Monday, April 29, 2013

My Visit To The Fertilizer Blast Site (Photo/Video)


"I want to change their minds – not kill them for weaknesses we all possess."

15 dead
200+ injured
Dozens left homeless

I must admit had me or mine died or suffered grievous injury from an apparently careless storage of a high explosive I'm not so sure I could adopt Gandhi's attitude. I'd want blood for blood - or just completely let it go to preserve my sanity. As it is, I'll just try to remain a mere observer.

In order for a society to be feasible and sustainable it must be built on the bedrock of trust. And the higher the trust the higher the civilization. Everyone knows this and each society has a different answer. In America we have a very high degree of trust - I trust you to be greedy and you trust me to be likewise. We have very great faith in that, but time has come to grow up.

Are our safety measures all they could be? Do we pollute as little as possible? Are we guided first by the sanctity of human life? If you judge us by our fruits, the answer is no. And if the answer is no then events such as these cannot be called accidents. They are simply preventable events that we allow to happen. Why would we do that?

West, Texas hugs I-35 south. Fertilizer plant is circled in red.

Anyone who drives up and down I-35 between Dallas and Austin will notice the Czech flavored town of West about 20 minutes north of Waco. It jumps out at you and you feel there's some sort of scene going on there you should "Czech" out. I never had stopped there before so in that sense I relished this trip down south of Dallas. I will come again in a year's time to see what healing has come.

I-35 on the left

The lines were long but patient in each store.

Too small even for a last picture show

There's no substitute for actual boots on the ground of a catastrophic event. The camera always diminishes it, cropping out the context and feel relayed to us only by the stale and rehearsed voices of reporters. When you're finally there, it all hits you in the gut, giving you pause. Expect your expectations to be wrong.


In the south part of town farthest from the blast, support efforts were in full swing. There was a massive DPS presence along with a smattering of government agencies ranging from the ATF to the Flower Mound (swank Dallas suburb) fire department. Relief organizations rolled in from across the country seemingly very organized and helpful in highly practical ways. One got the sense they were old hats at this.

Mobile charging station. Genius!

Billy Graham response team? Who knew?

Animals are people too!

I made my way up north on Reagan street until I came across the first signs of the blast. The intersections at the perimeter of the blast were controlled by DPS troopers. I asked a cameraman from a TV station how close photographers could get ("Who you with?" "I'm a, uh, video blogger." Need to change that to freelancer or something). He told me you can't get into the blast zone so I took some pics from the edge.

No sneaking in the next street over, either!

I decided to drive along the perimeter and take some long distance shots to see what I could see.

The high school was a major staging ground for support personnel

West16 Apartments exposed directly to the blast in the back. In the foreground damage to the West Intermediate School

Part of the former fertilizer plant

Even along the perimeter the damage was not minor. Any home marked with an X is considered no longer to be safe. I saw many people packing, refugees in the land of plenty.


The dreaded X

I decided I had to get closer. I backtracked up I-35 to a northern exit to see what sort of chances I might have that way. Sure enough, as I looked across the highway I saw cars stopping at a DPS checkpoint. I had an innocent speech all prepared as I watched a car pull away from the two officers. But once they walked away from that car towards their own they paid me no mind at all, like I was invisible. So I just scooted right in, thank you. And there I saw the real damage.

Map shows the nursing home and apartments in left square, plant in the right. My survey was in that left square and the blocks above.

After the explosion (Getty image)

First house I saw. Like most of them, it appeared as if it had blown up from the inside.



Everyone was packing up their belongings and headed for God knows where. I asked a disaster volunteer where they might be going and she replied she had no idea. Not everyone has a Superdome handy, I suppose. The mood, however, was not dour or even somber. There was certainly an air of concern but ready smiles were easily found in the sharing of a common tragedy.




"Closed for clean up. Please respect and bare [sic] with us through this troubling time. We will be open by phone "only" in another location Monday...Thanks for all the prayers, support and patience...West stands strong!"

As I got closer to the blast site the damage became more pronounced. I can't imagine the shock and panic at the time of the explosion. Takes a certain kind of strength and courage to be a first responder who has to pull bloodied bodies from the rubble.

