'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, June 4th, 2010
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Guests: Thad Allen, Riki Ott, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I have to say, it‘s—despite the fact this is in the middle of a disaster down here, we might consider lobbying the bosses upstairs to sort of move us down here for part of the year. It‘s really cool.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: I think that might be—might be newsworthy, too, in addition to being cool. Good luck down there.
MADDOW: Thanks very much, Keith. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We are in Grand Isle, Louisiana, again tonight. President Obama was here just a short while ago for the second time in as many Fridays. He addressed the media earlier this afternoon in New Orleans and it was announced today that the families of the 11 men killed in the April 20th explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the families of those 11 men will visit the White House next week.
Here on the Gulf Coast for all the conversations I‘ve had with folks about the cleanup effort and the oil on shore and the booms and the jobs and the health worries and the fisheries, everyone is still quite acutely focused on the engineering project that is still going on way, way, way behind me, miles out in the Gulf, and miles below the Gulf—the engineering project to put a lid on that darn well that is still gushing.
Although it may be a little bit hard to see it under all the gushing oil that you see in this image, they do say that the containment cap was successfully placed over the wellhead last night. So far, BP says the cap is managing to collect oil at a rate of about 1,000 barrels a day. That is a fraction of what‘s leaking. It‘s not stopping more of the oil right now in part because the cap has some open vents on it through which all the oil that we can clearly see here is still gushing out.
BP‘s plan is to close those vents slowly one by one. They hope that will prevent buildup of the icy, slushy hydrates that caused the last containment dome thing to float off the wellhead and do no one any good at all.
But this is what the current effort looks like right now. If you want to know how it‘s going, the government‘s commander on the scene, Admiral Thad Allen, told reporters today, quote, “I think we need to caution against over-optimism here.”
I can tell you that over-optimism is not a problem at this point, along the Gulf Coast. Bear in mind that BP is not even trying to cap the leak anymore, they‘re just trying to use this containment thing to contain and retrieve as much of the oil as they can. And even in the best-case scenario where they are able to contain a lot of the oil using that cap and funnel it up to a ship on the surface, even in the best-case scenario, once a hurricane comes along—and they do tend to turn up here from time to time—once a big storm comes, they will have to unhook from that containment funnel contraption and have the ship come ashore and let the oil flow freely into the Gulf again until that it‘s safe to put the ship back.
That‘s the best-case scenario. That‘s what they‘re aiming for.
For the next couple of months, they‘re not even trying for more than that. Their best hope for actually stopping the leak remains the two relief wells that BP is drilling. They won‘t be ready until August at the earliest. August is the best-case scenario for stopping the underwater volcano of oil—for lack of a better term.
The relief well is a known technology. It‘s worked before, as you‘ve heard reported in the last few weeks. But has it always worked the first time?
The Montara spill off the northwest coast of Australian last summer required five tries at a relief well before they were able to hit the right spot to plug that thing up.
The Ixtoc spill back in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979, that required the drilling of two relief wells. That blown well gushed for nine months before those relief wells finally worked.
In the best case scenario right now, mark your calendars for August. And cross your fingers. That‘s if they, here at 5,000 feet, hit the well, hit the relief well the first time.
Meanwhile, in terms of America‘s drilling policy, it is situation normal all fouled up. Last week, President Obama announced he was stopping all deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for the next six months, but his moratorium didn‘t apply to shallow water wells, what they call shallow water wells and any drilling at depth of 500 feet or shallower.
So, two days ago, the Minerals Management Service issued a permit for a new shallow water well, about 50 miles off the coast here. That was two days ago. Yesterday, the MMS rescind that permit, saying in an e-mail, quote, “Until further notice, we have been informed not to approve or allow any drilling, no matter the water depth.”
Then, after that, we heard this: “Interior Department denies it has extended drilling freeze to shallow Gulf waters.”
The MMS remember is part of the Interior Department. So, the message from the government was, in other words—yes, can you now drill this shallow well. No, you can‘t drill the shallow well. Yes, you can now drill the shallow well.
Which is it? It turns out the MMS will allow drilling in shallow water to go forward, but right now, it won‘t issue new permits for that until companies applying for them meet new safety and environmental regulations. Once they comply with the new regulations, they get to drill, because we shouldn‘t allow this deep-water disaster to interfere with safe, simple shallow water drilling—anything less than 500 feet of water, no big deal, right? We know how to do that.
