Category Archives: Gulf of Mexico

Emerging Views: Chapter Fourteen; A relatively Humble Standard

Standard Oil paid for the projects discussed in this book. This last numbered chapter in this book is about them and Humble Oil who worked closely with Louisiana Story. Hopefully it sets in context other references from across the text.  It is not long enough to do much more.   This chapter is out of sequence on my blog. The thirteenth numbered chapter will have to follow in time. But this is a chapter about the oil industry as well as about funding these pictures.   It is a chapter which is only a hint at the breadth of a topic that goes far beyond the book as a whole in many ways.

The Gulf of Mexico's oil reserves remain vital to our country's future.

The Gulf of Mexico’s oil reserves remain vital to our country’s future.

But despite controversy and complexity the relationships described in this chapter were never all good or all bad. Here a few topics are discussed  within the context of what might have meaning for this text and its readers.  Much more work could be done in a different book.

Here is the pdf form:EmergingViewsChapterFourteenARelativelyHumbleStandard

Here is the text itself such as it currently is:

Chapter Fourteen: A relatively Humble Standard

 

The title of this chapter plays with the meaning of the two capitalized names when one is used as an adjective and the other as a noun. Thus this chapter is about Standard Oil and Humble Oil and how in the years between 1943 and 1953 they created a norm for these projects which was tied into their overall management style and philosophy.  In contrast to their philosophical approach as it has appeared to other writers and to this writer at other times, this was humble standard of operating procedure. To a great degree oil was trying to fit into America’s energy coast (and yes was hoping to transform it — but–) they saw and others saw the operation of the energy sector in the region as one important set of activities among many. They aspired to lead as has been stated before,  but the leadership had a different flavor and texture than other times and places have sometimes been asked to consume. It was easier on the palate.

 

There is evidence of this in their dealings with Flaherty himself. Flaherty had known great triumphs and Nanook is still at least the equal of Louisiana Story by almost every measure. But he had known a variety of pressured manipulated projects where his work was compromised. Murnau had squeezed him out of directing their supposed collaboration, Tabu. The story one sees on screen was largely written by him and some of the locations and casting may be due to him as well as many other aspects of the fim. But great as the film is in its own right it was Murnau’s as a director and it is more accurate to give Flaherty half a dozen other credits on the film and not to list him as director. That was only his greatest and not his only disappointment in terms of feeling taken advantage of by those with whom he worked. Compared to much of his life’s work this was a his widow Frances later asserted — a princely commission. Princes are not often equated with humility but in fact the royalist ideal is of a gentler and more deft touch in rule than is typical of the tyrant or the dictator. Not to overstate the case this is a story about oil companies which behaved themselves. During the time and in the place which this text describes….

 

In Chapter Twelve it was remarked that Dudley Leblanc’s thirty-fourth birthday party was an occasion for him to receive a kind of tribute from people from a variety of industries but not the petroleum industry.  It is also true that we have discussed how the Broussard Brothers became a very successful firm and remains so today but its growth as a major named focus in the oil industry on the Attakapas Prairie has been a fairly slow process. The firm was located mostly in Chalmette at first and then has gradually assumed more prominence in the region. Only in recent years has it bought the prominent and fairly stately office building in a leafy neighborhood where it now holds sway.Chris Crusta Flying Services was operated by Danny Babin of the Gueydan area and by Chris Crusta of Abbeville. Both were pilots with distinguished military careers however, the firm which provided crop dusting services across the Parish  for many years also helped to launch the business career of one of the leading figures in the oilfield in Vermilion Parish and the Prairies.  Revis Sirmon was a French speaking native of the region whose family farmed rice and who married a Cajun girl, name Lorraine Breaux,  many of his closest friends were Cajuns. Yet Revis Sirmon was a distinctly non Cajun person with his own set of folklore and religious experiences shaping his life.  His close relationship with the wealthy rice-milling  Godchaux family was a relationship with a white Creole family. Possibly there both not being Cajun entirely formed a common part of their identity in the intensely Cajun region. Revis Sirmon flew fifty combat missions in Europe in World War II and loved to fly. However, after a few years of of the risks of agricultural aviation and with two small children to worry about leaving orphaned he was ready to spend more time on the ground. He went into the oilfield fluids business called the mud business with the backing of Frank Godchaux III. Revis Sirmon’s memoirs, Eternal Pilot, a book co-written with Joseph Chaillot  do a good job of charting his life in Acadiana and the tensions between Cajun identity and residence in Acadiana. They also provide a useful glimpse of his rise in the local oilfield world and its ties to world commerce and it also is true that the book like so much else describes many people whom I knew well although it also leaves out a great deal and a great number of people whom I know were involved in the events described.    But whatever angle on takes in viewing these things it is different than the take of a book like this one, the scholar has to bring something to the research as it is not the book’s purpose to address any or all of these questions directly.  Revis Sirmon was encouraged by the ethnically prominent Charles Broussard of the Flying J. Ranch to ask Edwin Edwards (who has always identified as Cajun) to appoint him to the Mineral Board, while in that position he raised the royalty payments made to the State for mineral leases. However, as an active commercial oilman he was disqualified from future service after seven fairly distinguished years on the board when new ethics rules defined his operations as a conflict of interest. He resigned rather than before the newly propounded rules would have formally disqualified him. My maternal grandfather was in business with Revis Sirmon in a company called Riptide Investors and in developing a port known as Freshwater City. However, almost all of this oilfield story is outside the scope of this book. Almost all but not quite all. It was in 1953, the very end of this period that the pilot known as the Scatterbrain Kid founded his mud company. This was just one more sign of the growing importance of the oilfield and related industries in the immediate region where Louisiana Story had been filmed.  

 

Humble Oil and Standard Oil lend their names to the chapter and especially the capitalization of the words Humble and Standard in its title. They have since merged but at the time of the focus of this study from 1943 to 1953 they were both relatively autonomous and certainly legally independent corporations and each had a distinct and significant role that they played in the production of these photographic projects and the film Louisiana Story. The two companies had national and global connections and so forth but both came from distinct regions in the United States outside of louisiana where they retained significant rootedness.  It is not easy to minimize the importance of the oil industry and of Standard Oil of New Jersey and Humble Oil in the production of these projects more than has been done here without leaving aside  a very significant part of the story indeed. The truth is that cramming what is left of the essential parts of that story into one chapter is not an entirely satisfying solution either.  But it is the solution which is achievable in this case.

 

GAS RECYCLING PLANT IS ASKED IN ERATH FIELD

Preliminary plans for the erection of a gas recycling plant estimated to cost $2,000,000 in the Erath oil field in Vermilion Parish though the unitization of approximately 3300 acres included in the productive area were discussed at a public hearing held here Monday by Conservation Commissioner Jos. L. McHugh and other members of the committee.

 

The notice which appears here set in perspective the money spent on Louisiana Story and on the larger photography project. Here there are two points and set of line from which to measure. One is to compare the cost of the film to what Flaherty had spent on other films and also to what Hollywood spent on a feature film. The other set of measures is that established by what the oil and gas industry were spending on other expenditures in the region.  That will come back into this chapter and has already appeared in the comments made in Abbeville and Vermilion Parish which appeared in Chapter Eleven of this text. The same little article lends us more insight.


The public hearing was adjourned Tuesday afternoon and will open until the presentation of additional information, it was announced by E. L. Gladney, Jr., attorney for the commission. Other members of the commission attending the hearing were H. N. Bell, director of the minerals division; John J. Huner, state geologist; and Percy Irwin Chief Petroleum Engineer.

