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In Texas, as in many other Red-State areas of the country, the surest way to win a political and/or public policy argument is to accuse your adversary of "being a liberal".  It is so effective and used so reflexively that it has 1) decimated critical thinking skills in the populace, and 2) coerced heretofore legitimate news organizations into submissive silence in support of the ruling Republican oligarchy.

And sadly, the ramifications of this lemming like subservience to the GOP Jackals will not be manifest until disaster strikes.

Two recent items from the Opinion section of the Dallas Morning News illustrate the mortal perils taking root in the Lone Star State.  See them below the fold:

First, there is this tepid editorial posted on the DMN website on the evening of June 18th;
Editorial: Time for discussion on radioactive waste.

The opening paragraphs would seem to merit a stronger headline and call for a major investigative story:

The nuclear waste disposal site operated by Waste Control Specialists in West Texas is steadily morphing away from its original mission as a depository for very limited quantities of low-level radioactive items from Texas and Vermont. Today, the site is taking on much greater quantities and higher levels of radioactive waste from multiple states, and its owner wants permission to dramatically expand operations.

If this mission creep continues, Texans could find themselves the unwitting hosts of the nation’s first permanent for-profit high-level nuclear waste facility.

And not just Texans should be concerned, since the for-profit high level nuclear waste facility, owned and operated by Waste Control, is situated northwest of Midland-Odessa, right on top of the Ogallala Aquifer.  The Ogallala lies under eight states, supplying a third of the groundwater used for irrigation in the United States and drinking water for several million people.

Waste Control first sought their permit for their "depository for very limited quantities of low-level radioactive items from Texas and Vermont" in 2007.  Of course, after 13 years of Governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry appointing Commissioners, the license was approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  But when there is no regard for the environment or the health and safety of the people on the part of elected or appointed officials (as is now always the case in Republican controlled jurisdictions) then that little start was only the beginning.  In seven short years, the for-profit privately owned facility has grown from accepting low-level waste from just two states to accepting radioactive waste from dozens of states and the US Dept of Energy.  Now, plans are in the works to triple the size of the facility and begin receiving higher-level wastes, including depleted uranium.

It would seem to me that a full blown investigative series of articles on this subject would be in the best interest of the citizens of Texas and could also win the Dallas Morning News a Pulitzer.  Unfortunately, since writing such a story could not help but make Republicans look bad, it is released as an on-line editorial late on a Wednesday evening.  (Baptist Church night, don't you know.)

And just yesterday, the Dallas Morning News treated a similarly "explosive" issue in a similarly hushed fashion.  That is to say, just a whispered item on the on-line blog of their investigative reporter, Reese Dunklin.  The item is entitled:

Want to know about chemicals stored near you? Don’t expect Texas to tell you anymore.

As you may recall, on April 17, 2013 the fertilizer plant owned and operated by Adair Grain, Inc (dba West Fertilizer) caught fire, resulting in an explosion of the large quantity of ammonium nitrate stored at the facility.  15 people died, primarily first responder (volunteer) firefighters, and hundreds were injured.

In the aftermath, the company was cited for 24 workplace violations and fined a whopping $118,300.  

Republican Governor Rick Perry called for restraint and said that no new regulations should be enacted until all the facts were in.

Even members of the Texas Legislature wanted to be careful not to overburden businesses with annoying regulations.  One member, Republican State Representative Dan Flynn, a member of the Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, had this to say after a hearing on the explosion:

“If we’re not careful we could get like the federal government putting diapers on cows.",
 

Oh, its not like the whole state didn't (justifiably) lionize the dead first-responders for their brave and noble sacrifice.  Even the Dallas Morning News hailed "THOSE WHO ANSWERED THE CALL AT WEST" as their 2013 Texans of the Year.  And of course lots of prayers were raised for the injured and the homeless and those who were financially devastated by the blast. It's just that it, meaning the blood and fire and death, wasn't a big enough deal for the Republican lawmakers to try and prevent in the future.

