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Nuclear Waste In Texas Lights Up The Lone Prairie

8:54 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Glowing in the dark

(Picture courtesy of Curtis Gregory Perry (coincidentally) at flickr.com.)

Today, another nuclear waste facility, in France, is adding to the reminders that there are hazards beyond what we can see in dealing with nuclear energy.   Telling us again that Texas should not be a nuclear waste repository are a growing number of accidents.

Japan saw meltdown of stored waste during its earthquake/tsunami earlier this year.   That should have brought it home to anyone with an ounce of judgment that the last thing you want happening in our world is nuclear storage handled by political party players with no background safety record.

Fukushima did involve three reactors and seven spent fuel pools, containing thousands of highly radioactive rods. Hydrogen explosions rocked the plant in the first week after an earthquake and tsunami crippled the reactors.

In Texas, though, pay to play has brought about just the hazard that is beyond regulatory control.   A big donor to the Goodhaired Governor’s political slush fund has bought himself a permit to dump nuclear waste in the state.  This dump could become one of the largest known, and will accept wastes from other states in addition to those within. Read the rest of this entry →

Texas Leads the Nation, Right Over the Cliff of Fiscal Irresponsibility

7:58 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Behind the Creative Description, the REAL Fixer-Upper

(Picture courtesy of flickr.com.)

Hearing all about the tremendous appeal of TX governor Rick Perry’s appeal because his state is such a shining example of jobs and prosperity makes me shake my head in disbelief.   What the country should be looking at is the Houdini/voodoo nature of plugging budget gaps with the stimulus funds that Perry swore he wouldn’t touch.

Rick Perry couldn’t have pulled off the state’s fiscal year this time around without the funding he seriously tried to kill.   Doesn’t that sound like another recent governor of Texas’ methods?  If it’s kept off the books, he can pretend it doesn’t exist.

At the moment, is anyone aware that TX legislature is involved in another mangled attempt to cut more from education than U.S. law allows?   The rest of the budget is being patched together with spit and baling wire.

Instead of revamping the business tax structure or taking aim at tax exemptions, lawmakers cut billions of dollars in spending and cobbled together accounting maneuvers and spending delays to meet a massive shortfall and tide them over until 2013. They took a limited amount of money from the state’s rainy day fund, but leaders expect to dip into it again in a big way when they return in regular session in 2013.

Legislators also pushed back a looming gap in transportation funding by allowing issuance of the last of voter-approved bonds. They made some cost-saving changes in Medicaid, but will need federal approval to realize more savings.

On school finance, they are working in a special session to pass a bill to allow $4 billion less through the next two years than required under current funding formulas.

(snip)
Gov. Rick Perry, discussed as a possible presidential contender, stood firmly against anything that could be construed as new taxes, as he did when the state last confronted a big shortfall in 2003.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said similarly, “I think the message from the November elections was, ‘Don’t raise taxes in a recession and do what you can to make appropriate cuts in the budget.’ ”

Straus indicated the House will take a close look at state revenue and taxes before lawmakers reconvene in 2013.

He also wants lawmakers to see results from the state comptroller’s audits of the largest payers under the business tax. The 2006 tax change was intended as a net reduction, but the business tax is bringing in about $2 billion less a year than initially forecast.

That makes the tax reduction bigger and adds to what some call a “structural deficit” – a recurring gap between the state assuming a bigger share of school funding and the taxes meant to help support that obligation.

The state being held up as an example for the rest of the nation is an unmitigated disaster.

The methods of Gov. Perry are those that failed the country continually since the Clinton surplus, which was the reason originally given for cutting taxes.   Of course, the surplus disappeared, but the method of cutting more taxes stayed in despite its justification having taken a deep dive.

The economy has never recovered from the profligacy of the corporate welfare crowd, and it won’t recover until balance that assigns responsibility to business interests as well as to consumers finally rears its fiscally responsible hear.   Calling tax cuts, and deregulation, ‘fiscally responsible’ doesn’t change the facts, these are sure death to the economy, and have proved to be that sure death for over a decade. Read the rest of this entry →

You Really Don’t Want Rick Perry in the White House

12:49 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Primary begins.

(Picture courtesy of flickr.com.)

The Götterdämmerung that is the Republican Party’s campaign for the presidency in 2012 has been wild enough to give hope for a round of presidentin’ to everyone who’s enjoyed a few minutes in media’s glare.   That includes TX gov. Perry, recently much touted for offering to secede, and throwing court challenges against EPA’s right to protect TX citizens from the polluters that fund his campaigns.

