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.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.
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.
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:
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.