But that doesn't mean that at least one Republican state official didn't spring into action to prevent any future PR problems for the GOP / Tea-Party leadership and their big polluting business masters.  Greg Abbott, Republican Attorney General and candidate for Governor, knew just what to do to please his masters and screw the people of his state.

As quietly related in the above referenced Reese Dunklin blog post, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott ordered the Department of State Health Services and other state agencies to refuse future Public Information requests from legitimate news agencies like the Dallas Morning News, for data that it collects and maintains on large chemical supplies.

To quote Reese Dunklin:

That was the type of information The Dallas Morning News used after last year’s deadly West explosion to identify dozens of other locations with ammonium nitrate fertilizer near homes and schools.  
But give the devil his due, Republican Gregg Abbott has a plausible justification for changing state policy in order to prevent Texans from knowing if they are living next to, or their kids are attending school next to, stockpiles of haphazardly stored and unregulated explosive chemicals. Terrorists!  Republicans don't want to give that bloody Al-Qaeda the information they need to attack our homeland.  Republicans like Greg Abbott don't mind the destruction and carnage "per se", as noted by their aversion to pass any annoying regulations, they just don't want to give Al-Qaeda the satisfaction of the kill.

I suppose we should be grateful that the Dallas Morning News still had the shred of journalistic integrity required to publish this information in a little noted and soon forgotten blog post by their investigative reporter.  

But even with that de minimus bit of reporting, the DMN still couldn't muster the courage to identify the Attorney General who gagged the agencies and thus endangered Texans as Republican Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor of Texas.

That might not help Abbott in his race against the Democratic candidate for Governor, Wendy Davis.

Originally posted to ValleyForger on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 03:18 AM PDT.

Also republished by TexKos-Messing with Texas with Nothing but Love for Texans.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Liberal media, my ass. (15+ / 0-)

    But these clowns can be counted on to publish editorials written by bought-and-paid-for lobbyists several times a week.  Coming soon: Why Regulating Nuclear Waste Storage and Fertilizer Plants Is A Bad Idea.

    Because jobs.  Or something.

    30, white male, TX-07 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

    by TDDVandy on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 03:53:09 AM PDT

  •  This is appalling. (7+ / 0-)

    I remember when the DOE held hearings to decide where to put the nation's nuclear waste. Hanford, on the Columbia River, was included because it was already considered contaminated. I testified at the hearings for my town which was downriver. They eventually chose Yucca Mountain but that went nowhere.

    Now the GOP and DOE have decided to privatize it? They must have figured out that it was the public hearings that were the problem, not the nuclear waste.

    The people who live there need to push back against this with all they have.

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 04:32:30 AM PDT

  •  I think it is frightening (8+ / 0-)

    just to think these guys are in charge of anything, nevermind important and dangerous things like nuclear waste and stored chemicals.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 05:03:35 AM PDT

  •  Quibble here - depleted uranium (5+ / 0-)

    Your phrase "and begin receiving higher-level wastes, including depleted uranium."  detracts from the credibility of an otherwise good summary.  When uranium is mined, it contains both radioactive and non-radioactive isotopes of uranium.  These isotopes are separated (Iranian centrifuges anyone?) into enriched uranium, which contains a higher percentage of radioactive U-238, and depleted uranium, which contains less radioactive isotopes.  The higher the amount of enrichment, the less radioactive the depleted uranium residue is.

    Depleted uranium IS STILL DEADLY!  It is used in military munitions, such as tank ammunition and the cannon bullets in anti-tank weapons.  When it hits a target, substantial amounts of the uranium get pulverized, and soldiers not killed in the initial attack, as well as civilians who cross a battle site later can breathe the dust or ingest it.  Depleted uranium is toxic, and kills people by poisoning them, not by radiation.

