Posted by: shannynmoore | March 23, 2014

Can anyone spare a clue for Sen. Pete Kelly?

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I had a plan to write a column that was going to make the Anchorage municipal elections coming up to be the sexiest most riveting thing you’ve ever read. Then someone did something stupid in Juneau, so you’ll have to wait a week while I sort this doofus out.

First, the reporting on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders from Kyle Hopkins and Marc Lester for the Anchorage Daily News has been incredible. Disturbing, and incredibly needed. Two percent of children born in Alaska have FASD. We need solutions and education. Sadly, we have a “think tank” formed by Sen. Pete Kelly that is sitting on empty.

Read More…

Posted by: shannynmoore | March 19, 2014

Sen. Giessel strikes a blow for DMV merchants

PaybackShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I’m still getting used to seeing the Walter J. Hickel Expressway signs. I still think Wally’s Way would have been better, but it gives me a chance to remember to read “Who Owns America” again. My copy has a brown signature inside. A treasure.

So, as I pull onto Wally’s Way, heading south, the voice of Lori Townsend making me feel better about the news on my radio. Seriously. If there’s a meteor bearing down on Earth and we’re all gonna die, she should be the one announcing it-she makes even Alaska news sound better.

Read More…

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

“WHY do YOU have to argue with the professor EVERY class?! Can’t you just let him talk so I can write this stuff down, take a test, graduate and get a job?!”

Oh, that was a weekly conversation with some of my UAF classmates. (You’re shocked, I know.)

I sat enraptured by Terrence Cole’s take on history. He was right, the historical truth was often most boldly told in political cartoons rather than in textbooks. I listened in Dr. Pierce’s class. He was quite old, with even older maps. I told him once the continents had moved since his maps were made. He smiled.

I behaved for the most part until I was in Dr. Claus Naske’s class. I took every course he taught. He was assigned to be my advisor. Read More…

Posted by: shannynmoore | March 1, 2014

Republicans try their own court-stacking scheme

afig1Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

When you can’t win, change the rules.

I’ve wondered why our legislators have spent the better part of their time on bills likely to struck down as unconstitutional. They are trying to rewrite our constitution to hand public money to schools, deny women reproductive justice and deny citizens the right to weigh in on resource development.

Lawmakers will vote on bills that they know will end up in court. That takes money that they don’t have to pay for on either side. Maybe we need an amendment that requires those who vote for bills deemed unconstitutional have to pay the legal costs, not the state of Alaska.

I have been disappointed by some decisions by Alaskan judges, but I’ve had to shrug and know it’s our law. Oh, and there’s that handy appeals process.

It’s starting to make sense why the Republican super majority in Juneau feels so free to just make up stuff and stick it on a bill.

How our judges get selected is specific to Alaska. We have the Alaska Judicial Council, made up of three appointments from the Alaska Bar Association, three governor’s choice citizens and a chief justice. Senator Pete Kelly from Fairbanks is pushing for a change. He wants to double the number of the governor’s appointment.

Why? Because several judges have been turned away by the Council in the past several years. The are the sort of judges who could have been under the “activist judge” banner — and not in a good way. There was some mumbling from bill supporters that this was to give rural Alaskans more representation. If anyone is buying that, look at what they do and how they vote, not what they say

This idea to stack courts isn’t new. In Alaska, it would help get judges friendly to the administration on benches. That’s because the governor’s appointed citizens would outweigh the votes of the Bar Association members and judge. It’s a bit of a no brainer.

In 1935, the Supreme Court struck down multiple provisions of the New Deal. After a landslide victory in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided he’d take that as a mandate and went after the court. He proposed that he’d get to add a justice for every justice that sat on the bench that was 70 years old or older. That would have given him six appointments!

Can you imagine? See, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the Court has to have nine judges. The first court had six judges.

Can you imagine if after the Citizens United case, or parts of the Affordable Care Act, or the most recent decision saying police don’t necessarily need a warrant to enter your home, or the Voting Rights Act decision — all terrible decisions by the Supreme Court — Obama decided to just add two more justices to the court?

