Right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is not a marine biologist. He is a destructive demagogue. Indeed, Limbaugh describes himself as “the most dangerous man in America.” Although Limbaugh’s prediction that the oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico would naturally vanish has proved partially correct, he should not get credit for it. Limbaugh based his forecast on ideology, not science. Plus, there remains the little matter of more than one million barrels of toxic oil – the equivalent of five Exxon Valdezes – still floating underwater and unseen in Gulf waters, along with vast amounts of dissolved methane.
Recently, America’s No. 1. yappy mouth, conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh, has been crowing that he was right regarding his prediction that Mother Nature would eliminate the oil geysering into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken BP Deepwater Horizon oil well at the seabed bottom.
On numerous radio broadcasts during the height of the BP oil spill disaster, Limbaugh routinely told his audience that the oil would magically disappear. And much of it has now apparently done so according to the federal government. It reported in early August that about three-quarters of the oil dispersed from the well has vanished, or soon will.
This is due to evaporation, the effects of sunlight breaking down the oil, microbes consuming the hydrocarbons, and related natural factors, as well as skimming and other interventions by the government. “I’m always happy when I’m right, which means I’m always happy,” proclaimed the self-described “El Rushbo,” who is never reluctant to sing his own praises.
Rush Limbaugh, Oceanography Savant
Limbaugh did not make his prediction based on any specialized expertise or scientific background. The right-wing pundit possesses no relevant technical knowledge or training. Limbaugh is a college dropout, former failed radio disc jockey and a disgraced pro football commentator forced to resign his ESPN job after making what many considered to be an inflammatory racial comment about then Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Indeed, Limbaugh’s talky background is about as far removed from the hallowed halls of science as anyone can get. He probably cannot tell the difference between a Bunsen burner and a bong pipe.
The obvious basis of Limbaugh’s prediction is his extremely conservative ideological orientation. The talk show host favors oil drilling in any and all circumstances, and is vociferously opposed to all limits on it. If Limbaugh can convince others that the Deepwater Horizon explosion, resulting in the largest marine oil spill ever, does not represent a significant environmental or commercial disaster, the oil companies for which he routinely shakes his pom-poms will have less to worry about from federal regulators.
No Laughing Matter
As Limbaugh said, “On day one, I, El Rushbo, knew the truth … they can’t find the oil. This is hilarious.” While the Gulf oil catastrophe is funny for Limbaugh, most Gulf residents, including the shrimp, crab, and oyster fishermen who have seen their livelihoods wiped out by the event, perhaps for years to come, as well as local tourism, travel, and hospitality workers up and down the Gulf Coast, don’t find their seriously circumscribed work circumstances amusing.
Yes, Limbaugh made his prediction according to his radical politics, not on the basis of science or facts. This has been the commentator’s ignoble modus operandi for his entire career as a radio pundit. Thus, shortly after the Gulf oil spill began, Limbaugh speculated on his show that “hardcore environmentalist wackos” may have blown up the oil rig.
Limbaugh did not volunteer any proof to support his crackpot theory. Indeed, in the Bizarro World of the Dittoheads, the ironically revealing name for Limbaugh’s zombie listeners, no such proof is ever necessary; nor is it required that he make a logical or even coherent on-air presentation concerning his jaundiced point of view. As Limbaugh puts it, “When I say something about something, there generally is nothing left to say.”
Actually, there is. While much of the oil has indeed dissipated from the Gulf, or been skimmed or burned away, a vast amount remains in the water or local sediment, that is, about one-quarter of the nearly five million barrels of oil that spewed forth from the bottom of the Gulf during the three months before BP successfully capped the well.
As reported in Bloomberg Businessweek, this remaining oil equals about five Exxon Valdezes, according to Ian MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University. And some observers speculate that the total amount of oil still floating in Gulf waters may be even greater than what the government’s modeling – in the final analysis, a learned estimate – indicates. Whatever approximation you use, a tremendous amount of oil remains unaccounted, at least one million barrels floating around still.
Oil There, We Just Can’t See It
Marine scientist Samantha Joye, Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, has been researching underwater oil plumes from the Gulf oil spill. She states in the Gulf Oil Blog, published by the UGA Department of Marine Sciences, that the remaining vast amount of oil is beneath the surface in the Gulf’s water column. She and other scientists worry about the effect of this toxic oil on marine life. She also points out that large amounts of methane from the well explosion could also represent a serious threat to aquatic life. Methane is the principal component of natural gas.
Joye and her scientific colleagues have measured what she terms in her blog post “remarkably high methane concentrations in the water column.” This could deplete vital oxygen levels in Gulf waters, and thus create “dead zones,” that is, blasted regions in which fish, shrimp, crabs, and other marine animals cannot survive. The marine scientist states that “the impact of the oil, gas, and dispersant on the Gulf’s ecosystems will be felt for years, if not decades.” Many other scientists agree.
Oil Entering the Food Chain
Already, scientists are finding evidence of oil in blue crab larvae in the Gulf region. They worry that this oil will now begin to work its way up the food chain. This could have disastrous consequences on the Gulf’s larger marine animals, including tuna and dolphins.
Southeastern Louisiana’s famous Barataria Bay, the fabled hideout during the early 19th century of Jean Lafitte and his gang of pirates, was hit hard by the oil spill. During a recent interview on NPR, Bob Deans of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a grassroots environmental action group with 1.3 million members, stated that the first 20-30 feet of Barataria Bay, that is, the portion that fronts the Gulf of Mexico, is now completely black from oil that has saturated the estuary. He was able to secure a bird’s-eye view of Barataria Bay from a special flight over the estuary.
“It looks like it has been burned by fire,” Deans said. The environmentalist points out that this area, along with other affected Louisiana wetlands, represents the “foundation of life” for the region, that is, the vital spawning grounds for much of the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. In contrast, a recent AP story states that marsh grass and mangrove trees in Barataria Bay are beginning to grow back in the bay. Local residents, scientists, and others will keep their fingers crossed.
What, Me Worry?
But Limbaugh is not worried in the slightest. After all, little visible oil still floats on the surface of the Gulf waters. And although the remainder of the oil that has not vanished may total a million or more barrels, and although this oil must be somewhere, not to mention large quantities of dissolved methane, these facts are immaterial to him. For Limbaugh, out of sight, out of mind clearly is what counts. “There is no crisis,” Limbaugh unequivocally states. “It’s all BS. It’s a phony catastrophe that never happened in the first place.” Joye feels otherwise. In an interview on NPR, she said, “It is too early … We simply don’t know what the impacts of this spill are going to be. To pretend that there are not going to be any is unfair, and it is irresponsible.” This seems to be the consensus opinion of many scientists. Of course, such individuals dedicate themselves to provable facts, not political ideology.
The fact is, marine biologists, that is, trained scientists who have the knowledge, tools, resources, and inclination to properly study the problem, admit that they do not know much about what negative effects oil may have on marine organisms in the Gulf’s deep waters. But not to worry: The radio talk-show industry’s Grand Poobah, El Rushbo, says everything will be just fine. Indeed, he claims, without any particular expertise concerning the matter, “There will be a record fishing season next year in the Gulf.” By this logic, perhaps the nation’s fleet of commercial oil tankers purposely should begin discharging their petroleum contents into the oceans’ primary fishing grounds.
Sometimes a Little Can Impact a Lot
Limbaugh’s main point concerning the BP oil fiasco, which he repeatedly made while the oil was still exploding out of the hole in the ocean floor, is that the Gulf of Mexico is an immense body of water, impossible to be permanently harmed by one isolated oil well break. From Limbaugh’s website: “If the inside of, say, Texas Stadium, or the Superdome were the Gulf of Mexico, the amount of oil that’s leaked so far would be equivalent to a 24-ounce can of beer.”
But sometimes even a relatively miniscule perturbation can have a monumentally disastrous effect on something proportionally huge. Consider cancer. The body has trillions of cells. Yet a single cancer cell can mutate into a large tumor, which if not treated can kill the bearer.
Or what about the cancerous Rush Limbaugh Show? According to Wikipedia, Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of TALKERS magazine, a trade publication for the radio talk industry, stated in 2008 that Limbaugh’s weekly audience was 14 million. Limbaugh claimed a 20-million audience for the same period. However, we know that facts don’t mean much to El Rushbo, so let’s use Harrison’s 14-million figure as the more reliable one.
The Census Bureau reports that the U.S. had 304,059,724 people in mid-2008. Thus, Limbaugh’s audience at the time – which he calls the “backbone of America” – represented only 0.046 percent of the nation’s population. The ratio is likely similar for 2010 when this post was published online. Yet look at the immense and ongoing damage, psychic and real, Limbaugh, a truly malign force, has been able to cause to our beloved yet beleaguered nation, despite his radio show’s relatively puny reach in relation to the U.S. population as a whole.
This includes the reluctance of cowardly legislators, who are afraid of ending up in Limbaugh’s crosshairs, to pass vital bills that will responsibly deal with potentially catastrophic issues such as global warming, and heartfelt moral issues such as immigration reform. We can thank Limbaugh and his right-wing, radio-talk-show brethren, including the schizy Glenn Beck and the shifty Sean Hannity, for the gross incivility, irresponsible accusations, and churlish malevolence that now mar much of our national public discourse. Additionally, Limbaugh, with his almost daily rants against revered black leaders and the heroic NAACP, routinely tries to be as racially provocative as possible. The list of Limbaugh’s outrageous and corrosive diatribes and their crippling consequences goes on and on.
Thus, in the national scheme of things, even a relatively minute thimbleful of bile, contempt, and derision – that is, the vile torrent of hate that El Rushbo spews forth daily from his “Attila the Hun chair” at the “golden” EIB microphone – can certainly infect the body politic. Sadly, the pestilential Limbaugh does that each and every day.
During the 1954 Army–McCarthy hearings conducted by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, Army attorney Joseph Welch skewered Republican. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, the greatly feared Communist Party witch-hunter, with these rhetorical questions: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” The hearing room immediately erupted into applause. After that, McCarthy was toast. Later that year, the Senate censured him. Three years later, he was dead. Of course, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, and the rest of their rat den have no shame.
Limbaugh calls himself “a lovable, harmless, little fuzzball.” Lovable? I don’t think so. The fuzzball part sounds about right. Photos show he is anything but little. Harmless? Hardly. Indeed, Limbaugh and his unprincipled radio cohorts, through their vast power, sweeping influence, and numbing negativity, are poisoning U.S. society. They make rational, temperate, even-handed discussion regarding the tough challenges that confront us as a nation impossible to achieve. In this same sad vein, vast amounts of crude oil and methane that now float, unseen and deadly in Gulf waters, may also poison the precious yet fragile ecology of this important region.
As a nation, what we stand to lose if the Gulf region is in any way permanently befouled is a matter of staggering significance. Gulf fisheries have been among the world’s most highly productive. The Gulf region is home to 59 percent of the U.S. oyster harvest and 75 percent of the U.S. shrimp harvest. It is a prominent breeding ground for snapper, bluefin tuna, and grouper. In short, we depend on the Gulf region for much of our seafood. However, according to some scientists, Gulf waters now represent an enormous petrochemical Petri dish. Who knows what aberrational horrors may emerge from it in future years?
I hope the concerned (read: fearful) scientists are merely overly cautious. In contrast, Limbaugh always is anything but. He will make any inflammatory comment to rile things up, and to get people to talk about him. Limbaugh constantly claims that his views are correct 99 percent of the time. Of course, this is only his puerile posing. Limbaugh’s silly claim has no more significance than the random dartings of waterbugs, skimming back and forth on the surface of some backwater, petroleum-polluted pond in the now blackened portions of Barataria Bay.
Heads He Wins, Tails You Lose
Maybe, in the end, Limbaugh called the Gulf Oil spill right, although certainly to advance his rancid political agenda, and not based on a careful consideration of the facts. If so, will he now use his influence to block possible efforts by the government to introduce some much needed oversight concerning future offshore drilling? You can count on it.
But what if Limbaugh is wrong? In such a case, because of his outsize influence, Americans may let themselves be lulled into a false – and hugely dangerous – sense of security, buying into Limbaugh’s ridiculous argument that the horrific Gulf oil spill was no real disaster at all. Thus, we as a nation will be disinclined to take steps to mitigate such further events from occurring. If they do, as they almost surely will, it will only be the American people who will be hurt, not Limbaugh, with his obscene $400-million radio contract. By that time, of course, he will be hectoring away at us over the airwaves about some new right-wing radio lunacy, one that will deplete our nation even further. – Mickey Murphy © 2011 MMMurphy
News update: An August 20 AP story reports that scientists have discovered an enormous oil plume deep in the Gulf of Mexico. The plume is 22 miles long and 3,000-4,000 feet below the surface. Because of the 40-degrees cold temperature at that depth, the oil is breaking up much more slowly than it would at the surface. According to AP, this makes the plume “a long-lasting but unseen threat to vulnerable marine life.”
News update: An October 7 New York Times story stating that the previous government report that three-quarters of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had vanished grossly underestimated the true facts of the situation. From the story: “In August, top administration officials said that 75 percent of the oil had evaporated, dissolved, or been collected, implying that their efforts had been largely successful and that ecological damage had been limited. But the commission [The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling] staff members said the government’s own data did not support such sweeping conclusions, which were later scaled back. A number of respected independent researchers have concluded that as much as half of the spilled oil remains suspended in the water or buried on the seafloor and in coastal sludge. And it will be some time before scientists can paint an accurate picture of the ecological damage.”
News Update: On November 6, 2010, Associated Press reported that scientists are now finding mass coral die-off occuring near the BP oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico. AP states that federal scientists have located damage to deep sea coral on the ocean floor several miles from the blown-out BP well – indicating that oil spill damage could be much greater than what the government had previously estimated. The lead scientist on the Gulf investigation team said that he was sure the coral damage is due to the BP oil spill. “What we have at this point is the smoking gun,” said the scientist, Charles Fisher, a Penn State biologist. Coral is vital to the Gulf of Mexico. It provides a crucial habitat for fish and small marine animals such as snails and crabs. Thus, any large-scale death of coral would be a major problem for many marine species in the Gulf. Of course, Rush Limbaugh will make no statement regarding this evidence of long-term damage to the Gulf of Mexico from the BP oil spill disaster. To do so would not fit in Limbaugh’s dishonest narrative that nothing important occurred when the BP oil platform blew up. Plus, he knows that Americans have now moved on to worry about other issues, and that few will notice AP’s recent report concerning severe coral damage in the Gulf. Limbaugh calls traditional news outlets the “drive-by” media. However, the right-wing big mouth is the one who employs a dishonorable hit-and-run strategy regarding what he says on the air.
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