Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lying, incompetent, mean spirited and selfish screw-ups

The Bush administration is fond of saying we are fighting terrorists in Iraq so we won't have to fight them here at home. Apparently there are a lot more things they don't feel they will have to fight here at home, either. Like disease. Or this (from Jordan Barab's blog, Confined Space):
There are 3,400 high-priority chemical facilities in this country where a worst-case release of toxic chemicals could sicken or kill more than 1,000 people, and 272 sites that could affect more than 50,000 people. Yet despite reports from government agencies and independent journalists since 9/11 that chemical plant security is seriously flawed, the Bush administration has refused to address the issue.
Better not to get involved:
The Bush administration called Tuesday for federal regulation of security at chemical plants, but would largely let the industry decide how stiff the protections should be and leave inspections to private auditors. (San Francisco Chronicle)
And just to make sure no else meddles with the industry's plans to keep us all safe from their chemicals, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wants to pre-empt the states from doing it:
But he said the government would not set minimum standards for chemical companies to follow, allowing the industry to tailor its own "so we can go about the objective of raising our security in a way that doesn't destroy the businesses we're trying to protect."
Here is Jordan's typically astute analysis at Confined Space:
1. Industry opposes any government regulation.

2. States that have given up hope of federal action begin to issue their own regulations.

3. Industry, suddenly facing the prospect of being forced to comply with multiple different state regulations, turns around and advocates for a weak federal regulation that pre-empts the states.

This debate has been going on since shortly after 9/11, initially with legislation introduced by former New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine that would have forced the chemical industry to implement, where possible, inherently safer technologies (e.g. substituting safer chemicals, storing smaller amounts of hazardous chemicals, etc.), along with increased traditional security measures. The American Chemistry Council (formerly the Chemical Manufacturers Association) and their clients in Congress managed to kill Corzine's bill and instead suggested an approach that focusses almost entirely on traditional security (guns and fences), and relies on compliance with voluntary guidelines -- developed by the American Chemistry Council. (Confined Space)
This has also been the pattern of the Bush administration on all things related to national security: incompetence yoked to ideology led around by the nose by big money industries. We see it daily in Iraq. After Hurricane Katrina. Every day in the gutting of health and environmental protection by Congress. And the list goes on.

None of us are safer. All of us have been made more threatened by these lying, incompetent, mean spirited and selfish screw-ups.