Saturday, April 20, 2013

Building A Democratic Base Audience With Podcasts

Citizen Journalism is when private individuals do essentially what professional journalists do - report and comment on the news. That news reporting and commentary can take many forms, including regular podcast programs to discuss issues of interest to a listening audience.   The emergence of social media based broadcast channels is what has made citizen journalism possible. The Internet and smart mobile devices, like iPhones and iPods, allows average people the ability to broadcast information globally. That was a power once reserved for only the very largest media corporations and news agencies.

Listen to the The Intellectual Saviors podcast "Tear Down This Myth." [01:33:50] The hosts discuss modern conservatism's legendary champion Ronald Reagan and his policies - starting at 30 min mark.
Intellectual Saviors podcasts consist of three Texas guys that consider themselves fearless truth-tellers.

The Intellectual Saviors are high-minded progressives who use their intellectual powers for good, even if they weren't asked. With logic and reason as their guide, they enlighten the masses with their blatantly honest progressive opinions, often using earthy and even vulgar language, to produce weekly podcast programs.

The Intellectual Saviors' next podcast will discuss the "media propaganda machine."

A few other podcast programs you might enjoy:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Obamacare Is Dead In Texas, Right? Think again.

Texas has the highest share of uninsured residents in the United States — about 29 percent of its adult population is uninsured — which costs Texans billions of dollars worth of uncompensated hospital care every year.  Texas Tribune: The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will help 2.6 million Texans get health care insurance.
Nearly 2.6 million Texans could qualify for tax credits to purchase health insurance in 2014, according to a report released Thursday by Families USA, a nonprofit that advocates for health care consumers.

The tax credits will be offered through the health insurance exchange — an Orbitz-style online marketplace for health insurance — that the federal government plans to launch as part of the Affordable Care Act in October. Beginning in January, families with an income of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line, between $47,100 and $94,200 for a family of four, will be eligible for a tax credit subsidy to purchase insurance through the exchange. The tax credits will be offered on a sliding scale, so that lower-income families will receive larger credits.

“These are typically the families where folks are working, sometimes more than one job,” U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said of the report. “Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, I think that’s something we can all support.”

Nearly 5.8 million Texans — nearly a quarter of the state’s population — are uninsured. The Health and Human Services commission estimates the tax credits offered through the health insurance exchange and other provisions in the Affordable Care Act will lower that rate to 16 percent. If Texas also expanded Medicaid — an unlikely scenario given Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition — the uninsured rate could be lowered to 12 percent.  Perry says that Medicaid is a broken system and has called the Medicaid expansion of federal health reform “fiscal coercion.”

“Given the large number of people in Texas that are uninsured, many of whom are poor, this is an extraordinary opportunity,” said Ron Pollock, executive director of Families USA. He said it was “short-sighted” for the state’s leadership to oppose Medicaid expansion, as it would bring billions of federal dollars to the state, and increase job opportunities.
You can see the report for Texas here, and for other states here.

In Texas, Medicaid expansion would mean adding an estimated 2 million residents to Medicaid, for whom the federal government would cover 100% of that extra cost for the first three years, and then 90% after 2019. That would bring to the state an additional $13 billion a year, totaling roughly $100 billion before the end of the decade.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) doubled down earlier this month in his opposition to expanding Medicaid under Affordable Care Act, even though opposing it could cost Texas $90 billion. At a press conference Perry argued expanding the health insurance program for the poor would make Texas “hostage” to the federal government. “It would benefit no one in our state to see their taxes skyrocket and our economy crushed as our budget crumbled under the weight of oppressive Medicaid costs,” Perry said at the state capitol. Perry was flanked at  the press conference by top Texas Republicans, including rising conservative star Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn.

Republicans will, if they again gain full control of the federal government, repeal the Affordable Care Act, convert Medicare into a private insurance voucher program, and turn Medicaid into a severely underfunded state block grant program.  The Republican controlled U.S. House has voted 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act over the last three years and has passed multiple budget bills to convert Medicare into a private insurance voucher program.

Obamacare is dead in Texas, right? Think again.

Could Your Town Explode?

The fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, on Wednesday (April 17) is bringing increased attention to the thousands of facilities nationwide that store or manufacture fertilizer, especially ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical often used in agricultural fertilizers. [LiveScience.comInfographic: Why Fertilizer Is Dangerous]

Ammonium nitrate is believed to be the cause of the fireball that was seen about two hours after the blaze started on Wednesday (April 17) evening. In February, Adair Grain (the owner of the West Fertilizer Co. fertilizer plant) informed the Texas Department of Health Services that it was storing up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate at the facility.

The West, Texas, plant is just one of about 6,000 facilities scattered across the country — located in residential neighborhoods, small towns and urban areas — that manufacture, store or sell ammonium nitrate products, a spokeswoman for the Fertilizer Institute, an industry trade group, told NBC.

And most county and municipal zoning regulations don't prevent these facilities from being located near schools, hospitals, homes or other businesses. The nursing home and school damaged by the explosion in West were built several years after the fertilizer plant began operating about 50 years ago.

The explosion in West is not an isolated incident. In 2011, a chemical plant explosion in nearby Waxahachie forced the evacuation of about 1,000 residents, according to the Dallas Morning News, including people living in houses that were just 100 feet (30 meters) away.

Around the world, ammonium nitrate has been implicated in dozens of deadly explosions in recent years, including the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history when almost 600 people died in Texas City, Texas, after two ships carrying the chemical exploded in 1947.

The West, Texas, explosion points to the need for stricter regulation of plants that manufacture, store and use large quantities of hazardous chemicals.

Modern conservatives ignore the failures of their generally accepted conservative principles, like deregulation, as enacted over the last several decades. Republicans claim that eliminating government regulations will unleash business and create jobs. We did deregulate, but it didn’t create jobs. It did, however, create a worsening of our environment. Deregulation also created the worst financial disaster since the great depression. 

A View Of Government Deregulation

Tommy Muska, the mayor of West, Texas, said Thursday that 35 to 40 people are believed to be dead in a massive fertilizer plant explosion, “because they are unaccounted for and still missing.” Sen. John Cornyn, in statements on Friday, said 60 people remain unaccounted for in the small Central Texas town. Two hundred people were injured in the powerful blast.

Among those who are missing and believed dead include as many as six firefighters and four emergency medical technicians.

The explosion occurred Wednesday night, heavily damaging or destroying buildings within a half-mile radius and causing broken windows and other damage to structures up to double that distance. The factory exploded Wednesday with the force of a 2.1-magnitude earthquake.

Politic365 Reports:
The West Fertilizer Company has not been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. “Texas relies on federal investigators, and has not made its own investment at the state level to inspect facilities, to make sure they are complying with federal safety standards,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, a non-partisan group that is a corporate accountability group in the state. “We believe, and have supported in the past, efforts to beef up state inspections to compliment the federal inspections.”

Since 2006, only six fertilizer plants in Texas were inspected; West Fertilizer Company was not among them. The explosion is a spotlight to lax inspection standards in Texas. Under the leadership of Governor Rick Perry, who has been visiting states like Illinois and California to woo businesses to Texas, the state has advertised its low taxes and “predictable regulations” as part of its allure, begging the question whether the state’s “business friendly climate” has taken a step too far away from safety.

Loose regulations” in Texas may be a nice pitch for out-of-state business, however, in 2010 the state accounted for 10% of all workplace-related fatalities in the country. In 2011, Texas had the second-highest number of fatality investigations from OSHA (California was first), in 2010, Texas led the nation in Latino worker fatalities.

West Fertilizer Company in particular hadn’t been inspected by any government agency in five years.  In a report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the West Fertilizer Company stated that the “the worst possible scenario” for a fire or explosion would be a “10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.”  The second-worst scenario, according to the report, would be a leak from a broken hose that would cause no injuries. West Fertilizer Company's risk management plan, filed with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, made no mention of ammonium nitrate storage.

At times the plant had up to 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia available at the facility. This particular compound, according to the report, is at risk for explosion when it is inside a container.
The West Fertilizer Company had informed a state agency in February that it was storing up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate – the highly explosive chemical compound used in the domestic terror attack on the Oklahoma City federal building. The Oklahoma truck bomb used just two tons of ammonium nitrate to destroy or damage 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroy or burn 86 cars, and shatter glass in 258 nearby downtown buildings.

It's not clear whether the ammonium nitrate, which was not initially reported as being present at the site in the wake of Wednesday's massive blast, was responsible for the explosion, or whether volunteer firefighters battling a fire at the facility knew of its presence. Under state law, hazardous chemicals must be disclosed to the community fire department and to the county emergency planning agency, in addition to the state. News reports on Thursday focused on tanks of anhydrous ammonia –a less volatile fertilizer.

Adair Grain, doing business as West Fertilizer Co., told the Texas Department of Health Services on Feb. 26 that it was storing up to 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, along with up to 110,000 pounds of the liquid ammonia, according to the disclosure report. (Read the document provided by the state.) The company's disclosure was first reported Thursday evening by The Los Angeles Times.

The West Fertilizer Co. stored 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Fertilizer plants and storage facilities must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb or more of the explosive chemical. Filings to the Texas Department of State Health Services listing 270 tons of ammonium nitrate in storage were not shared with DHS by West Fertilizer Co. or any Texas state government agency.  Gov. Perry is on record promoting Texas' lack of business regulation statutes and enforcement as a selling point for businesses to relocate to Texas.

Ammonium Nitrate is an explosive that is also useful for fertilizer. It has not been used much as a military explosive in its simple form since WWII, but when mixed with other explosives it is encountered frequently in military explosives.  Ammonium Nitrate mixed with fuel oil is typically the explosive of choice in the mining industry.

In the video below, Rachel Maddow reviews the history of ammonium nitrate as an explosive and then as a fertilizer and reports the latest details of the fertilizer plant explosion that ripped through the town of West, Texas.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday declared McLennan County, Texas - home to West, the small community devastated by the fertilizer plant explosion - a disaster area and announced that he asked President Barack Obama for a federal disaster declaration as well.

Federal disaster assistance available under a major disaster declaration falls into three general categories:
  1. Individual Assistance - aid to individuals, families and business owners;
  2. Public Assistance - aid to public (and certain private non-profit) entities for certain emergency services and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged public facilities;
  3. Hazard Mitigation Assistance - funding for measures designed to reduce future losses to public and private property. In the event of a major disaster declaration, the county is eligible to apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
In related news, all three members of the Congressional delegation representing West, Texas (Republican Senators Cornyn and Cruz and Congressman Flores) joined in vowing to 'assist' the people of West. What they mean by 'assist' is that they're going to do all they can to steer federal disaster aid to the city of West, Texas.

All three of them -- Cornyn and Cruz and Flores -- voted against the bill that delivered federal disaster aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy call that aid “pork” and “wasteful spending.” ~

More -> Texas Is Anti-EPA and Their Citizens Have Paid With Their Lives

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Women Organizing Women Democrats Kickoff

Plano, TX – Women Organizing Women Democrats (WOW Dems), a new North Texas-based organization, announces their kickoff meeting on Thursday, April 18th @ 6:45 p.m. The first official meeting of WOW Dems will be held at Harrington Library, 1501 18th St., Plano TX 75074. This event is not sponsored by the Plano Public Library System or the City of Plano.

Thursday April 18, 2013
The mission of WOW Dems is to expand the participation of women in politics: increasing their political engagement; raising awareness about women’s issues; and recruiting, supporting, and electing women Democrats for partisan and non-partisan offices.

After the business meeting, there will be a panel discussion on Legislative Advocacy. Panel members will include Denise Rodriguez of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and Jeanne Rubin of Equality Texas. The panelists will discuss legislative issues that affect their individual organizations, their unique involvement in the legislative process, and the process in general followed by an audience Q&A.

After the program concludes, refreshments will be served and guests will have the opportunity to join WOW Dems.

To learn more about WOW Dems, contact Amy Lawrence, President at
WOW Dems Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter