I wonder if the Koch Brothers have a bet going on between them about their proposed deal to buy up some big circulation newspapers like the LA Times and Chicago Tribune.
I tried to find a clip of this little bit of dialogue, but no such luck:
Randolph Duke: Money isn’t everything, Mortimer.
Mortimer Duke: Oh, grow up.
Randolph Duke: Mother always said you were greedy.
Mortimer Duke: She meant it as a compliment.
There are grumblings behind the scenes, check it out:
Recently you’ve seen many petitions asking that the Koch brothers not be allowed to buy the Tribune Company’s newspapers. We understand why the Kochs breed this distrust. They are active political proponents of harsh right-wing positions. We’re also not certain that Tribune will listen to anything but money when the final decision is made.
What we do know is that great papers publish credible, trusted journalism online and on the printed page. Whoever comes to own these mastheads needs to understand that protecting newsrooms from ideological taint is no small thing. The future of American journalism depends on the ability to print truth, not opinion.
We call on Tribune to make a pledge that they’ll only sell to a buyer that will protect the objectivity of the news product by making a public commitment to doing so. The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the Communications Workers of America seek your support in this goal.
The Newspaper Guild
Communications Workers of America
AFL-CIO, CLC and IFJ
And then there is this…it is a long article, so please go read it in full…it is just to much to parse down into a few quotes. I will just give you this bit to chew on. Kathleen Miles: If Koch Brothers Buy LA Times, Half of Staff May Quit
So if the agenda at the Times changes, the agenda at the other LA news outlets will change — unless those news outlets are watching carefully. LA has to worry more about the stories that the Times stops covering than stories that are covered with a bias.
An example of how bias can take the form of lack of coverage is Fox News’ scant coverage of the national gun control debate. When President Barack Obama gave his moving speech chastising Congress for failing to pass background checks, Fox cut away to a panel discussion on the liberal media bias before the president had even finished his first sentence.
It seems the rationale is that the more silence there is on gun control, the greater the likelihood that status quo will continue. So the silence is what we have to listen for.
All LA journalists, including those at the Times, will need to research the friends and interests of the paper’s new owners and make sure they don’t get special treatment. If Times reporters hit a wall, will other LA journalists step up to report on those topics?
As I said, go read the entire article.
I kind of always felt the LA Times was right leaning anyway…but not the the extent of what it could be under a Koch ownership.
By the way, that cartoon up top is by David Horsey..cartoonist for the LA Times.
This is an open thread.
I thought I’d start this morning’s post with something beautiful before I get to the news of the day. I came across these amazing photos of birds yesterday–a nice reminder that the natural world can nourish us emotionally and provide respite from startling events and frustrating news that surrounds us in the supposedly “civilized” world of humans.
Now some news…
The fertilizer plant disaster in West, Texas is still under-reported. From what I can tell from following the story on twitter though, people are hurting down there and really need help. Here are a couple of updates I found this morning.
From CBS in Dallas: West Fertilizer Plant Explosion Cause Could Take Several Weeks to Determine
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is investigating the blast along with the Texas State Fire Marshal.
State records reportedly show the West Fertilizer plant had a yearly capacity of 2,400 tons of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate.
So far, according to the ATF the only possible contributory cause that has been eliminated from consideration is the weather.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers arrived on scene Monday to assist investigators in assessing the 93 by 10 foot crater.
On Monday, the U.S. Homeland Security Department said The West Fertilizer Co. facility isn’t currently regulated under a department program that’s designed to reduce the risk of terrorism at certain high-risk chemical facilities.
CBS-11 has learned Homeland Security is now looking into whether the facility should have submitted paperwork about the chemicals stored at the plant to determine if it should be regulated.