The Ixtoc well that gushed for nine months? That Montara oil spill last summer off Australia? Those were both shallow water wells. Montara was 240 feet below the surface but it gushed an estimated 3.9 million gallons of oil. Ixtoc was at 160 feet of water, but it managed to gush an estimated 138 million gallons.
Disasters happen. There‘s nothing magical that happens when you get
above 500 feet. You should also know the moratorium on wells only accounts
for new drilling. It doesn‘t shut down wells that have already been
drilled and are currently producing oil and gas through those drilled holes
as was happening when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up.
Those existing wells made it through the same permitting process that the Deepwater Horizon did. Those wells made it through a Minerals Management Service that exempted BP from doing a detailed environmental impact analysis. The same agency that estimated a big oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon well would not likely get bigger than 4,600 barrels and that the oil wouldn‘t reach the coast.
As I mentioned, President Obama visited the coast today, touring effected areas, like Grand Isle, just a few miles from where I‘m sitting. While he was in Louisiana, he defended the moratorium against concerns about its economic impact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I made the decision to issue the moratorium, we knew that it would have economic impacts. But what I also knew is that there was no way that we can go about business as usual when we‘ve discovered that companies like BP, who had provided assurances that they had failsafe backup redundant systems—in fact, not only didn‘t have failsafe systems but had no idea what to do when those failsafe systems broke down.
I do not want to see this thing repeated again. And the American people don‘t, and I promise you the people of the Gulf don‘t want to see it, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president also took the opportunity to keep the pressure on BP for paying out claims to local fishermen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My understanding is that BP has contracted for $50 million worth of TV advertising to manage their image during the course of this disaster. In addition, there are reports that BP will be paying $10.5 billion, that‘s billion, with a “B,” in dividend payments this quarter.
I want BP to be very clear—they‘ve got moral and legal obligations here in the Gulf for the damage that has been done. And what I don‘t want to hear is when they‘re spending that kind of money on their shareholders, and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, that they‘re nickel-and-diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Admiral Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the spill. He traveled with the president to Grand Isle today.
Sir, I know you‘re a very, very busy man. Thank you very much for your time.
ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: What‘s the latest you can tell us about the attempt to cap—to put that cap on that riser pipe? Is it working? Is there a lot of oil still flowing into the Gulf, at the seabed?
ALLEN: Rachel, I think you explained it pretty good, if I could just add a couple of modifiers there. When they put the containment cap down, the pipe was filled with inert nitrogen gas so the oil wouldn‘t spew up fast it enough where it would draw water in and create the hydrates as you mentioned earlier. They were slowly shutting off the vents, the oil that is venting that you can see on television, and have started to produce natural gas and oil on the ship above. And they‘re going to slowly increase that production rate over the next 24, 36 hours to see how high they can bring that production rate up and reduce the pressure.
MADDOW: Admiral, I understand that the first priority has to be to cap that well, and I actually want to congratulate you on your efforts to communicate to us clearly about how the progress on that is going.
But keeping the oil offshore and getting it out of the water, I have to say, being here in Grand Isle for a couple days, it feels like a complete disaster. How much of the fault there—is because we just don‘t have good technology to keep oil offshore, we don‘t have good technology to get it out of the water—and how much of that is just that we could have done a better job with this?
ALLEN: Well, Rachel, I—not only does it feel like a disaster, it is a disaster. Any time oil is on the water, nobody should be happy about it. I think it‘s a combination of issues. You alluded to the fact that maybe technology offshore has gone faster than our ability to respond to some of the problems that technology present us.
And a lot of the oil spill response technology that we are applying in this particular spill has been created over the last 20 years following the Exxon Valdez and the landmark legislation that followed, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. I think when all this is done, we‘re going to have to sit down and see whether or not that technology maybe hadn‘t atrophied over those 20 years, while the technology in deep-water drilling had moved further offshore and maybe created a bigger risk envelope. And I think that‘s certainly something we need to look at.
MADDOW: In terms of one specific part of technology that‘s very much in evidence in these coastal communities, and in the communities that are expecting the oil but haven‘t yet seen it, it‘s booming. And some of the boom is better than other booms, but a lot of what we‘ve seen here of off Grand Isle in particular, is very ineffective. It looks like it was either put up incorrectly or it was put up correctly, didn‘t survive much weather, and it is not being tended. You see it snarled in places looking like wet spaghetti or hair in a shower drain. It‘s not doing the job it‘s intended to do.
