Friday, April 19, 2013

Business As Usual -- Ka-Boom!

So yesterday in the car, Genghis asked me if I thought this Texas fertiliser-plant explosion was some kind of terrorist action. Seeing as how we've been throwing chemistry at young Genghis lately, I took the opportunity to point out that some fertilisers were quite high-energy molecules, and prone to explosion. I also explained the basic principle of Occam's Razor, and said pretty much this: "No. I doubt it's terrorism. It could be, but that would involve dragging a new entity into the existing equation where the situation can already be explained by the entities currently in place. Personally, I expect that as this plant is situated in the USA, and particularly in the deep South, it's probably had absolutely minimal safety built into it. I'm afraid that's how American capitalism works."

One might suggest that's a cynical attitude, but today I ran across this article:

Fertilizer Firm Cited Minimal Risks in Regulatory Filings

Hmm. That link looks weird. Never mind. It hooks back to a Wall Street Journal streaming report. Given that the WSJ has a certain investment in American capitalism, I'm prepared to accept their word for this particular item.

Folks, this is the "hidden hand" of the free market at work. The various people who've been devastated by this event -- and their families, etc -- can have a crack at suing the company involved. And who knows? Maybe one day they'll get some compensation. (Wouldn't bet on it, though. I think there's still a bunch of people around Bhopal waiting to hear from Union Carbide...) And maybe it will do enough damage to the company's bottom line that it will pay more attention to safety procedures in the future.

Or more likely, the company lawyers will tie the whole thing up in knots until people are desperate enough to accept a pittance, and meanwhile, it will all be business as usual.

I'm always disturbed by the conflation of "democracy" and "capitalism". They're two different things, and I'm increasingly certain that they are actually incompatible. The US of A has pretty clearly chosen the latter over the former. We're coming up to an election here in Oz, and unfortunately, I suspect we're going to be chasing after the American system even more closely, once it's all done and dusted.

I think I'm tired of this.

EDITED TO ADD: It gets better. Today, Reuters reports that the plant was storing 1350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate which should trigger a safety oversight/inspection from the US Department of Homeland Security. 270 tons!

Read It Here.