 

We see the importance the newspaper attributes to this commission in giving details of various kinds including names. We see that there is an attorney, a director, a geologist and a petroleum engineer. We also  see that the Conservation Commission is a very well established and multifaceted bureaucracy.  Additionally the lack of even one distinctly Cajun name or any of the phrases that might be used if the people involved had close ties to large numbers of readers. Such a thing is not entirely determinative of their identity and connections to the place but it does indicate such a level of connections or the lack thereof. This reminds us that the local readership were informed participants but did not necessarily have a shared identity with the oil industry.

 


The operators owning about 85 percent of the leases located within the productive limits of the Erath field and who are seeking the orders from the commission to unitize the field include the Phillips Petroleum Company, the Texas Company, The Humble Oil and Refining Company and the Tidewater Associated Oil Company.

“We believe that the Erath field constitutes one of the greatest and most valuable reserves of gas-distillate and gas-condensates now known to exist in the entire mid-continent area,” declared Dan DeBaillon, Lafayette, attorney who represented the operators. “We can state frankly, with the firmest of convictions, that waste of a large percentage of these valuable resources is eminent, and inescapable, if this field be either unoperated. Wisely planned development and intelligent operation of this field as a unit, as distinguished from development and operation on a wasteful basis, will result in the recoveries of millions of barrels of distillate and condensate not otherwise recoverable and at the same time, billions of “cubic feet “of gas can be saved by returning the gas to the productive formations. This returned gas, by, helping to maintain the reservoir pressure, will itself greatly increase the ultimate recoveries of distillate and condensate and also will itself, as gas, have a value in dollars and cents estimated in terms of millions of dollars.

 

Here we see that Humble Oil which would interact closely with Standard Oil in pursuing the making of Louisiana Story was accustomed to interaction with other oil companies in unitization hearings, in other interactions with the Conservation Committee and in a variety of other circumstances. While they had a special relationship with Standard Oil the industry itself was to some degree a cohesive community which could pursue its community interests in ways not so disimilar from the way that the Cajuns and the documentarians also formed communitiescapable of pursuing community interests.

 

The article goes on at some length and its detail in some places is at least some real and fairly compelling evidence that the readers of the Meridional had a fairly sophisticated understanding of the oil industry at the start of the SONJ projects. It also shows the Vermilion Parish definitively had relationships with Humble Oil.

 

 

The oil industry was remaking the realities of the life in Acadiana during the years between 1943 and 1953. One of the purposes of this chapter will be to understand through the lense of the work done on Louisiana Story and the rest of the SONJ projects how the oil industry operates and what its culture was  as regard interacting with the people, local culture and the environment of Acadiana. Without going into great detail we will seek to understand as well to what degree the portrayal of the oil interests is a valid one — mostly in the film but also briefly revisiting their portrayal in the photographic projects. There are various levels of distrust for that portrayal which are possible and in this study we will at least be honest about what level of mistrust is at the foundation of our study. This is a book largely about perception and understanding. Here we take a further step back and ask ourselves how we ought to perceive  both the role of the oil company and industry that funded these projects and the wa way that historians, scholars in general and others have perceived those involvements up to now.

 

 

One real factor to remember in the midst of documenting and analyzing these projects and the people and places that they chose to document is that  Standard Oil was footing the bill. The relationship between Humble Oil and Standard oil was a complicated one and a complete understanding of that relationship is beyond the scope of this text. However one of the objectives of this chapter will be to create a basic framework of understanding for that relationship in its most basic configuration without much appreciation for  the nuances and  complexities of the full reality even where those different and varied complexities may have shaped and impacted the experiences of the production and organization of the SONJ photography project and the Flaherty unit that created Louisiana Story.

 

I was honored to sit with Mr. Sirmon for a year (2008) and gather his stories, organize them, and ghost write this book for him (as acknowledged in the Introduction). I will be glad to answer any questions I can about it … Joseph Chaillot ( josephchaillot@gmail.com

 

At this writing there are over 125 years of  ExxonMobil history and one can fairly trace the evolution of the company to many stories including that of Humble Oil as well as that of Mobil. But the main story is surely still that of Standard Oil which has evolved and developed  from a New Jersey based and largely regional distributor and  marketer of kerosene in the U.S. to the iconic symbol of an industry which is only overshadowed by state firms in a few countries and is the  largest publicly traded petroleum and petrochemical joint stock corporation in the world. The company in 1943 and in 1953 was closer to today’s firm than to its origins. The biggest difference is perhaps hidden behind a similarity is that while ESSO and EssoMarine were prominent brands that had the kind of currency still true of the company’s dealings with the larger world today as today they operate in most of the world’s countries and are readily identified familiar brand names: Exxon, Esso and Mobil. There was another name that really mattered in those days and was essential to the life of the firm and which is not so important today.

 

That name was Rockefeller.

 

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, located in eastern Cameron and western Vermilion Parishes, is owned and maintained by the State of Louisiana. When deeded to the state the refuge encompassed approximately 86,000 acres, but beach erosion has taken a heavy toll, and the most recent surveys indicate only 76,042 acres remaining. This area borders the Gulf of Mexico for 26.5 miles and extends inland toward the Grand Chenier ridge, a stranded beach ridge, six miles from the Gulf.

When the Rockefeller Foundation officially granted the property to the state, they spelled out in the Deed of Donation exactly how the property was to be used. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes periodic inspections of refuge activities and has reversionary rights over the refuge if the state fails to meet its obligations pertaining to the Deed of Donation, as amended.

The major terms of the original agreement stipulated 1) the property must be maintained as a wildlife refuge, 2) boundaries must be posted, 3) enforcement agents must protect the area from trespassers and poachers, 4) no public taking of fish or animals is allowed, 5) refuge staff must study and manage the property for wildlife, and 6) mineral revenues must be used on the refuge first (surplus may go toward education or public health). In 1983 the Deed of Donation was amended with a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of the Interior and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The MOA allows for regulated sport fishing and commercial trapping when compatible with the primary purpose of the refuge as a wildlife sanctuary. The MOA also allows surplus revenues to be used for land acquisition for wildlife management purposes. A 1987 MOA between the same two agencies ceased yielding surplus revenues for education or public health.

Planners had the foresight to realize that mineral revenues would cease at some point in time, and steps were taken to ensure that the refuge would be financially capable of operation and maintenance indefinitely. Act 321 of the 1972 legislature created the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Trust and Protection Fund (Trust Fund). One fourth of funds derived from royalties, rentals, or otherwise from Rockefeller mineral leases were to be deposited in the Trust Fund until a principal of $5 million was reached. Act 342 in 1978 raised the Trust Fund goal to $10 million. Act 807 in 1980 increased the Trust Fund goal to $20 million, and also established the Rockefeller Scholarship Fund for Louisiana wildlife students from 5% of interest from the Trust Fund. Act 63 of 1982 raised the Trust Fund goal to $30 million, and Act 707 of 1989 reduced additions to the Trust Fund from 25% to 5% of mineral revenues. Senate Bill 662 of 1989 established an annual donation of $150,000 to the Fur and Alligator Advisory Council, and Act 832 of 1995 raised the Trust Fund cap to $50 million.

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biologically diverse wildlife areas in the nation. Located at the terminus of the vast Mississippi Flyway, south Louisiana winters about 4 million waterfowl annually. Historically, Rockefeller wintered as many as 400,000-plus waterfowl annually, but severe declines in the continental duck population due to drought and poor habitat quality on the breeding grounds have altered Louisiana’s wintering population. More recent surveys indicate a wintering waterfowl population on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge reaching 160,000. In addition to ducks, geese, and coots, numerous shorebirds and wading birds either migrate through or overwinter in Louisiana’s coastal marshes. Neotropical migrant passerines also use the shrubs and trees on levees and other “upland” areas of the refuge as a rest stop on their trans-Gulf journeys to and from Central and South America. Although Canada geese no longer migrate to the refuge from breeding areas in the north as they once did, a resident flock of giant Canada geese was established in the early 1960s.

