always seems to get people in a dander.

In sports: Jared Allen of the Vikings doesn’t think Brett Favre will be retiring, according to the Pioneer Press. “I hope if the answer was no, he would have already had the wherewithal to tell us that he’s not coming back so we could have done something in free agency,” Allen told a radio interviewer. And he makes a good point, because if there is one thing Favre has shown himself to be great at, it’s making timely decisions and announcing them decisively.

Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by david granneman on 06/18/2010 - 10:35 am.

    Congresswoman Bachmann is trying to point out that the united states is or was a country of laws. we have a judical system to allow people to collect damages. president obama does not have a consitutional right to demand a private company give his administration money to be divided to his political friends. this is what dictators in third world countrys do and should be condemned in our country of laws and not of men

  2. Submitted by Mike Haubrich on 06/18/2010 - 11:00 am.

    What part of “to be disbursed by an independent third party” do you not understand?

  3. Submitted by Tim Walker on 06/18/2010 - 11:24 am.

    And what part of “saved a ton of litigation fees that would have otherwise gone to lawyers instead of the folks on the Gulf Coast who lost their livelihoods” do you not understand?

  4. Submitted by david granneman on 06/18/2010 - 11:57 am.

    hello mike
    a politcal cronie of obama is hardly a
    “independent third party.” what part of UNCONSTITUTIONAL don’t you not understand.
    mike if we put the oil companies out of business and move out of the united states, are you going to ride your bike to work or are you going to make ethenol in you garage from corn to power your car. are you going to chop wood to heat your home in winter. the oil companies are in business to make YOUR life better. if you have not forgot 11 men died to put gas in your car. i think the people that provide energy deserve our admiration not to be condemned.

  5. Submitted by david granneman on 06/18/2010 - 12:23 pm.

    The fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration official who oversaw compensation for executives at companies that received federal bailout funds.

    IS THIS YOUR IDEA OF AN INDEPENDENT THIRD PARTY

  6. Submitted by Max Sparber on 06/18/2010 - 12:37 pm.

    At what specific point did the president violate the Constitution? I am rather unclear on that.

    Kenneth Feinberg oversaw the disbursement of the $7 billion government fund for families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was appointed to thyat role by Attorney General John Ashcroft and worked 33 months pro bono. If you can name somebody who has more experience in specifically this sort of thing, and who has as much bipartisan support, go ahead and send the name to Obama; I would be quite surprised if he wouldn’t be pleased to have additional options.

  7. Submitted by david granneman on 06/18/2010 - 12:51 pm.

    hello tim
    are we a country of LAWS or a country of GNAGSTER THUGS.
    after all MUSSOLINI made the trains run on time.
    tim do you think your neighbors should be able to get together and come and take your property simply because for some reason they dont like you. do you think the law should protect you from this happening or do you want thugs to take what ever they want.

  8. Submitted by david granneman on 06/18/2010 - 01:31 pm.

    hello max
    i would be in favor of giving this money to the states and let the govenors of the each state distribute the fundS. local government would be in a better position to evaluate claims rather than some unelected washington bureaucrate.

    the CONSTITUTION clearly states what powers the federal govenment has – any power not granted in the CONSTITUTION is not allow. therefore, max it is up to you to show me where in the CONSTITUTION IS THE POWER TO SHAKEDOWN A PRIVATE COMPANY is granted

  9. Submitted by dan buechler on 06/18/2010 - 01:35 pm.

    David, If I was an independent fisherman, probably trained by my dad or my uncle (and perhaps a generation before them) with a boat, some nets and other assorted tools. And I saw me and my son’s whole source of income dry up forever due to the fact of a reckless powerful rich company. This was not an act of God. This is something that I fully deserve to be compensated for and to have the law on the side of the little people.
    There is a strain of thought that these people should collect their unemployment or work for the oil companies and get on with their lives. Let the oil companies off easy.
    I read a medical article yesterday that 25- 30% of the fisherman in Alaska after the Valdez disaster suffered from moderate to severe anxiety and depression. Your whole way of life becomes totally destabilized and many can’t cope. David I’m ashamed for you, were you not brought up better?