Is it a question of not enough manpower to tend those booms and not enough training?
ALLEN: It could be that, Rachel. I think there‘s maybe a misconception of what boom can do and what it can‘t do. First of all, boom in certain conditions is capable of gathering oil until it can be collected. But it can be defeated by wave height and oil going over the top and oil going below it. And it‘s not effective against tar balls and things that get below the surface.
So, for what it‘s intended to do, it can be effective if tended properly. But there are other—there are other methods that are more successful than that, depending on where the oil is at and the conditions.
MADDOW: I have to say, it doesn‘t seem like the boom is being tended properly. I know that it‘s—booming is a limited technology. It can‘t do everything, as you say. But it‘s certainly not living up to its full potential of what we‘re seeing down here. Is that a manpower issue?
ALLEN: Well, it could be a manpower issue. It also could be an environmental issue. A lot of people want boom out because they feel if the boom is out they‘re going to be protected. But if you put it out too early, exactly what happens is what you indicated. There‘s attrition of the boom. The fittings can tear, the systems become tangled and it can‘t survived a really significant sea state.
So, it needs to be put out when it‘s effective. We need to understand there are limitations to what boom can do. And it could be manpower. It could be the equipment itself or the environmental conditions, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is it true, sir, that August is really the best-case scenario for stopping the oil flow? That‘s when the first try at a relief well could work and it might not work on the first try?
ALLEN: August is when we will be able to have the first attempt to
basically kill the well, to be able to put mud down it and put a cement
plug and cap it completely. Until then, it‘s only going to be contained
because our attempt at the top kill operation a week or so ago demonstrated
to us that we could not put enough mud down that wellbore to keep the
hydrocarbons down once we stopped pumping. So, it‘s going to be the well -
relief well that will be drilled in August. It will be the final solution.
MADDOW: In your professional estimation, Admiral, do you think the American people should expect that it might take multiple tries at the relief well? That even if we get the relief well down there, first attempt down there in August, that it might take more than one try to actually kill it that way?
ALLEN: Well, that‘s the reason a second relief well is being drilled, and you alluded to the other incidents earlier in your comments, and that‘s exactly the reason there‘s a second relief well being drilled. And we‘ll stay at this until we get the thing capped and killed.
MADDOW: Admiral Thad Allen, national incident commander for this disaster—thank you so much for your time tonight, sir. As always, we are counting on you.
ALLEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. When we come back, delicious caramel mousse that I would love to snack on with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, because he apparently thinks it looks delicious.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Still ahead: boats, birds, blobs, boom and bad, bad, really bad wind-blown hair. We‘re live from the middle of a whole lot of muck. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Florida tourism officials have pulled a multi-million-dollar ad campaign financed by BP that features the tag line, “The coast is clear.” They have pulled that ad campaign because the coast is no longer clear. Not all of it, anyway.
Brown, sticky tar balls washing up on the sand white beaches of Florida‘s panhandle. The large oil slick that they‘ve been tracking off Florida is about 3 ½ miles offshore apparently, but these blobs of oil have found their way to land. Florida has been granted fishery failure determination status by the Commerce Department. It‘s now the fourth state, along with Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, to get that designation as a result of the BP oil disaster.
In Alabama, so far, the oily tar balls have turned up on Dauphin Island and at Fort Morgan. At the joint incident command center in Mobile, Alabama, officials called up about 1,500 boats to spot and skim the oil. Some other contract workers were out today on Alabama beaches scooping these globs into plastic bags.
The tar balls in Alabama and Florida were a result of a hard choice that had to be made to concentrate the effort to keep the oil off the shore, on the marshes, instead of on the beaches. It is way more difficult, if not impossible, to clean oil out of wetlands. Once oil hits, plants start to die. And to the extent that the plants hold the wetlands soil together, the plants dying in wetlands starts those wetlands disappearing.
Relatively speaking, sandy beaches are easier to clean, and so, emergency officials concentrated their boom-laying in front of the wetlands and not in front of the sand.
Over in Mississippi, oil first washed ashore on Tuesday. But the state‘s governor, Haley Barbour, isn‘t too bothered about the whole thing.
Obama met with governors from the affected states today down here in Louisiana. But Governor Barbour was a no-show. He was up in New York meeting with bond rating agencies and attending the annual Mississippi picnic in Central Park. Haley Barbour also skipped out on meeting with the president when he was here last week.