Common resident animals include mottled ducks, nutria, muskrat, rails, raccoon, mink, otter, opossum, white-tailed deer, and alligators. An abundant fisheries population provides recreational opportunities to fishermen seeking shrimp, redfish, speckled trout, black drum, and largemouth bass, among others. No hunting is allowed on the refuge, but some regulated trapping is allowed for furbearers that could potentially damage the marsh if their populations are not controlled.

The refuge is a flat, treeless area with highly organic soils which are capable of producing immense quantities of waterfowl foods in the form of annual emergents and submerged aquatics. Since 1954 Rockefeller Refuge has been a test site for various marsh management strategies, including levees, weirs, and several types of water control structures utilized to enhance marsh health and waterfowl food production.

The style of this text has been a bit less orthodox and strict in adhering to the manner in which some other standards of text have been put together by competent people seeking to establish a norm. Standard Oil was becoming a leading company in offshore exploration and was involved with others in that field and in deep drilling. But there world’s largest refinery in Baton Rouge was leading the way to providing the   petrochemical building blocks that would lead to thousands of consumer goods. An would usher in many of the most unique qualities of the emerging era an era of the very start of a process which would distinguish previous worldwide international commerce from what is called globalization. Standard Oil itself was a mature and venerable institution. In the 2007 film There Will Be Blood American and international viewers were reminded, if they had not already known, that  the oil industry has been around for a while.  This film was loosely based on the 1926 novel OIL! By Upton Sinclair. That novel dealt with many of the issues explored by people involved in these events — and yet it is a profoundly different story. But regional texture, capitalism, a rough and dangerous industry, powerful personalities and socialism are all themes common both to this book and its subjects as well as to Sinclair’s novel and its subjects.  

Standard Oil may not have been the name of the concern but in the Rockefeller dominated era and even today the company that became Exxon was well aware of its heritage going back to the same year the Abbeville  based history of the Vigilante Committees of the Attakapas was written by a French historian living among these people that year was 1859 when the remembered exploring entrepreneurs  

Colonel Edwin Drake and Uncle Billy Smith drilled the first successful oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The colonel’s discovery triggered an oil boom that in many ways resembled the gold rush of a decade earlier. The internal combustion engine was a long way into the future.as the icon of  oil consumption. However it was also in 1859 that Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir created the first commercially successful internal combustion engine.  As the oil industry prepared to lead its way in creating this region’s future few felt it was in any way a fledgling enterprise.

Lionel Leblanc and Robert Flaherty’s  parent’s generation were in some cases unborn, were in diapers or in the case of a few late to procreate were when in 1870 Rockefeller and his associates formed the Standard Oil Company (Ohio), with combined facilities constituting the largest refining capacity of any single firm in the world at that time and seemingly exceeding any comparable entity consisting of consortia or government entities. In America 79 years is a fairly long time compared to most other continents. The idea that they were leading America to a new future does not mean that they were themselves perceived as new. The  name Standard is chosen to signify high, uniform quality and the name Rockefeller .was iconic as a symbol of wealth and prestige. It would be foolish and would distort the story to pretend that Flaherty, Stryker or the Cajuns did not have a healthy respect for all things Standard Oil.

In 1882 the SONJ entity which has its name or initials stamped on so many documents in this project came to be.  It was in that year that it touched another great American icon when

Standard Oil lubricated the invention of the man who also revolutionized the film industry by revolutionizing a system related to film itself. Standard Oil  contributed to Thomas Edison’s first central generating system by providing lubricants from its new chemical divisions.. Besides SONJ  in this year, Standard Oil Trust formed to include the Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) and in those years SONJ was referred to usually as the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and shortened to two words rather than four letters –Jersey Standard. .

In 1885 the company became associated with New York City, where documentary film and photography had its main American nest from 1920 to 1953 at the very shortest duration. That year the Standard Oil Trust relocated its corporate headquarters to 26 Broadway, New York City. The nine-story office building became a landmark which would have been known to the majority of the scene and history conscious film and camera people involved in this set of projects long before they worked for Standard Oil.

In 1911, following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, that reshaped a lot of the United States in its view of itself in economic terms Standard Oil was broken up into 34 unrelated companies, including Jersey Standard, the SONJ which funded this photographic venture.  The year also marks the first time Jersey Standard’s sales of kerosene are surpassed by gasoline, conjectures about a photographic bias against horses which seems evident if in fact it exists would be related to the fact that by the 1940s the company depended largely on a  product that in the early days had often been discarded as a waste product.  In 1911 many buggies could carry a kerosene lantern and be good customers. Auto racing became part of the Standard Oil legacy through Mobil products in the decades between 1911 and 1943.

In 1919 the company that actually furnished the drillers for Louisiana Story became a real part of the Standard Oil family and tradition when SONJ or

Jersey Standard acquired a 50 percent interest in Humble Oil & Refining Company of Texas. In that same year Humble Oil , led by its pioneering Chief Geologist Wallace Pratt, developed the full commercial employment of  micropaleontology in oil exploration.This study of microscopic fossils contained in cuttings and core samples from drilling was an aid in finding oil which tied the Oil industry more to local universities in various region and made the science and technology of the industry a bit more compelling. It laid the foundation for the kind of postwar industrial leadership sought in this set of projects.

Just about the time these projects were getting cranked up and closer to the subject of this text in 1942, the world’s first fluid catalytic cracker went into onstream operation at Louisiana Standard’s Baton Rouge refinery. The process, was developed by four SONJ scientists known as the “four horsemen,” and became the worldwide industry standard for producing gasoline. Fortune magazine when it covered the story described it as “the most revolutionary chemical-engineering achievement of the last 50 years.” In the fifties SONJ would found more cultural and educational programs and more automobile related products as centerpieces of its overall vision. Those fascination with shaping culture through the Esso Education Foundation after 1955 and the increased interest in playing a dominant role in serving the needs of automobiles after the development of Uniflo in 1952 doubtless affected these projects, though this text does not provide a close analysis of how that played out.

 

This chapter simply provides a bit of history to serve as a background to other observations made throughout the text. It is very far from exhaustive and does not disclose a great deal of highly compelling close analysis of Standard’s role here. But it is the place to make a few assertions if there is indeed any such place.

 

  1. Standard Oil and its competitors and friends funded education, built things and employed people. But Cajun technology in building, dredging, design and drainage was seldom incorporated except by a few who struggled hard to do so. Lack of respect for the accumulated knowledge of regional conditions had a powerful negative set of impacts on the region from the Cajun point of view.
  2. Standard Oil and the Rockefellers with deeply Baptist Protestant heritage may well be responsible for the lack of Catholicism in Louisiana Story simply because of their enormous general reputation. Likewise, the other desires and needs of that family and coporation likely transmitted themselves across the project with little direct efforts from those at the top of the power structures involved. All evidence for this is general in nature at this point and may exist in specific form or may not.
  3. Cajun inventions continued to proliferate in navigation, crawfish farming seafood processing and elsewhere across the region, horseracing and breeding of the Cajun quarter horse continued to produce ethnic excellence. There is a sense among many that Cajun leadership in this industry and the cultural accommodations that could have produced better relationships never fully materialized.
  4. Both Huey Long and Dudley Leblanc were at different times Public Service Commissioners and as such dealt with the oil and gas industry. The importance of this industry to all sides of the political spectrum over a much larger period than is central to this text can scarcely be disputed. Longism was of course more influential and successful than whatever Leblancism may be said to be. On the other hand, Huey was killed by the husband of one of Dudley Leblanc’s Evangeline girls Yvonne Pavy for suggesting that she had Negro blood. Weis’s family disputes that claim  and he was in many respects one of the finest and most gifted citizens of Louisiana in his time. But it is highly credible that the dictator was killed for insulting the genealogy in question by a man who considered himself and his family superior specimens to Long himself. Dudley Leblanc, diminished over time but died in peace and as a fairly old man. The oil industry although soaked by Huey in many ways was more associated with Huey and the Long Machine than with Dudley Leblanc.
  5. These projects coincided with the last great push of Dudley Leblanc in politics. Had he been closer to the oil industry and less close to four or five other industries it is quite possible that his fortunes would have continued to rise and the period would have been a different one than it was.