It is no secret that this state has a lot of business pleasing qualities, such as a total lack of state income tax and of environmental protections.  Famously, we were the first to give industry self-regulation.   Now while reported pollution of air and water is significantly improved, actual figures from the field show our cities are unlivable.   Of course, we knew that.   Texas leads the nation in shunting back any potential services for the working people that it lives off of.

What this nation really doesn’t need is another TX governor exporting the wild and wooly creations of this corporate welfare haven to the national level, at great cost to public interests.

Those celebrating him as the architect of our low-tax state would be forced to acknowledge that this is nothing new, and that Texas is also an extreme low-services state, with serious consequences for Texas families.
Read the rest of this entry →

Your Kids’ Lives Are Fodder For Ideology

3:17 am in banality of evil by Ruth Calvo

Shoot-em-ups for the classroom

(Picture courtesy of flickr.com.)

Sometimes the wingers get downright funny with their attempts to override good sense.  This particular time, they’re dangerous.   In several states, concealed weapons in the classroom is the latest image the crazees are promoting.   That ignores the fact that kids’ lives are at stake.

In another outbreak of the criminal conspiracy to endanger kids, an amendment was shoved into Texas Democratic State Senator Judith Zaffirini’s educational bill that would have imposed concealed carry weapons on classrooms in the state.

To her great credit, Zaffirini withdrew the bill even though it denied educational benefits to our kids, in order to make their lives safer.

Texas senators voted Tuesday for an amendment to a higher education bill that would allow concealed-handgun-license holders to carry their weapons into public university classrooms, but the angry sponsor of the bill stopped the measure from getting a final vote.

The 19-12 vote in favor of the concealed-guns amendment was significant because it was the first by either the full Senate or House on an issue that has become a flash point of controversy in the 2011 session.

But minutes later, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, pulled the full bill from further consideration and vowed to let it die, fulfilling a promise she made last week when Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, first tried the maneuver.

(snip)

Read the rest of this entry →

Do You Trust Your Skies to Texas Oversight?

6:50 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Nuclear facility in VT

(Picture courtesy of Greenpeace photostream, flickr.)

If you are okay with believing regulators in Texas are able to ward off nuclear accidents, just sit there.   If not, you might want to file your take on that prospect with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As I posted yesterday, the Loan Star State is already home to nuclear waste.  Regulators are fine with putting the health of the public in the hands of profit oriented businesses with no record of responsibility for natural resources or public safety.

Those regulators are currently trying to shut EPA out of the state so industry has a free hand with the air in Texas.   There is a nuclear power generator now in their care that will soon be permitted to increase capacity to four.

…CPS Energy, TEPCO, and potentially the Japanese government itself, were among investors lined up to fund expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear complex near Bay City. A partnership between NRG Energy, Toshiba, and federal contractor Shaw Group (in charge of maintenance at STP), were preparing to construct two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWR) at the South Texas Project nuclear complex where CPS already owns 40 percent of STP reactors 1 and 2. CPS Energy planned to invest 7.6 percent in proposed reactors 3 and 4, but the utility said on March 21 that it had indefinitely postponed talks with reactor owner NRG Energy.

“Terminating discussions with NRG allows us to devote more resources in pursuit of the other options,” said CPS Energy President and CEO Doyle Beneby. “When the development of STP 3 and 4 moves forward again, our present ownership interest will remain unchanged.”

In the meantime, San Antonio will continue drawing a large portion of its energy from STP’s 1 and 2 reactors. Those facilities, which came online in 1988 and 1989, also happen to be up for a 20-year renewal by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Without the renewal, the reactors would close in 2027 and 2028. April 1 is the deadline for the public to tell the NRC how it feels about the renewal, which, oddly enough, won’t take place for another 20 years.

The ongoing disaster in Japan has served as a sinister backdrop to consideration of construction by the powers that put together the Fukushima facility.  Radioactivity from the accident there has been detected in Boston.

For many years, the State of Texas has fought back against safety regulations of all sort.   This is not the kind of approach that should be addressing the new problems we now are seeing play out for nuclear power generation.

Our planet’s future depends on the action we take, or fail to take, today.   What we are seeing play out now is the result of believing assurances that are more related to profit taking than to safety systems and their effectiveness.   We can’t take a chance on believing the promises of those who’ve shown those promises mean only that they want us to fall for them again, and again.

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play – in the Nuclear Waste

7:55 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Comanche Peak glows,from flickr, Zack Hollandsworth

Sometimes it is a pain being right.

Last week I was expressing a big worry about the fact that the Texas breed of anti-environment regulation was involved in operations of nuclear facilities.   Now I find out that there’s worse than that, we have a growing nuclear dump in the Loan Star State.   It’s run by the usual suspects.