Governor Barbour told reporters this week that the oil the gooey, emulsified cake batter texture oil that‘s coming ashore, he said, quote, “It‘s not poisonous.” He said, the only risk is, quote, “if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it.”
Governor Barbour seems like a very nice man. He has had a very accomplished career in politics. He once was personally very cordial to me when I was on the same episode of “Meet the Press” with him and he was very nice to me.
In this instance though, about this thing, this “don‘t worry about the oil, it‘s not poisonous” thing, I guess I will just contribute that, anecdotally, I experienced a couple of hours of feeling flat out drunk in a bad way today after not that much time out on the water amid this oil that is headed toward Haley Barbour‘s home state of Mississippi. Nausea, pretty intense dizziness, the whole nine yards that lasted for couple of hours.
Less you believe I‘m being a psychosomatic hippie about all of this, always a possibility, consider that poison control centers say that they‘ve received dozens of calls already from people who say they feel sick because of exposure to the oil.
President Obama addressed some toxicity concerns at this press conference today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: People who are on-site involved in cleanup, they have to be mindful of the fact that we‘re dealing with toxins here. This could be—this could make people very sick if they‘re not careful. They‘ve got to get the appropriate training. They need the appropriate equipment. If they get sick, we now have health centers that are stationed at each of these points.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We have been trying to explain and understand the impact of this oil disaster on flora and fauna all over the Gulf Coast. It is never a good sign when you have to think about humans this way, but you know, we‘re fauna, too.
Joining us now is Riki Ott, a community activist and a former commercial salmon fisherman who has a degree in marine toxicology. Riki is also author of the book, “Not One Drop: Promises, Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.”
Riki Ott, thank you so much for joining us tonight. It‘s good to have you on the show.
RIKI OTT, MARINE TOXICOLOGIST: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, obviously, this is an environmental disaster. It is an economic disaster. Are you worried that it is or it might become a public health disaster as well?
OTT: I am down here specifically to try to prevent it from becoming a human health tragedy, which is the next step. What I‘m seeing is the buildup to exactly what happened in Alaska.
MADDOW: What did you learn from the Exxon Valdez disaster about the short-term effects of exposure to oil and the long-term health effects? What should people down here consider to be the lessons learned from the Valdez?
OTT: Hard hats are not enough on the workers. People need respirators. This is—oil spill response is considered a hazardous waste operation. These are incredibly toxic chemicals, the oil in and of itself.
The Louisiana crude has a lot higher proportion of light ends, the amount of oil that evaporates into the air and dissolves into the water column. This is incredibly hot stuff for people to be breathing and it‘s not just the workers out on the cleanup.
In the communities, they‘re considered bad air days—the days when the air smells like oil. And people are getting the same symptoms as the workers, only to a little bit lesser degree: headaches, nausea, sore throats, stuffy sinuses. This is all classic hallmark symptoms of overexposure to basically crude oil—central nervous system problems, respiratory problems.
MADDOW: What are the long-term effects of that kind of exposure? Obviously, the size of the dose of the exposure makes a big difference in terms of how your system copes with it. But people who are experiencing systems like that right now, people who are more worried about exposure like that, what do they need to think about in terms of the long-term risks?
OTT: It‘s actually dose plus host makes the poison. And so, what we see offshore, you know, people who are—have respiratory problems already might be a little bit more sensitive. What people need to think is respirators.
Onshore, in these communities, they need to be thinking the same thing. If they‘re going outside on bad air days—I mean, we need to be serious here. Respirators—I‘m also actually taking myself nutritional supplements for—to build up my immune system, respiratory system and sinus.
MADDOW: Let me just get your reaction also briefly from the clip of the president that we just played about the risk to people who are involved closely with the oil. Do you feel like people who are working in the cleanup effort and the people, as you say, who live in areas where oil has come ashore, do you feel like people are getting any of the right information, any of the right protection? Has there been enough communication about these risks, and what should they—what do you think the government should be doing?
OTT: Definitely not yet. The information has not been communicated yet to the people. People are being told in Louisiana—oh, if it smells bad, go inside, turn—close the windows, turn on the air-conditioning.
Well, potentially, this is going to last all summer. People can‘t stay inside all summer. People need to understand that these cold and flu-like symptoms that they‘re getting, you know, they look kind of benign. A headache, sore throat, maybe that‘s all it is.
