That was…..unexpected

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The internet loves its plot twists (via bandersna7ch on Imgur).

And no, I have no idea what SpongeBob and Patrick are doing there.


Texas Made Its Bed, and Now It Has to Lie in It

West_Explosion_AerialAfter FEMA denied the state’s request for aid for the West fertilizer plant explosion, Texas Governor Rick Perry had the gall to say the following:

The day of the West memorial service, President Obama stood in front of a grieving community and told them they would not be forgotten. He said his administration would stand with them, ready to help. We anticipate the president will hold true to his word and help us work with FEMA to ensure much-needed assistance reaches the community of West.

Rick Perry is not a man to mince words about his disdain for the federal government when it suits his momentary needs. He has no right to act surprised all of a sudden when that same government refuses to help the man who has said time and again that his state doesn’t need them (except, of course, when he does need them).

This is really about a Texas business avoiding regulatory obligations, killing a bunch of people through neglect, and then asking the feds to help clean up. They should be begging OSHA for forgiveness, not asking FEMA for money. If “freedom” from regulation is a Texas value, the rebuilding of West’s infrastructure is the cost Texas hoped to pass on to the rest of the country.

I’m reminded of the talk after the Oklahoma tornado about whether we, as a people, should support relief efforts there even though Oklahomans keep electing people who have nothing but contempt for the very notion of government aid until the moment they need some. My position was, and still is, that we owe them assistance and relief, but that we should not let them forget that their own elected representatives would probably deny it to them had they but lived a few hundred miles in any direction.

Now that the federal government is denying aid to a state that elected a guy who gives lip service to secession, a big part of me wants to say I told you so. Well, I guess I just said it. If so many Texans are so unenamored of the federal government, let us all lie in the bed they made.

Shorter version of what I just said: if you voted for Rick Perry and dare to say anything other than “we don’t need FEMA anyway,” you deserve to get punched in the throat.

One final thought: sooner or later, the lawsuits will start rolling in against West Fertilizer Company and whomever else might be civilly liable, asserting injury claims, wrongful death, and property damage. The odds are very good that Rick Perry will call these suits “frivolous,” or seek to undermine them in some other way. It’s fine to expect the nation’s taxpayers to foot the bill in Perryland, but I’m not so sure the private sector should ever have to pony up.

Photo credit: By Shane.torgerson [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


“The Wild West approach to protecting public health and safety”

It is unsurprising, while still disappointing, that Texas lawmakers, along with many citizens, seem to have learned nothing at all from the disaster in West, Texas a few weeks ago. Many have used it as an opportunity to rail against government regulation.

Even in West, last month’s devastating blast did little to shake local skepticism of government regulations. Tommy Muska, the mayor, echoed Governor Perry in the view that tougher zoning or fire safety rules would not have saved his town. “Monday morning quarterbacking,” he said.

Raymond J. Snokhous, a retired lawyer in West who lost two cousins — brothers who were volunteer firefighters — in the explosion, said, “There has been nobody saying anything about more regulations.”

Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.


As federal investigators sift through the rubble at the West Fertilizer Company plant seeking clues about the April 17 blast that killed at least 14 people and injured roughly 200 others, some here argue that Texas’ culture itself contributed to the calamity.

I actually am sympathetic to the argument that additional regulations would not have prevented the explosion, but not in a way that reflects favorably on Governor Perry or anyone else who sides with him. The problem is not a lack of regulations. The problem is that our “business-friendly” culture in Texas has no intention of enforcing the regulations we already have. Spare us the bullshit about not needing more regulations until you have at least tried to do your damn job.

The New York Times quoted my torts professor from UT Law, Thomas McGarity, who sums it up far better than I ever could:

The Wild West approach to protecting public health and safety is what you get when you give companies too much economic freedom and not enough responsibility and accountability.

The greatest irony of West, perhaps, is that the fertilizer involved in the explosion is regulated by the Department of Homeland Security, because it is explosive. If someone had stolen fertilizer from the plant and blown it up somewhere else, these anti-regulation types might be singing a very different tune. Why is an explosion allegedly caused by greed and incompetence that much different from one allegedly caused by terroristic intent?