  10. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 06/18/2010 - 01:52 pm.

    Mr. Granneman: You didn’t like finding out that Kenneth Feinberg actually worked for the Bush administration and is being asked to step in again to manage this disbursement.

    How does this proven method of making the people who created the damage pay for its cleanup constitute theft of BP’s property rather than BP being forced to reimburse people dependent upon fishing or tourism for the ruination of their livelihoods caused by BP?

  11. Submitted by Max Sparber on 06/18/2010 - 02:04 pm.

    Mussolini didn’t actually get the trains to run on time: http://www.snopes.com/history/govern/trains.asp

  12. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/18/2010 - 10:00 pm.

    Mr Granneman,
    It should have been obvious for the BP management, as well as the management of all the other corporations currently keeping as low a profile as they can manage, that it is one thing to break the rules regulating their businesses and bribing politicians to soften those rules in the first place.

    But that they are also the ones who would be held responsible for any damages resulting from breaking those rules. It is entirely inappropriate to criticize the government for instilling a sense of fear among those businesses. After all, this sense of fear is nothing but the result of a complete absence of respect for the government that they have grown used to.

    The possible economic fallout from this state of fear absolutely pales in comparison to the amount of damage that is currently being done as laws are being broken or prevented from coming into effect – and the damage that will be done, should nothing be changed.

    Price differentials in health-care between the US and the rest of the world indicate that a very similar story is being played there and don’t get me started on finance or national defense contractors.

    A broader attack on businesses in the US is certainly not a degeneration of politics, but a necessary step to reform US economy and prevent it from turning into a train wreck. Because right now, much like the Soviet economy of the 70’s and 80’s, its on track for a head-on collision with the reality express train.

  13. Submitted by dan buechler on 06/19/2010 - 07:47 am.

    Spot on #12. Once again a public/private sort of query. I hope you get my drift. It seems at times we have elevated the rights of corporations (a nebulous concept) over the rights of THE NATION ( and I ain’t necessarily talkin’ bout the government itself specifically).

  14. Submitted by Max Sparber on 06/19/2010 - 09:30 am.

    “Any power not granted in the CONSTITUTION is not allow”

    The Constitution neither allows nor prohibits the president from meeting with representatives of a company and reaching an agreement on an escrow account. This was not an official act of government, and BP could have said no.

    The Constitution says nothing about the president eating dinner either, but sometimes I think people obsessed with 10th amendment would have our politicians starve because eating is not enumerated in our founding documents.

  15. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/19/2010 - 04:35 pm.

    The conspiracy theory and economic turmoil that is mentioned in some of the previous comments, are commonly found @ the Lyndon Larouche website.

  16. Submitted by Bill Toppson on 06/20/2010 - 10:46 am.

    This is a very intersting discussion. There is no end to what people will throw out there just for politics.

    Obama allows BP to continue its existence and avoid bankruptcy by creating this $20B fund.
    But now the independent manager of the fund must decide how much Joe’s Coffee shop should be given for lost business rather than a court of law. It does save a lot in legal costs and fees but it sets the stage for a lot of errors.

    The difference between the 9/11 fund and this one is enormous. If this $20B was goint to the 11 killed on the oil platform there could be some similarity. But it goes to Bonnies Flower Shop and similar businesses.

    If this is handled as poorly as the Katrina payouts the result should be that most everyone within 100 miles of the coast will be millionares and vote Democratic for the next 20 years.

  17. Submitted by Rod Loper on 06/21/2010 - 07:45 am.

    I wonder if Obama is asking about the oil leases
    that BP and other companies have been sitting on for years? Is there somw way they can be revisited? The industry gets speculative gains
    holding public resources and the public gets a pittance in royalties while bearing the environmental risks of their development.

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