The Christian Science Monitor says, Smoking gun in West, Texas, fertilizer blast: lack of government oversight
Although the cause of the blast is still undetermined, what is clear is that the West Fertilizer Company stored large quantities of highly reactive products, including anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate, in the middle of a small town with very little oversight from state or federal agencies. Ammonium nitrate was used by the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 1995, killing 168 people. The West, Texas, explosion killed 14, and injured nearly 200.
Texas does not have an occupational safety and health program that meets federal requirements. The federalOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is therefore responsible for ensuring the safety of potentially dangerous workplaces like the West facility.
OSHA has inspected the West plant exactly once in the company’s 51-year history. That 1985 inspection detected multiple “serious” violations of federal safety requirements for which the company paid a grand total of $30 in fines. OSHA’s 1992 process-safety-management standard for highly hazardous chemicals is supposed to protect against disasters like the West explosion, but it wasn’t in place for that inspection.
Regardless, OSHA lacks the resources to undertake the kind of comprehensive inspection needed to ensure compliance with the process safety standard at small facilities like West Fertilizer Company. OSHA’s tiny staff of around 2,400 inspectors is spread so thin that it would take more than 90 years to conduct even cursory inspections of all eligible workplaces in Texas.
That’s pretty horrifying. I have to wonder how many other fertilizer plants like this one are out there like ticking time bombs.
Common Dreams calls attention to another horror story that affects all of us. “You and Your Family Are Guinea Pigs for the Chemical Corporations: How Americans Became Exposed to Biohazards in the Greatest Uncontrolled Experiment Ever Launched”
A hidden epidemic is poisoning America. The toxins are in the air we breathe and the water we drink, in the walls of our homes and the furniture within them. We can’t escape it in our cars. It’s in cities and suburbs. It afflicts rich and poor, young and old. And there’s a reason why you’ve never read about it in the newspaper or seen a report on the nightly news: it has no name — and no antidote.
The culprit behind this silent killer is lead. And vinyl. And formaldehyde. And asbestos. And Bisphenol A. And polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). And thousands more innovations brought to us by the industries that once promised “better living through chemistry,” but instead produced a toxic stew that has made every American a guinea pig and has turned the United States into one grand unnatural experiment.
Today, we are all unwitting subjects in the largest set of drug trials ever. Without our knowledge or consent, we are testing thousands of suspected toxic chemicals and compounds, as well as new substances whose safety is largely unproven and whose effects on human beings are all but unknown. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself has begun monitoring our bodies for 151 potentially dangerous chemicals, detailing the variety of pollutants we store in our bones, muscle, blood, and fat. None of the companies introducing these new chemicals has even bothered to tell us we’re part of their experiment. None of them has asked us to sign consent forms or explained that they have little idea what the long-term side effects of the chemicals they’ve put in our environment — and so our bodies — could be. Nor do they have any clue as to what the synergistic effects of combining so many novel chemicals inside a human body in unknown quantities might produce.
Read it and weep.
Down in South Carolina, Elizabeth Colbert Busch and disgraced former Governor Mark Sanford met in a debate in the race for the district one congressional seat, and Busch got personal.
I am very sick, let me re-phrase that…very damn sick. (Mark Twain squared.)
I’ve only got the energy for a couple of things for you tonight.
With the help of Conan O’Brien, country singer Willie Nelson is auditioning for the role of Gandalf in “Hobbit 2.”
On his unsolicited audition tape, he says, “You can hire me and fire that Ian McKellan guy. He’s a good actor, but hell, I’m Willie Nelson. Oh yeah — and now that I think about it, I’d make a great Magneto.”
Willie celebrates his birthday by the way, the big 80…Video: Watch: Willie Nelson’s ‘Smokin” Audition for ‘The Hobbit’
Any audition that starts with a giddy, “Hey! Look at that dragon!” can only signal good things to come, and Nelson lived up to that early promise, showcasing his acting chops by nailing lines like, “You shall not pass an unlit joint – that’s just not cool” and “That giant flaming eye is freaking me the fuck out!” Nelson and Michah Nelson (reading for Bilbo Baggins) also performed a bit of The Hobbit 2‘s inevitable musical number, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Orcs.”
