Gulf oil spill

Of all the news that’s been reported so far this week, perhaps the most interesting story has been that of the alleged Russian spy ring that was busted.

In case you haven’t already heard this story worthy of a Cold War thriller, 11 alleged Russian secret agents were recently arrested, and they were living among us. Well, not literally among us here in La Salle County, but in average neighborhoods in suburbs throughout the United States.

This news got me thinking about what these alleged spies might have learned from their time infiltrating “real America” instead of some government agency.

Based solely on what’s been in the news lately, here are some of the things those “spies like us” might have learned – or think they learned – about America:

We curse a lot – and they wouldn’t have to listen to the Blagojevich trial recordings to find that out. All they would have to do is interact with us.

Same goes for the results of a new study showing Illinoisans – and Americans in general – are fatter than ever. Thanks for confirming the obvious, study researchers. The spies could’ve just looked at us to figure that one out.

Of course, the spies surely learned that we are upset with BP – and probably secretly rooted on the Gulf oil disaster. They might have even gone out of their way to fill up their gas tanks at a BP gas station.

And while they might not have understood it, the spies certainly were exposed to our society’s obsession with celebrities. Though something tells me people from other countries understand the celebrity obsession more than they want to admit. They just make celebrities out of different kinds of people.

Speaking of which, did you hear Megan Fox married Brian Austin Green in a secret Hawaiian ceremony? You know the spies did, even if they were in jail by then. From what I understand, those holding cells have televisions. So now I’m thinking they’re thinking Hawaii is a hotbed for secrets, since the island state is also hiding Barack Obama’s secret birth certificate from another country, right?

(Hold the hate mail, please – that was a joke.)

Probably of much interest to the Russians was the relationship between our political figures and their constituents. I’m sure they love the discontent breeding in the tea parties and the seemingly nonstop arguing and finger pointing between Democrats and Republicans.

Well, that came to a brief halt with the changing of command in Afghanistan. The spies probably wringed their hands with glee as Gen. Stanley McChrystal and some of his aides were quoted in “Rolling Stone” making derogatory comments about members of the Obama administration. But that mood had to change almost immediately after Obama said he wants Gen. David Petraeus to replace McChrystal. The Petraeus pick has been almost universally lauded by politicians of both major political parties.

Who would’ve thought that war could bring the two sides together? May that be the last thing those spies learned about us.

Fortunately they were arrested before the “Twilight” craze was renewed. If they hadn’t been, our collective reputation surely would’ve been shot.

This column was also published in today’s edition of Ottawa Delivered.


My column from the June 17 issue of Ottawa Delivered:

As tempting as it has been to pick the low-hanging fruit and write a column blasting the ineptitude of BP, I thus far have resisted.

But after hearing about those Louisiana walruses and Gulf Coast seals Tuesday morning, I no longer can help myself.

In case you haven’t heard, the oil spill response plans of BP, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil apparently are eerily similar – right down to including how they would deal with the wildlife that might be affected by an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including seals, sea lions, sea otters and walruses.

Goo goo g’joob. Which, in this case, roughly translates to, “Good God, you boobs!”

Too harsh? I don’t think so. Actually, I’d like to extend the insult to whatever federal officials allowed such emergency contingency plans to be filed. None of those animals can be found anywhere near the Gulf of Mexico, which means whoever created those plans didn’t pay much attention to detail. And if they didn’t pay much attention to detail … well, you get the idea. We get an oil spill situation that worsens exponentially by the day.

But don’t you worry, BP has a solid plan for dealing with the media after a disaster. According to ABC News, BP’s oil spill response plan has 40 pages devoted to dealing with the media, but only nine pages are dedicated to how the company would actually clean up an oil spill.

In other words, BP was four times more prepared to deal with the media than the actual oil spill itself. That would explain why the oil company continually stumbled while searching for a way to effectively deal with the oil spill, yet was more than ready to spend $70 million on advertisements promoting tourism in the Gulf states negatively affected by the oil spill. BP had a CYA plan ready to go on day one.

Meanwhile, back in the bayou, the oil menace continues to grow worse. Louisiana’s biologically diverse wetlands system is in peril, with the oil spill looming like a waterbound version of a dark thunderstorm cloud hanging overhead. And it’s even worse for the commercial fishermen and other people whose livings depend on the Gulf not being irreparably ruined by oil. Those people are out of jobs and can only watch helplessly as their livelihoods are dealt continual blows.

And the danger is about to get a lot worse as hurricane season begins. Imagine a powerful hurricane flinging all that oil all over the Gulf states. I imagine the potential poisoning of air and drinking water is a more troublesome worry than any physical damage that could take place.

These are the things that must be kept in mind by President Obama, the oil executives and everyone else involved in the cleanup efforts. These are the reasons why the American people are anxious to see this problem fixed.

Right now, we don’t care whose fault it is as much as we just want the problem solved.