The Texas billionaire and corporate raider (ed: Harold Simmons) is opening a nuclear waste dump in West Texas, despite objections from environmentalists and the state’s own experts. One of the Lone Star State’s largest donors to Republican causes, Simmons expects his that privately-owned site will become the nation’s most sought after radioactive waste repository.

(snip)

Only Vermont had a deal to dispose of its nuclear waste in Texas, so Simmons began lobbying to amend the nearly 20-year-old compact with the Green Mountain State to allow other states to also send their radioactive waste to the WCS site.

The decision to alter the compact rested with the seven members of the obscure Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, six of whom had been appointed by Gov. Perry, one of the largest recipients of Simmons’ campaign cash…. Any state can now petition the commission to have its radioactive waste buried in Texas.

The ground water is often in the form of aquifers here, vast lakes that are located underground.   The ground water mingles in with the runoff, of course, but in applying for permits to load up on nuclear waste, Simmons insisted there was no danger of contamination.   No environmental studies showed that to be so.  The studies cited are geologic and years of oil exploration.   No examples have been provided.

Members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality resigned rather than issue this permit.

There is no end of justification for depradations that endanger the people of Texas, as long as it results in profit for a small number of ‘entrepreneurs’.   The main chances involved in seeking to make a killing in this state are whether you can get enough monetary impetus behind an influential enough office holder.

Savagely, that ‘making a killing’ here doesn’t necessarily mean a cash bottom line.  The public is just another impediment to the business interests in the state.

As Tom Lehrer told us some decades back;

Oh we will all fry together when we fry.
We’ll be french fried potatoes by and by.
There will be no more misery
When the world is our rotisserie,
Yes, we will all fry together when we fry.

Nuclear Waste Isn’t Something We Can Trust To Texas Politicians

2:22 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Comanche Peak glows,from flickr, Zack Hollandsworth

Among all the stories coming at us out of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan comes one that is really frightening.   It seems as if yet another nuclear facility is in the works that would be managed by the Loan Star State.   From the folks whose idea of generating power is to have the most freedom available to pollute, this is insanity.

The government in Texas has declared itself  firmly on the side of attracting business by fighting down any regulation, but it has most particularly devoted itself to polluting the environment.  In recent history, Texas has taken on the EPA in the courts in order to maintain its ‘business friendly’ dirt.

As I pointed out in recent months, the ongoing suit against EPA is just another way the state tries to throw off protections its citizens should have.

Now we are assured by our Rep. Joe Barton, famed for apologizing to BP for having their deepwater rig leak into our gulf, assuring us that nuclear power is great stuff and only wackos who selfishly clean the air for their own breathing purposes would oppose it.

“I think our new reactor designs are very safe,” said Congressman Joe Barton.

(snip)

Still, spent fuel storage needs to change.

“That is an issue,” Barton said during a tour of the Comanche Peak plant. “And quite frankly, that’s a fault of the federal government. You shouldn’t have to store your fuel rods on site. We should have an operating repository.”

That silly old federal government that inconveniences business like all get out, that’s the one that ought to be slurping up the spent fuel in Barton’s and his kindred spirits’ opinion.   With 2,200 spent fuel rods in storage south of Fort Worth, at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant,  it might begin to occur to local officials that early retirement might be attractive right about now.

We have an outstandingly anti-public interest government here in Texas, but most local jurisdictions have at least a smattering of that sort.  These are the very officials charged with safety systems and their maintenance.

Nuclear power is not safe as long as the very officials that show mostly laughable amounts of common sense are in charge.

Border Fencing and Agitation On Taxpayers’ Nickle

5:00 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

On the Rio Grande River.

Paid for by the Texas taxpayer, the Agriculture Secretary, Todd Staples, has set up a site for sharing border security information.  The remarks collected there since the site was set up contain language like ‘Killem All!!!!”   The agruculture department has a disclaimer to avoid any responsibility for the kind of violence advocated by citizens commenting on the site.

Of course, the border fence has always been a boondoggle, as I have pointed out previously.

When I visited there, I found no question about what sort of comments were expected.   When I clicked on the site for collecting stories about border experiences, the instructions read;

Submit Your Story

Share with fellow Texans your stories regarding lack of border security.

Sorry, I have had nothing but good experiences along the border, so I’m not welcome.

Several border area legislators have asked for the site either to come down, or to portray the situation fairly.   A recommendation also has gone out that Texas border violence proponents should consult with their counterparts in D.C., where recommendations to cut futile programs now draining funds for border security are proposed and being heard in committee.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, whose district encompasses a huge swath of South Texas from Laredo to the Rio Grande Valley, said Republicans in Texas should take their concerns to Republicans in Washington. The current budget proposed by the GOP-controlled U.S. Congress eliminates $350 million in funding for border security, fencing, infrastructure and technology, he said, and cuts roughly 870 positions. “I am not going to deny that” the border needs to be secured, he said, “but to paint it the way they are painting it, they are painting one extreme position.”