Video at the link. (I’ve tried to embed the video…so if it doesn’t work go to the link.)
Democracy Now has an hour interview with Willie from 2008 here, check it out…
Country music legend Willie Nelson turns 80 years old today. Last night he performed a benefit birthday concert in Austin to raise money for the fire department of West, Texas — the town devastated by a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people earlier this month. Nelson was born just a few miles away in Abbott, Texas, in 1933. In addition to being one of the most celebrated country musicians, Nelson has been politically active for decades. He co-founded Farm Aid, the annual benefit and awareness-raising concert for small farmers. Nelson has partnered in a biodiesel plant that fuels trucks with vegetable oil. And he serves on the advisory board member for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We broadcast an excerpt of our hour-long interview with Nelson when he joined us in our studio in 2008.
I love Willie Nelson…
This is an open thread, I’m getting my ass back to bed.
It has really been raining here in New Orleans. I mean really raining. Yesterday there was a series of downpours and it I don’t recall seeing the sun. I am trying to tell myself to not complain too much because this is better than the horrible hot heat of summer. But, I would like to feel like it is daytime some time during a day. This is making it very hard for me to think about posting political news. Some days the last thing you need is more doom and gloom. So let me give you a scattering of good, bad, and interesting.
Black voter turnout passed white turnout this past election. This is a historical event. My guess is that all the active voter suppression attempts caused black Americans to get out to protect their voting rights.
America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.
Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.
Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.
William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, analyzed the 2012 elections for the AP using census data on eligible voters and turnout, along with November’s exit polling. He estimated total votes for Obama and Romney under a scenario where 2012 turnout rates for all racial groups matched those in 2004. Overall, 2012 voter turnout was roughly 58 percent, down from 62 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2004.
Did you know the Koch Brothers had a huge portion–in fact the largest portion–of the fertilizer business? Have you also noticed how we continue to see an under-reporting of the West Fertilizer Co. explosion? Why have there been no arrests made? Bangaldesh sure got their man pretty quickly when it came to those responsible for unsafe work conditions killing people.
The West Fertilizer Co. explosion last week in West, Texas, took the lives of at least 14 and left scores injured and homeless. But the story was largely obscured by blanket coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. More than that, says legendary EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman, a guest on this week’s CounterSpin, what coverage there was often obscured the real story. Here’s a transcript of Kaufman’s appearance:
CounterSpin: In his recent piece on the Nation‘s website, Greg Mitchell interviews you about the explosion in the town of West, Texas. Before we get to what’s missing in the coverage of the West disaster, tell us what the media is reporting.
Hugh Kaufman: The media is reporting the case as if it’s some sort of an industrial accident, when in fact the town of west Texas is blown off the face of the earth. The material that did all that damage was the same material that Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Oklahoma City building — the fertilizer, ammonium nitrate.
CS: Two hundred seventy tons of it.
HK: That’s correct. So the amount of people harmed and the ramifications are incredible. Thousands of people every year die who work in dangerous industries, whereas only a few people die because of a terrorist bombing. And yet, there is nothing but a wall-to-wall coverage of Boston disaster around the same time as a town in Texas is blown off from the face of the earth.
Both situations are frightening but what’s more frightening is that the terrorists seem to be winning the war of the TV coverage. But there are thousands more people harmed and killed because of lax law enforcement of dangerous industries. The fertilizer industry is a dangerous industry.
CS: But you’re saying that this fertilizer explosion wasn’t just a matter of some regulatory oversight. You claim in Greg Mitchell’s piece that there’s perhaps criminal activity here.
HK: The company lied to EPA when they said that there is no risk of fire or explosion at the facility, but at the same time they told EPA that, they were honest with the state because they know the state wouldn’t do anything in saying that they had 270 tons of fire and explosive material, the ammonium nitrate. So they were honest with the state because they knew the state wasn’t going to do anything, but to the federal government and the Obama administration, they lied. And of course, the local fire department — not equipped to handle the type of emergency that that entailed — they didn’t have any respirators, they didn’t have any training how to handle that type of fire.
