Friday, April 11, 2008

Stop Them Before They Destroy Everything

The easiest thing you can blog about is the incompetence of the Bush Administration. Here's how you do it. Read any news site. Look at the first headline where "Bush Administration" is mentioned. Blog about it. Express outrage at the incompetence.

That's all there is to it. If "blogging" were a real job, I'd be leaning on a broom most of the time, and I'd never be behind in my work. Now, when they finally do change administrations, this whole blogging thing will probably get a lot harder.
(AP) The Bush administration is likely to move its research on one of the most contagious animal diseases from an isolated island laboratory off Long Island to the U.S. mainland near herds of livestock, raising concerns about a catastrophic outbreak.

Skeptical Democrats in Congress are demanding to see internal documents they believe highlight the risks and consequences of the decision. An epidemic of the disease, foot and mouth, which only affects animals, could devastate the livestock industry.

One such government report, produced last year and already turned over to lawmakers by the Homeland Security Department, combined commercial satellite images and federal farm data to show the proximity to livestock herds of locations that have been considered for the new lab. "Would an accidental laboratory release at these locations have the potential to affect nearby livestock?" asked the nine-page document. It did not directly answer the question.

The answer to this is--yes, it does spread and yes, it very much does matter where you put these facilities. This is not a case of "not in my backyard." This is a case of "don't you dare put this in a vulnerable place where it could spread disease." Foot and Mouth Disease is a devastating disease that can affect millions of farm animals and put further strain on our weakening economy.
A simulated outbreak of the disease - part of an earlier U.S. government exercise called "Crimson Sky" - ended with fictional riots in the streets after the simulation's National Guardsmen were ordered to kill tens of millions of farm animals, so many that troops ran out of bullets. In the exercise, the government said it would have been forced to dig a ditch in Kansas 25 miles long to bury carcasses. In the simulation, protests broke out in some cities amid food shortages.

"It was a mess," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who portrayed the president in the 2002 exercise. Now, like other lawmakers from the states under consideration, Roberts supports moving the government's new lab to his state. Manhattan, Kan., is one of five mainland locations under consideration. "It will mean jobs" and spur research and development, he says.

The other possible locations for the new National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility are Athens, Ga.; Butner, N.C.; San Antonio; and Flora, Miss. The new site could be selected later this year, and the lab would open by 2014. The numbers of livestock in the counties and surrounding areas of the finalists range from 542,507 in Kansas to 132,900 in Georgia, according to the Homeland Security study.


Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee also are worried about the lab's likely move to the mainland. The chairman, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and the head of the investigations subcommittee, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., are threatening to subpoena records they say Homeland Security is withholding from Congress. Those records include reports about "Crimson Sky," an internal review about a publicized 1978 accidental release of foot-and-mouth disease on Plum Island and reports about any previously undisclosed virus releases on the island during the past half century.

The lawmakers set a deadline of Friday for the administration to turn over reports they requested. Otherwise, they warned in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, they will arrange a vote next week to issue a congressional subpoena.

So the people who are supposed to protect us and use common sense won't even consent to Congressional oversight? I'm sure Senator Roberts wants the Federal funds for his state--but does he care that it comes with a price? How is it that there a fight over documents and the possibility of a Congressional subpoena in this matter? It's NOT a partisan matter. This isn't about whether Karl Rove was whispering something about someone into the President's ear. This is a basic public health and public safety issue.

This is the kind of thing you don't demagogue or fight over--you comply and negotiate and get yourself right with Congress.

[photo - Plum Island]

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