MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is doing some of the best -- and certainly most important -- enterprise reporting she's ever done this week. She's angry at the bungled, perfunctory clean-up efforts she saw during her three days in Louisiana's wetlands last week, and it shows.
It's fitting that this week, Maddow's program was the only cable news show nominated for a Television Critics' Association Award, in the Outstanding Achievement in News and Information category.
Maddow pointed out Monday that the media's obsession with covering the attempts at capping the leak -- and showing live pictures of the underwater gusher -- is missing a bigger story onshore.
"The whole country has been focused on capping the still-gushing well. And while all the attention has been on that," said a dismayed Maddow, "the disaster on shore and at sea continues to be worse. It was caused by careless and incompetence, and that is being eclipsed by the carelessness and incompetence that has followed."
Maddow interviewed Tulane professor Mike Blum, who said that since the 1980s, "very little research effort has gone into remediating oil spills." And what old technology exists is being deployed badly or not at all.
"The fact is," said Maddow in her compelling piece, "is that oil industry hasn't gotten around to developing any technology whatever for dealing with oil spills -- and no one's made them do it."
Maddow added, "I'm not here to tout this show's reporting on this, but this is a huge deal. This is the giant scandal that lurks within this disaster:
"The sad-sack containment technology we do have? BP's not even trying to do it right."
(At this point, Maddow shows footage of a forlorn-looking, untended boom in a marsh she visited last week ).
"How many of the 4.6 million feet of boom BP brags they've installed look like this?" Maddow asked.
She described the hapless-looking absorbent boom thusly:
"Snarled up in marshes, not protecting the shorelines, blown over by tiny little winds, tiny little waves, bamboo pickets to hold the boom in place that don't hold it in place..."
It was a pathetic sight. Meanwhile, the vast majority of national TV cameras were elsewhere, focusing on the gusher or well-dressed reporters walking beaches, picking up oil balls.
Maddow sighed: "Even the primitive technology we do have -- developed long before I was born -- isn't being done right. "We have the capacity to do it better than we do, and we're not doing it," she said, repressing her obvious anger and dismay at what she saw in those sullied marshes. (Maddow's enterprise reporting is another endangered species).
"This is being bungled...this is being screwed up," She said of BP's ludicrous and feckless containment efforts.
"This technology, this lousy technology is not a magic bullet, but it is a bullet, and it is a bullet that is being misfired.
Maddow summoned up some of her best writing, concluding:
"This isn't rocket science, but it is science; this could be done right, and it is not being done right. We have the capacity to do this better than we are, and we are not doing it.
"This would be the equivalent post-Hurricane Katrina of those helicopters going to take people off of roofs and the helicopters then dropping the people they are trying to rescue. Pulling people off the roofs and then dropping them in the flood waters.
"This would the equivalent in a fire, of bringing the fire trucks out, and not knowing how to turn on the hoses."
Maddow's bottom line on the woeful cleanup/containment efforts by BP:
"There is no reasonable human explanation why, given what can be done, nobody is bothering to do right."
"The oil industry has never been made to care that oil-cleanup technology stinks. And nobody is insisting that what we can do, we do correctly."
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