CS: They did not know not to squirt water on that type of fire, even.
HK: Exactly. And they didn’t even know there was such a risk of an explosion.
CS: You also give some praise but many media outlets got the story wrong. Let’s have the bad first.
HK: I think the worst was the New York Times. The New York Times claimed that the company notified EPA that they had 270 tons of this explosive ammonium nitrate, but they did not notify EPA of that. In fact, they told EPA that the facility posed no fire or explosion hazard. The New York Times did not say that, and I think that’s probably the biggest problem.
Interestingly, Texas is a Republican state — a red state — and in fact, many of the leaders want to secede from the union, and they despise EPA — they want the EPA abolished. And yet the Republican newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, has probably has the best environmental coverage of the case, which makes it very ironic to me.
My scourge-of-the-country senator is still trying to tank Dodd Frank. He and three others are being sneaky about it. Course, Diaper David Vitter’s used to being sneaky about things. Here’s a story where he’s the hooker.
First, the Brown-Vitter legislation, which was introduced April 24, changes everything. The news isn’t that Brown wants to make the financial system safer. That has been a top priority of his since the spring of 2010, when he co-wrote the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have imposed a binding size cap on the largest banks. (It failed on the Senate floor.)
Now, however, he has a Republican co-sponsor, and they have converged on a strong message. Vitter, who is on the right of the political spectrum, articulates well the case for ending the implicit subsidies that exist because creditors understand that the government and the Federal Reserve won’t allow a megabank to fail. This broad and sensible message resonates across the political spectrum.
Second, small banks are increasingly focused on the ways megabanks have achieved an unfair competitive advantage — primarily through implicit government subsidies.
The most compelling voice at the forum last week was Terry Jorde, a senior executive vice president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. She made clear that small banks are being undermined by the reckless behavior of megabanks that are seen as “too big to fail.” There is no market at work here, just a hugely unfair and inefficient government-subsidy scheme. The U.S. economy wasn’t built on megabanks and there is no good reason to continue to accept the risks they pose.
The megabanks have more money to spend on politics than the community banks. And as the biggest banks become even larger, they acquire more clout, spreading branches and other largesse across congressional districts. But for the moment, in all 50 states, community bankers are strong enough — both directly and as leaders in their communities — to effectively stand up to the six largest banks that are at the heart of the problem.
I found this analysis in the NYT compelling. Congress get all kinds of things done for the powerful quickly. But, when it comes to doing things for ordinary people, the entire process stalls. It’s an op ed by their editorial board.
Congress can’t pass a budget or control guns or confirm judges on time, but this week members of both parties found something they could agree on, and in a big hurry: avoiding blame for inconveniencing air travelers. The Senate and House rushed through a bill that would avert furloughs to air traffic controllers, which were mandated by Congress’s own sequester but proved embarrassing when flights began to back up around the country.
Then lawmakers scurried out of town, taking a week’s vacation while ignoring the low-income victims of the mandatory budget cuts, who have few representatives in Washington to protest their lost aid for housing, nutrition and education. Though they are suffering actual pain, not just inconvenience, no one rushed to give them a break from the sequester, and it is clear that no one will.
Catering to the needs of people with money, such as business travelers, is the kind of thing the country has come to expect in recent years from Congressional Republicans. But Democrats share full responsibility for this moment of cowardice. The Senate version of the bill passed by unanimous consent. That means not a single Democrat opposed bailing out travelers while poor kids are getting kicked out of Head Start or nutrition programs.
Even worse, the White House said President Obama would sign the bill. Apparently the ridicule pouring out of Republican offices — with Twitter hashtags like #ObamaFlightDelays — was extremely effective.