Inner courtyard of the nursing home

The part of the nursing home facing the blast

Apartments were simply shattered to pieces



I wasn't ballsy enough to go on the other side of the apartments to get closer to the blast. I didn't see anyone else walking that way plus a DPS trooper was keeping an eye on that road. I made do with some long range shots instead.





A volunteer I talked to told me she heard story after story of miraculous saves. Either someone had just left the house or the room that got destroyed, or they were pulled from the debris with just a few scratches. But perhaps the biggest saving grace was that school was not in session at the nearby Intermediate School.




On my way out I decided I wanted to see more of this city I had passed over so many times before. I certainly sensed what a tight knit community it was just from watching the residents interact with one another. I felt very much the outsider. But no one I ran into was stand offish or unfriendly, instead making me feel welcome even as an obvious interloper.






Dear West, I'll be back!

Click here to see the entire photo set.


Latest news:

Although not lamenting nor "disgusted" by the absence of regulation or even the absence of following existing regulations by a deadly fertilizer plant, Governor Goodhair is downright upset by a cartoon from the Sacramento Bee cheering his oft heard mantra of low taxes and low regulations. In fact, Governor Goodhair is demanding an apology! No word yet if the governor is going to offer one to the families of the dead and wounded.

Lawsuits from Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast now Total 6

The deadly Central Texas fertilizer facility explosion has now spawned six lawsuits, including one from the family of a volunteer firefighter killed in the blast.

Fourteen people died and more than 200 were injured by the April 17 blast in the small Central Texas town of West. Dozens of buildings were destroyed or severely damaged

West volunteer firefighter Morris Bridge was among the 14 killed. His family is among the latest to sue Adair Grain Inc., operator of West Fertilizer Co., the Waco Tribune-Herald reports. Another is Joshua Zarecor, a man blinded while visiting a friend at a nearby nursing home when the plant exploded.

Also suing are two insurance companies, a nursing home resident and a West couple. The blast caused an estimated $100 million in damage.

The scandal overlooked in West, Texas

Following the tragic Boston bombings and the subsequent manhunt, citizens across the country made an effort to support the victims and the city affected, both financially and emotionally.

Those affected by the fertilizer plant explosion that same week in West, Texas, have seen a decent amount of support and coverage but probably not enough.

However, though the national media focuses on the motives behind the Boston bombings, the origins of the completely avoidable fertilizer explosion have seldom been discussed.

While we may never understand how or why someone would want to murder innocent people peacefully watching the Boston Marathon, it’s vital that those at fault for the lack of oversight and accountability in the fertilizer plant incident be investigated and punished. If necessary, better regulation and bigger penalties should be put in place in order to protect workers from being killed because of an incompetent boss.

Mike Elk, in an article published in the Washington Post, noted that the fertilizer plant did not have sprinklers, shut-off valves, fire alarms or blast walls, any one of which might have prevented the deaths of 14 people and about 200 injuries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 4,693 work-related fatalities occurred in 2011, which was actually down slightly from previous years. Though tragic and unacceptable, this number gains far less attention than it should, particularly from Congress and the White House.

While the government has spent trillions trying to prevent more terrorist attacks, little is done for work-related deaths, which are far more common and preventable.

Consultant: Three schools in West cannot be repaired

WEST, Texas — The West Independent School District board of trustees learned Monday that three of its four schools will have to be demolished in the wake of the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.

The district's high school, intermediate school, and most of its middle school were damaged by the blast.

A construction company that has reviewed the three schools told trustees that only the gymnasium at the middle school can be repaired; the other structures must be rebuilt.

The estimated price of the repairs was not available.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Moons of Jupiter Are No Place To Die

A criminal's fate I do suffer. Can't live with others they leave you to die. How can I blame them?


The third planet in this system is populated but embryonic. Like me, they cannot be let in the door without the destruction of everyone. I would love to hear their words upon knowledge of my existence!


How horrible to have regressed. I want to be angry but cannot find a valid argument. What they did they did in love. They know I still yearn for the Conscience of the universe even if I forget it. They won't allow me to further damage myself.