In conclusion to this chapter, Standard oil is not at the heart of this text about a project it made possible. But in many ways it chose to take a back seat, to hide behind the scenery and many other metaphors. They influenced many things but determined very few. There chapter is the last numbered chapter before the conclusion and their role is the least thoroughly studied of the communities whose interactions define this text.

   

 

Justin “Jess” Spiehler Jr. Dies

Lent begins with mourning in this house. Justin “Jess Spiehler” husband of Jacquelyn Spiehler , father of Jason Spiehler who in turn is the father of my two nieces and a nephew listed here in this sentence  and his siblings has deceased. Jess was the grandfather of Alyse E. Spiehler who is on my Facebook list still for those finding this  from that source and my niece  and godchild Anika Spiehler who once was on the list and nephew Soren Spiehler who are both siblings of Alyse and children of my sister Sarah Summers Granger and they found out this Mardi Gras that their beloved grandfather had died suddenly. I knew him far better than many people I had more reason to know despite the fact that we spent less time together than might nearly have been the case. We did share some number of long conversations over many years. Of course his life began a good while before mine did and mine had been going on quite q while before we met.

Jess, as he was known to most was born on June 18, 1939 in New Orleans, and I was born on June 15, 1964 in Crowley.  We are both native sons of Louisiana and always had that in common although we never really discussed the closeness of our birthdays in any way whatever. A believer in Catholic education and otherwise in educational institutions Jess graduated from St. Aloysius High School in 1957. He went on to complete a degree in Petroleum Engineering at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, graduating at the top of his class. While there he was attached to the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps although he did not go that route in his career as far as I understand. He and my sister Sarah had that achievement of Baccalaureate excellence at LSU in common and we discussed the topic and also his love of engineering and his sense of being empowered by the degree and all it meant to him.  While at LSU he met Jacquelyn Claire Remy,  whom he married on September 2, 1961. Miss Jackie was as one would know the center point and solid home support for his life of activity. They had a gracious home together for many years and Jess liked to talk about what it took to build it on occasion.

It was the engineering in the oilfield which followed the  graduation from LSU which paid for the home, charities and hobbies. Jess went to work  for California Oil Company (now Chevron) and later for Signal Oil & Gas and Damson Oil and he kept working. In 1974 he moved to Lafayette, Louisiana to co-found Stokes & Spiehler and enjoyed a long and prosperous career. He felt he made a difference and the craftsman evident in much of his life was evident in his recollections of his career as well. It was something he crafted with his wife on one side and colleagues on the other. In addition he felt that he created modest but definable contributions to the development of the industry over his career. I did not always take the time that would have been needed to grasp the exact nature of a refinement of technique he felt he had contributed but I could see he had measured such things.

He was a man of noted achievement in business as and seemed to be well respected in the technical crafts and professions which underlay his businesses. He poured forth additional skill into fine woodworking and was notably present at family events at the educational institutions where his descendants excelled with his gracious wife. Further he raised funds for Family Missions Company in formal and informal ways. accompanied my brother to his handicapped Cursillo and was devoted to prison ministry. Mr. Spiehler also was an avid and accomplished outdoorsman.

Jess Spiehler had  a sense of real satisfaction derived from pursuing a varied and highly successful career in an industry which is vital to the State of Louisiana, the Acadiana region and the Gulf Coast. He was truly steeped in its expertise, way of doing business and in the battle scars and callouses that can only come from years laboring in the intricacies of keeping things going in the oilfield. The link to his company follows and concludes this part of his obituary.

http://www.stokesandspiehler.com/

An obituary and guestbook will be available at this link:
http://www.mourning.com/obituaries/Justin-Spiehler/

It is an odd but noteworthy fact that I lost many pictures several times and there were a few years I seldom had a camera. But despite all that I simply did not really end up with any printable photographs of Mr. Spiehler when it came time post this. I looked for a while and was surprised. I don;t know if I ever asked him to pose. If not then it is partly because of respect for him at the given moment and yet I regret it. During my peak period for photographing family events he was ill and less often present but that would not have prevented a few pictures with his wife and grandchildren. That is the nature or life’s uncertainties.

FINAL NOTE:

The vigil and funeral of Mr. Spiehler were very dignified and elegant events without being in any way overblown and meaningful tribute was paid to his role in family, his work in nursing homes, his activity in St. Pius X Church Parish and the rosary was led by his brothers in the Knights of Columbus. This  is in addition to the professional connections, the Kairos Prison Ministry and other achievements alluded to in this post earlier on.

BP-Transocean Macondo Oil Leak Disaster Anniversary

It is time to remeber that the oil disaster in the Gulf occurred almost a year ago. There are old problems syill being made worse. There are new problems still being identified. There are people sick and suffering. There are wildlife populations and habitats under stress. There are industries and employers in severe distress. There is a great deal we do not know. There is a great deal we are not ever likely to know.

Here are some links to things I wrote about the story:

1. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/the-bp-spill-and-the-lessons-we-will-have-to-unlearn/

2. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/a-tiny-bp-macondo-leak-round-up/

3. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/bp-has-announced-cementing-in-the-macondo-well/

4. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/looking-at-the-bp-macondo-oil-leak-today/

5.https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/why-the-oil-leak-in-the-gulf-has-dominated-this-blog/

6. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/bp-oil-leak-and-the-technology-we-do-not-have/

7. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/the-bp-oil-spill-the-anderson-cooper-response/

These are just a few of the many things that I have written. IF THE LINKS DO NOT WORK WHEN YOU CLICK ON THEM COPY THEM INTO YOUR BROWSER.

It is nota time for summing up all these matters and I doubt that this will be my las t note on this profile which touches on the subject. However, it is a time to to spend alittle while looking at where we are now. That means remebering where we have benn as well. That is the purpose of today’s note

The Last Year of the 9-11 Decade Has Begun

This is the first installment of list of People to Watch in the Second Post 9/11 Decade.  I want to say that in general I do not greatly edit a post and leave it in its original place in the blog. However, this was a jumping off point for a very ambitious project and so it has fallen into a different category of post. The latter parts of the series were first posted much later and had very minor revsions as I am typing this updated introduction in January of 2011. This post has already had some minor edits before tonight and will likely have quite a few more after this. So if you have read this since it was first posted on September 11, 2010. The historian in me is of two minds about this. First, like any historian I revise my writing and there are article versions that precede book versions of histories. However, this is not in any meaningful sense a history whereas by editing this post I am making it less usable and manageable as a typical historical source. I hope you read it anyway and find it useful in mapping out the projections you produce for the future.  The imperfectly kept rule will be that in the biographical sketches under each name the information in the original post will be in ordinary type while later text additions will be in this italic typeface. 

After the initial trauma of the 9-11 experience had grown a bit less raw it became rather a commonplace to assert that America had been forever changed on that day. I became rather a refrain to discuss how life and our history would be marked by that day which split the era into before 9-11 and after 9-11.  Even as I type this American populist conservative  commentator and television host Glen Beck has some sort of 9-12  movement which emphasizes this shift.  The truth is always hard to exactly determine and difficult for people to agree upon entirely. Nonetheless, it is true that we did experience an event of enormous cultural and historical significance on the eleventh day of September 11, 2001.

What will the long-term outcomes likely be?  I am not going to devote most of this post or of my time in these days to really trying to predict a very specific vision of the future.  In this blog I have advocated a certain set of future courses of action and states of being for the United States of America and the world.  However, advocacy and prediction are quite different things. There is little that involves detachment in the former and little that involves committed passion in the latter.

