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DANGERS TO AMERICANS’ SAFETY OVERLOOKED FOR POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY AND PROFIT
by Steven Neill, ©2013
(Apr. 29, 2013) — “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22, December 14, 1787 
If, as Alexander Hamilton wrote, some of the main duties of the US Government are the protection and safety of the American people, why is it so easy to find examples of government officials deliberately failing to do so? One only needs to learn about the SS Eastland to see a trail of ignored warnings, close calls, and underhanded businessmen being helped by self-serving politicians.  From its trial run in 1903 to just a couple of weeks before it capsized in 1915, there were repeated warnings by trained professionals concerning the stability of the ship. 
“I thought the damned thing would take the turns on her side” — W.J. Wood
Commissioned by the Michigan Steamship Company in 1902 and completed in 1903, the Eastland was built to provide a speedy yet comfortable trip between South Haven and Chicago. In July 1903, the ship was opened up for a public tour. So many people came to view the Eastland that the vessel listed enough to allow water to flood in through the gangways . On her trial runs a few weeks later, Naval Architect W. J. Wood warned the Port Authorities and ship owners that the ship was not designed correctly, that it was too narrow, causing it to tip over when too much weight was on the upper levels of the ship.  He recommended restricting the top deck from passenger use and always having its ballast tanks filled.
The top deck was made off-limits, but the listing continued to plague the ship which continued to change owners over the years and was moved to different cities to escape its bad reputation. Originally rated to carry 2,800 passengers, the listing caused her rating to drop to 2,400 passengers.
On August 3, 1913, John Devereux York, Naval Architect, sent a letter to the US Harbor Master saying: “You are aware of the condition of the SS Eastland, and unless the structural defects are remedied to prevent listing, there may be a serious accident.”  His letter, like Wood’s before him, was ignored.
In response to the incredible loss of life on the Titanic, the LaFollette Seaman’s Act was passed in 1915.  This Act mandated that lifeboat space would no longer depend on gross tonnage, but rather on how many passengers were on board. By requiring this extra weight to a top-heavy vessel like the Eastland, the law meant to save lives instead sealed the fate of some 844 passengers. When crafting the Bill, the Senate Commerce Committee had been warned about the dangers of placing additional lifeboats and life rafts on the top decks of Great Lakes ships. But these warnings fell on deaf ears. 
On July 24, 1915 Western Electric Company chartered the Eastland along with two other steamers to take its employees from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana for the company picnic.  The mood was festive as a live band played the popular music of the day and the employees brought their families out to enjoy the trip. While there were three ships scheduled to take the revelers across Lake Michigan, the Eastland was slated to be the first ship boarded .
At 7:00 a.m., passengers began to board, and within a few minutes, Captain Harry Pederson noticed the ship listing so he ordered water to be pumped into the ballast tanks to stabilize it. The merrymakers kept boarding the vessel until they were jammed in like sardines. The Captain finally called out to the crew to pull back the gangplank and stop more people from coming aboard.  Without a paper trail, it can only be estimated that there were between 2,600 and 3,000 people on board. Even as the gangplank was being pulled in, the ship started to list, causing water to flood through the port gangways. Seeing the water flooding in and knowing what was coming next, the majority of the crew jumped off the vessel leaving only the captain and a few crew members below decks.
All the while, the passengers, unaware of the danger, continued to dance on the lower decks while those on the top moved away from the list to enjoy the view.  Then, the unthinkable happened. Dishes began to fly off of shelves; a piano almost crushed two passengers as it slid crazily across the floor. The band stopped playing as water poured through portholes and pandemonium reigned as the ship rolled over on its side to settle on the river bed 20 feet below. Passengers trapped below decks were overwhelmed by the inrushing water and flying furniture. Many of those not crushed by the furniture were drowned be the unstoppable tide of water. Those men, women and children fortunate enough to be on the upper decks threw themselves into the river while the lifejackets sat uselessly in place because there was no time to grab them.
Within minutes onlookers rushed to aid those who had been thrown overboard or jumped into the river, while a tugboat steamed in to rescue passengers clinging to the overturned hull of the ship. An eyewitness to the disaster wrote: “I shall never be able to forget what I saw. People were struggling in the water, clustered so thickly that they literally covered the surface of the river. A few were swimming; the rest were floundering about, some clinging to a life raft that had floated free, others clutching at anything that they could reach – at bits of wood, at each other, grabbing each other, pulling each other down, and screaming! The screaming was the most horrible of them all.”
Other boats in the area and people nearby began helping with rescue operations. Some onlookers dove into the river or jumped onto the boat to help those who were struggling while others threw wooden planks and crates into the water to help people stay afloat. Workmen using acetylene torches nearby immediately ran over and started cutting a hole in the ship where pounding was heard. The crews of other ships were pulling people out of the water, dead and alive. By 8:00 a.m., rescue turned to retrieval as the last of the pounding from inside the vessel slowly faded into silence and the remaining air-pockets gave out for those trapped within.
The large number of dead made identifying the dead extremely difficult as 22 entire families were killed in the rollover.  In one case a horse-drawn hearse bearing two newly-sealed coffins stopped at a row house near Chicago’s South Side which was the home of two families employed by Western Electric. The driver knocked on the door to get burial instruction; when no one answered, he knocked on it again, not knowing that all seven people from both families had perished on the Eastland.
The capsizing of the S.S. Eastland caused a nationwide demand for justice over the massive loss of life.  A grand jury was called which indicted the president and three other officers of the steamship company for manslaughter and the ship’s captain and engineer for criminal carelessness. This case became an American Jarndyce v Jarndyce, as the results did not come in for over 20 years. When the findings were released in 1935, it was determined that the disaster was the result of “conditions of instability” caused by any or all of overloading of passengers, mishandling of water ballast, or the construction of the ship. So none of the crew served any prison time or paid any fine. This finding also absolved the owners of any liability and again demonstrated that protecting the public from predatory companies is not on the government’s “to do list.”
Looking at American policy over the last 50 years, it’s quite apparent that little has changed. We no longer have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” but one “of special interests, by special interests, for special interests.” Just a few of the many policies showing such unabashed collusion are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq  the frenzy surrounding the “swine-flu” epidemic;  the bankster and automobile bailouts;  and the green energy giveaways. 
“Eating Healthy is Easy” — Michelle Obama
As flagrant as these examples are, they pale when compared to what was slipped into H.R. 933, the Agricultural Appropriations Bill.  This spending bill was intended to continue funding for several federal departments such as the FDA and USDA through the 2013 fiscal year. In a backroom deal that should infuriate every American, Section 735, entitled the “Farmer Assurance Provision,” also called the “Monsanto Protection Act” was quietly slipped into the bill by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt with the help of Senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Blunt, bearer of several monikers including “Senator Earmark” and “Most Corrupt” from CREW, hails from Monsanto’s home state of Missouri.   His cozy relationship with the GMO seed/chemical has earned him over $118,000 from Monsanto since 2008 and over $243,000 from agribusiness PAC’s in 2010 alone.  Brashly showing just how owned he is, Blunt admitted to Politico that he “worked” with Monsanto on the bill. 
The Monsanto Protection Act prohibits federal courts from banning the planting and sale of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). This applies even if those experimental crops are found today or in the future to be extremely dangerous or to cause a runaway crop plague.
A “Food Democracy Now” petition sums up this outrageous act like this: “With the Senate passage of the Monsanto Protection Act, biotech lobbyists are one step closer to making sure that their new GMO crops can evade any serious scientific or regulatory review.” 
“This dangerous provision, the Monsanto Protection Act, strips judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer and farmer rights and the environment, while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, citizens and the environment.”
Simply put, this provision is an all-out attack on any judicial review and protecting the American public from potentially dangerous items and essentially violates the separation of powers.  Of course, the question of “Separation of Powers” is almost obsolete when looking at the flood of “former” Monsanto and other Biotech employees that now operate the very government agencies charged with policing Monsanto. 
Some of the many:
- Roger Beachy heading up the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center
- Islam Siddiqui, Agriculture Trade Representative, is a former Monsanto lobbyist
- Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor and present Secretary of the USDA, created the Governors’ Biotechnology Partnership and had been given a Governor of the Year Award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto. 
- Ramona Romero, the new counsel for the USDA, who had been corporate counsel for another biotech giant, DuPont.
- Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner of the FDA, the new food-safety-issues czar, former vice-president for public policy for Monsanto. Taylor had been instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.
- Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice, as federal solicitor general, had previously argued for Monsanto in the Monsanto v. Geertson seed case before the Supreme Court.
- This is in addition to the eight lawmakers who own stock in Monsanto.
All these friends in high places have enabled Monsanto to push through numerous Genetically Modified crops in spite of massive public outcry.   Sen. John Tester, who strongly opposed the Act, told Politico “that the deal worked out with Monsanto was simply bad policy.” And: “These provisions are giveaways, pure and simple, and will be a boon worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country,” 
In one of those ironic twists that define the Obama administration, while Michelle Obama is touting that “82% of today’s consumers want healthier foods,” her husband is busy ignoring a petition with over 250,000 signatures on it.  This petition requested he veto HR 933 until the offensive provision was struck out of it. Even as thousands of protestors were in front of the White House, Obama showed where his allegiance is and signed it anyway.
Currently, the Vermont State Legislature is considering a bill that would require labeling of all GMO foods sold in their state. Monsanto is working to thwart this wildly popular bill by threatening to sue the state if it passes.  Their lawyers are using several arguments including how safe their GMO crops are for people.  One topic not being presented by Monsanto is the damage being done to the farmers’ tires who have switched over to GMO corn. In a recent article on Autoblog, GMO corn is “wreaking havoc” on tractor tires.  Mark Newhall of Farm Show Magazine tells American Public Media’s Marketplace that after the stalks are cut during harvest, the leftover stubs are like “having a field of little spears.” So instead of tractor tires lasting the usual five to six years, they’re getting chewed up after just one or two years. With tractor tires sometimes costing thousands of dollars, tire manufacturers are turning to Kevlar, the armor plating the US military uses to resist being shredded. Eating something that requires armor plating to harvest is what Monsanto calls safe?
Though this bill will only remain in effect for six months, it sets a dangerous precedent in allowing corporations to undermine public safety if they can buy enough government support.  It shows that the same Congress that ignored the warnings when passing the LaFollette Seaman’s Act in 1915 are quite capable of ignoring the warnings against Genetically Modified foods.
“The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants.” — George Washington