Actually, it could be chemical poisoning. This requires specialty doctors—doctors who are trained in occupational and environmental medicine. This is not like your regular traditional doctors. And the hospital should be working up a data set of all this.
And the hospitals should be warning people, you know, if this sore throat persists on days when you smell oil in particular, come on in, let‘s check you out. Long enough, if people are misdiagnosed, people could wind up like they did Exxon Valdez. I am still dealing with workers who are 100 percent disabled now.
These acute symptoms can manifest into some very nasty systemic type illnesses. Immune suppression, chronic respiratory problems, brain fogs and dizziness, and also a whole smattering of organ failures like liver, kidney, even blood disorders. So, this is pretty serious stuff.
MADDOW: Riki Ott, activist, author and marine toxicologist—thank you so much for joining us this evening. It‘s good to have your insight and your expertise. Appreciate it.
OTT: You‘re welcome, Rachel.
MADDOW: Today, I took a trip to an amazing place called Queen Bess Island. My new friend Robert who took me over there told me they call it Queen Bess Island but nobody I know has seen a queen there. We‘ve only seen birds there. So we call it “Bird Island.” Then he said, “Well, you can call it Queen Bess Island.”
And that is—in a nutshell is, you know, the joy of not being a local, right? That‘s coming up next.
MADDOW: Just a couple hours ago, I was out there on the water. I wasn‘t out for long, but by the time I got back here, I was surprised to find I was really light-headed and kind of nauseated from the fumes of being out on the water with that much oil in it.
Let me show you why I went out there today and what I saw.
MADDOW: The smell out here is so strong right now. You—I mean, I don‘t know anything about toxicity levels and air quality and this kind of stuff, but if I were in a place on land where it smelled this strong, I would—my instinct would be to get away and get to fresh air. When you‘re out on this much open water and this isn‘t fresh air, it‘s claustrophobic and scary.
We‘re in Barataria Pass. Right there is Fort Livingston. That marks essentially the start of the Gulf. That‘s where we get out to the Gulf.
And right now, you can see we‘re in a mess of oil. All of these little globs, these little dark brown globs, smaller than the globs we saw yesterday but much more widespread. These aren‘t individual pieces. This is—we‘re in a whole lot of sheen and in an area where the oil is just coagulating a lot of different pieces of it.
There‘s a lot of action here right now. You can see some of that heavy duty Coast Guard boom out behind us. That‘s the boom that inspires more confidence than the other boom that we‘ve seen. You see some efforts where there are teams trying to contain oil on the surface and have somebody come pump it up, but it‘s a mess right here where we are.
The one thing we can‘t confer to you out here because you can thank your cable company we don‘t have smelli-vision yet, but it smells like a gas station on a very, very bad day.
I have a story to tell you about Queen Bess Island. Queen Bess Island is a barrier island.
Louisiana over the past century has lost about 40 percent of its barrier islands. When I say lost, I mean they became open water. They sunk into the Gulf. They sunk into the sea.
And the reason that happened, mostly it‘s manmade. It‘s decisions that we made about oil and gas production. It‘s decisions that we made about shipping levees, canals.
And Queen Bess Island, by the 1980s, parts of it were sinking up to a foot over the course of a decade. Queen Bess Island in the 1950s had been 45 acres. That shrunk down to 17 acres by 1989. And about that time, people started to freak out. And reason people started to freak out is because Queen Bess Island is where the brown pelicans were being born.
Brown pelican is the state bird of Louisiana. Louisiana had the—what‘s the opposite of honor, in the 1960s of having its state bird essentially go extinct in this state. And they were trying to bring it back.
And Queen Bess Island is where the brown pelicans were finally nesting again and raising their young. And so, in 1989 when it became clear that water was over-washing Queen Bess Island, that this island might go away, when it‘s sinking a foot per decade, when all the vegetation on the island is going away and therefore making it erode more because the water was just washing over it, everybody freaked out.
And thanks to the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, that brought on a full scale effort to save Queen Bess Island. They built a long—a dike out of sea shells that went right of the side of the island in order to try to keep it from shrinking. They built up of what used to be the natural ridgelines of the island.
They piled up earth there and planted it so that the island would have more of a foothold. They dump a huge amount of dredge material from this bay on to this island to try to save it. It was really a full court press.
And you know what? Pelicans came back. And pelicans have been nesting here, this supports hundreds of pairs of pelicans and the brown pelican is back. It‘s no longer extinct. And this island is a big reason why, and it took a lot of effort to get it to be saved.