Oh, lookie! Now you have to get gay married in a socialist school while eating government-funded birth control pills like they’re TicTacs while petting a spotted owl and not wearing a flag lapel pin!

Relax. Obama is the worst socialist ever and isn’t coming for your guns or expanding the Court.

As much as I’d like to see the Supreme Court loaded up with people who aren’t fascists, and as much as I’d like to see the Alaska courts continue with the process that is not broken, it’s the sore loser problem that bugs me most.

The Republicans have had a few of their pet projects thrown out of our courts. Their solution? Change the way we pick judges.

If they were a sporting team would they change the way they pick referees to just people from their hometowns?

How did it work out for FDR and his plan? His own vice-president held his nose and gave a thumbs down. Folks who supported his New Deal and were disappointed in the elements struck down by the highest court didn’t support his plan to take it over. He did make three appointments to the court, one being Justice Robert Jackson who eventually oversaw the Nuremberg Trials.

Justice Jackson said, “It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.”

So, there it is, citizens of Alaska. I guess it’s up to us to keep our lawmakers from the error of stacking courts through the Judicial Council expansion.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

Posted by: shannynmoore | February 21, 2014

Alaska’s oil oligarchy is cloaked in corruption

oil-oligarchyShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

The muck-raking writer Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

He wrote that after running for governor in 1934. It would seem the business of politics was even more messy than the meat packing industry he exposed.

I’d go a bit further than Sinclair. It’s difficult for someone to continue getting a salary if he does understand some things and still acts on them.

It’s a bit of a long story, but I’ll give you the skinny. Most of us are familiar with the little green postcard that comes in the mail with property tax assessments. The companies that own the pipeline stretching from top to bottom of this great state are no different. They pay borough taxes to the North Slope, Fairbanks and Valdez, as well as to the state of Alaska.

To help figure out the value of that pipeline, there’s a volunteer board made up of gubernatorial appointees. It’s called the State Assessment Review Board (SARB). Oh, I’m sure folks who volunteer for this position are loads of fun at parties, but I can’t imagine trying to figure out the assessed value of the pipeline. Math boggles me at times, and the industry pressure cooker would be enough to can salmon tight enough to last until the Rapture.

One such man stepped into the cooker during Murkowski’s last year in office (a year that seemed particularly long for some reason). Let’s just call him Marty McGee, because that’s his name. By all accounts that aren’t the governor’s, Mr. McGee is the most competent person to lead Alaska’s oil property assessment.

Sorry, I get ahead of myself. The pipeline folks wanted to fill in the boxes for their own little green postcard. They said the pipeline was worth $850 million. In 2006, the Department of Revenue said the pipeline was worth $3.6 billion. The SARB said it was worth $4.3 billion. The TAPS owners went to court.

This brings us up to 2010, when a Superior Court looked at the evidence and said, you’re all wrong, the pipeline is worth $9.98 billion.

In fact, the court said there is so much valuable oil left on the North Slope that if there were no oil pipeline, the oil companies would spend tens of billions to build one.

Surprise! Pachow! That means millions more in duly owed taxes for municipalities, boroughs and the state. Relief for property owners? God willing and the creek don’t rise.

Hold the phone, cowboy.

Marty McGee was “fired” from the board by the Parnell administration. According to McGee, Gov. Parnell is trying to stack the board with oil company people, to keep the assessments low so the companies will pay less and Alaskans will get the shaft — once again.

The board, according to the state, meets once a year for a two- to three-day “meeting/hearing.” Members get standard travel and per diem. Not exactly a position that jumps you into a higher tax bracket.

Who did Parnell replace McGee with? Two oil company advocates, one of them from Salinas, Calif. Nothing like having a career oil man from another state to protect the interests of Alaskans. Who would agree to this position unless . . . well, think about it.

McGee knew the taxes paid on TAPS were low, although even he way underestimated them. The Parnell administration made up some cockamamie story about a “conflict of interest” because someone had been paid $2,100 for advisory work on another issue involving the gas company Enstar.

I was shocked to discover that “conflicts of interest” were ever a concern in this administration.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski has introduced a bill regarding such things. Alaska is late to join other states that prohibit lawmakers from voting on bills they have a clear conflict on. When voting on issues that would benefit their bosses, oil company senators just “declare” a conflict, have it “excused” and vote anyway.

Last year, SB21, the governor’s oil tax giveaway bill, was passed with deciding votes from such senators.

I’m not sure Sen. Peter Micciche appreciates the irony of his protest against a Wielechowski bill trying to stop the practice. Micciche called it a “very expensive waste of taxpayer time and money.” I guess if you aren’t building a funnel to pour money on the oil companies, Mr. Micciche thinks you’re wasting your time. How is it a waste of time to keep trying to clean up the system that incubated the Corrupt Bastard’s Club?

When Micciche first ran for office, he said he worked for ConocoPhillips running the LNG plant in Nikiski and making between $100,000 and $200,000. Two years later, he lists the same job at the now “mothballed” plant, working three-quarters time and making between $200,000 and $500,000. Anyone else have a job where they work 25 percent less for a business that has been “mothballed” and doubled their salary?

If the governor will fire a state assessor trying to administer the law as the Alaska Supreme Court sees it over a $2,100 conflict of interest, when billions of dollars are at stake, then surely he will back SB 172 and SCR 15 to bring Alaska into line with most other states by not letting legislators vote on bills where they have a substantial personal financial stake, or their employers’ have one, or their spouses have one.

Things really haven’t changed much since Mr. Sinclair observed, “One of the necessary accompaniments of capitalism in a democracy is political corruption.”

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

Posted by: shannynmoore | February 15, 2014

State political priorities need major makeover

capitol copyShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I enjoy painting. Really. Maybe it’s because my grandfather was a painter and I really liked him, but for whatever reason I don’t mind being on a ladder with a brush for hours at a time. Oh, did you think I meant painting bowls of fruit? No. I like painting houses.

But the best part is when you’re done. You stand back and see the transformation to a new look that was long overdue. From the first drop of color on the wall to the trim caulking. There’s a start and an end.

Painting is satisfying. (I realize some people have gotten divorced over paint jobs gone sideways and not everyone feels the same, but it’s my column.)

When I started a radio show more than eight years ago, there was an opening line that introduced me every day. “Painting a red state blue, one stroke at a time…”

This week I found myself listening to the news on the radio and hanging off a ladder with brush in my hand, which made me a captive audience. “Are you kidding me?!” I kept saying to no one.

Listening to the nonsense spawned by our elected nutjobs and trying to figure out what the ham and cheese they could possibly be thinking finally drove me to crank up the new Springsteen album.

The news was ruining my “Wow! This room looks fantastic! I barely recognize it!” Maybe you recognize this feeling: Just turn off the news and try to focus on changing and improving what’s right in front of you.

(Maybe you also have wondered what kind of freak they keep in a basement naming paint colors. The “Celery Bisque” really ought to be called “Chicken Poop Green.”)

OK, so if I’m wanting to dial out of the insanity — given that I live and breathe politics — I understand why people with much more interesting hobbies and busy lives tune out.

What got me to this point? Remember last year when I was writing week after week about the doom and gloom that would come to our state if SB21 — the governor’s oil tax giveaway — passed? Oh, sweet Pete, did I not stack my soapboxes up for that one. The math?! The math! I didn’t think it would work. There I was painting away, AND I WANTED TO BE WRONG. I did. Because if I were right, Alaska was sure to suffer for it.

But the governor got his way. He promised a million barrels of new production and the Legislature fell in line. They gobbled up the governor’s fantasy like hungry chickens in a yard full of corn.

The latest estimates of new oil production aren’t even close to a million. To be precise, they are 28.6 percent of a million by 2024. (I know that sounds like a long time away, but it’s only 10 years. And in the meantime, we’ll give the producers billions.)

Then my head exploded over an amendment vote. The Special Committee on Military and Veterans’ Affairs was considering relieving temporary military spouses (not temporary spouses, but temporary to Alaska) of the duty to get a state driver’s license. When Rep. Max Gruenberg sought to include same-sex military couples in the exemption, Reps. Gabrielle LeDoux, Shelley Hughes and Pete Higgins decided they couldn’t support the gay troops.

Really? Here’s a news flash: Being gay doesn’t make someone bulletproof while he’s fighting overseas for the freedom of Alaska lawmakers to institutionalize his second-class citizenship. (Even if it’s over something as petty as a trip to the DMV.)

But, to be fair, I’m sure it isn’t just the gay soldiers and airmen they don’t support. I expect they’re also wondering: How can we disrespect the Muslim, atheist and immigrant servicemen and women? Perhaps I’m naive to think “supporting the troops” means a lot more than sticking a Chinese-made magnet on your tailgate.

Oh, and if I get one more email from ayatollah Jim Minnery of the Alaska Family Council begging for money so he can continue the fight against women’s right to control their bodies, I may lose it.

Really, buddy? If you don’t like abortion, take Step One: Get the vasectomy. Step Two: Teach men and boys where babies come from and how to get a grip on their hormones. Step Three: Make sure contraception is available to everyone who might slip up and have sex.

And finally, Mullah Minnery, the day you start fighting for nutrition programs, child support and health care for children and pregnant women is the day you can call yourself “pro-life.” Until then you’re just Alaska’s leading advocate of forced birth by poor women.

Alaska is a big place. It’s in need of a very big paint job. Big enough to get us back to some semblance of sanity. Yes, I realize paying attention to politics and politicians is not quite as much fun as watching paint dry, but as the late Pete Seeger said, “Participation — that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”


Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

Posted by: shannynmoore | February 7, 2014

Candidates mute on Koch money polluting Alaska election

Charles_David_KochShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

It was probably five years ago when the Koch Brothers hit my radar. I was at a conference of grassroots community folks and one guy in particular was describing these eccentric brothers, born into wealth, who were hell-bent on remaking America.

Their predatory libertarian hybrid philosophy wasn’t new to me. I grew up around cranky old men who lived in cabins and argued with each other around the big table at the Anchor River Inn. Oh, they’d all come to Alaska to get away from America. The difference between their rants and the Koch Brothers? They were poor. All they could do was pound their fists and have their coffee refilled. The Koch Brothers are worth $36 billion each. Yes. Combined, they are worth $20 billion more than the Permanent Fund.

In campaigns during 2012, 17 groups enjoying tax-exempt status with ties to the billionaire brothers spent $407 million. That’s a lot of money to push your ideology. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s craptastic 5-4 decision that check-writing is free speech, this is now our norm. Before you holler that unions can do the same, the Kochs’ contribution was higher than all union spending on campaigns in federal, state and local races combined.

So far in this election cycle, $1.1 million of Koch money has been spent on Alaska television ads. (I realize the stations like this, but they don’t require integrity. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case this year being argued by a Republican outfit that says they have the right to lie in advertising.)

The Koch Brothers have also been active in shaping the politics of Alaska through their funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council. That organization’s attacks on voting rights, public schools, health insurance policy and reproductive fairness for poor women are all underwritten with Koch Bucks.

The Koch brothers have other interests in Alaska. They’ve done business here for years. This week, while buying more than $100,000 in attack ads opposing health care, they announced plans to close the Flint Hills refinery in Fairbanks. This has huge effect on not just the city of Fairbanks’ tax rolls, and 80 employees’ jobs, but it may put cargo planes in a pinch without jet fuel. And what will the railroad do with nothing to fill all those tank cars? This is far-reaching and we’re going to feel it (although it won’t amount to a pimple on a pea under the mattresses of the Koch brothers).

Our Washington, D.C., delegation and the governor all made sure to let Alaskans know they thought this closure was a bad idea. Funny that some candidates for U.S. Senate, namely Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell, are seemingly mute. They want Koch money to run ads on their behalf during the general election.

Koch got your tongue, fellas?

As bad as closing the refinery will be for our fellow Alaskans in the Interior, what the Koch brothers are doing to our state through other means is actually much more damaging. They inherited more than money from their father, who built 15 oil refineries for Stalin before moving to America. Daddy was an active opponent of Social Security and the New Deal.

The Koch’s disdain for public education, voting rights and (other people’s) personal property (they’re happy to use eminent domain to snatch rights-of-way for their pipelines) are percolating in our co-opted state legislature. (See, if you don’t vote the way that benefits them, they run someone against you.)

Charles Koch ran an opinion column a few years ago that bashed the government for picking and choosing winners. “There are now businesses and entire industries that exist solely as a result of federal patronage. Profiting from government instead of earning profits in the economy, such businesses can continue to succeed even if they are squandering resources and making products that people wouldn’t ordinarily buy.”

Really? This right after they landed an $85 billion contract with the federal government and raking in billions in federal ethanol subsidies.

Unfortunately, the Koch Brothers aren’t leaving Alaska. They’ll be here telling you who to vote for, what schools to pay for, who should have voting rights and whether to provide health care for poor people.

Lucky us.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

 

Posted by: shannynmoore | February 1, 2014

Court rules for sense on Arctic Ocean oil leases

energy-kulluk-oil-rig-runs-aground-alaska-wreck_62757_600x450Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I’m not sure what’s important to you when you buy a car but safety is high on my list. (I’m on a 20-year Subaru streak — it’s about love.) I watch the commercials with crash test dummies because I want some idea how safe I’ll be in a crash.

Now imagine if you found out that the crashes that got tested were only 5 miles an hour. (They aren’t but pretend with me for a second, folks.)

A five-star rating in a 5 mph crash wouldn’t mean much.

That’s basically what happened when oil leases off Alaska’s northern coast were put up for sale in 2008. The environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was based on a hypothetical level of oil development arbitrarily set by a BOEM analyst. Oh, how about a nice round number of 1 billion barrels?

Fine. Except it is way low. Exactly 12 times too low, according to development projections the BOEM made in 2006. About like the difference between a 5 mph crash and a 60 mph crash.

The people of the village of Point Hope had some concerns about offshore oil development. They get their living from the waters the oil companies were circling. Environmental groups signed on to their concerns. Some people want to save whales and seals so Alaskans on the North Slope can eat as they have for the last 10,000 years. So they sued the federal government.

Radical, I know.

The oil companies and the state of Alaska went to court to support the feds. The state wasn’t there to protect the Alaskans or safeguard our coastal waters. Prospective oil royalties from development weren’t going to go to the state; those go to the federal government. No, the state of Alaska was there to justify 5 mph crash safety tests. Despite the David-and-Goliath matchup, the court ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs and the notion that impact studies need to be based on likely impacts.

That led, at least in part, to the announcement this week that Shell won’t resume exploratory drilling in the Arctic this coming summer.

To you politicians — damn near all of you in Alaska: Will you stop acting like anyone who wants reality-based environmental standards in resource development is some patchouli-soaked, bike-riding, waffle-stomping, granola-crunching hippie radical anti-capitalist? If someone wants a car with safety standards based on 60 mph instead of 5 mph, they aren’t “anti-car-travel.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich sounded exactly like all the Republicans running against him:

“It is simply unacceptable that judicial overreach is getting in the way of letting Alaskans develop our own natural resources. Development in the Arctic has already been subjected to unprecedented safety standards — far more than domestic production anywhere else. I’ve worked for years to get all the federal agencies working together to permit Arctic projects, now we need to tackle the all too common legal stonewalling by outside groups. That’s why I am re-introducing my legislation to ensure there is a judicial endgame for Arctic developers when they have invested billions of dollars in developing our resources.”

Um, Point Hope villagers seem less like “outside groups” than some others (for example, Royal DUTCH Shell).

Stonewalling? Is brushing your teeth stonewalling cavities? What’s that line about “an ounce of prevention … ?”

We all had front-row seats to Shell not getting its act together in the Arctic. The company is pulling in its oars because, as it announced, its fourth-quarter net profit was down 74 percent. (Not to worry, it was still a hefty $1.78 billion.)

Theirs was a long list of missteps. Other companies interested in the offshore Arctic should be mad at Shell, not the drilling skeptics. Why aren’t Begich and the rest decrying Shell’s hubris and incompetence rather than “judicial overreach?”

Shell ran its rig aground not once but twice. Last year its crews pulled out of Dutch Harbor into a 100-year storm with inadequate towing gear just to avoid a tax bill.

The Deadliest Catch fishermen were still at the dock but Shell let some bean counter send its rigs into the Gulf of Alaska for an oil company’s version of pocket change? They’re lucky no one got killed.

Heck, their spill-response barge was fined for spilling fluids in a Washington harbor. Laugh or cry, your choice.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals isn’t to blame because the BOEM used “5 mph” for its crash test. Shell has more than demonstrated the need for federal regulators to require realistic crash tests, just as they do for cars.

The profits from this development don’t belong to all of us — but the risk certainly does.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio. 

Posted by: shannynmoore | January 25, 2014

State constitution is clear about public schools

55_delegate_picShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

Our governor gave his State of the Colony speech this week. In it, he tied “school reform” (by which he apparently means amending the Alaska Constitution to allow spending public money on private and religious schools) to raising the state’s contribution to each student’s education.

I guess taking hostages is now Standard Operating Procedure for Republican elected officials. And even if those of us who like our constitution just the way it is were to acquiesce, Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed “increase” in education funding wouldn’t come close to replacing what schools have lost to inflation in just the last three years.

Almost as soon as Alaskans started to howl about his blackmail attempt, Parnell threw that baby in reverse and backed away. “Oh, noooo, I’d never say what I just said before I found out I wasn’t king! Sheesh! What do you take me for? Hurumpf. Wait, was that on tape?”

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the group that artfully married lobbyists, big corporations and conservative legislators from across the nation, has pushed privatization of schools across the country. It’s still their agenda, though it has been a disaster for teachers, students and the public.

For example, in Milwaukee, the base student allocation is $6,442 a year. (In Alaska, it’s less than $5,700.) Under their “Milwaukee Parental Choice Program,” a private school called LifeSkills Academy took more than $2 million from the Department of Public Instruction before moving out of its rented space in the night and disappearing.

The LifeSkills students then had to squeeze into other schools that didn’t get the money that should have come with them — straining teachers, classrooms and diverting precious resources from other students.

And the LifeSkills kids needed all the help they could get. According to the local paper, “No students attending LifeSkills were proficient in reading or math in 2012-’13, except for a single fourth-grade student, according to the most recent state achievement results.”

When was the last time you heard about a public school taking the state’s money and skipping out for a beach in Mexico.

LifeSkills Academy? Is that a solution to the problems of educating Alaska children?

I haven’t taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the state of Alaska, but I know a guy who helped write it, and English is my first language.

Here’s what it says about education:

“The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control.

“No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

“Free from sectarian control” seems pretty clear to me. Alaska’s founders weren’t inventing the wheel, they were expanding the Territorial Organic Act of 1912, which required the separation of church and state schools.

Exactly how much will Parnell’s “privatizing” of Alaska schools cost? Sen. Berta Gardner produced a nonpartisan legislative study that showed it would run about $100 million a year to add a for-profit system. That seems like real money when you see 159 teachers lose their jobs to offset part of a $23 million budget shortfall in Anchorage.

Our public education system can, of course, use improvement. But at this week’s Anchorage School Board meeting some wonderful achievements were recognized. Graduation rates are up significantly, juvenile crime rates in Anchorage are down significantly, and more children are participating in vocational education programs.

For the past few years, the Legislature and governor have demanded “improvements” before increasing school funding. In fact, Parnell famously called education “the ultimate giveaway.” That’s either ironic or psychotic.

That attitude is the polar opposite of the one he took with the oil companies. He didn’t even require them to make commitments to produce more oil before he gave them tax breaks, much less make them produce more first. But that wasn’t a “giveaway.”

But schools? With them he’s Mr. Tough Guy: “You’ll get no more money until I see ‘improvement’ and ‘reform’! “

Part of the success we’ve seen in our schools in recent years is attributable to programs that were cut just last spring because of lack of money. Graduation coaches and regular counselors, security personnel and career guides are no longer there to help students who need help to make it. Nothing says, “Good job! Way to go!” like a pink slip.

