Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dysfunctional Congress is on Another Recess While President is Working

I think it’s a little -- as Mark Twain said, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.  President Obama, 30 Apr 2013, Press Conference

After reading on various sites some real negatives about the President's Press Conference today, I decided to go check for myself.  Seems some of the comments were taken out of context which should be no surprise from this White House Press Corps.  IMHO, the WH Press Corps needs new blood and those that have been there for as long as most of can remember, need to find a new job.  WH Press Corps started complaining about President Bush going to Crawford as they had to stay in Waco.  Since those days, they seem to complain more and ask dumber questions trying to do a gotcha.  Just give us the facts and skip the biased reporting.

This question by Jonathan Karl left me with what kind of question is this since Karl seems to be blaming the President instead of Congress for lack of progress on getting things done.  Is Karl that out in left field to not know the President cannot do a thing if the obstructionists Republicans say no.  Would he have asked the same question of Bill Clinton?

Karl brought up the FAA controllers which I think was a good bill to pass so the FAA can move money more for safety then anything.  Many forget that a good deal of the military airports hand over tower duties in the evening to local large airports so the towers pick up even more workload.  They were mostly fine for a week but if had drug on, how many near misses would have happened?  Thought this comeback to Karl was priceless since he seemed to have a problem figuring out that Congress does have responsibilities and it is not President Obama's place to get them to act.
But, Jonathon, you seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave.  That’s their job.  They’re elected -- members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people.

Today's Republicans in Congress are the worst I have ever seen and to even hint any Democrat can get them to move on anything is ludicrous.  It takes their constituents being up in arms and even then like we saw on background checks for guns, we got ignored by Senate Republicans for the most part.  A lot of them only listen to their big donors on how to vote.  

Jonathan Karl.

Q    Mr. President, you are a hundred days into your second term.  On the gun bill, you put, it seems, everything into it to try to get it passed.  Obviously, it didn’t.  Congress has ignored your efforts to try to get them to undo these sequester cuts.  There’s even a bill that you threatened to veto that got 92 Democrats in the House voting yes.  So my question to you is do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?

THE PRESIDENT:  If you put it that way, Jonathan -- (laughter) -- maybe I should just pack up and go home.  Golly.   
I think it’s a little -- as Mark Twain said, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.

We understand that we’re in a divided government right now. The Republicans control the House of Representatives.  In the Senate, this habit of requiring 60 votes for even the most modest piece of legislation has gummed up the works there.  And I think it comes as no surprise not even to the American people, but even members of Congress themselves that right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill.

Despite that, I’m actually confident that there are a range of things that we’re going to be able to get done.  I feel confident that the bipartisan work that’s been done on immigration reform will result in a bill that passes the Senate, passes the House, and gets on my desk.  And that’s going to be a historic achievement.  And I’ve been very complimentary of the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats in those efforts.

It is true that the sequester is in place right now.  It’s damaging our economy.  It’s hurting our people.  And we need to lift it.  What’s clear is, is that the only way we’re going to lift it is if we do a bigger deal that meets the test of lowering our deficit and growing our economy at the same time.  And that’s going to require some compromises on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.

I’ve had some good conversations with Republican senators so far.  Those conversations are continuing.  I think there’s a genuine desire on many of their parts to move past not only sequester but Washington dysfunction.  Whether we can get it done or not, we’ll see.

But I think the sequester is a good example -- or this recent FAA issue is a good example.  You will recall that even as recently as my campaign, Republicans we’re saying, sequester is terrible, this is a disaster, it’s going to ruin our military, it’s going to be disastrous for the economy -- we've got to do something about it.  Then, when it was determined that doing something about it might mean that we close some tax loopholes for the wealthy and the well-connected, suddenly, well, you know what, we’ll take the sequester.  And the notion was somehow that we had exaggerated the effects of the sequester -- remember?  The President is crying wolf.  He’s Chicken Little.  The sequester -- no problem.

And then in rapid succession, suddenly White House tours -- this is terrible!  How can we let that happen?  Meat inspectors  -- we’ve got to fix that.  And, most recently, what are we going to do about potential delays at airports?

So despite the fact that a lot of members of Congress were suggesting that somehow the sequester was a victory for them and this wouldn’t hurt the economy, what we now know is what I warned earlier, what Jay stood up here and warned repeatedly, is happening.  It’s slowed our growth.  It’s resulting in people being thrown out of work.  And it’s hurting folks all across the country.

And the fact that Congress responded to the short-term problem of flight delays by giving us the option of shifting money that’s designed to repair and improve airports over the long term to fix the short-term problem -- well, that’s not a solution.  And essentially what we’ve done is we’ve said, in order to avoid delays this summer, we’re going to ensure delays for the next two or three decades.

Q    Why’d you go along with it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Hold on a second.

So the alternative, of course, is either to go ahead and impose a whole bunch of delays on passengers now -- which also does not fix the problem -- or the third alternative is to actually fix the problem by coming up with a broader, larger deal.

But, Jonathon, you seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave.  That’s their job.  They’re elected -- members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people.

So if, in fact, they are seriously concerned about passenger convenience and safety, then they shouldn’t just be thinking about tomorrow or next week or the week after that; they should be thinking about what’s going to happen five years from now, 10 years from now, or 15 years from now.  The only way to do that is for them to engage with me on coming up with a broader deal.  And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do -- is to continue to talk to them about are there ways for us to fix this.

Frankly, I don’t think that if I were to veto, for example, this FAA bill, that that somehow would lead to the broader fix.  It just means that there would be pain now, which they would try to blame on me, as opposed to pain five years from now.  But either way, the problem is not getting fixed.

The only way the problem does get fixed is if both parties sit down and they say:  How are we going to make sure that we're reducing our deficit sensibly?  How are we making sure that we're investing in things like rebuilding our airports and our roads and our bridges, and investing in early childhood education, basic research -- all the things that are going to help us grow? And that's what the American people want.

Just one interesting statistic when it comes to airports.  There was a recent survey of the top airports in the country -- in the world, and there was not a single U.S. airport that came in the top 25.  Not one.  Not one U.S. airport was considered by the experts and consumers who use these airports to be in the top 25 in the world.  I think Cincinnati Airport came in around 30th.

What does that say about our long-term competitiveness and future?  And so when folks say, well, there was some money in the FAA to deal with these furloughs -- well, yeah, the money is this pool of funds that are supposed to try to upgrade our airports so we don't rank in the bottom of industrialized countries when it comes to our infrastructure.

And that's what we're doing -- we're using our seed corn short term.  And the only reason we're doing it is because right now we've got folks who are unwilling to make some simple changes to our tax code, for example, to close loopholes that aren't adding to our competitiveness and aren't helping middle-class families.

So that's a long way of answering your question, but the point is that there are common-sense solutions to our problems right now.  I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions.  I can urge them to.  I can put pressure on them.  I can rally the American people around those common-sense solutions.  But ultimately, they, themselves, are going to have to say, we want to do the right thing.

And I think there are members certainly in the Senate right now, and I suspect members in the House as well, who understand that deep down.  But they're worried about their politics.  It’s tough.  Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal.  They’re worried about primaries.  And I understand all that.  And we're going to try to do everything we can to create a permission structure for them to be able to do what’s going to be best for the country.  But it’s going to take some time. 

The last sentence tells it like it is - Republicans are scared of being primaried from the hard right if they compromise with Obama.  When are they going to grow a spine and decide to do what is best for the Country instead of a bunch of extremists who have taken over the Party.  Do none of the GOP today have a spine to tell this group of malcontents to go jump?  Doesn't look House Republicans are going to agree to much of anything as they have thrown Government into chaos with their 'my way or no way' governing.

One solution is to vote out the GOP obstructionists in 2014 so Government can start to work again.  The vast majority of Republicans in the House and some in the Senate seem to have forgotten why they were sent to Congress as they represent all their constituents not just the hard right.  When get reelected is put ahead of the American people, it is time for them to retire and find another line of work.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Morning Joe Interview with Governor Christie in New Jersey Six Months After Hurricane Sandy

“The president has kept every promise he made” (Governor Chris Christie on the President's actions following Hurricane Sandy)

Just today the money that was finally approved months after Hurricane Sandy by the stingy GOP is starting to flow into New Jersey.  Governor Christie knew it would take about three months after the relief bill was passed but he wasn't counting on it taking so long to get Congress off the dime to vote for Hurricane Sandy relief.

Still haven't gotten over how fast Governor Perry and the two Texas Senators, Cornyn and Cruz rushed to get federal aid for the West, Texas, fertilizer storage explosion after the Governor's extremely negative comments against Obama and the two Texas Senators voting against Hurricane Sandy relief for the East Coast.  Bunch of Republican hypocrites reside in elected office in Texas today.

Christie understands that as Governor your state comes first and even though there was an election, it meant nothing compared to what New Jersey and New York were going through.  The criticism by the hard right against Christie is stupid but speaks to how little they care about others - part of the "my way or no way" group.  Anyone who does something they don't like gets called names no matter the reason.  Christie has been called every name you could think of by the hard right on the internet and in interviews.  RINO is most likely the mildest he has been called.  He just keeps moving on and putting his state first ignoring the jerks on the hard right..

President Obama has done a very good job during times of disasters and crises.  In fact, much, much better then the Bush team as we saw with Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf.  The Bush FEMA people were the worst I have ever seen.  Gov Christie should be happy that he didn't have to deal with the Bush Administration during Hurricane Sandy or he would still be waiting for FEMA to get off the dime.
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Governor Chris Christie on Morning Joe this morning: 
Update 1:00 p.m. 
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved New Jersey’s disaster recovery plan, Gov. Christie announced mid-day Monday. 
HUD will fund $1.83 billion to support housing, infrastructure, and business through homeowner relief, infrastructure development, and low-interest loans to small businesses.
“Today’s news sends a very powerful message that New Jersey is moving forward and that the Jersey Shore will be open for business this summer,” Christie said at a press conference. “These funds will provide critical resources to our Sandy-impacted homeowners and businesses to reconstruct, rehabilitate and continue down the road of recovery.” 
Six months after superstorm Sandy ravaged New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said he has no regrets on working with President Barack Obama on his state’s recovery—despite political blowback. 
“The president has kept every promise he made,” the Republican governor said on Morning Joe Monday from Asbury Park, N.J. “Everybody knows I have about 95% level of disagreement with Barack Obama on principle and philosophy, but the fact is we have a job to do. What people expect from people they elect is to do their jobs.”
The two were pictured embracing, just seven days before the presidential election, as they toured the destruction in New Jersey. 
Republicans slammed Christie for working with the president they were trying to unseat and shunned the one-time GOP star from conservative events like CPAC, despite his high approval ratings. (Currently 68% of New Jersey residents believe he’s doing a good job.)
“I supported Mitt Romney and I was very vocal about it, but the fact is presidential politics were not the first thing on my mind that day,” Christie said.
Failing to put politics aside and get the job done is one of the reasons Americans disapprove so strongly of Washington, D.C, he said. (Just 15% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.) 
“That’s why they hate Washington so much. They hate Washington because people don’t care, many of them, they don’t care about getting the job done,” he said. “They care about arguing with each other and being right. The president’s guilty of that, the Congress is guilty of that.”
Christie challenged his critics to put themselves in his shoes. 
“What the president and I did at that time is we saw suffering together,” he said. “When you see that, you’re either going to step up and be responsible or you’re not.  We stepped up and were responsible.” 
Then there was Barbara Bush last Thursday before the dedication of the Bush Library on Friday who said it all IMHO:

Appearing in an interview Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, Mrs. Bush was asked how she felt about Jeb, the former governor of Florida, seeking the presidency in 2016. 
Mrs. Bush replied, quote, “We’ve had enough Bushes.” 
She went on to say she thought there were many worthy candidates, telling anchor Matt Lauer, “There are people out there” who are qualified. Mrs. Bush, who had a reputation for bluntness when her husband George H.W. Bush was president, spoke from the site of the presidential library. On Wednesday, George W. Bush told CNN he thought Jeb Bush should run for president.
Barbara Bush is the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal GOP.  She has always spoke her mind and no one is going to tell her what to say which is refreshing.  Looks like Chris Christie is cut of that same cloth - they are both going to say what they think and if someone doesn't like it, tough!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bush Administration Responsible for No Oversight of West, Texas, or Other Fertilizer/Chemical Storage Facilities by EPA

“Perry reworked the language and helped to get it added to the spending bill in a conference committee. Under the new amendment, the DHS would have nominal authority to regulate the chemical industry but also have its hands tied where required.”

What Phillip Perry, VP Cheney's son-in-law, did was to add language the chemical industry wanted to an appropriations bill rider that moved the task of regulating and oversight of chemical plants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Another day, another group that has bought and paid for Republican members of Congress.  This time it is the chemical industry which is only being highlighted after the West, TX, fertilizer plant blew up last week while storing large amounts chemicals that should have set off red flags. EPA is no longer in charge of regulating these plants while the Texas Department of Health who had the authority seems pretty worthless as they took the owner's word with no inspections.

Seems chemical manufacturer's thought giving DHS authority for regulation and oversight with little money provided by Congress would allow them to operate as they chose without no regard to safety.  As we saw in West, Texas, the lack of oversight blew up in their face with a plant storing chemicals that were way over the limit allowed in unsafe storage units with no markings so fire department officials didn't know what was in the storage tanks.  Because of not knowing what was stored, the volunteer fire department used water instead of foam which is used to fight chemical fires.  The owner of the facility has already been sued.

This picture is from the site of the West, Texas fertilizer storage facility the night of the explosion where 10 of the 13 killed were volunteer fire fighters, one was a paramedic, and one was from Dallas search and rescue -- all first responders who died because of lack of oversight and inspections of this plant:

With Chris Hayes connecting the dots on MSNBC with this video, it shows what happened which eventually led to the West, Texas, fertilizer plant exploding.

Summary of the Chris Hayes video:

Let’s recap: The Bush administration’s own cabinet secretaries come up with a plan to regulate these chemical plants. It’s stymied by Phil Perry once. The Bush administration sides with the chemical industry when it’s brought before Congress. And then, basically in a backroom maneuver, Perry does the chemical industry’s bidding by moving the oversight of this from the EPA, which the chemical industry hates, to DHS, which the chemical industry thinks they can more easily manipulate. 
Now, fast-forward six years. The West Fertilizer company is storing more than 13-hundred times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by DHS. And it does appear now, that not only did DHS literally have no idea that the West Fertilizer company was storing ammonium nitrate. But according to Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up.

Everyone in America should watch this video which connects the dots which all lead back to the Bush Administration, Phillip Perry, and the chemical industry:
Bush and the West explosion: The untold story of deregulating chemical plants
, @youngcollier11:26 PM on 04/25/2013
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Seems the Bush Administration was in the hip pocket of chemical manufactures starting with Vice President Cheney's son-in-law, Phillip Perry, who is responsible for non-regulation of chemical plants by the EPA with his various positions in the Administration. Will someone please tell me why family of the President or Vice President is allowed to even work in the Administration. Cheney's daughter, Liz, also went to work for the State Department during the Bush years. You want to look at the main problem of the Bush Administration - look no further then the former head of Halliburton, Dick Cheney. His son-in-law along with the chemical industry and their bought and paid for puppets in Congress helped contribute to the plant in West, Texas, blowing up.  

Then there is the K-factor involved when it comes to fertilizer and chemical plants:
Koch Fertilizer, LLC
Koch Fertilizer, LLC, which is one of the world’s largest makers of nitrogen fertilizers. Koch Fertilizer owns or has interests in fertilizer plants the United States, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and Italy, among others. Koch Fertilizer was formed in 1988 when the Koch companies purchased the Gulf Central Pipeline and ammonia terminals connected to the pipeline. The next year, the Koch Nitrogen Company was formed in order to market ammonia. The next few years saw purchases of various ammonia facilities in Louisiana, Canada, and elsewhere, and ammonia sales agreements with firms in Australia, the U.K., and other countries. The year 2010 saw the founding of Koch Methanol, LLC, and Koch Agronomic Services, LLC. In October 2010, a plant in Venezuela was nationalized by the government. In 2011, the firm acquired the British fertilizer firm J&H Bunn Limited.
Do you think that the Koch Bros were a major player in getting Phillip Perry to insert language into a bill to move control of chemical plants from the EPA to DHS so they would have less oversight, regulation, and scrutiny?  I certainly do and would suggest they probably rallied the rest and still are too prevent any oversight and regulation to another one of their industries. IMO, the Koch Bros with their aim to destroy all oversight and regulation by the Federal Government contributed to the West, Texas, disaster along with their puppets in Congress.  Are the Koch Bros taking their quest for lack of oversight and regulation on what they own worldwide as they buy up chemical and fertilizer plants around the world?

Given that the Bush-backed bill moving oversight of big places storing fertilizer from EPA to DHS is law of the land, and Republicans in Congress aren’t going to change it, the administration has been considering recently granting the EPA the original authority that Christine Todd Whitman wanted. The chemical industry lobby hates this. So in February, 10 Republicans and one Democrat teamed-up with a bunch of chemical industry groups to fight this tooth and nail. Here’s a letter from the groups to members of Congress. It reads in part:
“We have concerns about EPA’s arbitrary application of the General Duty Clause as well as the potential for future expansion of the General Duty Clause to regulate the security of chemical facilities.”
President Obama who as a Senator in 2006 sponsored a bill to make chemical plants safer.  Sounds like it was a reasonable bill, but the Republicans in the Senate killed the bill on behalf of the chemical industry.  After all, the GOP office holders need their wealthy donors to keep filling up their campaign coffers.  If something blows up in their face due to their obstructionism on oversight and regulation of chemical plants, no worry as it is only collateral damage is the way they act today.

Following is an excerpt of what Chris Hayes, MSNBC, is saying in the video above about what happened during the Bush Administration to kill oversight of chemical plants by the EPA. No wonder Christie Todd Whitman who headed EPA along with Tom Ridge who was the first head of Homeland Security did not come back for 2nd terms. 

We pieced together this story. Here’s what happened: in the wake of 9/11, there was tremendous concern about the vulnerability of chemical plants, including plants that stored fertilizer. The EPA knew that these chemical plants posed a legitimate risk to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The vulnerability of chemical plants made headlines across the country.
Two Bush administration officials, Christine Todd Whitman, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time and Tom Ridge, who was head of Secretary of Homeland Security, came up with a plan to deal with the vulnerability. Whitman believed that the EPA was already empowered to expand her agency’s oversight of chemical plants under a section of the Clean Air Act and she and Ridge worked out a deal to do so. 
That’s until the son-in-law of former Vice President Dick Cheney walked into the room, a guy by the name Phillip Perry, who was at the time the general counsel of the White House Office of Management and Budget. And he made it clear that the Bush administration was not going to support granting regulatory authority over chemical security to the EPA. According to reports, Perry claimed that their proposal was tantamount to overreach, and that they would need Congress to specifically authorize it. 
So, Christine Todd Whitman and Tom Ridge figured that the obvious thing to do was to go up to the Hill, and ask Congress for the authority necessary. But as Whitman writes in her book, “It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America”:
“Although both Tom and I agreed such legislation was necessary, strong congressional opposition–led by some Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee–to giving EPA even the modest additional statutory authority made it difficult to secure administration support for a meaningful bill.”
Basically, the Bush administration from above, pulled support for that bill because the chemical industry doesn’t want to be regulated by the EPA. Fast forward a few years, to 2007, and Phil Perry–again, Dick Cheney’s son-in-law–is now over at the Department of Homeland Security as the department’s general counsel. And what he manages to do, in an uncontroversial bill, in an appropriations rider, is slip in industry-friendly language into the bill that moves the task of regulating chemical plants from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Homeland Security. But DHS is given none of the tools it would need to actually do that. 
Excerpt:  Read More at MSNBC 
Bottom line is that we can add another industry, chemical and fertilizer manufacturers along with the storage facility owners to list of people/groups who have bought and paid for Republicans in Congress.  Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, it has gotten much worse to the stage the Republicans in Congress work for the NRA and other groups and could care less about the rest of us.

Since the Republicans in Congress for the most part don't care about us then it is time to show them the unemployment line in November 2014 and then cut unemployment benefits for members of Congress to $1 a day!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Republican Rebranding Failing!

“If you’re a freshman — the guys who’ve been up here the last year, we can go home and say listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace Obamacare. Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say,” he said. “We haven’t had a repeal or replace vote this year.” (Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)

Have you been in a store when a child wants something that their Mother says they cannot have and they throw a fit?  That is what Freshman Republican Representatives are doing as they have never been able to vote on repeal of Obamacare.  Poor babies!  What a bunch of whiners make up the GOP Conference in the House.  How many times do they have to vote to end Obamacare when they know full well it will never pass the Senate.  They spend time and our tax dollars (almost $50M) to repeal Obamacare 36 times but don't have the time in their 3-day work week to pass jobs bills including one for veterans or the farm bill for small farmers not the conglomerate farms owned by Republican big donors.

The reason for all the votes is so they can tell Republicans in their districts that they voted against Obamacare:
"this is the issue that so many people around the country who love the Republican Party are frustrated with.” (Rep Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)
Are they too dumb to realize that all these votes have actually turned long time 'common sense' Republicans against the GOP in the House?  I find this demeaning to the oath they took because it is all about politics with the hard right conservative Tea Party crowd.  Their whole aim seems to be to make Obama look bad and screw up the Government by allow the sequester to take place,  Bet Republicans are the first ones to complain about flight delays as they leave DC to return home after a three-day work week where they spent their time deciding whether to debate Obamacare again or to send Representatives to the Joint Resolution Committee on the Budget.

Sal Kupur from Talking Points Memo as this to say this morning:

Part of the reason House Republicans may not be able to put their futile efforts to repeal Obamacare behind them is that party freshmen won’t let them. 
Now, four months in to Obama’s second term, as House GOP leaders promote modest measures and a gentler tone to rebrand the party, freshmen and their conservative allies are kicking it old school, demanding a frontal assault on the Affordable Care Act they know will fail. 
At a Wednesday panel organized by the Heritage Foundation, conservative Republicans lamented that it’s been too long since they had the opportunity to vote to wipe out the Affordable Care Act in its entirety — and that the newest members haven’t had the chance yet.
“We need to get a vote on full repeal, and I’ve asked leadership for this. I’m a cosponsor of Michele Bachmann’s bill … that just goes straight at it for full repeal,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the chairman of the influential and deeply conservative Republican Study Committee. 
“We need to continue fighting for repeal. We need a clean vote on repeal.” 
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) urged leadership to hold a repeal vote so freshman members can serve up the same anti-Obamacare talking points for their conservative constituents that more senior Republicans enjoy. 
“If you’re a freshman — the guys who’ve been up here the last year, we can go home and say listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace Obamacare. Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say,” he said. “We haven’t had a repeal or replace vote this year.” 
“We have not had a chance as freshmen to do that,” said first-term Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL). 
“Even if it’s just symbolic — and even if we understand that process-wise we are not going to be able to say, okay we want repeal, it’s done, and it’s over. But this is the issue that so many people around the country who love the Republican Party are frustrated with.”
Excerpt:  Full article at Talking Points Memo 
If Obamacare wasn't enough, for four years we have had the Republicans in the House complaining the Senate never passes a budget.  The Senate has now passed a budget and the House Republican leadership refuses to appoint anyone because of some rule -- excuses, excuses:

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his team are preparing to turn up the pressure on Republicans over a budget conference committee aimed at reaching a broad debt deal.
Senior aides said the top Democrat was expected to seek a deal with the GOP this week to formally appoint Senate budget conference negotiators. They said the move was a response to the statement by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio last week that he will not name House conference negotiators unless both chambers can first work out a framework for agreement.  
Boehner cited concerns about a House rule that would allow rank-and-file members on both sides to force votes, or what Boehner called “politically motivated bombs,” on motions to instruct conferees if no agreement has been reached within 20 days once a conference committee is named.
It remains unclear, for now, whether Republicans would block the appointment of conferees, either to provide political cover for Boehner or to force a second budget debate with amendments. “It would seem they are not sincere about wanting a budget resolution if they block the appointment of conferees,” said Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.
Excerpt:  Full article at Roll Call 
Speaker Boehner seems to be afraid of his own shadow these days seeing everyone out to get him on both sides.  There may be some truth to that because from the day he allowed the hard right Tea Party to dictate to leadership, it has been downhill ever since.  When he does stand up to them, he usually backs down and gives into their demands.

If the House Republicans are a reflection of the makeover of the Republican Party, it has failed completely.  All you have to do is look at some of the dumb statements still coming out of Republican elected office holders and candidates.  There are so many examples that it is hard to pick a favorite, but mine is the South Carolina House race with former Appalachian hiker Mark Sanford broke into his ex-wife's home for camping gear and boots and then is photographed debating a cardboard cut-out of Nancy Pelosi.  Truth is stranger then fiction when it comes to Mark Sanford.  He is so bad that even though he won the run-off, the NRCC has stopped all funding!  Would you fund a candidate who debates a cardboard cutout?

This latest poll shows the Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch pulling away from Sanford.  What I find extremely interest was this comment from PPP:

Although Sanford's unpopularity is clearly the main reason Democrats have a chance to win in this district, it's interesting to note that there is some backlash against Republicans over last week's vote on background checks. 86% of voters in the district say they support them to only 12% opposed, and 45% of voters say the GOP's opposition to them makes it less likely they'll support the party in the next election compared to only 21% who consider it a positive. That anger over the gun vote comes despite Barack Obama having only a 41% approval rating in the district with 51% of voters disapproving of him.
Been saying for sometime as readers of this blog and those on Twitter know that the disgruntled Republicans like myself and others are going to tip the balance to the Democrats in 2014 because we refuse to support or vote for Republican candidates in 2014 when they are truly the Party of "NO" with their refusal to pass simple legislation on firearms or vote for the Violence Against Women Act.  They are so bought and paid for by the NRA and wealthy donors, they have blinders on to the rest of the American people.

This race in a very red Congressional District is a microcosm of Republican voters across the Country who are totally fed up with the GOP today.  No amount of rebranding and rhetoric is going to work.  When you have trouble winning a race in SC as former Governor, the GOP may be in for a bad night in November 2014.  They may discover they cannot take GOP voters fore granted while treating us like we are to dumb to notice their rhetoric has no basis in fact.  With being a former member of the House and Governor, Sanford should be having high favorable numbers among Republicans but it is not working out that way with some Republicans refusing to even go vote.  Be interesting to watch this play out because the big loser in all of this could be the NRA and their puppets in the Congress.
Colbert Busch expands lead22 April 
PPP's newest poll on the special election in South Carolina finds Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch expanding her lead to 9 points over Mark Sanford at 50/41. Green Party candidate Eugene Platt polls at 3%. 
Colbert Busch's lead is on the rise for several reasons. She has a 51/35 advantage with independents. She's winning over 19% of Republicans, while losing just 7% of Democrats. And it also seems that after last week's revelations about Sanford that a lot of GOP voters are planning to just stay at home- while the district supported Mitt Romney by 18 points last fall, those planning to turn out for the special election voted for him by only a 5 point spread. 
Sanford continues to be unpopular in the district with 38% of voters rating him favorably to 56% with a negative opinion. 51% say the revelations about his trespassing last week give them doubts about his fitness for public office. Interestingly the events of the last week haven't hurt Sanford too much with Republicans though- 65% say the trespassing charges don't give them any doubts about him, and his favorable with GOP voters has actually improved from 55/39 a month ago to now 61/32. 
Although Sanford's unpopularity is clearly the main reason Democrats have a chance to win in this district, it's interesting to note that there is some backlash against Republicans over last week's vote on background checks. 86% of voters in the district say they support them to only 12% opposed, and 45% of voters say the GOP's opposition to them makes it less likely they'll support the party in the next election compared to only 21% who consider it a positive. That anger over the gun vote comes despite Barack Obama having only a 41% approval rating in the district with 51% of voters disapproving of him.

Continue reading "Colbert Busch expands lead" »

Should be an interesting night to watch the results come in on the Busch/Sanford race.  Stay tuned to see what the hard right loon Sanford pulls next in his quest to return to the House and create even more havoc!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thanks to Republicans, Air Travelers are Bracing for more Furlough-Related Delays

Boehner scoffed at the idea that sequester would be bad (after warning us earlier that it would be very, very bad), suggesting that since air traffic controllers weren’t laid off yet, all was well.  (Mar 3, 2013, Meet the Press) 

Thanks to Mr. Boehner, Mr. Ryan, and Mr. Cantor along with the other Republican obstructionists in the Congress,  air traffic controllers are being furloughed one day every two weeks which, in turn, is delaying flights arriving and departing at major airports.  How do I know?  My daughter experienced the flight delays Republicans have wrought with their stubbornness and pigheadness to try and defeat anything Obama proposes that is good for the Country.  They should be ashamed but that would take empathy and understanding instead of being in the pockets of the wealthy donors.  The ball is in the court of the Republicans who could stop this sequestration, but are too stubborn to admit they were completely wrong.

Last night when my daughter was on a business trip and had to fly through Chicago O'Hare she got a taste of what the GOP sequester plan has done to air transportation - delayed flights for well over an hour at major airports.  Just when I learned her flight had been delayed, I received an email from Think Progress which was 'perfectly timed' as I had just told her to blame Republicans:
Flight Delayed? Thank the GOP
Apr 23, 2013 | By ThinkProgress War Room 
How the Sequester Makes Flying Even Worse 
Starting this past Sunday the Federal Aviation Administration was forced to start furloughing air traffic controllers. What happens when there’s not enough air traffic controllers working? Not as many planes can be in the air. What happens when fewer planes can be in the air? Your flight gets delayed. 
After yesterday, we know the impact of the furloughs isn’t just theoretical. Overall on-time performance dropped by more than 10 percent compared to the previous Monday. Delays were particularly bad in the Northeast, where delays at some airports stretched past 2 hours. Yesterday, it was actually faster to take the train from New York to Washington D.C. 
Things are only going to get worse the next time there’s another big storm or other event causing mass delays. With fewer flights and planes flying at near-capacity as it is, it will be all the more difficult to get things back on track if there aren’t enough air traffic controllers working to help clear some of the backlog of flights. 
Let’s also take a minute to review why this is happening in the first place: we had to create the sequester because Republicans took the entire economy hostage in 2011. Republicans then refused for nearly two years now to accept a balanced approach that asks the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. Thus we are stuck with the sequester until Republicans stop being intransigent and start being reasonable. In fact, now House Republicans won’t even appoint negotiators to finalize a budget for next year — after complaining for years that the Senate refused to pass a budget. 
Finally, while flight delays are inconvenient and will harm the economy, the sequester is already having a terrible impact on the poor
BOTTOM LINE: If your flight is delayed because of the sequester cuts, you should remember who is to blame: Republicans who refuse to accept a balanced approach to deficit reduction and instead prefer sticking Americans with the sequester and all of its negative consequences.  
Speaker of the House John Boehner bragged about getting 98% of what he wanted with sequester but in the end he didn't understand what it was all about from his remarks.  Unbelieveable!  There is dumb and dumber which is where the Republican House Leadership now resides.  Did they actually think that everything would go rolling along normally when Ryan and Company resurrected a plan passed under Reagan in 1985 that didn't work under Reagan?
Where did the whole idea of sequestration originate? It goes back to 1985. The tax cuts of Ronald Reagan's early years, combined with his aggressive defense buildup, produced a growing budget deficit that eventually prompted passage of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. GRH set out a series of ambitious deficit reduction targets, and to put teeth into them it specified that if the targets weren't met, money would automatically be "sequestered," or held back, by the Treasury Department from the agencies to which it was originally appropriated. The act was declared unconstitutional in 1986, and a new version was passed in 1987.
Sequestration never really worked, though, and it was repealed in 1990 and replaced by a new budget deal. After that, it disappeared down the Washington, DC, memory hole for the next 20 years.
Let's get this straight - sequestration didn't work in the mid-80's and was repealed but Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan brought back to life in 2011.  There is a huge difference in this Country since 1985 but it doesn't seem like Republicans understand how the Country has changed.  We are still paying expenses of the Bush/Cheney wars which is over $2 trillion and overloaded our VA system with casualties.  One company, Cheney's Halliburton, made off with $39.5 billion from the Iraq/Afghanistan wars which is probably a low figure.

Republicans were gleeful that sequestration had passed in 2011 as they got 98% of what they wanted but now it seems they don't even understand sequester and how it is going to continue to affect various activities in parts of the country like air travel delays.  Guess they didn't read their own agreement when they held the Country hostage that you could just not move money or reappropriate like they tried.  Are they that stupid or so bought and paid for by wealthy donors that they just do what they are told.  I am saying it is probably both.  For Boehner to admit he doesn't know what is going to happen with the sequester is mind boggling:
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told David Gregory (video at link) in an exclusive interview on Meet the Press today, “I don’t know whether it’s going to hurt the econonmy or not. I don’t think anyone quite understands how the sequester is really going to work.” 
Boehner continued, “I don’t think anyone quite understands how it gets resolved.” 
So, Republicans like Paul Ryan have been pushing for this thing they don’t understand. John Boehner announced that he got 98% of what he wanted when the Budget Control Act of 2011 was signed into law, which included sequester, as a direct result of Republicans threatening to fail to pay off the debt they’d already aquired by raising the debt ceiling. 
Boehner scoffed at the idea that sequester would be bad (after warning us earlier that it would be very, very bad), suggesting that since air traffic controllers weren’t laid off yet, all was well. The full impact of the cuts won’t kick in for a month, and Boehner should understand at least this much about his party’s idea. That didn’t stop Boehner from insinuating that the President wasn’t being truthful about the impact of sequester. 
Boehner should have a chat with his colleague Eric Cantor (R-VA) (who happily took responsibility for this mess before it was an actual mess) after the hits make themselves apparent in Virginia, where the economy is largely dependent upon the Department of Defense and military contractors. Experts predict Virginia sliding into a recession as a result of sequestration. 
Republicans are trying to blame President Obama on sequestration but it is not working as the American people are smarter then they realize.  Most of us are not mind numbed robots who following Limbaugh and other conservative talk radio hosts or watch Fox News.  We actually get our news from various sites on the Internet that over time have proven to be honest.

If the Koch Bros buy the Tribune newspapers including the LA Times and Chicago Tribune, my list of sources is going to decrease because I won't believe one word from anything the Koch Bros own.  Kochs are truly bad for American.  Would expect some independent on-line newspapers to start sprouting up that actually report facts not the spin of conservatives we are seeing today.

The sequestration is the perfect example of conservative propoganda and spin which many feel have the fingerprints of the Koch Bros as they want regulations on their various entities to go away.  Best way to do that is to underfund agencies who do the inspections.  Ask West, Texas, how that has gone.  Then there is the lack of approving the nomination of the head of ATF and underfunding that organization which is what the NRA wanted so there would be lack of enforcement when it comes to guns which has increased gun trafficking.  Get the picture - big donors are happy as clams with the sequestration which is starting to impact everyday life of most Americans.

The debit ceiling used to be raised almost automatically until President Obama took office and the current crop of Republican obstructionists decided to become the Party of "NO" on anything the President puts forward.  They have voted against bills they used to be for just to continue down the trail to blocking the President at every turn.  President Obama is not some hard core leftist.  He is now picking up support from independents and very disgruntled Republicans who have joined with a lot of center left in the Democrat Party to support President Obama and his plans to get America moving forward.

Time to stop this Republican driven Sequestration plan NOW!  Never forget Republicans are driving this with their stubbornness so time to vote them out of office in 2014 at all levels.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How did West, Texas, Fertilizer Plant Avoid Inspection with 270 tons of Ammonium Nitrate Stored in 2012?

Last year West, TX, fertilizer plant was storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

When the news of the explosion at the fertilizer plant came across, I had a hard time fathoming such an explosion as I have seen grain elevators catch on fire and storage facilities go up, but this was like a massive bomb going off that seemed more intense then the Murrah Bombing in Oklahoma City.
A Ryder truck packed with the substance(ammonium nitrate) mixed with fuel oil exploded to raze the Oklahoma federal building in 1995. Another liquid gas fertilizer kept on the West Fertilizer site, anhydrous ammonia, is subject to DHS reporting and can explode under extreme heat.
How much ammonium nitrate was used in the OKC Bombing?
On September 30, 1994, Nichols bought forty 50-pound (23 kg) bags of ammonium nitrate from Mid-Kansas Coop in McPherson, Kansas, this would be enough to fertilize 4.25 acres of farmland at a rate of 160 pounds of nitrogen per acre; an amount commonly used for corn {2000 pounds of AN divided by (160 lb/acre divided by 0.34 lb N/lb AN) equals 4.25 acres}. Nichols bought an additional 50-pound (23 kg) bag on October 18, 1994.
Bob Daemmerich / AFP / Getty
Devastation  A truck bomb made with more than 5,000 lb. (about 2,300 kg) 
of explosive-grade ammonium nitrate fertilizer ripped off the north side of 
the Albert P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. 
The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children

At the most, McVeigh used 5,000lb of ammonium nitrate fertilizer while this West, Texas, plant stored 270 tons.  That defies belief.  Will someone please tell me how that amount of ammonium nitrate being stored that was reported to the TEXAS Department of Health did not trigger an inspection as they relied on the owner's words?

This is what happens when you fail to follow the rules and a fire ignites leading to this explosion which pretty much leveled half a town.  What does the State of Texas do?  Immediately asked President Obama to declare an emergency declaration to get help into the state.  This article is not about the people who have been impacted but the audacity of TX Republican elected officials like Governor Perry, Senators Cornyn and Cruz and others who immediately wanted aid but in Congress voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy for the east coast.  Then there is the Governor with the big mouth who has done nothing but trash this President.  I think this graphic I was sent of Governor Perry fits this post:

This huge explosion was felt for miles in different directions.  It pretty much leveled or damaged many parts of the small town of West, Texas.  The people of West deserve all the help we can give them.  After that, I went to see a bill sent to the the State of Texas on behalf of the US Taxpayers for Federal dollars spent on this disaster.  Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for Texas not overseeing this plant and reporting to the Department of Homeland Security the huge amount of ammonium nitrate that was stored at the facility in 2012 in violation of regulations.  The buck stops at Governor Perry:
In Texas, the reports are collected by the Department of State Health Services. Over the last seven years, according to reports West Fertilizer filed, 2012 was the only time the company stored ammonium nitrate at the facility.   
It reported having 270 tons on site.
How could reporting 270 tons not send off every red flag in the Texas Department of State Health Services.  When you start questioning why they had this amount on ammonium nitrate on site stored in unmarked storage tanks with no emergency management plan filed with the local fire department, you realize the firemen did not know what they were dealing with and poured water on the fire which is a huge mistake:
I work at a Coast Guard approved petrochemical plant on the Houston Ship Channel and have been in the petrochemical biz for about 11 years. Here is what we noticed when we reviewed the footage of the guys fighting the fire before the explosion... 
First, it is hard to tell from the footage but we believe that the volunteer fire fighters are using just water from a nearby hydrant to fight this fire.
That is a MAJOR no-no, since the fertilizer plant is probably full of ammonia oxidizers and other chemicals that are inhalation hazards. Basic water could have actually CAUSED the explosion. 
They should have used foam or powder based extinguishing materials....NOT water from a hydrant. 
We were wondering if this small town fire department has had proper haz-mat training to know how to handle fires with oxidizers and inhalation hazard materials? I am pretty sure they know how to handle haz-mat, like spilled gas or diesel fuels but those are class 3 flammables and handled VERY differently in a fire situation.
This person was replying to the disinformation on the site and what CNN was saying.  CNN had an extremely poor record last week of getting ahead of facts in rushing to be first to report.  Then there is this from a hazardous chemical consulting firm in Ohio:

It reported having 270 tons on site.
"That's just a god awful amount of ammonium nitrate," said Bryan Haywood, the owner of a hazardous chemical consulting firm in Milford, Ohio. "If they were doing that, I would hope they would have gotten outside help." 

In response to a request from Reuters, Haywood, who has been a safety engineer for 17 years, reviewed West Fertilizer's Tier II sheets from the last six years. He said he found several items that should have triggered the attention of local emergency planning authorities—most notably the sudden appearance of a large amount of ammonium nitrate in 2012. 
"As a former HAZMAT coordinator, that would have been a red flag for me," said Haywood, referring to hazardous materials. 
Cannot get past the very idea that the owner of this plant stored this many chemicals in 2012 and had not done so before.  Who owned the chemicals and why in 2012 did he store so many chemicals?  Both of those questions need answers not rhetoric.

When fire broke out at West Fertilizer Co., the first responders from the West Volunteer Fire Department faced a tough choice.
They could fight the blaze to try to stop it from spreading, or retreat and evacuate people from nearby apartments and a nursing home. 
"That is your basic fight-or-flight decision when you get there," said Stephen Cook, chief training officer for the McLennan Community College Fire Academy in nearby Waco. "And you don't know how much time you've got" 
Upping the ante in the minutes before the Wednesday night explosion was what the plant contained - ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia, both key ingredients in some fertilizers, which can be tricky when exposed to fire and the water used to fight it.
Without a plan in place to know what chemicals were stored, this rural fire department of volunteers chose to fight the fire and in some instances lost their lives when the chemicals blew up which led to this scene of horror:

The wreckage of a fertilizer plant burns after an explosion at the plant in the town
 of West, near Waco, Texas early April 18, 2013. The deadly explosion ripped
through the fertilizer plant late on Wednesday, injuring more than 160 people,
leveling dozens of homes and damaging other buildings including a school and
nursing home, authorities said. (Reuters/Mike Stone)

Texas's Fertilizer Plant Explosion |

Last week, while media attention was focused on Boston, a massive explosion took place at the West Fertilizer Company, in the small town of West, Texas. The blast damaged 150 buildings, including three of West's four schools, killed 14 people and injured more than 160 others. It was so powerful that it set off seismographs, registering as a 2.1-magnitude tremor. The cause remains unknown, and investigators are still sifting through the rubble. Today, about 1,500 West students returned to school, set up in makeshift classrooms or in nearby districts. [40 photos]
The basic questions remain on why was this West Fertilizer Plant storing these amounts of chemicals and why didn't the State of Texas act?  We all know the the Republicans in Congress have been holding up and cutting funds for agencies like the EPA, Homeland Security, and others who are the regulatory arms of the Government.  You would think this would wake them up but not going to happen as they will most likely find Democrats to blame as most Republican elected officials refuse to take the blame for anything in today's world.

Texas Fertilizer Plant Didn't Heed Disclosure Rules Before Blast
Published: Monday, 22 Apr 2013 | 9:24 AM ET
Getty Image   Smoke still rises from the rubble 
of a house next to the fertilizer plant that exploded 
yesterday afternoon on April 18, 2013 in West, Texas.
The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate—which can also be used in bomb-making—unaware of any danger there. 
Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance. Filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which weren't shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year. 
(Read More: Back Home, Residents Return to Texas After Blast
A U.S. congressman and several safety experts called into question on Friday whether incomplete disclosure or regulatory gridlock may have contributed to the disaster. 
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."   
Failure to report significant volumes of hazardous chemicals at a site can lead the DHS to fine or shut down fertilizer operations, a person familiar with the agency's monitoring regime said. Though the DHS has the authority to carry out spot inspections at facilities, it has a small budget for that and only a "small number" of field auditors, the person said.
Firms are responsible for self reporting the volumes of ammonium nitrate and other volatile chemicals they hold to the DHS, which then helps measure plant risks and devise security and safety plans based on them. 
Since the agency never received any so-called top-screen report from West Fertilizer, the facility was not regulated or monitored by the DHS under its CFAT standards, largely designed to prevent sabotage of sites and to keep chemicals from falling into criminal hands. 
The DHS focuses "specifically on enhancing security to reduce the risk of terrorism at certain high-risk chemical facilities," said agency spokesman Peter Boogaard. "The West Fertilizer Co. facility in West, Texas is not currently regulated under the CFATS program." 
An expert in chemical safety standards said the two major federal government programs that are supposed to ensure chemical safety in industry—led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—do not regulate the handling or storage of ammonium nitrate. That task falls largely to the DHS and the local and state agencies that oversee emergency planning and response. 
More than 4,000 sites nationwide are subject to the DHS program. 
"This shows that the enforcement routine has to be more robust, on local, state and federal levels," said the expert, Sam Mannan, director of process safety center at Texas A&M University. "If information is not shared with agencies, which appears to have happened here, then the regulations won't work." 
Hodgepodge of Regulation 
Chemical safety experts and local officials suspect this week's blast was caused when ammonium nitrate was set ablaze. Authorities suspect the disaster was an industrial accident, but haven't ruled out other possibilities. 
The fertilizer is considered safe when stored properly, but can explode at high temperatures and when it reacts with other substances. 
"I strongly believe that if the proper safeguards were in place, as are at thousands of (DHS) CFATS-regulated plants across the country, the loss of life and destruction could have been far less extensive," said Rep. Thompson. 
A blaze was reported shortly before a massive explosion leveled dozens of homes and blew out an apartment building. 

Apart from the DHS, the West Fertilizer site was subject to a hodgepodge of regulation by the EPA, OSHA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Office of the Texas State Chemist. 
But the material is exempt from some mainstays of U.S. chemicals safety programs. For instance, the EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP) requires companies to submit plans describing their handling and storage of certain hazardous chemicals. Ammonium nitrate is not among the chemicals that must be reported.
In its RMP filings, West Fertilizer reported on its storage of anhydrous ammonia and said that it did not expect a fire or explosion to affect the facility, even in a worst-case scenario. And it had not installed safeguards such as blast walls around the plant.
Excerpt:  Read More at CNBC
Aerial view of the damage left behind by a massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Company, on April 18, 2013. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Look at that picture above and then realize that this plant has not had a thorough inspection in 35 years according to this excerpted article form Huffington Post:

West Fertilizer Plant's Hazards Eluded Regulators For Nearly 30 Years
Posted:   |  Updated: 04/23/2013 12:10 pm EDT
Through interviews with former regulators and community leaders, as well as a review of hundreds of pages of documents going back to 1976, a sense emerges that no institution sounded the alarm here, even as fertilizer piled up inside the plant, creating a potentially deadly tinderbox in close proximity to the town. No one effectively prepared for the emergency that eventually materialized, leaving this community uniquely vulnerable to the tragedy that unfolded last week when the plant caught fire and exploded, killing 14 people and ripping apart an apartment building, a school and dozens of homes. 
In June 2011 -- less than two years before the explosion -- the private company that owns the plant, the West Fertilizer Co., filed an emergency response plan with the Environmental Protection Agency stating that there was "no" risk of fire or explosion at the facility. The worst scenario that plant officials acknowledged was the possible release of a small amount of ammonia gas into the atmosphere. 
Fertilizer long has been recognized as a dangerous combustible material. One variety, ammonium nitrate -- a pellet-shaped product typically shipped in large bags -- caused the deadliest industrial accident in American history, the explosion of a ship at the port of Texas City in 1947, which took the lives of more than 500 people. 
Documents reviewed by The Huffington Post indicate that the last time regulators performed a full safety inspection of the facility was nearly 28 years ago. The entity with primary authority to ensure workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, last visited in 1985, according to OSHA records
Since then, regulators from other agencies have been inside the plant, but they looked only at certain aspects of plant operations, such as whether the facility was abiding by labeling rules when packaging its fertilizer for sale. 
The most recent partial safety inspection at West Fertilizer was in 2011. That inspection, by the U.S Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Commission, led to a $5,200 fine for a variety of infractions, including failing to draft a safety plan for the transport of the large canisters of pressurized anhydrous ammonia stored on site.
In 2006, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the primary enforcer of environmental law in the state, noted that two schools were situated within 3,000 feet of the fertilizer plant. But the agency determined that "the impact potential" of an accident on the neighboring community "was low." 
When assessing risks at the plant, the commission and the EPA focused solely on the potential hazards of the ammonium canisters, such as whether they were stored correctly or were leaking. The agencies did not inspect to see if other chemicals on hand might ignite and explode.
"There is really no safety assessment of these facilities when there should be," said Neil Carman, who for more than a decade inspected facilities like West Fertilizer while working for the Texas commission, before joining the Sierra Club, the national environmental advocacy organization. 
Neither Donald Adair, the plant's owner, nor Ted Uptmore, its manager, could be reached for comment. Adair released a statement on Friday, writing: "My heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses to so many families in our community." He added that "the tragedy will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come." 
Excerpt:  Read More at The Huffington Post
How many other plants like this are storing chemicals with no real plans or have had few inspections due to the fact that the agencies involved have had their budgets cut to the bone and now face furloughs of their inspectors.

When is the Republican obstruction with underfunding some of these agencies who are here to protect our health and safety going to stop.  Have GOP elected officials  have been so bought by their wealthy donors like the Koch Bros who want no inspections, they don't seem to know right from wrong today? How many more deaths to we have to have caused by their stubbornness in passing funding bills for these agencies.  Yet mention defense, and their wallets come out to fully fund the DoD and their defense industry donors.  There is so much waste at DoD that anyone who has been involved with defense knows the real facts.  Facts don't matter to Republican elected officials today - it is making sure they vote "NO" like their big donors/lobbyists want on key issues like background checks and gun trafficking, regulations to protect the healthy and safety of people, regulations on oil and gas, etc.

GOP has done a good job over the years make the EPA the bogeyman - I swallowed some of that koolaid but no more.  I want a fully functioning EPA, Homeland Security, OSHA, FDA and any other agency that is responsible for insuring that companies are required to follow strict regulations.  If you run a company according to the rules, you wouldn't have to worry.  That tells a lot of us that the Koch Bros cut corners and don't care what happens to people as long as their vast empire keeps growing with an aim to control government for their own selfish interests.

This is just another reason in a long list to vote out Republicans in 2014 and elect candidates to restore some sanity to the halls of Congress so the Country can move forward from the obstructionists!

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will attend Thursday’s memorial service for victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.

“After the formal opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the President and First Lady will travel to Baylor University in Waco, Texas to attend the memorial service for those lost and injured in the deadly explosion at the fertilizer plant,” a White House aide said Monday afternoon.
White House press secretary Jay Carney announced the visit moments later at his daily briefing.

Obama will attend the Bush Center event with four living ex-presidents.

Monday, April 22, 2013

NRA Spent $28M in 2012 Elections to Buy Candidates and Office Holders - It Worked

NRA puppetmasters pulled the strings of their bought and paid for Senators while 90% of American people were told our voices don't count!

So much happened last week that I wasn't sure where to start but this editorial from the Tampa Bay Times on the Senate vote on gun control background checks became even more important after the bombings in Boston. The guns obtained by the Boston bombers were obtained illegally.  The older brother was not an American citizen and had a history of domestic violence.  He was interviewed by the FBI several years ago at the request of Russia who was concerned about his activities.  That should have been in a registry for background checks but since we don't have background checks for private sales at gun shows, any terrorists or criminal can walk in and buy a gun.  The younger brother was too young to have a permit to buy a gun in MA.  From accounts this morning, the younger brother is answering questions via pen and pencil, since he was shot in the throat.  Hopefully he will give them the answers as to why this happened in Boston and what was planned in the future because of the large number of explosives and weapons cache that was found.  

Wonder how the members of the Senate who voted against the background check or illegal trafficking amendments feel today?  Republican members of the Senate lied to the American people on what was in the background check bill.  There was no established registry but that didn't stop them from going out telling people that is why they voted against the bill. Tampa Bay Times nails the members of the Senate including four Democrats Baucus (MT), Begich (AK), Heitcamp (ND), and Pryor (AR) who voted against background checks. Majority Reid voted NO in order to bring the bill back to the floor.
Editorial: How soon they forget
Thursday, April 18, 2013 8:57pm (video will play after ad)
On another Friday morning just four months ago, these 20 first-graders were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 
And these six educators died trying to protect them. 
This week, 45 senators forgot those faces and ignored our voices. They voted against expanding background checks for gun buyers.
By the numbers
3,513 people have been killed by guns since Sandy Hook.
91 percent of Americans favor expanded background checks for gun buyers.
91 percent of Florida voters favor expanded background checks for gun buyers.
$21 million was spent in the 2012 election cycle on federal elections by the National Rifle Association.
Here are the common sense amendments that were voted against on gun control with only one exception which was passed to protect privacy:

0010418-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 717 Agreed to Barrasso Amdt. No. 717; To withhold 5 percent of Community Oriented Policing Services program Federal funding from States and local governments that release sensitive and confidential information on law-abiding gun owners and victims of domestic violence.
0010317-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 714 Rejected Lautenberg Amdt. No. 714; To regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.
0010217-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 720 Rejected Burr Amdt. No. 720; To protect the Second Amendment rights of veterans and their families.
0010117-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 711 Rejected Feinstein Amdt. No. 711; To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.
0010017-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 719 Rejected Cornyn Amdt. No. 719; To allow reciprocity for the carrying of certain concealed firearms.
0009917-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 713 Rejected Leahy Amdt. No. 713; To increase public safety by punishing and deterring firearms trafficking.
0009817-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 725 Rejected Grassley Amdt. No. 725; To address gun violence, improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, address mental illness in the criminal justice system, and end straw purchases and trafficking of illegal firearms, and for other purposes.
0009717-Apr S. 649 On the Amendment S.Amdt. 715 Rejected Manchin Amdt. No. 715; To protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.

Once you start looking at the amendments that were rejected, you start asking yourself why the minority is running the Senate when you cannot even pass common sense gun control amendments in light of all the shootings that are happening.  Trigger locks are used to make a firearm more difficult to discharge and act as a safety precaution in carrying and owning guns. However, only nine states in America (NY, NJ, CA, OH, MI, RI, MD, PA, MA) have trigger lock laws that enforce this precautionary measure.  Why isn't this mandatory in every state?

We have seen way too many young children get their hands on guns and shoot someone else or themselves when a loaded gun has been left in reach of a child.  IMHO that should be child endangerment, but not in the world of the NRA where they believe young children should be taught to use guns.  Young children are not capable of understanding the power of guns but that doesn't stop the NRA from wanting to arm them. In Missouri a State Senator bill would require schools to teach the NRA's Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program or a similar program to all first-graders.  I wouldn't want the NRA propaganda machine anywhere near young children today.  They are nothing but lobbyists for the gun/ammo manufactures to sell more guns.

Majority Leader Harry Reid as I have stated many times was dumb to have cut a deal with Mitch McConnell on filibusters which require a 60-vote margin to pass and has put the Senate at a standstill. The American people demand more out of their Congress then we are getting. These obstructionists tactics are driving more and more Republicans to become Independents, Democrats, or Republicans supporting all Democrats in 2014.

This bunch of NRA bought and paid for Republicans would even vote for the Leahy Amendment No. 713; To increase public safety by punishing and deterring firearms trafficking.  In essence the vast majority of Republicans came down on the side of criminals and terrorists.  Is that what they want their legacy to be?  That bill lost 58-42 with Republicans Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), and Kirk (IL) voting for the Leahy amendment and these 42 Republicans voting against:
NAYs ---42
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Lee (R-UT)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

If that wasn't enough, you have the classless Minority Leader Mitch McConnell coming out with this graphic on his Facebook page which did not play well. In fact it received the same reaction as Rand Paul saying that the Newtown people were being used as props by President Obama. The vast majority of American people are disgusted with both of their reactions which were classless.

NO one is coming to take any guns away from law abiding citizens no matter how many times the NRA and Republicans play that card. The fight is far from over and those of us who want some common sense gun control are not going away. We are also not forgetting who voted for the criminals and terrorists to be able to obtain guns from private individuals. Have often wondered how many of these private sellers are people who refuse to get a gun dealers license so they can keep selling to whoever will pay the highest in order to obtain guns with no background check or ID required. IMHO, all dealers at gun shows should have to be licensed.