    It's still not a good idea to dispose of depleted uranium in any type of landfill, where acid leaching can potentially cause a toxic metal to be released into the ground water,

    The Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful...) is a GREAT liberal manifesto.

    by DaytonMike on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 06:09:49 AM PDT

  •  Not To Belittle Your Article On Such An Important (5+ / 0-)

    topic as pollution I would like to say something on the liberal part being the devil in Texas.  I agree with you, but I also believe that if liberals quit being ashamed of being liberal and when called one speak up and say proudly, if being a liberal means you care about people's welfare then damn right I am a liberal the word could be construed as being a good thing.

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 06:13:11 AM PDT

  •  Party of Stupid (7+ / 0-)

    I've finally decided that what I hate most about the Republican party and conservatives in general is their attitude of willful ignorance.  Their complete rejection of independent science and education is as self-defeating as it is maddening.  Almost all of their problems are somehow related to their unflagging determination to reject facts and principles that have been hard-earned by teachers, scientists, engineers and other smart people.  Particularly when these facts stand in the way of their desire to restrict the rights and liberties of those that they disagree or disapprove of.  This even applies to their concept of the free market, which they worship only in very narrow terms, since it isn't free, and in many cases it isn't even a market if there are no choices available.

    Texas is fast becoming the worst example of rugged individualism, free-thinking, business-first and profit foremost in the country.  It's such a short-sighted and self-defeating mindset.  Government is being positioned and used as a weapon and not a benefit to society in general.  It's so very ironic that Texas state politicians blame federal government for their problems without realizing that they too are part of the problem and not part of the solution.  The entire concept and purpose of government is becoming polarized, deliberately and with malice afore-thought by the GOP.

    •  Free-Thinkers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, ValleyForger

      In order to be a free-thinker, you have to be able to think on your own!
      This trait of being able to think for yourself is a lost art in the Republican Party and it's red-headed stepchild, Fox News!
      If they don't get their talking points every morning, those on the right would wander around all day in square circles, not knowing what to do next!

    •  What? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ValleyForger, alypsee1, BlackSheep1

      What gave you the idea that they don't realize they're part of the problem?  

      You've basically got three different lines of thinking here, all of them pretty openly birthed by corporate social engineers.  You've got your evangelical con-men, saying that God loves corporations and hates the government and wants you to be poor and have lots of poor babies while they stick their hand out to the corps under the table to be paid for their part in keeping the religious muzzled.  You've got your open shills, the lackeys and lickspittles of the corporate world who cloak their open desire to do whatever their masters tell them in the guise of Randian libertarianism.  And you've got your Christian-schooled drones, raised to be followers on a steady diet of evangelical preachers and Fox news baby-food.  That last bit isn't really meant to be in office but rather working as wage slaves, but God bless their empty little heads, sometimes they just believe what they've been raised on so much they just have to blow what little savings they have on trying to spread it.  They alone don't realize they're part of the problem, they just think they're making the world a better place.  Pretty much everyone conservative in office is some combination of those three camps.

      But the con-men and lickspittles aren't stupid.  Of course they realize they're part of the problem.  But they're living in America, the land of Screw you, Jack, I'm doing OK!  They just figure that some other sucker's gonna come along who actually cares and solve all the problems they're creating.  Worst case, they figure if they can pile up enough cash, then when SHTF, they can go live under a dome in the Arctic, or something.

      Welcome to f-ing Texas.  It's just a shame what they've all done to it.

      "Actually, I just like saying Benghazi. Benghazi benghazi benghazi benghazi!" --Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA

      by jackdabastard on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 08:56:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ogallala Aquifer fetish. (0+ / 0-)
    The site sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, and any radiation leak could risk contaminating a major water source for eight states. Waste Control maintains that the facility is state of the art, with multiple backup measures to avert accidents.
    The site is located in Andrews, TX.

    It's at the very bottom (geographically) of the aquifer extent and the aquifer is extremely thin there.

    Chances of polluting much of the aquifer, even in a worse case scenario, are essentially nil.

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