Saturday, February 17, 2007

In response to the tragic mall shootings recently in Salt Lake City, the RAND Corp. has come out with recommended security measures to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks on shopping malls. Note that the RAND Corp. is the same think-tank outfit that produced a pre-Iraq invasion study specifying approximately 500,000 would be the optimal number of troops for Iraq (of course, this study was ignored). But I digress....

Needless to say, these current mall recommendations will likewise go nowhere. Too cumbersome, obtrusive, expensive. But more so, before we focus on making our shopping experience threat-free, wouldn't it make more sense to first tackle more lethal and vulnerable areas of our economy, like the hundreds of chemical plants that remain fairly open to attack?

The chemical lobby has done a splendid job at killing any legislative measures mandating an increase in security. The latest heinous example of this behind-the-scenes chicanery involves, of all people, Dick Cheney's son-in-law. From 2001-2003, Philip Perry was in charge of doing the chemical industry's bidding, blocking any potential laws or regulations from getting passed that may increase security and safety. The following describes his handy-work at the time:
“Perry is an √©minence grise,” says one congressional staffer. “He’s been pretty good at getting his fingerprints off of anything, but everyone in this field knows he’s the one directing it. He is very good at the stealth move.” And, as it turns out, Perry’s stealth moves have often benefited opponents of chemical regulation. One of his final pieces of handiwork included coming up with what critics have called an “industry wish list” on chemical security that ultimately became law last fall. “Every time the industry has gotten in trouble,” says the staffer, “they’ve gone running to Phil Perry.”

The result has been that our chemical sites remain, even five years after 9/11, stubbornly vulnerable to attack.
As I've pointed out many times here in the past, states have increasingly felt the need to take matters into their own hands to counter-act the non-action and negligence exhibited at the federal level. In this case, the NJ acting governor, Richard Codey, made a decision:
In November 2005, acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey got tired of waiting and issued an executive order mandating that the forty-three riskiest chemical plants in his state come up with chemical-security plans and conduct a review of potential IST measures. This was unwelcome news to the chemical industry, which rallied to seek Washington’s help in shutting down New Jersey’s efforts.
So who comes flying in to rescue the chemical industry from New Jersey? Yup, Mr. Perry. He works behind the scenes to somehow, someway get obscure language changed so that federal power trumps that of the state's. Mission accomplished.

My head explodes with the number of things to highlight. Let's see, the cronyism (Cheney son-in-law?), the co-presidency (Cheney basically calling the shots), slimey back-room dealings, the hypocrisy of Republicans emphasizing the rights of states to set laws -- unless special interests dictate otherwise, the continued rhetoric about how the terrorists will "follow us home" and yet the Republicans are not exactly taking preemptive measures to secure us here. Feel free to add on to the list.

Finally, with regards to fatal incidents at shopping malls, they've always involved guns so why not focus on gun control laws as a first step? Hey, it seemed to work for GOP presidential contender Rudy Giuliani....

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