They put 30,000 tons of rock around the perimeter of this island to try to save it and thereby to save Louisiana‘s state bird.
Queen Bess Island has been a great success story and here‘s Queen Bess Island now.
The Transocean Deepwater Horizon folks put out a press release I got in my email inbox first thing when I woke up today talking about how many teams of people they have out here washing the dozens and dozens and dozens of brown pelicans that have been oiled because of the oil that came ashore here. And you see that they‘ve got a big effort here now with these barrier booms to try to keep it from getting worse—but all that effort to save all these birds.
MADDOW: So we were driving around Grand Isle today, and in between shooting full TV pieces and while we were setting up interviews and getting really good lunch and negotiating with co-captains and stuff, we saw a lot of interesting stuff.
The president was in town today, so for one thing, we saw a lot more protest signs around town today. There‘s been some but there was a lot more today. Some of them were anti-government; most of them, the vast majority of them were anti-BP.
This is the most elaborate one that we saw. This is right off the Highway 1, the main road that runs the length of the island. You can see somebody built sort of a mock graveyard. Each of these crosses labeled with something of the people who built this here on Grand Isle, feel has been taken away from them by the BP oil disaster, things like the beach, and fishing and of the pelican.
I can tell you, we just shot this without a real crew. We just shot on this little flip cam as we were driving around today.
It‘s one of the things I want to show you from today‘s TRMS flip cam library. This is a split screen there. And on the left is the video we shot yesterday at the beach at Grand Isle State Park with a very fancy, very skilled NBC News camera crew. On the right is video we shot today with our lame little flip cam of the very same stretch of beach.
Yesterday, we are seeing these giant tar globs all over the beach—at least they seemed giant yesterday. Today it was not a beachful of tar globs, it was just a beachful of tar, just a sea of tar on the same beach.
Things change a lot during a disaster like this. There are ups and downs.
But here, it feels like things are getting worse. Here on land, among the people where the oil is ashore and the seas are fouled, things are getting worse. Some people here, though, are definitely trying to make the most of it in a way that really makes you love them.
We‘ve got more on that—still ahead.
MADDOW: So, being down here in the middle of this ongoing disaster has been a little intense. There‘s a lot to cover, a lot that is upsetting, but there is one thing from the news today that is not from down here and that is not at all intense and that makes me very happy even though it probably shouldn‘t.
You know how newspapers print the TV listings of what‘s on when in your area? Here‘s the listing in “The Washington Post” today for the televised coverage of the National Spelling Bee, or rather the “Naitonal Spelling Bee” or something. I love it. Behold and rejoice, America. Spell check has not taken over the world. We are still a free people.
MADDOW: The governors of Louisiana and Florida and Alabama all sat down with the president today on his trip to the Gulf. But Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was not there.
And on this show, when we want to know more about what‘s going on with a politician and why, we turn to Kent Jones and TMI.
KENT JONES, TMI CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has had a, let‘s say, unique perspective on what‘s been happening in the Gulf.
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: You come on down here and play golf and enjoy the beach, catch a fish and pay a little sales tax while you‘re here.
JONES (voice-over): Tired of all the doom and gloom surrounding the oil spill? Wouldn‘t it be nice if someone were a little more upbeat?
BARBOUR: There‘s not certainty here that this is Armageddon, that something terrible is going to happen. We may have—as the secretary says—we may be hit by sheen, which is negative impact, but not a great big impact—certainly not a catastrophe. People need to understand, don‘t be frantic.
JONES: Mississippi‘s Republican governor, Haley Barbour, looks at the BP oil disaster looming off the coast of his own state and sees not devastating corporate malfeasance, but an accident. It‘s not Armageddon, it‘s a sheen.
BARBOUR: The news coverage is killing our tourist business. Everybody thinks that the Gulf Coast all the way around is ankle deep in oil. Well, of course, it‘s not.
JONES: Why does the media have to be such a Debbie Downer? It‘s just oil.
Here‘s how Governor Barbour described the toxic sludge in the Gulf:
“Weathered, emulsified, caramel-colored mousse, like the food mousse. Once it gets to this stage, it‘s not poisonous. But if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it. But if you got enough toothpaste on you, you couldn‘t breathe.”
Yes, smothering in toothpaste is a major concern right now, but such are the mental gymnastics of 62-year-old Haley Reeves Barbour, a Republican insider‘s insider.