I am entirely engaged in the work of being myself and attempting to live up to my own responsibilities most of the time. That is similar to the lives of most people most of the time. Our responsibilities, aptitudes and abilities vary but  a very large number of us could describe our lives in those terms. What happens to be true is that the world does not wait for us to have our own lives in perfect order before it confronts us with challenges. America and much of its legacy in the world faces such a challenge just now.   

There is no simple solution to all of the problems that we have to solve. But it will simply do little good to pretend that we do not have serious challenges that we must meet.  It helps to know what principles govern human behavior at the individual, family, community , national and global levels. But knowing all the basic principles that will shape the decisions we make and others make will not be enough.  We will need to know many things including players who will be making the decisions and  the reasons that are likely to appeal to them as they make those decisions.  I have left out several people for reasons too complex to summarize here but want to mention some of them by way of showing how incomplete the list is:

Larry Summers, Meg Whitman, Philip Lord Norton, King Juan Carlos, Felipe Calderon, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Mary Landrieu, Nancy Pelosi, Taylor Swift, Michael Phelps, Drew Brees, Colin Powell , Henry Louis Gates, Arnold Schwartznegger, Nick Clegg, James Carville, Anderson Cooper, Billy Nunguesser  and even me…   

Gearing up for the future of America these are in no particular order a group of people to whom more may be added later:

Dramatis Personae:

1.President Barack  Hussein Obama This President of the United States of America  will continue  to set the tone for much of the American future and its policies for the foreseeable future. We face the future as best we can in a world where the election of Barack Obama has already shown us as profoundly weak in the eyes of so much of the world. Barack Hussein Obama it is to be noted is the descendant of an American mother and has married and had children with an American wife. The mother was white, the wife is black. Obama’s father was an African student and he also had an Indonesian stepfather. In a scoiety where forty-one percent of children are currently born out of wedlock, Schwarzenegger has been Governor of California, Jindal  is currently Governor of Louisiana, Granholme was Governor of Michigan until two weeks ago and tens of millions live here without documents Obama has a strong basic appeal to our society which is committed to its own utter destruction at this time.

2. Josef Ratzinger, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI The second consecutive Patriarch of Rome, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff and Successor to the Throne of St. Peter who has  not been an Italian and that (without saying the Italians are not agreat people and without saying that Bishops ought mostly to come from their own lands or related lands) is a good thing. It would probably be good if about half of all Popes were Italian  over time but I would not want to see dozens of Popes in a row who were not Italian so everyone must do the best they can. He is a German who fought in the regular nonpolitical  part of the German forces doing his duty in World War II and is a very accomplished scholar. However, the service to any state headed by Adolf Hitler and his lunatics is a blemish on the Papacy. But the Papacy has had many blemishes — nonetheless I do not lay all the blame on him personally but I do hold it against him.   He remembers the insanity of Nazi political religion and although his experience was more ambiguous than he admits he will work to see that the liturgy and practice of the Church draws forth a milieu such as produced Mozart, the Bach family and the Gothic Cathedrals. If he could say anything kind and honest to the Jews in the way of professional advice and have it received he would advise them to invest in their worship and liturgy to reach and surpass the heights of the Temple’s musical past.  

3. Her Britannic Majesty, Elizabeth She has managed to become the Head of State for sixteen countries as they left the Empire as well as head of the Commonwealth. The Crown is more independent of the UK government than it has been in centuries and this gives her bargaining power in that government she would not have otherwise.  Queen Elizabeth of Scotland and of England Second of the Name’s traditional  Christmas Speech this year was perhaps as good as any if not the best she has ever given. She seems to be growing both deeper and more spiritual and nuanced. There is no doubt in my mind that she will continue to be a factor in the world for at least as long as she reigns.

4. HRH Charles Prince of Wales is the Prince of WAles with the most formal education in history. He will not be a pet or showdog for anyone. Much of what he does is decent, admirable and very fine. He deals with issues others fail to see as vital. He can nonetheless be very dangerous to US interests. On the other hand he may help resist greater mutual dangers. As is often found in Kings (which he is not yet) the best and worst of his complex heritage are present together in him.  One of his many new initiatives is accounting for sustainability which is I think in part a response to the BP disaster. I think he is also very involved in the marriage of his son Prince William and trying to make a better and more secure future for both British royalty and the British people.

5. David Cameron A careful and clever young Prime Minister who will not overreach any time soon. He wants to build a Cameronism for the Conservatives  and see them rule the UK but he is in no hurry. Nobody knows what he may be capable of or what his limits are — not even David Cameron.  David Cameron has now formed a coallition government with the Liberal Democrats. He and Nick Clegg have done a very good job of organizing the debate and the reform of parliament in a way which can possibly lay a foundation for a political future that reverses many of the seemingly intractable roots sent into the political ground by the Labour Party in its thirteen years or so in power. He is still feeling his way in these years of Lib-Con coallition and is likely to emerge from the process stronger than ever. With a wife and young children he is clearly a symbol of what long-term political potential could look like.

6. Sarah Palin This former and resigned Alaska governor and Republican Vice Presidential Candidate has made an impact on American politics and raised cultural hopes which are not easy to quantify. She is not perfect but is a powerful living symbol of deep hopes of many people. Sarah Palin has recently had a television reality show called Sarah Palin’s Alaska in which she promotes her state and makes up in some way for walking out of the Governor’s Office. She also has come out with her second book after  the memoir Going Rogue. This second book is America by Heart and has been very successful.  She continues to develop ties with the Tea Party and other aspects of the US electorate and political milieu. 

7. George H. W. Bush This former US President is getting old enough that he may not be with us for long into the coming decade (or he may live well past this final year of the first decade, through the coming decade and into following one) but regardless his influence on the CIA, his heritage in establishing a unique American family expressed of Presidents, Governors and rooted in his father’s senatorial career makes him unique. His work with  Bill Clinton in the field of disaster relief will make the world and the nature aware of his work well into the Obama regime. He is also taking a measurable role as patriarch (in a limited American sense) of the Bush clan. He is mentioned in his son’s new memoir and has appeared on television discussing his exceptional sons, wife, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. He seems to be applying his formidable intellect to the fact that there are systemic problems in the USA which may demand remedies he would not have hoped to see employed during most of his life. 

8. George W. Bush This former President of the United State will continue to have influence both in the Bush family network and in the business community. In time his political legacy will be seen by the  GOP as having been elected twice with significant coattails.  If he lives a long time he will have more of a politico-social life than most imagine now before he leaves the stage. However, he will not be the individual super-producer of work that Jimmy Carter has been. Sincw the first part of this entry was posted this former President Bush has come out with his memoirs Decision Points which has sold very successfully. Dana Perino his former Whte House press secretary has used her television news job to defend his record in subtle by continuous ways. His daughter Barbara Bush has been working on establishing a very successful health and medical charity which givers her occasion to discuss his good deed in AIDS outreach in Africa. His reputation has been rebuilt considerably since he left office amid clouds of critical animosity. 

9. Glen Beck One to watch! It is too early to say what this Mormon populist conservative tv host, commenter and  organizer will really do over the long-term. Beck continues to play a fairly serious game. He is a man of patience and significant internal resources on whom a great deal of the jury of history is not only out but in some cases has not yet even been convened.

