Monday ReadsPosted: April 29, 2013
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?