Home



Issue #65

Download Entire issue (23mb PDF)

 

Features:

HThe Disaster is 20 Years Young! - Matt Taibbi

Sleeping With the Fishes: Fear Not, Buffalo--Corporate Welfare Will Save You! - Chris Abbey

No Moore Dissent: DLC Targets Populism, Man-Boobs- Matt Taibbi

Drowning the Scorpion: Debating a Neocon- Stan Goff

Condoleezza Rice is Going to Lick Your Beaver- Matt Taibbi


Faux-tures:

Bush Refuses to Pardon Turkey, Execution Proceeds as Scheduled

Kmart, Sears Merge to Create One Big Failure - Josh Righter



Departments:

Buffalo in Briefs

BEAST-O-Scopes

Page 3

Separated at Birth?

[sic] - Letters

The Straight Dope w/ Dr Rotten




Entertainment:

Movie Reviews:

Kino Korner

Music Reviews :

Arcade Fire

MF Doom - Ketchup Samurai

BEASTIVITIES

Sports:

Wide Right: Bills Still Have a Shot at 5th Super Bowl Loss - Ronnie Roscoe



Comix:

I Witless News - I. Gonzalez

Deep Fried - Jason Yungbluth

Bob the Angry Flower - Stephen Notley





Issue #64

Download Entire issue (31mb PDF)

 

Features:

Happy Bhopal to You: The Disaster is 20 Years Young! - Matt Taibbi

Sleeping With the Fishes: Fear Not, Buffalo--Corporate Welfare Will Save You! - Chris Abbey

No Moore Dissent: DLC Targets Populism, Man-Boobs- Matt Taibbi

Drowning the Scorpion: Debating a Neocon- Stan Goff

Condoleezza Rice is Going to Lick Your Beaver- Matt Taibbi


Faux-tures:

Bush Refuses to Pardon Turkey, Execution Proceeds as Scheduled

Kmart, Sears Merge to Create One Big Failure - Josh Righter



Departments:

Buffalo in Briefs

BEAST-O-Scopes

Page 3

Separated at Birth?

[sic] - Letters

The Straight Dope w/ Dr Rotten




Entertainment:

Movie Reviews:

Kino Korner

Music Reviews :

Arcade Fire

MF Doom - Ketchup Samurai

BEASTIVITIES

Sports:

Wide Right: Bills Still Have a Shot at 5th Super Bowl Loss - Ronnie Roscoe



Comix:

I Witless News - I. Gonzalez

Deep Fried - Jason Yungbluth

Bob the Angry Flower - Stephen Notley





Issue #63

Download Entire issue (18mb PDF)

Features:

Top Ten Hacks of 2004 Election - Matt Taibbi

MEMRI Problems: Was Kerry's Election Bid Lost in Translation?- Chris Riordan

Pick of the Litter: Bottom-Feeding all the Way to the Top

Redwoods Evil, Must Be Destroyed: Bush Wants Some Wood- Kit Smith

Too Cool for School: City Honors Censorship - Al Uthman

Tortures - R - Us - Christopher Lord


Faux-tures:

New Hotel on Baltic Ave: Boon or Burden? - Ian Murphy

10 Tips For Coping with your Dysfunctional Family this Thanksgiving

A Word From Our Sponsors



Departments:

Buffalo in Briefs

BEAST-O-Scopes

Page 3

Separated at Birth?

[sic] - Letters

The Straight Dope w/ Dr Rotten




Entertainment:

Movie Reviews:

Kino Korner

Music Reviews :

Matchbook Romance/Midtown Show - Chris Meister

Goo Goo Dolls DVD - Seamus Gallivan

Elliot Smith CD- Michael Gildea

Odd Couple CD - Ketchup Samurai

BEASTIVITIES

Sports:

Wide Right: Bills could Make Playoffs--in the NFC - Ronnie Roscoe



Comix:

Beast Comix - Ian Murphy

I Witless News - I. Gonzalez

Deep Fried - Jason Yungbluth

Bob the Angry Flower - Stephen Notley







Contact Us

MERCHANDISE



Archives--Old BEASTs

#63

#62

#61

#60

#59

More



© 2004 The Beast

Happy Bhopal to You

The Disaster is 20 Years Young!

by Matt Taibbi

THE BHOPAL DISASTER had its 20th anniversary last week, and so was duly (and briefly) commemorated in the inside sections of a few American newspapers.

