Ocean's Thirteen: Crime without punishment

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Nobody knows if BP will be able to cap the raging oil well and end the spill in the coming days, weeks, or months. But what we do know is that there will be no real punishment for its crimes against our environment, our wildlife, and the men and women who have for generations lived for the sea and by the sea. This is no mere accident. It is a high crime against men, women, children, and the natural world. 

Punishment means that the company’s top execs spend some real time in the slammer for the deaths of twelve workers, and for those environmental crimes which occurred through their cost cutting practices and Cheney chicanery. In an ideal world the company and all its profits would be confiscated: their billions used to clean up the mess if the cleanup is even possible. And that’s for openers.

There is of course the Cheney question. Nobody knows what happened in those secret meetings with oil company execs which Cheney held in the White House, but an educated guess would be that the relaxation of safety standards that brought about this tragedy came in with Halliburton’s Oil Slick Dick – deregulation for fun and profits.

Disgrace is what happens to most of these people, but disgrace is hardly a true reckoning for BP and its minions, the BP execs behaving as if the very questioning of their motives and competence is an act of incredible colonial rudeness.

I fear that our President, a man whom I support and admire must partake of some of this disgrace for the BP mess. His desire from day one of his administration to turn a blind eye to the crimes of the past administration in some Mandela like gesture of forgiveness was beyond naïve because without a thorough investigation of the crimes of his predecessors, the BP mess, and other catastrophes springing from the Republican passion for deregulation were sure to happen.

The gleeful, gloating Railin’ Palin and the Tea Party Poopers could not have undone the Obama presidency on their own: he is far too smart and too honorable to be brought down by them while their shrieks of “Drill, Baby, Drill” still resonate, but the oil slick that destroys our wetlands, our beaches, and annihilate our fish and wildlife may well be the legacy of this abysmal failure of Obama’s to examine the crimes of the past and punish them. Obama’s dependence on the very people who caused this tragedy to correct it reminds many of his turning to Wall Street insiders who caused our recession to correct the economic mayhem that murdered so many jobs and caused the many foreclosures of homes and hopes. Allowing an unsupervised BP and its “expertise” to cap this spill is like going to Hannibal the Cannibal for help in finding a serial killer. Yes, yes, I’ve heard the excuse that nobody but BP has the technical know-how to fix this mess, but if that is so it’s a scary movie, not a sane policy.

As a people we remember the Alamo, we remember Pearl Harbor, we remember Katrina, and we remember 9/11, and we will most certainly remember this grievous oil spill. We Americans forget a lot, much of it having to do with offering equality of opportunity and other civil rights to minorities but we remember the great betrayals and disasters. It truly is time for the Justice Department to start investigating the crimes and the corruption behind this spill that has soiled our world and stained our children’s future.

Obama is a man of some brilliance and great goodwill with the potential of being an outstanding leader, but brilliance and goodwill are but a part of great leadership. It is not enough to be loved, or admired for your rhetoric and your noble principals. Obama’s politics of hope have their splendid side in so far as they resonate with Emily Dickenson famous poem “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” No poem ever captured American optimism more than this one.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
It is wonderful to hope for the best in life and the integrity of men and women, but the trouble with hope is that those feathers allow it to fly away leaving us with a cold reality and an ugly mess to clean up. So the politics of hope have a very airborne quality – here today gone tomorrow. It is sometimes necessary to be feared by wrong-doers for your strong arm and willingness to strike hard in order to lead a country and keep it safe. The President should learn from this catastrophe that greedy corporations such as BP can be dangerous to America’s future.


Contributing writer, Sherman Yellen, screenwriter, playwright, and lyricist, has won two Emmy Awards, first for his drama John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America. His Beauty and the Beast was nominated for an Emmy and won the Christopher Award. Yellenwas nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the Broadway musical, The Rothschilds. Yellen's other plays include Strangers, December Fools and Josephine Tonight! Sherman Yellen received a lifetime achievement award in Arts and Letters from Bard College.