Look how his career started. He skipped the first semester of his senior year at Ole Miss to work on Richard Nixon‘s 1968 election campaign. Barbour quickly worked his way up the conservative food chain as a heavy hitting lawyer and lobbyist, and served as chairman of the Republican National Committee during the glorious Newt Gingrich revolution year of 1994 -- which gave us such luminaries as John Ensign, Mark Sanford and bob Ney.
While Barbour was RNC chairman, oil and coal companies donated more than $30 million to Republicans, nearly three times the amount given to Democrats. Oil and gas and utility industries were also a major contributor to Barbour‘s Mississippi gubernatorial campaigns, to the tune of $1.8 million.
So, when something like a disastrous oil spill comes along, who‘s going to fight to keep the giant oil company accountable? Governor Haley Barbour? Really?
He told the Mississippi Manufacturer‘s Association, quote, “A bunch of liberal elites were hoping this would be the Three Mile Island of offshore drilling.” As if. In Barbour‘s world, not only does America need to keep drilling now, we need to drill in shallower waters.
BARBOUR: I think the secretary‘s moratorium last week on shallow water drilling was absolutely uncalled for. And I hope it‘s been lifted.
JONES: Yes, what could possibly go wrong. And if it does, well, it‘s not like it‘s bad, right?
After all, Barbour thought the current spill was only as bad as the gas sheen commonly found around ski boats. Quote, “We don‘t wash our face in it, but it doesn‘t stop us from jumping off the boat to ski.”
Keep skiing, Governor, but whatever you do, don‘t look down.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. TMI indeed.
JONES: Sure thing.
MADDOW: Still ahead: my new favorite drink, the tar ball—don‘t knock it until you‘ve tried it.
Plus, the city of New Orleans, the real city of New Orleans responds to our offer to give them new Web addresses.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: So, like any workday, I‘m at a bar. This is the Dock of the Bay bar at Sand Dollar Marina here in Grand Isle, Louisiana. I‘m here with Jamie (ph) and Terry (ph), who are the proprietors here, and who have been very kind to us already.
Hi, you guys. Good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, thanks.
MADDOW: So, on a typical Friday in early June, who would you guys be serving? Who would be your customer base here? Who would you guys be hanging out with?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fishermen. And tourists.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Camp owners, really.
MADDOW: What‘s your busiest season?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s here, now. Right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should have had plenty of rodeos this month and they‘re canceled.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lots of boats out here, people passing with wheelbarrows of fish, going to cleaning dock. Sitting down, having a cocktail in between, cleaning their fish, you know?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Charter fishermen bringing their customers here to have a cocktail, you know? They clean their fish, and come to get them and bring them all ice down.
MADDOW: That sounds like heaven.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see the same people every year over and over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MADDOW: So, it‘s been like 46 days now since that rig blew up. How long has business been bad—almost since that happened or, since the tar balls started coming up here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right when it happened would have been starting our prime-time. So, we want to say that we‘re really sorry that 11 people died.
MADDOW: Yes, I know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That‘s how it all started. Everybody has to remember that.
I know that the only people who are here now are not pushing wheel barrows of fish and it is not happy charter customers excited they just came back with the giant (INAUDIBLE) or something, but are the media people drinking, are the workers, or anybody else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The media doesn‘t drink, you know, as you‘re working. The guys are working, so they can‘t drink until after 6:00. Around 7:00, after they take their showers, they come have a few cocktails, but, you know, they leave early. They‘ve got to work the next day, you know?
Well, I know you‘ve made the best you can of this lousy situation by inventing the tar ball shot, now nationally famous. Can you tell me what‘s in it? Can you make one? Or can you show me how to make it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take a cup and half of hot, hot water.
MADDOW: OK. The mystery ingredient.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A pack and a half of Jell-O.
MADDOW: Grape Jell-O. Did you pick grape Jell-O because of the flavor or because of the color?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of the color.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we tried cherry and we were going to call it transmission fluid, but it didn‘t taste very well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then you‘re going to take your four shots of Jagermeister.
MADDOW: So, how much water was that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A cup and a half. Very hot water. This is hot water.
MADDOW: OK. And then—oh, yes, and then a couple packets of grape Jell-O.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A pack and a half of grape Jell-O.
MADDOW: Four ounces of jager.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four ounces of jager and you put it in these shot glasses.