The website isn’t all comments. It includes such features as a night-vision video of a police chase that ends when a car plunges into the river, and an interview with a Texas Ranger, Arthur Barrera, who backs up the claims that the region is under siege. “Tractor operators are being accosted by these guys, threatening them,” he says in the video. “They fear for their lives, they have family. We are in a war and I am not going to sugarcoat it by any means. We are in a war, and it is what it is.”

Just what the border needs, agitation to regard the zone as a war site, with armed forces gathered to defend the Homeland.   Of course, if you actually visit the border, you’re going to find life going on pretty much as it is in most of your hometowns, some areas safe, others questionable.   Using taxpayer dollars to dramatize the downside of border security is hardly worth making us all pay, and is dangerous besides.

Perry Wrong as Usual; Union Label Not Road to Ruin

9:38 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Saturday in Madison -(Picture courtesy of feral liberal, friend and demonstrator for workers' rights.)


Lately we’ve heard a lot of triumphant pronouncements from the cadre of states where anti-collective bargaining bills have been thrown at workers’ rights.  From Texas, Rick Perry performs his usual song and dance about having Right to Work laws that make his state one where workers can go to the end of the line.   Of course, the advantages of having anti-union policies in place for his cronies are all in his head, and his pocketbook.

Perry often says that Texas is the envy of the nation, but on many fronts, it doesn’t measure up well against Wisconsin and more-unionized states. Start with the most pressing issue of the day, the budget gap.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, Wisconsin faces a $1.8 billion shortfall in fiscal 2012, equal to almost 13 percent of its current budget. Texas is $13.4 billion short for the next fiscal year, more than 31 percent of its current budget.

Even the much-maligned federal government has a shortfall of just 20 percent, the center reports.

As a percentage of current spending, only three states are in worse shape than Texas — New Jersey, Illinois and Nevada. Even California is slightly better off. Those four states are all among the top 10 in union penetration, while Texas is 10th from the bottom for 2010.

(snip)

In Wisconsin, the median income is $51,763, which is higher than the U.S. median and almost 10 percent higher than in Texas. In many other categories, including SAT scores, Wisconsin performs much better than the national average, while Texas tends to lag behind it.

One of the biggest differences is in healthcare: In Wisconsin, 57 percent of workers get health insurance through their employer, compared with 44 percent here. Texas also has the dubious distinction — and significant expense — of having the largest uninsured population in the country: 26 percent of Texans have no health insurance at all, compared with 10 percent in Wisconsin.
There is one thing the states that are trying to cut into workers’ rights all have in common.  They have turned into right wing enclaves where the public interest is perceived as a threat to business.
That the promotion of corporate welfare along with reductions in wages and benefits for workers has decimated our consumer economy is a fact lost on the anti-union wingnuts.   That our economy can only be harmed by further reducing jobs and wages will no doubt come as a surprise as their enmity to the public plays out over the coming fiscal crises they are creating.  These are the same ideologists who insist that ‘no one could have predicted’ that giving tax breaks to corporations for sending jobs off our shores would be a detriment to the prosperity they claim to pursue.

Trying Really Hard to Foul Your Air

6:59 am in Economy, Environment by Ruth Calvo

Pollution affects Your world.

Picture courtesy of the daily green.

The state of Texas received a welcome setback in its ongoing campaign to violate standards of air quality set to protect our health.  As usual, the state’s Attorney General fronted for Governor Perry in filing to keep EPA from enforcement of standards that have been reached for public protection.   The court appealed to, in the District of Columbia, has declared that the public good ranks above Texas’ need for acting out.

Texas lost a third round Wednesday in its legal fight to halt federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday denied Texas’ request to block a program that regulates the largest sources of emissions. A three-judge panel wrote that Texas didn’t satisfy “the stringent standards” required to stay the regulation.

(snip)

“This ensures that our efforts to enact modest, common-sense steps to address carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act … will proceed in the state of Texas just as they are proceeding across the nation,” the EPA said in a prepared statement.

The governor has reached a level of distinction for the obvious misuse of public funds to fight against their own interests.  Frivolous lawsuits are no problem in Perry’s universe, as they are styled as the fight against ‘job-killing’ legislation.

Job killers seem to include all measures that protect the people whose taxes are used to fight against them.  Industry continues funneling massive campaign funds into TX officials’ pockets in return for their misuse of public funds.  The only purpose served, by constant bombardment of public interests, is actually that of attracting polluters into state officials’ contributor ranks.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →