Gov. Barbour Failed Mississippi in Preparing for Oil Spill

haley-barbour.jpgAfter he flew over the Mississippi Sound on Friday, Gov. Haley Barbour (R) complained about the lack of resources available to assist the cleanup effort.
It’s been clear before we got this intrusion of oil on us from watching the oil in other states, that we don’t have enough capacity.
Gov. Barbour has watched nearby states desperately trying to fight off the oil for a little more than two months, stubbornly insisting against all the evidence that Mississippi had nothing to worry about. Now that the oil is here, he has the nerve to complain about not having sufficient resources.

It is becoming clear that Gov. Barbour is playing politics with the oil spill. He has evidently made a strategic calculation that he can help himself politically by making sure that Mississippi would be hopelessly unprepared for the oil everyone knew was coming so that he could then turn around and blame the federal government for responding inadequately. This is a failure of leadership.

The problem for Barbour is that our memories are not that short. We have seen him repeatedly saying that Mississippi's coast would be unaffected and minimizing the danger of the spill. Any lack of preparation or resources is largely his fault. That he would attempt to escape responsibility to score political points is disgusting.

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BP Oil Spill; Biloxi MS

Biloxi MS
June 24, 2010

0530 hours

Nearly five years after our family offered The Humanist the chronicle of our experiences on the Mississippi Gulf Coast before, during and after hurricane Katrina as it took thousands of lives and devastated our community in an eviscerating dual attack of wind and water, I find myself again awake before the sun in our reconstructed den staring at a new computer screen depicting a satellite view of the Gulf of Mexico.

In my heart is the same mesmerized warning and ominous foreboding.

But, instead of an enormous ripping saw blade of direct destruction bearing down from the sky above, we now find ourselves in the path of a monstrous morass spreading its poisoned tendrils of decay and corruption from below.

Tortuous in its slow, methodical and wicked current emanating from a deep wound in the earth, this new death dealer of unbound spewing toxic oil would certainly not be finished with us in a day or two so that we could then have a reprieve to pick ourselves up, find our injured, bury our dead and rebuild.

Not this time, no matter the number of desperately pious proclamations from prayerful politicians offered to the wrathful gods of man to comfort the constituent flock who they probably assume can do little else. Besides, who would ever have the unmitigated gall to be critical of or assert that the fault for this disaster is firmly established in those god-fearing and humble servants of the Lord with dominion over the earth who wear nice suits, American flag lapel pins and who say that they dearly love Jesus like all real American men?

Meanwhile, in the real world of physical evidence, cause and effect, the dark plumes on the satellite imagery now bore map trajectories of the oil nearing our Biloxi shores within days. Combine this empirical fact with the knowledge that we are past the summer solstice and within the weather pattern of tropical storms (and worse) speaks volumes regarding the very real potential for this disaster to grow exponentially.

I sip my coffee, look around the shadowy room and become awash with déjà vu as my wife loads up the clipboard, paper, camera, cell phone and other supplies into her backpack, a wildlife and coast watcher volunteer badge clipped to her waist.

As she heads for the front door I pause to recognize something long forgotten. This is the same door that led us into the apocalypse of Katrina as powerful winds tore away the walls of our home around us.

I quietly ponder what world we would now be entering as we exited through this sturdy gateway for the Biloxi shoreline.

This morning was much calmer than yesterday's showers and churning breakers. Today the water was like a looking glass darkly mirroring the sky from the horizon. As we start walking west along the water line everything seemed normal in our encompassing silent reverie. We didn't make it far along the shore, though, before we began to detect the strong and familiar smell of death and decay. Looking around, we spotted what looked like a towel up on top of the sand berm and almost thought nothing of it until I went to take a closer look in the low light of early morning.

When I slowly began to discern the twisted feathery wing of a large bird, my heart sank. Once we got a closer look, it was obviously the decomposing body of a brown pelican.

In that quiet moment as we began to document the death, I began to recall my many experiences with these symbolic birds of our entire Gulf Coast.

In the 1980s, while taking what was basically a randomly selected elective college course, I unexpectedly found myself becoming deeply involved in a project that was much larger than striving for a vocational certificate or credit to fulfill a degree. Soon I was outside of the box of conventional rote education and traveling the coast and waterways to study the life cycle and real threats to our endangered brown pelican species.

