State governments fed up with federal response and BP efforts… call on Timmy from Any Town, USA to share results of sandbox experiments


I’ve had enough of this Gulf of Mexico oil fiasco.

Now let’s make something clear right from the start… I’m not linking you to the stories. Go ahead and do that work yourself. Instead, I’m here to simply be ticked off by the entire picture.

We’re weeks removed from the start of this comic nightmare. Five weeks to be specific. The tragic beginnings have faded into the background, and for many people simply hearing the letters “BP” uttered together is enough to make them reach for the remote. Many news sites have moved the issue deep into the national news sections. In other words… an amazing event, and we’ve become numb to it. Can’t feel it any more… don’t want to know about it any more… and it’s been shuffled along to the inner pages of our attention. We know it’s there, but… for you and for me, so to speak… the dogs need to eat, there’s e-mail to answer, I haven’t called my sisters recently and I really should, the Red Sox are playing the Rays and there are more important things on the plate right now. Every day events have regained their stature.

I’ve remained out the picture on this one so far. And I’ll tell you why… because I can’t even begin to imagine what is going on along the Gulf coast right now. It’s one thing to develop an opinion on something… it’s another to share it and be willing to deal with the consequences.

I’m sure if I went over seven years of In My Backpack material… both currently posted and hidden in the archives… I’d find lots of stuff where I ended up being wrong, and plenty of material concerning issues that I currently feel differently about then I did when I wrote them originally. I’ve even put things here on the web site that may not have been as thoroughly researched as they could have been. And yet I’ll stand behind those moments, and take criticism when it comes, because they are my opinion.

For example… I’ve often heard Curt Schilling talk about people that criticize professional athletes from the comfort of their living room and how those views can be uninformed and misguided. He’s right. I don’t know who Theo Epstein might be on the phone with… I don’t know the tensions of the clubhouse… I don’t know what it’s like to try and deliver on the field with thousands of people watching and a world-class talent opposing you. Still, I do believe that I have a decent amount of knowledge when it comes to sports. And I have my opinions on certain subjects. And I’m willing to take my lumps for saying dumb things… provided you understand when I’m smiling because I got something right.

Trick is… most of the issues when I talk like that are not life and death issues. And I often don’t try to dive into the depths of an issue when I don’t have the knowledge, skills or resources to do so.

How the pelicans and fishermen are dealing with an oil spill beyond massive proportions? That’s a bit hard for me to do. Serious situation… not a baseball season… little room for comedy… and up here in New England the impact hasn’t quite been felt yet.

This morning though, I heard news that pushed me over the edge.

See… there actually has been plenty of comedy in this thing… there is now plenty of room for uneducated opinion. And it’s finally time to comment on it.

Why? Well…

Mud and cement? That’s what we’ve reached on the list of plans?

I watched an interview on NBC this morning (Today show, with one of the Louisiana parish presidents as I recall.) And the guy was asked if people were more mad at the US government or BP. And he said people were mad at both. Then he pointed out how instead of doing anything, the government and BP seemed more interested in blaming each other.

Now… let me offer a fun review and see if we can all agree on the following three concepts being discussed or acted upon as options in this situation.

Number one ~ The dome. The first thing attempted was to build a cap… a dome… an upside-down bowl… a cover to put over the leak.

Number two ~ The rubber hose. As suggestion lines were filled and the blame-game continued, the next item on the list making its way toward being tried was to stick a pipe of some sort into the broken, leaking pipe and use that to suck the oil up.

Number three ~ Bury the sucker. This was the suggestion I heard today, with them talking about we had now arrived at firing mud and cement at the leak.

Can we all agree that those are, with some other ideas and activities and finger-pointing taking place along the way, three solutions we’ve seen discussed and/or attempted for working on the leak?

Good… so we’re in agreement. An idea more reflective of The Simpsons Movie and Steven King’s The Dome than an oil spill… a stick-a-straw-in-it approach a kid might try in a restaurant with some applesauce… and a solution of plugging the pipe and then just piling crap on top while hoping the leak doesn’t eventually force its way free.

Is that about it?

If it is than I have to tell you… I am amazingly disappointed. Because those ideas are just… well…


Seriously… stick a pipe into the pipe and suck up the oil? Christ, there are more steps to follow when cleaning up a broken CFL bulb so you properly handle the disposal of mercury.

Think I’m being funny? Ok…

Check out the Wikipedia page for an Oil Platform. Sure… Wikipedia is the example site to use for all things pretty well described but not entirely accurate. Got it. But it is a decent place to get a really good feeling about a subject. And when it comes to drilling for oil out at sea, this is fine.

Did you notice that some of these things drill 4,000… 5,000… 7,000 or more feet?

How about that these things are essentially cities on their own… providing food, housing, and electricity for those working on it?

Would you believe the volume capacity some of these units have for storing oil until it can be transferred?

What I’m getting at is that this is incredibly dirty, amazingly dangerous work on pretty intricate structures.

And a solution for fixing a problem when using such a structure is to stick a straw into the hole.

Now do you see where I’m headed in my questioning?

The fact remains… and here’s here we go back to that parish president on Today this morning… nobody in charge seems to be prioritizing any actions about the damn oil! There’s no sense of urgency about it.

Oh the government is discussing sanctions. You know… fines and loss of future contracts and all sorts of stuff to punish BP.

And BP is working on its public relations machine, while trying to cap fiscal responsibility they’ll have in this mess.

And every so often the news bulletin comes across that we’ve moved along to “Plan J” for fixing the leak, but it’s still a few days away from actually being tried.

If it’s tried at all.

And we shouldn’t hold our breath, because this leak is down at the bottom of the sea… and that’s really, really deep… and this is hard.

Now we reach the point where I have to step aside.

See… I can only point out the absurdity in all of this. I can’t tell you about implementing clean up efforts and responsibility and action plans and any of the stuff that should have been done, can be done or will be done.

Every day I see members of the American government, or politically motivated speakers and talk show hosts, talking about who is responsible, who will be held accountable, or why we should or shouldn’t continue to drill…

Every day I see BP looking, for lack of a better description, like they’re stalling for more time…

Some place out in Any Town, there is a little boy. We’ll say his name is Timmy.

Timmy is playing in his sandbox with some toy cars and a few things he took from the kitchen that his mom doesn’t know are missing. Timmy is preparing for some excitement to end the adventure. He goes over to get the hose, and places it at the edge of a dam he made. He turns on the water and floods the town.

As he gets wet and muddy, while the water races around the canals and rivers and paths he’s made in the sand box, he starts covering sections with mixing bowls… or diverting streams through funnels… or maybe he just starts mixing the mud around and throwing it into the puddles.

The absurdity of all this is that a five-year old boy in a sandbox is absent-mindedly playing with versions of the solutions being implemented. Considering the repercussions… remember, five weeks worth of flowing oil are still heading to the shores… it shouldn’t be a child’s play solution. While I may not be able to connect all the dots here, I can tell you that there is something very wrong with this picture.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at