10. Hillary Clinton This Secretary of State and former First Lady is a big question mark. She will respond effectively to opportunity. That does not mean the liberal feminist has no ideals but her style is opportunistic. She will do a lot if there are big opportunities in her path and she will do very little (for one of her stature) if there are not good opportunities. Hillary Clinton has begun to pay the full and significant price of being Obama’s secretary of State. On the other hand, she works with her husband and her Senate ties in New York and with leaders around the world. She works and stays with the game and sometimes fails her way to success. She is becoming more impressive and indispensable in American political terms even as she becomes more flawed and marked by faults of various kinds

11. President Nicolas Sarkozy has already sought to strengthen ties with the United States, has entertained the Pope, has married a supermodel the whole world has seen nude and is worth seeing nude, has deported Gypsies and taken action against Moslem corruption of French culture. There is something of La Royaume de La Belle France about him. He needs to hunt and got to Church once in a while in very expensive clothes (seriously)  In doing all these other things so far he has avoided brutality, great scandal and the greater than necessary abuse of human rights. He  will chafe against the European bit distance himsel from the UK when he can in conscience and is the first real chance that French royalist gradualists have had for a negotiation towards their better goals. Sarkozy is farther from being able to adress his principal goals than most world leaders and he is a cautious man as regards policy. Sarkozy has not been able to bridge both the Obama gap and the language gap and forge more ties with the United Statres of America. It seems to be a case where events are pushing him into the European mainstream so far.

 12. Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu ( בִּנְיָמִין “בִּיבִּי” נְתַנְיָהוּ ), also Binyamin Netanyahu) was born on October 21, 1949 and  is the ninth and current Prime Minister of Israel  and importantly Netanyahu is the first and only Israeli prime minister born in Israel after the establishment of the State of Israel. He achieved this distinction with his earlier Prime Ministry but it is still his distinction currently. With strong social and educational ties to America he holds varied roles in the small and complex country at the unique crossroads of the old world simultaneoulsy serving as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a member of the Knesset, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel. He will surely struggle in the current environment  but if the right changes occur he will lead Israel and the region in capitalizing on this set of changes.  Netanyahu must currently deal with an American regime which is completely antithetical to  a peaceful and secure Israel and where he also lacks a wide variety of good options.  However, as I type this Hezbolla ministers have resigned in Lebanon and there are forces struggling to assert a new order in the Middle East.

13. Bill Gates, William Henry “Bill” Gates III was  born October 28, 1955 and is a great creator and leader who is now largely redefining philanthropy.  He is best known for being long time chairman of  Microsoft, the uniquley important software company he founded in a powerful partnership with Paul Allen. He and his wife Melinda are partners in love and parenthood but their partnership has also been very significant for  the world as they steer and an enormous empire of giving and activism. They are financialy able to do this as Bill Gates  is  ranked among the  richest people in the world  and was ranked as the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009, excluding 2008, when he fell to third. During his career at Microsoft, Gates Gates built the giant into an essential part of computing around the world as both CEO and  later chief software archirect, and remains the largest individual shareholder with more than 8 percent of the common stock. Perhaps he may be drawn back into the corporate leadership he knows well and into new forms of social leadership. In the meanwhile he is likely to have a profound impact on America and the world as they find their way forward with Microsoft, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, their cooperation with Warren Buffet and other challenges that come along.  Bill Gates is becoming that kind of litmus test of America’s potential to adapt and survive. He has social moementum which could be harnessed for the good of society by skillfull social change  in America but has long struggled under great suspicions. America does not believe it has to choose between people like Billl Gates and more evil leaders. America believes it does not need leaders. 

14. Steve Jobs will use the Gates retirement to pull ahead. However at the personal level he is a darker figure than he was as a youth. Even as a youth he was no saint. But he is brilliant and a vital national asset like Gate in that way. Apple, the Next flop,  Pixar and more Apple. He is a compelling genius in technology and industry who chose the pirates flag as the icon for Mac development and who instead of a big charity has a liver transplant where someone had to die for him to live. He has ads for Apple that mostly attack PCs and Microsoft’s Windows. He is easily compared to Gates and has always been loved by the cool kids in American society as it is. Steve Jobs cannot be dismissed as someone to watch.  In the layering of this post it happened in 2011 but before Sept. 11 that Jobs took a leave of absnce from Apple indefinitely for health reasons.  

15. Carl Svanberg This Swede Chairman of BP and other corporations is one to watch. Low profile and clever he is not the man to forget.   Svanberg did graduate work  and earned a Master’s degree  in Applied Physics  after a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Scandinavian institutions of quality and honorary doctorates from other institutions.  Svanberg remains a major player in high tech industry in the Norse Lands remaining a well invested director on the board of telecom firm Ericcson where he served as CEO  from April 8 to December 31 of 2009. He is also on the board of several other companies and maintains some of the agressiveness of the ice hockey player he once was. He rubbed several people in Louisiana the wrong way during the BP crisis. 

16. UN Secretary  General Ban Ki-moon,   반기문 (潘基文) This cool professional can think more clearly about the Middle East but his bones and instincts know less than any previous Secretary General. On the other hand this man from East Asia is bringing to 37 years of relevant  service both in Government and on the global stage and having served in Korea as  Director-General of American Affairs he is trying to educate the West about the Far East in his quiet way — Good luck with that!  On 1 January 2007, Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea became the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations .  He was as well as being Director-General of American Affairs, his country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In that Korean ministry he had held  responsibility for a variety of portfolios, including Foreign Policy Adviser to the President, Chief National Security Adviser to the President and Deputy Minister for Policy Planning . As a diplomat he has lived in New Delhi, Washington D.C. and Vienna as well visiting many other places. He is married to his high school sweetheart and they have two children and is believed to be trilingual – French being the third language. He was educated in Korea and a t Harvard in the USA. 

17. Hu JinTao  胡锦涛 is The Premiere in the People’s Republic of China will continue to try to develop the Presidency and Premiere powersharing and to increase the importance of the Congress of People’s deputies if he can. He will try to restore full regularity to the Chinese governments by incorporating Imperial and Confucian elements. He will  reform the Party and execute those who commit crimes which bring the party into ill regard. Minority and foreign relations will be a continuous challenge and he will foster the development of Chinese urban consumer life to make China less dependent on Exports.

18. Timothy Geithner One to watch! He is an opportunist with ideals and may do much or little depending on where money moves relative to him.

19. Al Franken A man to watch. He is clever, rooted, articulate and conscientious. He is also a bitter angry and reckless man. Which guy will show up for the next eleven years? Franken is a comedian who won a bitterly contested recount in his Senatorial election when elected with President Barack Hussein Obama. He has authored books of rather nasty tempered political humor. He is not so far either a substantial statesman nor a total joke in the US Senate.  

20. Barney Frank Money, New England and Homosexuality will increasingly become a portfolio of political expertise and experience for this man. He will grow in stature on these things and lose relevance on others as often happens to older politicians in legislatures. However, he could seize on on some successful other cause and make himself known in other circles. 

21. Vladimir Putin ,Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin  Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин,  will remain Putin while he remains alive. He has many hopes he still cannot really do anything to achieve but he keeps chipping away  at the obstacles. He likes healing and building better but could become a figure of destruction fomenting hate — it just depends on too many factors to sort out here.

22. Bobby Jindal has earned some credibility with Louisiana in the BP crisis but not enough to waste. Look to see him as the Indian-American, Louisiana and Oxford alumni Jindal unless a big chance at being a national Republican Icon is very clear and near.  Bobby Jindal has just come out with a book titled Leadership in Crisis which is part political memoir  and part summary of the BP crisis and part autobiography. I have also met with him briefly since I first published this blog post and we discussed some issues relating to the spill. This was in a public venue in Abbeville’s A.A. Comeaux Recreation Center after a speech and did not get into his secretary’s permanent log. But I thought it was a useful exchange.

23. Bill Richardson will do a variety of things in New Mexico, America and the world. But if constitutional change comes to the USA then expect him to rise to new prominence as a major framer and negotiator for the constitutional rights and role of Aboriginal Americans and their Nations. 

24. Bill Clinton will become a very prominent broker if constitutional change comes and his health holds out. Otherwise expect him to continue to fade away more and more with occasional flashes of influence. Bill Clinton is busy lately. He participated in the 2010 elections which were one of the biggest defeats in the history of the Congressional Democrats. He has worked for Haiti but has seen lots of mediocre and poor results. However, like his wife he is always growing in experience and sophisitication.

25. Osama Bin Laden will become more of an icon as the Obama presidency progresses if his health holds out. His second act will get under way.  Is he a living legend or a dead one? That basic query is the question many can’t help asking and if he is alive what  is he really doing. He may well be behind the rebuilding of his movements in the Arabian Peninsula and Afghanistan.  He is a powerful symbol of what it means to be committed to a cause over a life time. 

What does it mean to pick on a few players in the world and recognize their importance to our future? It does not mean that they are the only participants in the future of our world who will matter.

Another Oil Rig Explodes in Gulf

Another oil rig has exploded in the Gulf and is burning. All 13 workers have gotten off alive. We do not know if oil is still leaking. This is quite a year.

UPDATE

The fire has been put out. All thirteen workers are expected to make full recoveries.  The rig in 340 feet of water off Vermilion Bay should not sink. There may have been some leaking but there is no reason to believe it is leaking now.

South Louisiana Blues

In my last post I blogged on the anniversaries of the 9-11 attacks and the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg. But before we even get to those we have the anniversary of  Hurricane Katrina which I remember both as all Americans do and as a Louisiana native does. For me it falls into an arrangement with the memory of our devastating follow-up hurricane here in the western part of coastal Louisiana — Rita.

We face the uncertainty of this BP Oil Leak and we still deal with all the storm damage which is as bad as it is in part because of damage to the coast caused by other bad behavior from oil companies. Thank God we are struggling with all this because it proves we are not dead. There is a lot of sadness in the story of so much of the world. I think sadness is actually an important part of humanity and human life. However, we are really having our share here. We have known numerous very rough storms, the 9-11 attacks and the levee collapse that made Katrina what it became. Now we are dealing with the largest ecological disaster in our country’s history.

It is not that things cannot get worse. They can get a lot worse and very possible they will get a lot worse. There are some improvements in New Orleans since Katrina. Before Katrina seventy percent of New Orleans Schools were failing  now sixty percent are passing and only forty percent are failing. There is the Musicians Village put together by Harry Connick Jr. and the Marsalis family as well as their backers. There is the movement back of some celebrities and environmental lobbies who are investing talent and interest in rebuilding the city and the region.

I was partly inspired to write this post by shows I have seen on LPB lately as well as by Anderson Cooper’s show emphasizing the anniversary of Katrina. However, we face as many reminders of all of these crises as anyone would like pay attention to today and any day here on the coast..  

The story goes on but there is a lot of sadness in the story. Maybe the time to write some more music about all of this is very much here.

September 11 and September 17 Anniversaries Approach

The three days on which  the Americans lost the most lives to violence on a single day were quite different and each adds complexity in attempting to describe them. If one says Americans that is sort of ambiguous and if one says citizens of the United States that leaves out many of the dead Americans.  Of the three bloodiest days one was in December –that is December 7 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II. The other two bloodiest days were in September. The lesser in blood is the one sharper in our own minds in which many alive today lost loved ones. But the bloodiest of all was September 17, 1862 and the Battle of Antietam or of Sharpsburg as most Southerners call the same combat event. This was something many of us were aware of as we watched 9-11 unfold. At first we thought the number of those killed might surpass the 23,000 killed that day in the War Between the States on that series of Maryland fields and hills. We now seem to all agree the numbers fell far short of that. I wish to extend my condolences however to anyone reading this who lost a loved one or several in the 2001 event which makes it impossible to compare to events outside living memory.

Today, we are also seeing Ken Feinberg head up the BP funded compensation fund to try to make whole those injured by the Gulf of Mexico Macondo oil leak.  Surely connections  and comparison will be made with the 9-11 crisis and his role in guiding the compensation fund that dealt with those tragic events. We will see how those energies play out as we watch this new thing develop.

One notable thing is that we have never had a half Japanese President of the United States and LBJ as a son of the States in the former Confederacy was brought in by assassination and only after one hundred years. However in this case we have not even passed a decade and we have a President who is the son of a Moslem foreigner. I really believe this is enough to show that our country is almost entirely dead and almost entirely insane from a sociopolitical point of view. I really do not think much else matter after we have elected President Obama. Our policies, votes and laws are all silly papers in my view. I do not act as this suggests but it is still my conviction.

The BP Spill and the Lessons We will Have to Unlearn

One of the things blog does is advocate for radical constitutional change and another thing it has been doing and continues to do at the current time is to cover the BP Macondo Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico and its effects. Sometimes these activities have come together in a single post and sometimes these two join with another prevalent theme and motif. One of the things that can be confusing to some people is the idea that I do not use very many slurs, cuss words or hateful epithets and do not advocate genocide or the wholesale and unexcused confiscation of all the property of a particular class of people who I am not really angry, radical or committed. Perhaps I have no enemies and am entirely unwilling to kill or die for anything. I can only try to assert that this is not the case — I really am seeking radical change.

One problem that we will have if we ever overthrow the vast murderous tyranny of horror under which I have lived my whole life is that we are not bound by a handful of hated laws that are very well-known and which aim death and horror at a specific set or a few specific groups of people. Instead we have huge volumes of regulations in the WTO Treaty, the NAFTA treaty, The UN Charter, The IMF Charter and other systems which do harm and add to a horrific murderous tyranny which hurts innocents and loots and destroys across the world. These strengthen an unassailed and largely idiotic worldview which saturates and defines both our present and all future possibilities. Let me be clear that much of the time I feel my soul life is spent like a man who passes much of each day waist or shoulder deep in raw sewerage.  But I am not going to attack all of this vast reality in this post. IF we do change it will be important that we not rush willy-nilly to get out of or destroy every large treaty structure in the world. Those involved in whatever may be described as a movement  that is represented by this blog seek peace and prosperity and stability as much as possible for as many as possible. This is true despite the fact that charitable giving and development aid are tied here to warrior culture and property rights and true although they may have more reasons for war, austerity and hardness than many other people. The legal regime may be ignored in some new structures but it will not be assaulted — these regimes will have to attack us where we ignore them to get a fight. We will attempt to pay our dues and keep up the obligations made. Here I am going discuss the oil leak in terms of waste again.

I have quite a few post relating to future structures for dealing with waste. These structures are rather grand and elaborate and have to be taken as a whole and in context. They do not exist in time to deal with all the waste water and waste oil which exists as a result of this spill. People do not trust the storage of weathered BP oil near them, they have good reasons. I believe we are a vast distance from real solutions. Here are few specific waste programs not in a structure we need to just do whether they can be well understood or not.

1. We need special lands and zones where a few really enormous and several times as many just large  waste treatment centers. These will be kept as clean and neat as possible and will have secure housing for forced labor from all able-bodied prisoners in the entire country who are serving long sentences, forced labor from illegal aliens and short-term labor contracts  for the needy and unemployed. Each   of these groups will have some of their small pay withheld to the end and will earn educational credits so that they move to schools offsite before the end of their programs. They will also all receive some good in kind on release. These groups will constitute low status labor which will build up the position of the salaried regular waste workers.

2. All restaurants and food businesses will be forced to segregate food wastes. Really clean food will go to a food ban for humans, some will go to a washing and slop program and go to pigs and chickens raised at these centers. These will be slaughtered cooked and irradiated and the meat used for disaster relief, stockpiling and part of the diet and release good of the low status labor.   The lowest grade foods will go to the soil and fuel programs.

