Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book of Revelations Political Evil

Like the young child who is perpetually surprised by a coiled worm popping out of the fake peanut can, I have once again been startled by "conservative" politicians and their monied patrons. 

After years of Cheney and Beck and DeLay and Bush and Vitters and Abramoff and Ralph Reed and Santorum and Swift boating and Palin and Bachmann and all of the rest, I really didn't think they could shock me anymore with their hypocrisy, small-mindedness, greed, sanctimony and amorality.

But I was wrong again.

Last night, reading an article about a guy who strikes me as a minor league lightweight, Rick Perry, I discovered that Perry may be the purest form of amoral useful idiot for sociopathic businessmen in American history. He has a lightweight persona, but he is capable of Book of Revelations level evil.

Matt Taibbi documents how a billionaire patron of Perry (coincidently, the man behind most of the financing of Kerry's swift boating - small world!) used Perry's utter lack of ethics and morality to make boatloads of money. In the process, the billionaire managed to use taxpayer money to build a facility to store shockingly dangerous nuclear waste, unloaded the burden of liability to the taxpayer if something goes horribly wrong, and, somehow managed to even get a waiver to get out of paying taxes to the local school district.

This bears repeating. A billionaire pal of Perry used his connections to build a nuclear waste dump over the water supply for a wide expanse, built it using taxpayer money from a economically depressed community, somehow got the taxpayer to take on liability for possible environmental and economic damages, then, in a toxic display of whimsical evil, isn't even paying taxes to the schools on his earnings. The system works!

This from two guys whose careers are built on demonizing government and the waste of taxpayers resources. I presume they see no reflection in the mirror.

The article documents this and much more.

"It's just after midday, a Monday afternoon, and I'm barreling down a stretch of State Highway 176 in the deadest, hottest part of the Texas desert, a few miles shy of the New Mexico border and about an hour west of the rusted oil wells and Friday night lights of Odessa-Permian. Just before I get to New Mexico, I slow down, hang a right and roll down a dirt road, out of America and into a different country. Rick Perry Country. This is a land neither capitalist nor socialist, but somehow boasting the worst aspects of both systems.
The specific spot I'm looking for is a giant hole in the ground – one of the nation's largest repositories of nuclear waste. The facility is run by a company called Waste Control Specialists, the creature of a shadowy billionaire named Harold Simmons, who was one of the single largest financial backers of the Swift-boat campaign against John Kerry, donating more than $3 million.
Chew on that for a moment: The Kerry smear campaign was powered in large part by radioactive waste – or, more specifically, by the fat government contracts to store such waste that were swallowed up by Simmons, a supposedly "anti-government" extremist who, naturally, is one of Rick Perry's biggest supporters.

The Perry-Simmons nuclear landfill is surrounded by giant piles of red clay rising up out of the desert, flanked by huge manmade chasms designed to hold sand-covered drums of sizzling waste. A person entering its gates feels an irresistible urge to wear lead underpants. It's a terrifying sight, but it's even more disturbing as a symbol of Rick Perry's style of government. In Perry's Texas, state regulation doesn't work because regulatory seats can be bought, and the free market doesn't work because connections and influence matter more than competition and performance. The landfill run by Perry's pals at Waste Control Specialists represents an extreme example of both dysfunctional ends of the governor's approach to government, a taxpayer-financed hole in the ground that is as extremely unsafe as it is woefully uneconomic. "The WCS plant," says Lon Burnam, a Texas state representative, "is the ultimate example of Perry's crony capitalism."
When I visit the site in September, it has just rained in the area for the first time in a year – really – and there is water all over the place. Rod Baltzer, the president of WCS, insists that the wastewater is being contained and disposed of in a safe, orderly fashion. But it's hard not to look beyond the dump to nearby Eunice, New Mexico, visible just a few miles away, and wonder about the wisdom of taking a private company's word that there is no contaminated water running underground to the nearby town. Especially since another of Simmons' companies, NL Industries, has already been caught leaking radioactive waste into an aquifer in Ohio. In a supremely ironic demonstration of how the modern system of payola capitalism works, Simmons is now being paid millions by taxpayers, via the federal Energy Department, to clean up his own mess, moving radioactive waste from his dump in Ohio to the one in Texas.
All of this is key to understanding Perry, because the WCS landfill so perfectly fits the business model of his key donors. The company leases the land for the dump, meaning that WCS keeps the lion's share of the profits, while the liability mostly stays with the state. There's no real regulation to speak of, and many of the state's decisions appear to have been greased by massive campaign contributions or other favors: The executive director of the state's environmental commission, for instance, received a job as a lobbyist for WCS not long after helping the firm get its license.
What's more, the company even got the government to pay for the landfill, lobbying the town of Andrews to float a $75 million bond issue to finance the construction of two new dump sites on the property. And in a final insult, WCS managed to negotiate a loophole exempting it from having to pay school taxes in Andrews. Instead, it offers a few small scholarships a year.
"When I was a kid, our high school was the first one in Texas to have carpets," says Melodye Pryor, a local resident and longtime opponent of the dump. "Now, our schools are falling apart."
Andrews is little more than a few crisscrossed roads in the middle of the desert, wrapped around a couple of gas stations and Mexican restaurants and populated by tough blue-collar workers hunkered down in modest little sun-cooked houses. If you can grasp this little working-class neck of Texas lending a Dallas billionaire $75 million so that he can keep 90 percent of the revenue from a dangerous nuclear-waste dump that runs without any real regulatory oversight, all while paying no school taxes, then you've begun to understand what Rick Perry's America might look like.
"It's the worst possible hybridization," says Medina, the Tea Party candidate who ran against Perry. "A private entity keeps the receipts. The state and the taxpayer own all the liability."

Read more:    The Best Little Whore in Texas