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Please begin with an informative title:

A diary I saw in the community section inspired this one. The diarist's lede asked if there was any proposed legislation that would deal with guns.

I'm fairly certain there is, at least at the federal level.  I remember someone declaring that they were going to "embarrass" Obama with the issue, and I remember other legislators promising their own bills to reintroduce the assault weapons ban, limit magazine capacity, etc.

The truth is this:  The question of whether or not legislation is being drawn up, submitted, or even voted upon is all-but irrelevant.  Oh, sure, there may be a dog and pony show; Dems in the House will announce their bill and call on Speaker Boehner to bring it to the floor.  (And they'll spam reporters and bloggers with press releases, and some of the reporters and bloggers may even dance...)  In the Senate, something may even get through, so long as any filibuster reform has teeth (but don't hold your breath).  Of course, that'd be a sideshow too.  It'll get press, and Republicans will take some heat, and the Republican House won't consider it and all will be forgotten by 2014 (you don't really think Dems are going to make an electoral issue out of gun control, do you?)

But that's par for the course, when it comes to Washington DC.  

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April, 2010.  It wasn't capped until July.  Does anyone remember any legislative battles in the run-up to the 2010 elections over rig safety, or corporate liability, or comprehensive auditing of the industry's safety and response capabilities?  Me neither.

In fact, I don't think Congress - with a Democratic House and an overwhelmingly large majority in the Senate - responded with anything meaningful at all.  Sure, noise was made, a few votes were cast in the House, and press releases were zipped off to all the usual suspects.  But no legislation ever made it to the President's desk; no new laws were passed.

Many of the problems that led to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill have not been addressed, say the members of a commission set up by US President Barack Obama to study the disaster. The group releases a report (PDF) today on progress towards its 2011 recommendations for preventing future disasters and improving spill response.


The US Congress fares worst in the new report, earning a 'D' rating for its failure to enact any meaningful legislation in response to the disaster. The Restore Act would allocate 80% of any fines that BP pays for the spill under the Clean Water Act to restoring the environment and economies of the states in the Gulf of Mexico, but the act has stalled in the House of Representatives.


“Our national response to the Macondo disaster has been a disaster,” he says, “What a waste of an opportunity to learn and do better.”

Almost exactly one year later, Fukushima went critical after its back-up generators were disabled by a tsunami.  Here in the United States, we have nuke plants scattered across the country that pose similar risks.  If, god forbid, a solar event leads to widespread damage to our electrical grid, scores of nuclear plants could be faced with the exact problem Fukishima managers were incapable of responding to:  no means of circulating water in the spent fuel rod holding tanks.  As the water bioled off, hydrogen gas would build up (part of a reaction that takes place when the rods melt) and, like popcorn, plants would blow up and spew toxic radioactive clouds across America.  There's one key difference though:  In Japan, the prevailing winds took much of the gas out to sea.  Here in America, depending on which plants are lost, prevailing winds would carry isotopes across the entire continental United States.  They'd settle into our nation's breadbasket, aquifers, Great Lakes and everywhere else.

Surely, Congress worked diligently to pass sensible legislation, right?

Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch. (Except for press releases.)

Of course, maybe we don't need to be too worried about glow-in-the-dark farmlands.  I mean, right now much of the nation is suffering through a cataclysmic drought.  Last year you may have noticed a drop in meat prices.  It happened because producers slaughtered animals they couldn't sustain; if you can't get water to your herd, they die.  They cut their losses by slaughtering early.  Elsewhere across the United States, we saw record wildfires.  And of course there's Katrina and Sandy and derechos and snowless winters, and ice-free arctic passages...

Surely, Congress must be reacting to climate change, right?  I mean, these are our leaders, sworn to defend this country and protect our freedoms, right?


Truth is, humanity's ability to shape its environment and bend nature to its will has outstripped humanity's capacity for understanding the possible consequences.  Our governments have proven inadequate to the task of responding to existential threats; instead they compound them.  When Japan did a postmortem on Fukushima, they found that gov't regulators had been captured and subsumed by industry.  Nothing is different in our country.

So yeah, guns.  Maybe they will introduce something wonderful.  But don't count on anything passing.


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