3. Paper, yard clippings, coal dust, trees waste, plastics, weathered oil, oil wastes in sand and other resources will go to a separate department. Some will be recycled to really good uses, some will go the soil program but most of it will go into the fuel programs.  Composite fuels will be formulated which will power a system of steam locomotives and steam locomotive trains operated by the new structures. The most regular recovered fuels can be sold and used to power the waste centers and other government facilities.  What must be stored can be placed in the foundations of the expanded human habitat sites.

There are many more things that need doing. Probably none will get done and if change comes war or other crises may keep it from doing these things effectively. Meanwhile I get a day older in a world that makes me sick in so many ways and yet I can’t find the energy to scream at people in public.

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A Tiny BP-Macondo Leak Round-up

1. BP has brought a suit and is acting as a complaining witness for prosecution against two fisherman who it claims reported false fishing and related expenses and incomes on claim forms. I will try to follow that till later as it becomes clearer.

2.Ken Feinberg’s settlement fund like all before it and like almost all settlement funds requires those taking the money to promise not to sue and to give up the rights to sue. It appears that some people have felt misled in this process.

3. BP claims that there is not much leakage to speak of and will wait to put the relief well in place untill after Labor Day.

4. Despite these first three points and others I could mention but won’t it appears the wheels have not yet come off of this process and that is a good thing.

5. The moratorium continues to stir emotions we hope it is also producing excellent research and change for the better. There is no doubt it has a high expense side does it yield  a good profitable outcome?

Awareness of Pain: A Post With Many Links

I think that most people who read this blog with any sense of fairness will recognize that I advocate much more sweeping and radical constitutional change in the United States than almost anyone with prominent access to prominent media advocates. It is a basic truism (and almost a basic truth) that in order to justify advocating  radical change a responsible person must have already found or must promptly find very serious problems and dangers that justify undertaking the risks inherent in making large changes. It is also fair to assume that regular readers will notice that in fact I have often pointed out very serious problems in this country. This post is about the awareness of those problems and dangers which beset our country. 

There is a film which by using Homer’s Odyssey set in the south of this country shows a bit of the gritty reality of our near past. It is part of a method of a awareness to watch such films and in that film there is song. The song does not  reflect the situation in the film. Go to the next link to find the film However, these lyrics are not taken directly from the film.

“Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190590/

Big Rock Candy Mountain

        C                                    F                     C
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, there’s a land that’s bright and fair,
           F               C                   Am               G7
For the doughnuts grow on bushes, and there’s lots of cookies there,
         C                                F                C
For the dogs and cats are happy, and the sun shines every day,
            F         C              F          C
There are birds and bees, and the bubble-gum trees,
         F         C                    F         C
by the lemonade springs, where the whippoorwill sings
        G7                C
in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

It seems a pleasant and fun place doesn’t it? Yet we also live in beautiful world and being aware of it and what endangers it is also a sacred trust. Here is a post where I linked to others sharing the burden and duty of that awareness:  https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/bp-spill-environmental-awareness-links-questions/ 

Let’s get back to that song set in a film reworking Homer’s Odyssey with slightly different lyrics longer and a bit more on our point but similar. 

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, the houses are built of blocks
And the little streams of sody pop come trickling down the rocks,
The soldiers there are made of lead, and they are very brave,
There’s a lake of stew, and ice cream too
You can paddle all around in a paper canoe,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

If the soldiers were all made of lead one cannot help but wonder if it would be less important to fight just wars nobly and to seek peace. If ice cream fell like snow and lakes were full of stew then perhaps our agriculture and employment policy would matter less.  But for now we must be aware of how living things, people and communities do find their sustenance. Here is a post where I linked to others who were making us aware of what was at risk in the BP-Macondo Oil Leak:  https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/the-bp-transocean-gushers-risk-some-links-and-notes/

Now, we can return to  song which stands in for many other points of view. I recall, but have not checked, that in the film Brother Where Art Thou? they used the version of the song where the word “frogs” is replaced with “cops”. I think the cops version is the original there would be less food in a world where frog legs were toothpicks and that does not go with the song. On the other hand for someone who wants a free lunch the world would be more abundant if there were only cops with wooden legs and bulldogs with rubber teeth keeping him from other people’s property. 

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, the frogs have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth,
and the hens lay hard-boiled eggs
There’s chocolate pie in all the trees, and jam in all the lakes,
Oh, I’m going to go where the wind don’t blow,
there’s a big free show, and candy snow,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

The song is fun. Living in a world where policy is made on the basis of the idea the song represents but reality is what it is  would not  be fun for a whole lot of people. In many ways that is the world we live in today. Below is a link to a biographical entry describing the life and work of the physician who discovered that the horrors and deformities of leprosy must be understood almost entirely as resulting from the victim’s loss of sensitivity to pain.  

The Wikipedia Biography of Paul Wilson Brand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Wilson_Brand

The use of leprosy and its horrors as a metaphor for the results of many of the ills of humanity and  society are not starting with this blog post. In fact the next link is one to a poll as to whether the denial of sin by atheists is precisely that kind of leprosy  we are discussing:

http://jyte.com/cl/pain-insensitivity-is-to-lepers-as-denial-of-sin-is-to-athiests

Old Testament prophets decrying impiety and humanity, Romantic poets decrying the loss of understanding of nature, Revolutionaries decrying the loss of national integrity or sanity — these are  all examples of a nation’s pain response and awareness. Life is made less frivolous and harder because of the pain we feel when we want to lose ourselves in the moment or the life time of doing whatever it is we would rather be doing. Documentarians have played an important role in recent decades and over much of the last century in pointing out what is wrong  with the world — a useful thing to know.

The first shows a part of the truth of how America becoming play obsessed and focused only on market discipline can play out in a complex world. There is a lot more that is only hinted at such as the destruction of some of the local Mardi Gras and Carnival traditions by visitors who only come for debauchery without the limits of traditions. There is also the fact that things may be much worse than the show portrays in China since they are not exposing anything but what they are told willingly enough. 

Chinese workers export Mardi Gras in Mardi Gras Made in Chinahttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436569/

The second film shows how complex struggles of oil and gas profits, ethnic values and wetlands management affect all of Louisiana and the nation. However, this is done in the context of a close-up portrayal of a few crawfishermen in the Atchafalaya who are not even filmed in an entirely accurate or honest way. The film is in many ways anti-Acadian in it biases and is only forced in the other direction by Katrina. The tendency is to represent swampers as typical Acadians and to represent all swampers as more cut-off from the larger economy than they are. But regardless of where it comes from it says good things with important images.

Angels of the Basin:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1338547/

Then we have the vast problem of angry,ignorant and hate-filled black racist destroying this country in so many ways with the support and formation that has poured in from the west-hating Moslem world for centuries but especially the last fifty years. We ignore all the signs and are headed to destruction but at least our reports give us some of the relevant factoids:  

Omar Thornton ‘s recent shooting is a good example: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20012557-504083.html

However, we have many others as well. We can turn to Wikipedia to remember the Fort Hood Shooting. However let us not remember how much racial-ethnic and religious and social forms of non-awareness contributed to this disaster. The way we have handled the aftermath is a terrible disgrace as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Hood_shooting

Then we have two movies that show a somewhat unfavorable vision of the military and those who serve in it as well as showing why the enemy would not be so ready to flee at their approach. However, the movies are also full both of whole and partial truths as well as humane insights.  I recommend watching them both with a critical eye  but not disparaging the critical eye they turn towards our country and armed forces.

The Lucky Ones: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0981072/

Brothers: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0765010/

The truth is that we have so very much to do as soon as possible if we are to be in any way successful as a society. We have many enemies and competitors around the world who will try to keep us from making and then securing the right transitions. However, we are full of internal problems that are far more dangerous. The time to act is here and will not last forever. However, awareness of the pain is the first step towards healing the wounds and pains.

In the models for change I have described here I have set forth a path that can lead to a btter future. But getting there will not be cheap and easy.