Thursday, April 5, 2012

States Are Partners With Big Business

Here's an obvious news note for the day (h/t Ritholtz):
In five states, for instance, so-called Ag Gag laws are now on the books. Iowa just passed legislation that “criminalizes investigative journalists and animal protection advocates who take entry-level jobs at factory farms in order to document the rampant food safety and animal welfare abuses within,” according to the Atlantic’s Cody Carlson.
The impetus for such laws is obvious: After a series of damning videos of factory farms abusing animals, Big Ag faced a consumer backlash. But rather than make its facilities more humane, it has opted to spend its cash on lobbyists and court cases aimed at preventing the public from ever seeing the atrocities in the first place. Accomplishing that means pioneering new legal theories that threaten to set dangerous new precedents curtailing some of the most basic First Amendment freedoms we take for granted.
Over in the world of energy, it’s much the same thing. Last month in Pennsylvania, the oil and gas industry successfully lobbied state legislators to ban physicians from telling patients what toxic fracking chemicals they may have been exposed to. As Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports, “While companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information … the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else — not even the person they’re trying to treat.”
At least doctors in Pennsylvania get to see some basic information about the industry’s toxic brew, which is more than health professionals in other states have been able to say in recent years. Indeed, in 2008, an emergency room nurse nearly died after being exposed to a company’s fracking chemicals and, according to High Country News, the company cited a trade secrets law in “refus(ing) to provide more specific information (about the chemicals) to the hospital once she fell ill.” That left her “intensive-care doctor to guess what to do as he tried to keep her alive.” This possibility still exists in states that still do not fully mandate disclosure of fracking chemicals.
The business lobbies own government.  I'm glad people are noticing, but crap, how much shit do these guys think the general public can eat?  I really don't get the ag gag rules.  Is the state going to press charges and say, "yes, all that is shown in that video is real, but you lied to get the job so you could film it?"  Isn't that the same thing undercover cops do when they work?  Should that be punishable by law too?  Honestly, if I believe in a cause enough, I'm willing to face trial on bullshit charges, because that gives me a public soap box.  Get an activist group to hire a good lawyer, and we could make the nightly news for a hell of a long time.  Do they realize that you could call the farm owner as a witness?  Or that you could call all kinds of activists as witnesses?  That would be the greatest public relations coup in the world.  I don't understand what businesspeople are thinking sometimes.

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