MADDOW: Remember it‘s hot because you got to have the hot water to dissolve the Jell-O there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MADDOW: OK. That‘s almost the exalt color of the tar that‘s out there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And once you cap them, put them in room temperature water.
MADDOW: OK. So you get the little caps on them. These individual shots—these hold an ounce, ounce and a half?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An ounce.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One ounce.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It‘s got to stay there approximately five minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we freeze them a while.
MADDOW: So, this is like a cooking show. Here‘s some we prepared earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rachel would be proud. The other Rachel would be proud.
MADDOW: Oh, another Rachel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I know another Rachel. And this is the final—
MADDOW: This is in the freezer—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freezer for one hour, then refrigerator, until it‘s consumed.
MADDOW: Because you want it to be Jell-O consistency.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only way to Jell-O it and open it up.
MADDOW: You know, in all of my alcohol enthusiasm in life, I‘ve never had a Jell-O shot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it looks like our beach right now.
MADDOW: Totally, this is exactly what the tar balls look like. This smells a lot better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MADDOW: It‘s sort of like—the great thing about Jagermeister is like—it‘s a cross between happiness and sickness, because it reminds you of cough syrup, you know, but in a good way. Am I allowed to drink this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You‘re allowed, I guess.
MADDOW: I‘m going to drink. Where‘s my boss?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. He‘s gone.
MADDOW: I suck it up. Spectacular. Spectacular. You guys are making the most—how much do you sell these for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two dollars.
MADDOW: All right. I promise I‘ll give you a good tip. Whoo! All right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MADDOW: You guys—it‘s been—it‘s been great to meet you and I‘m happy to hear that you‘ve been busy, at least late at night. Let me ask you before I go, I know you guys have been here for a long time, what do you think is going to happen in the long run here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can‘t tell you what‘s going to happen. They just need to plug the hole and deal with it after that, because there‘s no saying what‘s going to happen. I‘m sure our fish is going to be gone for a few years, and I‘ll miss that, because I love to fish, too. And I‘ll miss all my customers.
MADDOW: Yes. Do you think if they get it plugged and they get it cleaned up as best as humanly possible, do you think the fish will go away in the short-term and come back in the long-term?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m hoping. I‘m hoping.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they have somewhere to go. If they plug it, they might have somewhere to go. If they don‘t plug it until August, they won‘t have nowhere to go.
MADDOW: Yes. Jamie and Terry, you guys are awesome and you‘ve been really kind. Thank you, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MADDOW: One last thing before we go, an update. On Wednesday night, we noted that the truly great city of New Orleans has a really nice and apparently very useful Web site with a really, really wrong web address, because cityofno.com reads like cityofno.com. If ever there were a URL that was plain wrong, that‘s the one. City of New Orleans being a “city of no,” come on!
So, as a token of our genuine feeling for New Orleans, we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW acquired cityofyes.us and cityofhellno.com. We offered them both to the city of N.O. with our compliments.
Tonight, we have a response. Mayor Mitchell Landrieu‘s office has issued this statement, quote, “Everyone who knows and loves New Orleans knows that the CityofNo.com is not a fitting web address for our town. We thank you Rachel Maddow for her kind offer to give us the domains, cityofyes.us and cityofhellno.com. We only wish she would have bought cityofheckyeah.com or eatmoreoysters.com, or getyouroilofourcoast.com, and we might have taken her up on her generous offer.
In all seriousness since taking office 33 days ago, the mayor‘s team has been working to redevelop the city‘s Web site and acquire neworleans.gov. We look forward to launching a new site in the near future.”
Awesome. I‘m sorry we didn‘t actually think of cityofheckyeah in the first place. But tonight, we did acquire both cityofheckyeah.com and getyouroiloffourcoast.com. And we had made them already redirect right to city of New Orleans‘ Web site. We are in the process of redirecting cityofyes.us and cityofhellno.com there as well.
Now, as for eatmoreoysters.com, that is already the property of a Louisiana Oyster Company. So, good luck to them, sincerely. And I promise you, guys, we will not steal your Web site.
I also personally want to say thanks again both to the people of New Orleans and to the people of Grand Isle and to the people of Venice, Louisiana, for being exactly who you are and for being so kind to us on this reporting trip.
We are heading home for the moment, but will be thinking about you while we‘re gone and we sure hope to be back here reporting on how much better this situation has unexpectedly become sometime soon.
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