In the House, only 29 Democrats voted against the gift to travelers, which was made possible by switching some funds for airport improvement into the controllers budget. One of the few willing to brave the Republican attack machine was Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip, who said he could not support repealing a piece of the sequester while preserving its harmful impact. “Seventy thousand children will be kicked out of Head Start,” he said. “Nothing in this bill deals with them.”
As I said, I found this article compelling because I’ve noticed that they’ve scrambled to ensure that small airports–home to private jets and planes–are getting priority over children, cancer patients, and all kinds of things that benefit people What kind of country has those kind of priorities?
Foreign Policy has decided it wants to see more lists like in Gawker and Buzzfeed. You know those buzzfeed lists with items like the top 12 reasons why Justin Beieber annoys us or the ten reasons George Bush and Dick Cheney should share cell in prison. So, as a last little morning laugh, go check out the link and see great suggestions like this one:
Seriously, it’s a good idea.
So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Via Raw Story, the above cartoon by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee, published last Thursday, has Texas Governor Rick Perry all hot under the collar–so much so that he (or some flunky) wrote a letter to the editor, which the Bee published on Friday. Here it is:
Re “Business is booming in Texas” (Editorial cartoon, April 25): It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon. While I will always welcome healthypolicy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.
Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster. The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire.
— Gov. Rick Perry, Austin, Tex.
So far, Ohman’s editor Stuart Leavenworth is standing up for him. You can read his full response at the above link. From Raw Story:
Stuart Leavenworth, the editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee, said the cartoon illustrated Perry’s “disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations.”
Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown chided Texas for having a high percentage of workers earning minimum wage. Perry responded about a month later by running radio ads in California that encouraged business owners to move to his state. Perry claimed building a business in California was “next to impossible” because of regulations and taxes — regulations and taxes that his state lacked.
Ohman wrote about the “controversy” on his blog today. He says that a number of readers chastised him for the cartoon.
Their comments ranged from “you are a sick human being” to “insensitive and tasteless.” I’m not sure I am clinically qualified to give myself a direct diagnosis, but I am pretty sure I am not a sick human being. Let’s explore the question of tastelessness.
The Texas chemical plant had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006. That’s seven years ago. You may have read in the news that Gov. Perry, during his business recruiting trips to California and Illinois, generally described his state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation. One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn’t really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant. Many Texas cities have little or no zoning, resulting in homes being permitted next to sparely inspected businesses that store explosive chemicals….
When I have to come up with these ideas, I can assure you that I am not really deliberately trying to be tasteless. I am not. What I am trying to do is make readers think about an issue in a striking way. I seem to have succeeded in this cartoon, one way or the other.
The question is whether it is tasteless or not.
My answer, respectfully, is that it isn’t.
Having said that, what normal person doesn’t mourn those poor people fighting the fire and living by the plant? I certainly do. What makes me angry, and, yes, I am driven by anger, is that it could have been prevented. I guess I could have done a toned-down version of the cartoon; I am not sure what that would have been, but I think many readers’ objections just stemmed from the fact that I used the explosion as a metaphor, period. The wound is fresh, the hurt still stings.
Personally, I thought the cartoon was brilliant–a perfect example of the old saying “a picture is worth a thousands words.” Apparently it got a pretty big rise out of Perry when the thousands of gallons of ink spilled on news stories hasn’t. Perry should be ashamed to show his face in public after what happened in West, Texas. Why on earth do Texans keep reelecting this guy?
Ohman recommended that Perry read this outstanding investigation by Pro Publica, which I read and recommended a few days ago: What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators? Perry should either read it or have his flunky read it to him. Then he should wake up and realize that millions of Americans disapprove of his laissez-faire, Ayn Randian approach to government, and cartoonist Jack Ohman expressed our feelings perfectly.
But I don’t expect Perry will take responsibility for his role in the West, Texas disaster, because he can’t handle the truth.