To me, they are still the monitor that beckons us to recognize the condition of our natural world and our place within it as human beings.

A couple of decades later, the brown pelicans made a thriving return and, I’m personally proud to say, were removed from the endangered species list thanks to the intervention and proactive efforts of the same beings who threatened them in the first place.

That said, the deeper lesson learned from the plight of the pelicans is simple and can be applied to our human condition in every circumstance: It can be done.

But all of us have to be personally culpable and we must put all of the energy of our fine humanistic principles, morals and ethics into action and actually do it. They have been tested by experience and shown to produce the results we aspire to achieve in very real terms.

In moments like these it is completely impossible not to think about how to start putting things right again in spite of the enormity of the task.

But where do we start?

There is no real need for public outreach, education and awareness about the cause of this disaster. The irresponsibility of leaders, ambiguous and unapplied statutes, errant regulators and the egregious malice that comes from the greed of corporate market immorality bypassing our own human survival for the profit of shareholders is well known and on a global scale.

Some may choose to wait in the gallows of their own homes with their hands closed in the purported comfort of intercessory prayer as our very ancestral traditions, thriving sea life, cultural identity, pristine symbols and the very ecosystem that sustains us is choked off in toxic muck and assassinated before our very eyes.

In my continued view, however, our real hope still resides in the awareness that we, as a human family and community of people with assorted skills and life experiences can help through our participatory humane ideals, morals and inherent empathy.

We do so by caring for, cleaning and healing the survivors, by supporting volunteer efforts and by documenting the level of suffering for our future generations.

Most importantly, we can start to put thing right again by unifying our voices and demanding that the many obvious lessons are learned by those responsible for every single life destroyed, every mistake made and every intentional failure to expend the effort to take simple precautions to prevent such a calamity, and that they are identified and held accountable without ambiguity or subjective deniability.

So, this is where it all matters again my friends, at the nexus of the unfathomable and the profane with the power of our human family responsible for whatever will be the outcome.

We know where our hearts are drawn and we know many more of you will join us again in this task and that we will be in good company.

Steve Schlicht
Biloxi MS
[email protected]
The Great Southern Humanist Society

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My Letter to Gov. Barbour on the Prayer Proclamation

This was my letter to Gov. Barbour about the prayer proclamation:

Dear Gov. Barbour:

I was disappointed to hear that you have designated June 27 as a Day of Prayer for the Mississippi Gulf Coast and other areas affected by the oil spill. As a public official, encouraging Mississippians to pray is a misuse of your office. The government is not supposed to be in the business of promoting religion.

Prayer seems to be what many politicians fall back on when they are not interested in providing leadership. I would hope that you would support meaningful action rather than useless superstition. It would be great to see you taking responsibility and attempting to help the people of our state.

This is a serious environmental disaster, and Mississippians are looking to you for leadership. Instead of prayer, please consider informing the people of our state that you will do everything in your power to prevent such disasters from recurring. Our precious coastal areas must be protected from reckless and poorly regulated drilling.

Oppose Gov. Barbour's Prayer Proclamation

Despite the stubborn insistence by Gov. Barbour that the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history is no big deal, he has designated June 27 as a Day of Prayer and is calling on Mississippians to pray for the coast. Right, since it worked so well when Louisiana did it.

In the aftermath of Louisiana's ineffective prayerfest, Annie Laurie Gaylor (Freedom From Religion Foundation) issued a statement, "Nothing fails like prayer in the Gulf of Mexico," in which she noted that it is unconstitutional for government officials to call on citizens to pray.
Prayer is what politicians fall back on when they don't want to offer true leadership. Are we prepared to learn anything from this environmental disaster? Or are we just going to pray about it?
She asked those concerned about separation of church and state to write letters to the editors of key newspapers and to contact the Louisiana senate leadership and express their disappointment.

Now that Gov. Barbour is encouraging prayer in our state, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking us to do the same. Specifically, we are being asked to contact Gov. Barbour to express our displeasure with his prayer proclamation. Barbour's email address is [email protected] and a mailing address and phone number are provided here.

H/T to the Freethinker

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Printable Anti-Religious Tracts

I've never understood the love many evangelical Christians seem to have for Jesus tracts. Maybe it is because I find it very difficult to believe that anyone would be converted by a pamphlet, and maybe it is because littering is one of my pet peeves. In any case, here are some anti-religious pamphlets that you can download as .pdf files, print, and distribute as you like. Just don't litter!

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Sorry BP (The Ballad of Joe Barton)

Louisiana State Senators Call for Prayer to Stop Gulf Oil Spill

If you have been listening to Mississippi's Gov. Haley Barbour (R), you may think that BP's massive Gulf oil spill is no big deal and that it will have zero impact on our state. For some perspective on how bad the situation really is, consider this: Louisiana state senators have designated today a day of prayer and are asking all of us who live in this region to join them in begging the Christian god to end the disaster.

I'm not sure why they didn't think of that sooner. Now that the entire spill will magically vanish and the coastal environment will be instantly restored, I guess we don't have anything to worry about.

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Are You Funding a National Bible Museum?

hobby-lobby1.jpgHow would you like to build a national bible museum in Dallas, TX? Let me rephrase, how would you like to pay for the building of a national bible museum in Dallas, TX? Yeah, me neither. This is why I'm going to stay out of the local Hobby Lobby. I'm not comfortable knowing that a portion of any money I might spend there will go to support a national bible museum.

Hobby Lobby can spend their money however they see fit. But I can and will refuse to contribute to the building of a monument to ignorance and delusion.

H/T to Friendly Atheist

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Health Care: Another Reason to Invest in Education

healthcare.jpgImagine that your family physician retires and you are on the search for a new doctor. You want someone you can trust, and if you are anything like me, you value professional competence above all else. Your search is not going to be easy. According to Mississippi Public Broadcasting, our state now has the lowest number of health care professionals per capita than any other state in the U.S.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that an important part of the problem relates to Mississippi's refusal to adequately fund education. And medical education provides what should be cause for widespread concern. Mississippi universities are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining quality faculty. And too many graduates simply leave our state for better pay and a higher quality of life elsewhere. Over time, this erodes our health care system.

This is just another example of how our unwillingness to adequately fund education hurts all of us.

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BP Oil Spill Biloxi MS: Make No Mistake, Disaster in the Gulf...It Begins

Terresa Schlicht—

Notes on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill affecting our home waters, ancestral lore, fishing and kindred community.

April 20, 2010- Horizon Deepwater Oil Spill:

Oil rig explosion causing catastrophic leak with interim confusion and limited information provided to the affected population.

Support pictures on file also for each date.

June 8, 2010-Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service began sponsoring a program called Mississippi Coast Watchers Program. I attended an orientation/safety training session to be a volunteer.

I was assigned a 1-mile segment on the beach (Harrison County, Region 12, Segment 22—From Debuys Rd. to Edgewater Drive) to watch for any signs of oil—tar balls, mousse, hurt/killed wildlife.

We were given badges (see prior post), map and instructions on who to call for wildlife or oil debris.

June 9, 2010-5:30am I started my walk. No signs of oil. 50 dead fish and about a dozen small dead crabs.

June 10, 2010-5:30am No signs of oil. 90 dead fish and about 6 small dead crabs and blue crabs (Steve, raised along the MS Gulf Coast from the 1960s, has never seen such wildlife death washing up at the water line).

Questionable froth and muck shown on the water.

June 11, 2010-5:30am No signs of oil except a few things I thought were tar balls, but concluded that it was clay.

About 20 dead fish, about 8 small dead crabs, 1 dead blue crab, 1 dead puffer fish and 4 dead sea turtles within one mile in front of Edgewater Mall 2600 Beach Blvd Biloxi MS.

See our "The Great Southern Humanist Society Photo Album".

The sea turtles ranged in size from about one and a half feet to the largest being 2 feet.

The largest sea turtle also had rust color on its shell.

Calls were made to the Wildlife Hotline and to the local Marine wildlife representative Moby Solangi, we left voicemail. No organization or individual present to recover the bodies of the four turtles in the three hours we waited for them.

Please review the photo album.

As an aside, we also met Rebecca Rogers, who was doing her morning exercise walk who is also a MS Coast Watchers volunteer.

Spotted more questionable froth in water with brown streaks.

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BP Oil Spill MS Gulf Coast Volunteer Effort 2010

The following volunteer opportunity is the first we've seen of actual substantive efforts for those not trained in HAZMAT or in handling injured wildlife.

This effort is the data collection and first hand surveillance of our beautiful coastline for signs of oil and/or tarballs along with contact information for reporting observations.

We've had our Great Southern Humanist Society (an affiliate of the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation) represented at the first training over on Seaway Rd. and have been assigned an area to cover. GPS devices and cameras are on order in to accurately document and report findings.

We started this morning.

Anyone interested in participating in such effort needs to register and attend the training in order to participate in this effort.

Sign up under the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Disaster Response segment and bypass any website warning you may receive (depending upon browser settings), because the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service is legitimate.


Dear Volunteer,

Thank you for your desire to assist in the oil spill volunteer response efforts. A new volunteer opportunity is now available in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties for the Mississippi Coastwatchers Program. We anticipate sending out the first volunteers on Wednesday morning.

Volunteers will work in teams to survey one mile segments of coastline in the early morning hours, beginning at dawn and reporting back any findings by 7:30 am daily. Volunteers may commit to one or more days of service.

There is a strong preference for local residents to serve in at least the first round of volunteers deployed for this opportunity, due to requests from elected officials, familiarity with the area, and the timing of service being in the early morning hours. Assignment to beach segments will be made based on proximity to the volunteer’s address of record.

If you are interested in this volunteer opportunity, please send an email to [email protected] with your home county, phone number, and days of availability. Volunteers will need to attend a short orientation session prior to beginning service. Further information will be provided via email to responding volunteers. Volunteers will also need to register at before they begin their service. If you have difficulty registering, we will be able to offer you assistance at an orientation session.

Thank you once again for volunteering your time and talents. Your service is greatly appreciated.

The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service



For those of us without HAZMAT training or certifications to handle injured wildlife, this is a wonderful opportunity to help bear witness, document, report and keep personal journals of this historical disaster that affects us all (no matter our personal world views).

Thanks for anything y'all can do.

Steve and Terresa Schlicht and Family
Biloxi MS

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Christian Proselytizing at the Gym

gym-image.jpgI have tried to join many of the atheist-oriented groups in our state so I can spread the word about what they are doing here on Mississippi Atheists. One of the perks of being on their various listservs is that I learn quite a bit about the experience of atheists here in Mississippi.

What follows is a detailed description of a recent experience one Mississippi atheist had while working out at a gym. I've reproduced it here with the permission of the author, modifying only what I felt was necessary to protect his identity:
I had an incident tonight where a "born again" nut case came up to me at the gym. The guy had tattoos of swastikas on one arm and a white power tattoo on the other. He said he saw me and Jesus told him to come talk to me. He asked me if I was saved, and I told him I wasn't religious. That usually ends the conversation, but he pushed on. He went on to tell me his life story about how he was "like me," a non believer, until he came home one night and Jesus was there. I wasn't interested in his story and was trying to think of a nice way of telling him to fuck off, but the parts of his story I remember was some crap about how Jesus made his family and newborn son glow green and told him if he didn't straighten up and save them that they'd spend eternity suffering in hell, you know, cause Jesus is such a nice guy and all. I interrupted him and told him that I wasn't trying to be rude, but I wasn't interested, I just wanted to finish my workout and go home. He still didn't get the message and kept on.

I was almost finished with my workout, I just had two more exercises to do, so I really did just want to finish working out and go home. He kept on with his story though. He said he used to believe the bible was written by men who wanted to control people's lives, but after his conversation with Jesus in his living room, he read the bible, saw the light and was born again. I wonder what bible these people are reading?

He told me about some little church they have nearby, but I didn't catch the name. He wanted me to think about what he said and think about coming to check out their church. Then he wanted to pray with me to save me. I told him again that I wasn't religious, and he was free to go pray for me if he wanted, I just want to finish my workout and go home. I thought he was finally going to leave, but no, he put his fucking hand on my shoulder and started praying. Finally after he finished his prayer he left. I don't know how much of my time he wasted, but I know it was more than 10 minutes because that's how long it takes my music player to shut off if you pause it and don't touch it.

I have thought about what he said, but not the way he wanted me to. I've been thinking about how I could have gotten him to shut up and go away. I've had people approach me on the street or in a store somewhere, and as kind as I can, I just tell them I'm not interested and I keep going. This time I was cornered with nowhere to go.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? How would you deal with it?

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