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Failure to Learn From Mistakes Is Criminal

Two recent superb Asbury Park Press editorials focused on failures to learn from mistakes, which is something I am continually disgusted by and that points to a collapse of our democracy (for a diagnosis of the underlying problems, see Princeton political scientist Sheldon Wolin’s book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism)

It is abundantly obvious to anyone who is paying attention that outright deregulation and/or lax regulatory oversight have led to a series of major catastrophies and that those who caused and economically benefitted from those disasters remain in charge of government policy:

  • Radical financial deregulation predictably led to rampant fraud and reckless Wall Street speculation, which collapsed the economy.
  • Weak regulations and lax government oversight led to the BP oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, to deaths in West Virginia coal mines, to a massive coals ash spill at a TVA power plant, to dangerous drugs, deadly food poisonings and nationwide recalls of eggs.
  • Record breaking storms, floods, droughts, and heat waves provide visible evidence that we are experiencing the effects of global warming NOW.

Yet as the disasters and corporate scandals mount, they have not prompted any real policy changes – if anything, the assault on government and regulations continues unabated, both here in NJ and on the national level.

But these are not just wonky policy debates – they directly and significantly effect people’s lives.

Let me use the APP editorials to illustrate just a few NJ specific examples.

In noting the significance of the Ciba-Geigy toxic nightmare in Toms River, which has been linked to a childhood cancer cluster, the Asbury Park Press editorial “Let’s learn from past” correctly warns about the uncertainties and underlying causes of the problem:

But still unknown is what the remaining environmental and health effects of that contamination might be and how many may linger for many more years. And even when the environmental protections are in force, there can still be unpleasant surprises. …

Lowering environmental standards and easing regulations is often just a pretext for opening a Pandora’s box for future costs and ongoing problems. Ciba-Geigy is living proof.

Yet we haven’t learned from the Ciba-Geigy nightmare – in many ways, we are repeating it now in NJ by “lowering environmental standards and easing regulations.”


Governor Christie and Bob Martin clearly have not learned from the past.

In criticizing the Obama administration for lifting the off shore drilling moratorium, (“We didn’t learn from oil spill“) the Asbury Park Press editorial again hits the nail on the head:

But now we’re supposed to believe that, this time, everyone involved has learned their lesson and will never again make a mistake or take a safety risk to save money? That officials have considered and addressed every contingency and closed every potential loophole? We’re not buying it, and neither should anyone else.

Again, we have not learned from the past.

This  can only lead to disaster – as it has in the past.

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  1. October 17th, 2010 at 03:27 | #1

    I am a constituent of Rush Holt and proud of him. He has always reached out to everyone in his district and is receptive to contact. He frequently sends out mailings, not just during a campaign. If all in Congress and political office were like he is we wouldn’t be in the terrible situation we are.
    His intelligence and honest dedication are obvious when looking at his record.
    This position is an example.

  2. October 17th, 2010 at 10:00 | #2

    @Betty Butler

    Betty – I too am proud tyo be a constituent of Rus Holt. I strongly support him – he is smart, principled, honest,and a progressive. He is one of the best in Congress.

    As Acting Director at the time, I was proud to do a Sierra Club endorsement press conference in Trenton when Holt first ran as challenger to a Republican incumbent.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. October 17th, 2010 at 10:04 | #3

    @Betty Butler

    Betty – one more point – I made this comment on the APP editorial (typos fixed!):

    “Great editorial! And I’m so glad that Congressman Rush Holt gets it and puts the interests of his district above partisan politics and Obama worship.”

  1. October 24th, 2010 at 12:28 | #1
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