Monday, September 03, 2007

The Latest Concern

Homeland Security officials are allegedly worried that terrorists will target propane tanks on chicken farms:

In 28 years of raising chickens, Virgil Shockley has had his share of worries, from bird disease to pollution. But nothing prepared him for the latest concern sweeping the poultry industry: Local farms could be deemed terrorist targets by the U.S. government.
It sounds pretty outrageous, until you realize that the author simply decided to find and interview someone like Shockley, whose farm "could be subject to proposed rules."

Elsewhere, the article claims that objections to these regulations are coming from "industry groups and politicians." But there's no doubt that Mr. Shockley's amiable, down-home befuddlement makes for a more entertaining story.

Here's the part I like best:
[T]he controversy illustrates a continuing dilemma for the government: how to strike the right balance between safety and the freedom to conduct one's business.
This use of "the government" is interesting, in that it conjures up a phalanx of faceless bureaucrats rather than the impish grin and laughing eyes of our Dear Leader.

I'd argue that finding "the right balance" between safety and business is as easy for Bush as falling off a Segway, whether we're talking about food safety, mine safety, or the use of mercenaries and torturers in Iraq. But that's probably because I don't understand how "the government" works:
[F]or years, Congress and the Bush administration couldn't agree on how to regulate the industry. That changed last fall, when Homeland Security was put in charge of setting security standards for businesses that manufacture, use, store or distribute certain chemicals.
So Congress and BushCo formerly "couldn't agree on how to regulate the industry" (which one?), but this changed once DHS "was put in charge" by someone or other. Now, the government simply faces a "continuing dilemma," as politicians and lobbyists complain that proposed regulations are too burdensome.

That's clear enough, isn't it?

God knows I don't mean to imply that these regulations are necessarily reasonable (particularly as regards lab chemicals). I just thought this article managed to strike a nice balance between the spuriously concrete and the purposefully vague.

Also, I'd question the underlying assumption that terrorists couldn't possibly be interested in blowing up small farms and family campgrounds, if only because the media's penchant for generating hysteria arguably makes even the smallest, silliest attacks worthwhile from a PR perspective.

That said, dirty bombs are a far more terrifying threat, as this article demonstrates:
The U.S. nuclear weapons program has sickened 36,500 Americans and killed more than 4,000, the Rocky Mountain News has determined from government figures.

Those numbers reflect only people who have been approved for government compensation. They include people who mined uranium, built bombs and breathed dust from bomb tests.
Let's pray it never happens here!

(Photo by Sarah Pickering, 2004).

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