But can I find redemption here? I do not know. With whom can I connect? When I was connected I knew what it meant to be disconnected. But now that I'm disconnected I don't know what it means. Interesting.


Maybe they put me in this system with the embryonics for a reason. I shiver at the nearness of their darkness! I world of educating and warfare, of not-knowing and despair, so few embracing the inner Light.


Failing to forgive myself, that's what got me here. I wanted to hold fast to my knowledge, to keep it in my hands! I closed my eyes and stuffed my ears to keep the unbelievable alive. But we are not embryonics, we have passed that forever.


Can I still serve a purpose? That's the fear of here. I gave myself my own purpose, losing the real one. But I still wish to serve!


I must make peace with this cloud in my head. A difficult thing to do. Why oh why did I abandon the light? Is this orb of nothingness part of the healing?

I surrender. Maybe I can only surrender on a lost moon like this. What a wonderful thought to think I'm still loved!


It's good I have not purged myself. But that's all I know. I've let go of all other thoughts. I spent several rotations dreaming, I know not how many. Before, I always knew where my dreams led.


A thought came to me. It made me feel alive! I must trust me with life again. Love brings love. But the wicked embryonics will not see this as love. Oh, how I pity them.


It's up to the Ambassadors to bring the embryonics into the fold of the universe after their birthing stage but I am no Ambassador and am not blessed with their gifts for that purpose. But for me to contact the embryonics excites me.


The signaling has begun. I've always been glad to be one who's lot is not to deal with the embryonic planets. I enjoyed the sunshine of tending the Garden. Maybe I am here for a reason after all. This is something I will never fear again!


I know everything they must be saying. Some will say this signal means everything, some will say it means nothing - each according to his acceptance of love. How horrid to live in a time of debate! How many will see violence as the answer? How many will find their love strengthened? None of this can (nor need) be known by me.


I am stronger now, grateful for my fate - as I had longed to feel. I still cannot see the big picture, only hope I have played my part. I do not feel I was left here as punishment. It was to give me a chance, this blessing.


They have returned! Look at the smiles on their faces! Love! Love! Love! The Grand Design never fails to draw us into the Light. I cry in joy. I have grown and it's like starting over - only better.


Headlines circled the globe with the step into higher consciousness. Some celebrated. Many were outraged at claiming the signal was anything more than a natural space phenomenon. "Nothing has changed! We need not change!" But people of the earth began to hear that voice as hollow, tentatively trusting themselves, feeling the excitement, daring to hope - just the same as their visitor on the Jupiter moon of Io, so far away from them in space yet with them as all living things.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

West, TX Blast vs. Boston, MA Blast

Two incidents, days apart, both causing harm and devastation. How are they different and how are they alike? And what do our reactions to them say about us? Inquiring minds want to know!

Not that anybody's inquiring...

Anyway, here's the breakdown:

Boston West
3 dead, 200+ injured 15 dead, 200+ injured
Destroyed public trust, eroding social fabric Destroyed public trust, eroding social fabric
Motivated by religious self interest Motivated by religious self interest
Bomber was well liked Bomber was well liked
Red flags ignored Red flags ignored

Wow, so much in common! Yet while the Boston bomber is the most well-known teenager in the country with his face plastered 24/7 on every TV in the country, most don't even know the name of the West bomber, Donald Adair. Gee, why is that? Could it be because the religion of our profit motive must be protected at all costs?

Texas town holds no grudge against exploded fertilizer plant owner

After the plant exploded last week, flattening homes, damaging schools, killing 14 people and leaving some 200 others with injuries including burns, lacerations and broken bones, they still described [owner Donald Adair] as honest and good.

...resident Chuck Smith, who helped neighbors leave their homes amid the dark smoke and acrid fumes after the blast, was not prepared to point a finger at the Adairs.

"When all is said and done, they call them accidents for a reason. I mean the people that work there, the people that own that place, that go there ... all of them were raised here, have kids here, have family here," he said. "There was no malicious intent. There was no trying to skimp."

So much for Texans' reputation as fierce fighters for their rights! Texas is a bidness friendly state, another way of saying people don't count. Of course, the state only gets away with this because we Texans don't think we count either! Safety is for sissys! Ain't just cows that get led to slaughter here, so are our children.