It is unlikely, however, that any public figures are going to pay tribute to what happened 20 years ago this week. Which is too bad, because as far as America is concerned, the week of Dec. 9 to 16 was the more important week of the Bhopal disaster. That's when we got over Bhopal.

In the first week, in particular the first days after the Dec. 3 accident left thousands dead, the American media response was nervous, embarrassed, and in some places genuinely contrite. But it didn't take too long for reporters to start wondering aloud how it might be possible for us Americans to feel less guilty about all of this. On Wednesday, Dec. 5, for instance, ABC's Mark Litke expressed hope that India's population of superstitious savages might soon get over its rational but unfortunately directed outrage over the matter:

Since India is a superstitious land, long hardened to deadly natural disasters, there is always the chance that the Bhopal tragedy will ultimately be dismissed as bad karma or God's will. But right now no one is forgetting that this was a manmade disaster...

Within a few days after that, the press moved on to the next phase of its treatment of the story, which was to begin praising Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for its handling of the disaster.

Among other things, there was a great flood of positive press for UCC CEO Warren Anderson, who was praised for taking the brave step of actually traveling to Bhopal. It was an unusual sort of trip. Anderson traveled by private jet the entire way. When he finally arrived in Bhopal, on Friday, Dec. 7, he was met immediately on the tarmac of the airport by Indian officials, who "arrested" him—taking him not to jail but to the Union Carbide guesthouse, where he was "detained" for six hours. He was then "released" on roughly $2000 bail, despite the fact that the criminal negligence charges that had ostensibly been levied were non-bailable under Indian law.

Anderson was then escorted back to his plane, flown to Delhi, delivered to the U.S. embassy and ultimately told by the Indian government to leave the country for his own safety. The compliant Anderson then flew back to Connecticut, where he promptly held a press conference in which he somberly denied any personal responsibility for the accident—and noted, with a straight face, that during the entire course of the trip, he "didn't see one placard...didn't see one angry citizen."

At the time, not one reporter bothered to point out that this had been because Anderson had been either on his private jet, in protective custody or in the U.S. embassy the entire time he'd been in India.

(An aside: even this past week, in the year 2004, Anderson's effigy was still being burned in cities across India).

Reporters did, however, point out how brave Anderson had been to make this trip. The Washington Post called it a "bold move," UPI called Anderson's trip an "ordeal" and the New York Times fell over itself in praise of the "embattled" CEO. Amazingly, Times reporter Thomas Lueck quoted not only a business school professor, but a consultant from a New York p.r. agency, as well as one of UCC's own spokesmen, to assess the moral legacy of Anderson's trip.

Under the sub-headline "An Admirable Thing," Lueck placed his quote of p.r. exec Martin Burger:

"I don't care how much good the trip did in gathering information, it was necessary to make a bold statement, he did it, and it was an admirable thing to do,'' [Burger] added.

Then, using the same ball-sucking technique Times reporters like Elisabeth Bumiller use in the White House to this day, Lueck allowed a UCC spokesman—a paid liar of the highest order—to offer the apocryphal insight that the Bhopal trip had been entirely Anderson's own idea:

"Nobody was advising him on that one,'' said Ed Van Den Ameele, the company's manager of media relations... "He felt that he needed to be there, regardless of the risk.''

From there, the floodgates were open. U.S. reporters repeatedly hammered three themes in the press.

The first was that the Indian anger over the accident was an overemotional response by an ill-informed peasant population that simply could not accept that industrial accidents, though regrettable, are the inevitable price of progress. Times reporter William Broad put it most succinctly, noting that many of the Bhopal victims would not even have been alive to be killed had it not been for corporate citizens like UCC:

So too, experts argue, the tragedy in India has to be seen in its wider context.

"Of those people killed, half would not have been alive today if it weren't for that plant and the modern health standards made possible by wide use of pesticides,'' said Dr. Melvin Kranzberg...

The second theme was that the accident only happened because the Indians were incompetent. Here's how the house editorial at the Times put it on Dec. 9:

Part of the explanation may be a difference in culture. India's scientists are as good as any, but not all Indian workers have the same familiarity with machinery as Americans.

It should be noted that UCC later commissioned a study by the firm Arthur Little that concluded the accident had been caused by a deliberate act of sabotage by an Indian worker. Though the company did not name the worker, and never offered any evidence proving that a dog actually ate its homework, this was the position the company would ultimately take and stick to. The Indian government's response to the same study ("We are not impressed") got less ink.

