Saturday, April 27, 2013

Texas Toast

Well don't I feel stupid.  While I've been ranting about the terrorism at the Boston Marathon I overlooked a little issue in Texas.  I only started paying attention because of my nutty buddies.  At dinner of the 26th I was happily brooding about the remaining little twit who bombed Boston when I realized there was a hum of whispers underlying the usual dinner chaos.  I kept hearing low pitched mutters of "Texas Toast" but just thought it was some paranoid observation because we had, in fact, been served Texas Toast with our barbequed chicken strips.  Well, it was a group paranoia event triggered by 'suspicious' Texas Toast.  Fairly understandable since it was founded on a real situation.  I didn't get it until I asked Roy what the heck was going on.  He pointed at his toast and explained, disdainfully, that the toast might blow up because it came from Texas and nobody was going to eat it.  HUH?  We all love our Texas Toast!  So I tried to trace the cause of that remark on TV.  The news was still focused on Boston but there was 60 seconds of coverage on the Texas story that  gave me a point of reference.  

The internet was more obliging and I got a nasty shock when I read about the fertilizer plant explosion.  I was puzzled by my own ignorance until I recognized that the West Texas incident was rather mundane compared to the sensational nature of the bombings in Boston.  Terrorism is much sexier than a little old explosion of known origin.

I'd be a lot less shocked if there wasn't such an obvious failure of corporate responsibility and evidence of appalling regulatory incompetence.
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."

"Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance. Filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which weren't shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year." 

WHAT?  Seriously?!  The article goes on to say that 270 tons is 1,350 times the amount that should have triggered an inspection! 

Well isn't that just DANDY.  In what I'd consider a mass shock reaction, the nice folks of West Texas are united in the support of the West Fertilizer Co.  Since the company supplies a lot of jobs for the area it's understandable that there's a well established community loyalty.  This, in spite of the fact that the explosion is the second worst in our country's history.  It's likely that their attitude will change when FEMA steps in and funding is delayed.

Remember Hurricane Sandy?  Remember how Rick Perry remarked that FEMA funds shouldn't be used for the victims?  Remember how pleased he was to have Texas named a target by Kim Jong un?  I'd love to know what's cascading through his shrunken little brain right now.  He wants lots of FEMA money for this disaster, apparently oblivious of the irony.  The conspiracy theories are already in play; Kim Jong un and the feds taking turns being the culprit.  The first lawsuits are rolling in.  Some legal warriors will assign a value on the lives of the 17 dead and numerous victims.  Next we can expect a general collapse of community loyalty as it becomes obvious that the massive loss of property won't be promptly addressed and the jobs are gone.

How will this impact the rest of the country?  Probably very little.  We all like to put such things behind us.  Memories of  the record breaking tornadoes of 2012 and Hurricane Sandy are already fading as new opportunities for morbid fascination crop up.  I'm left to wonder if any 'normal' folks will experience residual unease from the West Texas explosion.  There are lots of fertilizer plants in the USA.  As for me, I'll never feel quite the same about Texas Toast.