I agree with radio storyteller Garrison Keillor: “When you wage war on the public schools, you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together. You’re not a conservative, you’re a vandal.”

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

Posted by: shannynmoore | January 18, 2014

EPA is doing the job that Alaskans can’t trust Parnell to do

Watermarked-SalmonstockOne-Other-5Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

Pop Moore was born and raised in West Virginia. I’m proud of our family heritage in a state that includes the original Rednecks in the Battle for Blair Mountain. That’s where my grandfather fought to unionize the coal mines after getting buried in a slide.

When I was growing up, we’d go visit my grandmother in a tiny town in Boone County. It was humid and friendly. Tomatoes from the garden tasted delicious, and the people talked funny. The center of town was the yellow line that ran through it. I loved sitting on the porch swing listening to stories. Our family graveyard was on the top of a mountain, but my family lived in the hollows.

Last week when Freedom Industries’ chemical spill on the Elk River ruined the drinking water (well, every kind but flushing water) for more than 300,000 citizens in West Virginia, some of them were people I know. Some are family.

Just because a company has the word “Freedom” in it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

Having a leak in a 35,000-gallon tank of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), a chemical used to “clean coal,” and which causes skin irritation, diarrhea and vomiting, you might be frightened to find out the Centers for Disease Control don’t know anything about it.

Of course, West Virginia is one of those states under the sway of “regulation-is-bad-for-business” nuttery, so no representative of the public had inspected the tank of MCHM in more than 20 years — even though it was stored a mile and a half from the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people.

Ironically, the same day Freedom decided to accidently “treat” the Elk River, the Republican-led U.S. House voted to pass the “Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act.”

Yes, that’s right, because requiring the EPA to occasionally inspect hazardous-waste storage to make sure it’s safe would be bad. The heart of the Act makes the requirement for clean-up insurance for companies dealing with toxic waste. Their solution? Slow the federal response to include state governments (read more bureaucracy), which runs the clock while disaster is building. Eventually, they get around to declaring it a Superfund site to be cleaned up using federal dollars.

Freedom Industries was created on Dec. 31, 2013. Nine days later the river was poisoned. Eight days after the spill, Freedom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company still owes $3.66 million to creditors and faces a deepening pile of class action suits.

If al-Qaida had poisoned the water of 300,000 Americans, as one astute Tweeter noted, we’d have invaded the wrong country before the weekend. But a corporation? No sense everyone getting all crazy, locking up executives and that sort of thing. Corporations are people, but for some reason they can’t go to jail like people.

In fact, they can go on like it’s not much more than a bad day at the office. Apparently nothing can stop corporations from exercising their constitutional right to bribe politicians to protect their interests by pulling the teeth of regulators and ensuring that the public ultimately bears the costs of their bad behavior.

Thanks, five members of the U.S. Supreme Court, for that truly perverse decision called “Citizens United.”

In very related news in Alaska, the Environmental Protection Agency released its three-year study on the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. They concluded, “Pebble mine could destroy up to 94 miles of streams where salmon spawn and migrate and up to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes,” and then some.

For some reason, the memories of Gov. Sean Parnell and Sen. Lisa Murkowski keep failing them. The EPA didn’t swoop down on Alaska, unbidden. The agency was begged by Alaskans to do its study — by Alaskans, I’ll note, who don’t trust Parnell or his bureaucrats to honestly examine plans for a Pebble mine and protect the public interest.

Parnell said the study was a “pretext for an EPA veto of the state’s permitting process.” From your lips to God’s ears, governor, I hope you’re right.

Murkowski was toting around the same talking points. “EPA’s assessment stops short of prohibiting responsible development in the Bristol Bay watershed, but the agency has strongly implied that this report will be a basis to pre-emptively veto economic opportunities in the region in the future.”

Listen, Lisa, EPA federal “overreach” is our only hope for an honest evaluation of the risks of creating a lake full of poison water in the heart of Bristol Bay. You think that’s nothing to worry about?

Tell you what, let’s you and me go to West Virginia. I have some people I want you to meet.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

 

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