The third theme in the press that week? That the real villains of the story were the American lawyers who were flying to India to organize class-action suits against UCC. Papers like the Post and the Times suddenly became victim advocates once the prospect of Melvin Belli taking 30 percent of a future settlement became a real possibility. Post columnist Richard Cohen took the extraordinary position that the lawyers were the real neo-colonialists in this tale:

This is ambulance chasing on a global scale, a new type of colonialism. If only the British had settled for a third of the profits, the sun might never have set on their empire.

Bhopal quickly faded from American newspapers. It has not faded so successfully in the actual city of Bhopal. Without being a melodramatic environmentalist—we know how that turns off American readers—it should be noted that 20 years after the disaster, there has still been no real cleanup of the Bhopal site, and in particular no cleanup of the city's water supply. Neither UCC nor its new parent company Dow has coughed up a dime for water-supply cleanup. The Indian government in 1997 did spend money on a few cans of red paint to mark 250 wells that were contaminated, but since most of the area's residents have no place else to get water, the wells are still used. Neither UCC nor Dow has ever formally accepted responsibility for the accident. Little of a very small $470 million settlement—arranged between the court and UCC, without consulting the victims—has actually been paid out.

What was so disgusting about the Bhopal story, and what continues to be disgusting, was not just that it happened, but that the story played out the way it did here in the States.

At least 7000 people died in the first week at Bhopal. Tens of thousands more subsequent deaths were directly attributed to the accident. More than 100,000 were injured. In the States this phrase—"100,000 injured"—was usually confined to just that phrase. Readers were seldom told that this meant thousands of people left with such serious respiratory problems that they cannot leave their homes or work (or, significantly, walk to an uncontaminated well). They were not told that Bhopal residents who were little girls in 1984 went on to live long, painful lives of blurred vision, chest pains and constant vaginal discharges. Little boys, for some reason, had a different reaction than the girls; they frequently failed to grow and remained miniature people their whole lives.

Fully grown men under five feet tall are not uncommon in Bhopal.

That the safety procedures were different in Bhopal than they were in the West Virginia plant was often noted in American news articles, but usually noted offhand. The extent to which this was true has rarely ever been mentioned in this country—not even last week, after Amnesty International released a report detailing the differences between the two UCC plants.

There is not enough space to be comprehensive, but here are a few bullet points:

• The Bhopal plant had no emergency "scrubbers" to render harmless any leaking gases. The U.S. plant did.

• There was no computerized monitoring of instruments in Bhopal. There was in West Virginia.

• The U.S. plant used inert chloroform for its cooling system; in Bhopal, they used brine, more dangerous and reactive with the liquid MIC.

• West Virginia had a refrigeration unit that was always on. Bhopal, in a cost-cutting move, had turned off its refrigeration unit the previous June. (They turned off refrigeration units in India!)

• UCC didn't even have an emergency plan with the city of Bhopal, had no system for informing the public, no emergency liaison. All of these things, in West Virginia, it had.

And so on; this list could go on for another page.

UCC ignored dozens of warnings—not general warnings about general safety lapses, but specific warnings about the specific problem that would ultimately occur. Two years before, a team of its own American technicians classified 10 major potential hazards at the plant, including what ultimately happened: a leak of MIC from its storage tanks.

But UCC did nothing, because UCC didn't give a fuck. It didn't have to. Even the worst-case scenario wasn't so bad. It's not like you'll have to replace the city's water supply if the plant explodes. It isn't Connecticut, for Christ's sake. Might as well go cheap, and hope everything works out. And if not...

Fuck 'em. After all, who's going to care in a year? Ten years? Twenty? No one. Hell, even after a week, the New York Times figured out what the real tragedy was. Lueck wrote:

The other day one of the dozens of reporters who have flocked here asked Warren M. Anderson...whether he really cared about anything besides profit and loss. Mr. Anderson sighed a weary sigh.

"During the last week, I haven't been able to give profits much thought," he said.

Boy, that must have been one tough week. Happy anniversary, Bhopal.



 

.. This Issue ...........Home............. Contact........Archives

Sleeping With the Fishes

Chris Abbey

What do dying urban centers need to keep them afloat when everything and everyone has long since moved out to the suburbs? A gimmick, of course, like the Arch in St. Louis or, even cooler, a Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of fame like Cleveland has! Too bad those ideas were already taken, and the only thing our leaders could think of is resurrecting the long dead Aud and turning it into a massive Bass Pro outdoor shop, along with a hotel and restaurant.


Happy Bhopal to You

Matt Taibbi

THE BHOPAL DISASTER had its 20th anniversary last week, and so was duly (and briefly) commemorated in the inside sections of a few American newspapers.

It is unlikely, however, that any public figures are going to pay tribute to what happened 20 years ago this week. Which is too bad, because as far as America is concerned, the week of Dec. 9 to 16 was the more important week of the Bhopal disaster. That's when we got over Bhopal.


Drowning the Scorpion

Stan Goff

When I was first invited by Dr. Stephen Smith to speak at Winthrop University in South Carolina, I was preparing a trip to Haiti and I didn't give much thought to how I would handle the engagement. I'd just finished being pole-axed by a bout of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and it was everything I could do to just pull the Haiti trip together. So I didn't pay much attention to the person who would appear with me - one Patrick Clawson - to represent "the other side" in a forum/debate billed as "What Next in Iraq? A Post-Election Perspective."


[sic]

Seeing your last rag/magazine complaining about the last Presidential elections made me laugh. You commies have nothing better to do but insult our President, our country and our troops. You all should go back and help your fellows brothers in the Ukraine, where there really was a corrupted and stolen election.


The Top 10 Hacks of the 2004 Election

Matt Taibbi

10 - GEORGE WILL, NEWSWEEK: Will uses big words and pompous literary references to dress up what are basically the brutish and vulgar thinking patterns of a non-union meat-packing plant owner. He is a pig in a lace hat.


MEMRI Problems

Chris Riordan

Stranded from intellect and worthwhile rhetoric in Utica, NY for the last few months, I have made a habit of visiting political discussion boards online for a dose of informed bantering and arguing. I tend to gravitate towards conservative cyber communities because I generally prefer arguing to agreeing.


Pick of the Litter

Pat Ragpicker

It's 4am on a winter night, and I'm parked on a dead end street near Kaisertown. It’s a secluded corner of the city I found by driving around aimlessly. I'm new to town, and penniless after buying my van with $700 I squirreled away the last time I got a paycheck. That was 7 months ago. Over those months, I managed to live off a few hundred bucks while sleeping in a warehouse closet and helping some friends make a TV show to try selling to a network.


Redwoods Evil, Must be Destroyed

Kit Smith

Nature is a bad and inconvenient thing. It must be stopped. That's why so many of us environmental scientists voted for Bush. He recognizes that endangered species are tasty, that Yellowstone is the most awesome place for snowmobiling in the whole world, and that those horrible California Redwoods are home to Satan himself.


Too Cool for School

Al Uthman

In the decomposing cesspool of Buffalo's public schools, City Honors has long been regarded as something of a gem. In fact, it is widely regarded as the best school the city has to offer, with the brightest kids around.


Tortures-R-Us

Christopher Lord

Iraqis wondering what the next phase of the Republicans' invasion of their country will bring should consider El Aguacate airstrip in Honduras. In 2001, 185 bodies were dug up there: the victims were the 'terrorists' and 'enemies of democracy' of the day.




O Buffalo

Al Uthman

It's time to face some unpleasant facts, Buffalo. This country may not be the best place for us anymore. On November 2nd, we all bore witness to a terrible turning point in our history; a bad lifestyle choice, if you will. We had the chance to reject the increasing madness of our nation's leadership, their blind march to pointless war and craven desire to take advantage of us in every manner conceivable, and we blew it. America has spoken, and it said "duh."


Love or 4-Hour Erections

Matt Taibbi

...If history is any guide, the DLC will spend the next four years trying to find a pious bomb-thrower to put up as the nominee- unless, of course, the poll numbers in a few years' time show that Barack Obama is good-looking, black and charming enough to get the party over the hump using the same basic playbook that worked so swimmingly this time.


10 Ultra-cynical Ways to Beat the Republicans

Why did the Democrats lose? At least in part, it's because they thought that being right would actually work in their favor. Let's face it, logic doesn't mean squat in politics. People say there's too much cynicism in politics today, but we think there really isn't enough. Cynicism works. The Republican Party has embraced it, and it has worked wonders for them. The Democrats have made some progress in this area, but they are still lagging badly. If there's any hope for the blue states, they must learn the lessons of Machiavelli and Rove. To help them along, the BEAST offers these suggestions.