But even nationwide there is a lack of outrage. Had the Boston bombers been small business owners would it lessen our anger? Would they receive more sympathy had they done this in the name of preventing "burdensome" government regulation? Somewhere, somehow, there is a disconnect. Just what are we trying to protect here? The profit motive? I'm thinking we need a new definition of profit.

Investigators have ruled out natural causes such as a lightning strike

In a bygone era, tragic events birthed social reforms. Then, we got used to them. Now, they're just tragic.

Just over a century ago, a deadly fire swept through a blouse factory in Manhattan, killing 146 garment workers, most of them immigrant women. The Triangle factory owners, who had locked their employees inside for fear of theft, were acquitted of criminal charges, but the disaster led to the first real workplace safety laws, beginning in New York state, and much later, to the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration by President Richard Nixon in 1970.

Last week's massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Company plant in Texas that killed at least a dozen people comes three years after the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 and resulted in the worst oil spill in American history. All three explosions occurred at facilities with negligent safety policies, operating in an era of sporadic inspections by an understaffed regulatory regime. A new, post-Nixon Republican Congress responded to the earlier two disasters by proposing to cut OSHA's budget by 20%.

This is not an overnight thing, this corruption has been a long time building. The cult of corporation is certainly a hallmark of the 21st century. And while America has always worshiped at that altar, at least we used to fight for our rights, to be free of harm of life and limb. But that is no more in this age of long term unemployed who, according to the statistics, literally do not even count. Just who the fuck does count?

The Adair family have been among the biggest recipients in the area of farm subsidy payments from the federal government. Donald Adair received $874,522 during the period 1995 to 2011 and his son Gary received more than $1.2 million in subsidies during the period, according to a database of U.S. government data compiled by the Environmental Working Group.

So we can't fund OSHA but we can fund the farm vote? Texas is close to passing a (very expensive) bill to test welfare recipients for drugs. Wonder if they'd still consider it if it meant testing all recipients? We freely give these people our tax dollars, they blow up our families and homes in return and then we call them "good". Brainwashed much?

Yes, we love the Boston bombers because we can stand up on our hind legs and proudly point our fingers in moral outrage. But corporate killings? Meh. We good with that. But I just can't wait to see the look on everyone's faces when it comes to light one blast is the same as the other and we see the mutual blood upon our hands. Bet all the "no mercy" fuckers will be singing a different tune then!

While the country's remained fixated on the aftermath of the Boston bombing, a deeply disconcerting set of details about last week's fertilizer plant explosion in Texas has been largely overlooked. Being overlooked is a familiar state of affairs for the West Fertilizer Plant, however. Federal authorities have been overlooking the site of one of America's largest industrial accidents in recent memory for decades. Not months, not years but decades. According to the Huffington Post, the last time "the last time regulators performed a full safety inspection of the facility was nearly 28 years ago."

Oh dear that's bad. Three decades is a long time to avoid doing anything — much less anything involving massive amounts of explosive material. There were some partial inspections done, but the number of red flags in the air around that plant are starting to obscure the blue sky. There are so many!

Take, for example, the quantity of ammonium nitrate at the plant. Ammonium nitrate, of course, is the material that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh used in his 1995 attack that killed 168 people. The West Fertilizer Plant had 135 times the amount of ammonium nitrate as McVeigh used — 270 tons to be precise. That sounds excessive, and according to the Department of Homeland Security, it is. In fact, Reuters reports, the plant was storing "been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

Lawmakers are starting to get pretty upset by the state of affairs. Whereas the Boston bombing was an unspeakable tragedy, an apparent random act of violence, the West Fertilizer Plant explosion was an accident that might've been prevented by simply adhering to safety procedures already in place. "It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Republican member of the House Committee on Homeland Security (DHS), said on Monday. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act, yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."

File that last line under things we never want to hear a congressman say again. The whole point of the DHS is to catch things before they blow up. While it will take a while before we realize who failed to catch the Boston bombers before they acted, it's immediately apparent that government failed to enforce long-established safety measures. And half a town is now gone as a result.