Thom Hartmann on the News: November 5, 2013
You need to know this. Today is election day in several states around our nation, and the danger of many new voting laws is apparent. This week in Texas, former democratic representative Jim Wright was almost denied the right to vote under the new voter ID law. That state's new voter-theft law also nearly blocked a Texas district judge, a state senator, Democratic candidate for governor Wendy Davis, and even Greg Abbott – the attorney general of that state who is pushing the new law. In Virginia, in one of the most high-profile races this year, 57,000 voters were purged from the rolls just days before the election. And, that state's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, has not recused himself from being involved in a challenge to today's election results. The very man behind the voter purge is on the ticket, and thinks there is no conflict of interest if his office needs to investigate election irregularities. These scenarios are likely to become more common in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. After the justices made their ruling, republican-led states around our nation enacted various laws to disenfranchise as many voters as possible. And, we're already seeing the results of that decision in an off-year election. Republicans know that keeping people from the polls is the best chance they have at winning elections, and they're not afraid to go to any lengths to make that happen. Hopefully, enough voters are fed up with these tactics, and overwhelm these voter-theft efforts by flooding the polls. We need a huge turnout in these races, and we must be prepared to fight for our democracy in coming elections.
In screwed news... Fracking chemicals have already contaminated many areas of our country, but soon they could put all of our waterways at serious risk. The United States Coast Guard is considering a plan to allow fracking companies to use our nation's 12,000 miles of waterways to transport huge quantities of radioactive wastewater. The plan is being pushed by the natural gas industry, because transporting the toxic substance via barges would be much cheaper than using trucks or rail. If they get their way, fracking companies could transport as much as 10,000 barrels of this toxic substance on each barge, and a single spill could instantly contaminate a major waterway. Under the proposed policy, companies would have to test the wasterwater to determine levels of radioactivity, pH, and other hazardous materials, and hand over those results to the Coast Guard. But, environmental groups say tests aren't enough protection. The Coast Guard has opened a 30 day public comment period on their website before they decide on the policy. Already, many people are speaking out against risking our national waterways so that fracking companies can save a buck.
In the best of the rest of the news...
More than 3,800 schools around our nation are teaching kids about local produce. Those schools are part of the National Farm to School Network, which serves almost 21 million students throughout 50 states. The program integrates farming into the school curriculum, and puts healthier food in school cafeterias. Students are taught how to plant and grow their own produce, as well as the importance of healthy eating. And, many of the programs support local farms, as students take field trips to meet farmers in their area, and schools purchase fresh produce from their local community. In addition to helping students learn healthy habits, these programs support local businesses, and stimulate their local economies. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “We know that when students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm, they'll be more likely to make healthy choice in the cafeteria.” And, the community investment means that the Farm to School program is a win for schools, for students, and for their communities.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels in the South West are still spiking quite high. Levels in Henderson, Nevada are hovering at 47 counts per minute, with spikes of 69, and Tucson, Arizona is sitting at 49, with peaks of 71. Near the East Coast, levels are close to what they were yesterday. Fredericksburg, Virginia is seeing levels of 38 counts per minute, with a high of 58. And, Kennesaw, Georgia is hitting 43, with spikes of 60. RadCast.org reminds us that the alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they're keeping an eye on radiation levels around our nation.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may get another chance at a Senate bid in Australia. Although the whistleblower only got 41,700 votes in the September election, officials are calling for a new election after about 1400 ballots went missing. If a new election is held, the previous lead candidate for the Wikileaks Party will step aside, and Julian Assange will head that party's ticket. The former candidate said, “The imperative is for Julian Assange to reach our Senate and to renew democracy, to break down the narrow corridor of political discourse that we are mired within.” It's amazing to see that in Australia, a whistleblower is considered a hero, and asked to help lead his nation. Yet, here in the U.S., Bradley Manning is in prison, and Edward Snowden can't get a passport.
And finally… Yesterday was Larry Flynt's 71st birthday. In honor of the Hustler magazine founder, the website DoYouRemember.com shared a few little-known facts about Larry Flynt. For instance, Mr. Flynt was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1996, but Columbia Pictures would not issue him passes to see the ceremony. Thankfully, his friend Woody Harrelson scored him a ticket. Another interesting point that you may not know is that Larry Flynt finished seventh in California's historic recall election for governor in 2003. And, perhaps the best tidbit of all – for the last 30 years, Larry Flynt has sent an issue of Hustler to every single member of Congress... and only a few lawmakers have refused the magazine. But, I'm sure they're just enjoying the articles... right?