Thursday, April 18, 2013

Texas fertilizer explosion completely predictable, preventable.

There was  no reason that the fire/explosion in the Texas fertilizer plant should have been able to happen. If the regulatory agencies in this country had not been gutted over the last 30 years, if this plant had been inspected, and if the regulations enforcement had some teeth, west Texas could have been spared this senseless tragedy.

Because, apparently, this is the way that inspections are handled these days:

(via WSJ)

Fertilizer Firm Cited Minimal Risks in Regulatory Filings

The operators of the Texas fertilizer plant where at least five people died in a blast Wednesday told government regulators there wasn’t a major risk of a fire or explosion from ammonia stored at the plant.
West Fertilizer Co. told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 that it was storing up to 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the plant, north of Waco, as part of a required “risk-management plan.” The plan said that neither fire nor explosion has been identified as a significant hazard, according to a summary of the plan on the website of the Center for Effective Government, a nonprofit group that posts the EPA data.

So, if you have a business that involves handling lots of dangerous chemicals, the EPA asks YOU to send them a plan in which you say "oh, there's no chance of explosion here! No sir, everything's just as safe as safe can be, no need to come look at anything!"

In the risk-management plan, West Fertilizer said the worst-case scenario would be an ammonia leak from a storage tank or hose. It didn't specify the likely consequences. The company said the plant had no alarms, automatic shutoff system, firewall or sprinkler system.

No alarms, no sprinklers, no firewall. How is it that they  were allowed to operate? Well, for one thing, they hadn't had an inspection in over FIVE YEARS! In fact, according to Think Progress:

The plant hasn’t been inspected in the past five years, and in fact only six Texas fertilizer plants were inspected in that time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is chronically understaffed, which means that a given plant like West Fertilizer can only expect to get a state inspection once every 67 years on average.

This explosion was the inevitable result of 30+years of anti-government propaganda, of budget cuts, of conservative talking points about "burdensome regulations" and "keeping government off our backs." This was bound to happen, just like the tainted peanut butter from that plant in Georgia a few years ago.  This is what happens when businesses are left to their own devices, allowed to "self-regulate." Businesses will always cut corners to maximize profits, and safety equipment is one of those costly corners that are easy to cut if no one is watching. And no one is watching, thanks to the Grover Norquists, Howard Jarvises and Ronald Reagans of the world.

Just as the gun manufacturers would rather see a few kids get slaughtered now and again than potentially lose a few sales, the modern conservative would rather see people-killing explosions than "job-killing regulations." So this is what we get.

Journalistic Malpractice

I sometimes like to check the headlines on Yahoo News in the morning, to see what I missed overnight. This morning I saw, among the baby bumps and celebrity feuds, this "Exclusive":

Exclusive: Saudi National Once Considered ‘Person of Interest’ May Be Deported on ‘Security’ Grounds

Which seemed strange, because I was pretty sure that the Saudi kid had already been cleared of any wrong doing, what with running away from an explosion while looking Muslimy not technically being illegal yet. So I wondered, "who has this exclusive news? Well, imagine my surprise. . .

Exclusive: Saudi National Once Considered ‘Person of Interest’ May Be Deported on ‘Security’ Grounds — And How It’s Supposed to Be Framed

"I just learned from my own sources that he is now going to be deported on national security grounds next Tuesday."
The Blaze

The Blaze? Isn't that Glenn Beck?

Yep. It's Glenn Beck!

What the fuck, Yahoo News? The Blaze is NOT a news source. It is a clearing house for Glenn Beck's paranoid fantasies and asinine conspiracy theories. Now if you ran articles from the Blaze in a Yahoo Op-Ed section, or a Yahoo Insane Gasbags section, that might be excusable, but if you're going to entitle this section "Yahoo News," you can not include bullshit from the Blaze.

I don't know how long this has been going on, but on the Yahoo front page right now, there are these headlines:

A Look at Joe Biden’s Seriously Sketchy Gun Claim

"...blatantly inaccurate claims used to forward gun control."
The Blaze

Is the liberal anti-gun push backfiring?

After the Senate voted down increased gun restrictions this week, anti-gun advocates -- including President Obama -- insisted that the legislative process had been corrupted and that the vast majority of American people actually sided with them in favor of the measures. But how accurate is this…
The Blaze

MSNBC Publicly Shames Senators Who ‘Voted Against Common Sense,’ Warns Of Retribution In 2014

"You're not powerful enough to withstand the money I'm going to throw into your district or your state."
The Blaze
The Blaze
And more.
What the fuck, did Rupert Murdoch buy Yahoo? How do the "news" editors at Yahoo look at themselves in the mirror?
Maybe by telling themselves "at least we're not the New York Post."
Because what the Post did this morning is beyond appalling.
New York Post fingers 17 year old kid as bombing suspect 
This is a lie. The feds were absolutely NOT seeking "these two." These two are just two random guys who attended the Boston Marathon while carrying bookbags.  According to Daily Kos:
In the article attached to the story, The Post admitted it had no idea whether the cover was accurate:
It was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos.
But even though they had no idea their front page was accurate, The Post decided to run with it anyway.
How utterly unconscionable! How completely indecent! How disgraceful! The Post just put these two kids' lives in danger on a whim? This picture has been passed around the web as a photo of alleged bombers, how long before some vigilante decides to take a shot at one of them?
Salah Barhoun, 17, said he went to the police yesterday to clear his name after he found himself tagged in pictures online. He had just gone to watch the race, he said, but soon after the explosions, he was singled out by internet sleuths as looking suspicious. Federal authorities passed around images of Barhoun, attempting to learn more information about him, sources told ABC News.
Why hasn't Murdoch had his newspaper-publishing privileges revoked? I hope these kids sue the fuck out of that slimy reptile and his whole scummy operation. This is so much worse than what happened to Richard Jewel. At least Jewel really was a suspect, really had been questioned by law enforcement. There was absolutely no reason to finger these two as suspected terrorists. Disgusting!