where the writers are
The Killer in our midst

The tell a story about one of the Rockefellers coming in from the outside, taking off his coat, and simply holding it out to the side and letting go of it, because he knew there would be someone there to catch it and hang it up. People with servants get used to ignoring the help, perhaps revealing personal information that they would not want made public, secure in the knowledge that the help knows how to keep it's mouth shut. If they didn't, they wouldn't work there long. Life would simply be unacceptable if you had to worry about that sort of thing all the time. That may be why "the Butler did it" is such a clique. It was probably a pretty riveting revelation the first time it was used.

Of course, we all live with hazards in our own homes, and try not to think of them unless we are working on a lightswitch or smell the odorant that they put in Natural Gas. At times like these, we get VERY concerned, and want a resolution right away. It is just unacceptable to have to worry about that sort of thing in our own homes. And while we would be leery of a downed power line, we have no way of knowing if there is a bomb underneath our street, just waiting to explode. The only way to deal with that is to assume that people are doing their jobs and keeping us safe.

This is an assumption on my part, since I have never had a servant, but I would think being unobtrusive and speaking only when absolutely necessary would a big part of the job description. If they have been getting into the liquor or are having murderous thoughts--well, the whole thing creeps me out.

Maybe that's why we ask so few questions about Utility companies, who scurry about in our midst, keeping our homes warm, well lit, and supplied with safe drinking water.  We certainly don't want to know that some of the gas piping under our streets may be a badly welded hodgepodge of leftover pipe from other projects, and that the stuff that has been in the ground the longest is the stuff that's not recieving any sort of valid test. No one wants to imagine that some of the older piping may have no records at all.

The PUC seems to serve the same function as WWF referees: provide some illusion of legitimacy without getting in the way of the real business. Like the character in 'Casablanca' that is 'SHOCKED, DO YOU HEAR, SHOCKED!' that gambling was going on in his city, the PUC is trying to act like an actual regulatory agency, but they clearly have no idea what that would look like.

It certainly seems that things are no better in Japan. After sailing through a cloud of radiation that wasn't supposed to exist, the US Navy pulled all of their vessels out of a radius twice as big as the one the Japanese Government, using data supplied by Tepco, recommended. They are apparently having as much trouble getting good information out of their Utility as we are. To what extent the Government is complicit in this sort of thing is anybody's guess.

In our own case, I think a lot of these agencies (MMS, PUC, FDA, USDA, etc) are kept hollowed out on purpose. There are people sitting at desks, probably working very hard on reports that have deadlines and so on, but discovering anything but the most egregious violations would not be a good idea. There are limited funds for investigating anything that may be found to be less than Kosher, and probably no money at all available to prosecute. Instead, we rely upon 'self reporting'.

That implies, of course, 'self investigation', and 'self proscecution'. It shouldn't be surprising that eventually all scandals of this sort end up at a dead end. Or, if we're talking about other sectors, like S&Ls or financial institutions, bailouts, using our money. I guess it's the price we pay for not paying attention.