Thursday, May 7, 2015

Conspiracies, Contraceptives & Consequences

CONSPIRACIES – Are you familiar with Jade Helm 15? If not you most certainly will be soon.

Jade Helm 15 is the code name for a series of military training exercises to be held from July 15- September 15 in several southwestern and southern states. The exercises are designed to allow Special Forces units to train in a variety of topographies and climates.

Simple enough! Right?

Not if you are among those in the great state of Texas who believe that the government is preparing to impose martial law and take away all of your firearms. In their eyes Jade Helm 15 marks the initial stages of a conspiracy that these folks have been predicting for years.

And they have proof!

You see they have maps which show that there are closed Wal-Mart stores in close proximity to where a number of the military exercises are scheduled. They also have maps that show that these closed facilities are above large bunkers that that are inter-connected by a series of tunnels. It is their belief that the military will use these bunkers and tunnels to overwhelm law abiding gun owners; impose martial law and take their firearms.

These folks are serious about this. And a number of their elected officials are taking it seriously as well. Rep. Louie Gohmert has spoken out a length about the concerns that he has; questioning the need for the military to conduct military exercises on private land. Sen. Ted Cruz said that he intends to question the DHS at length about its intentions. Sen. Rand Paul said he would do the same.

We are used to seeing the far right lash out at the civilians leading the federal government. Normally the military is considered in high regard. Not this time. The Blackhawk helicopters are coming.

Keep an eye on Cruz and Paul. It will be interesting to see how they walk the tightrope between appeasing the conspiracy crazies who influence the Republican primaries while maintaining an aura of reasonable electability to voters in the general election. But the first order of business is winning primaries. So let the crazy talk begin.

CONTRACEPTIVES – As you may know the United States Congress holds prevue over Washington D.C. law. There is a law in D.C. that says that an employer cannot fire an employee strictly because the employee chooses to use contraceptives. Yesterday the Republican controlled House voted to overturn that law thereby making it legal for a D.C. employer to fire an employee for using contraceptives.

Sen. Ted Cruz said that he will sponsor like legislation in the Senate. Sen. Rand Paul said that he would support such a bill.

When Republicans won control of congress they promised to stay away from the controversial social issues that killed them in the general election. But as I said…the first order of business is winning primaries.

CONSEQUENCES – During Barak Obama’s six plus years as president the United States has become the world’s largest producer of oil. We produce more than Saudi Arabia…more than Russia…more than all of them. We’re #1!

Along with the benefits of producing large quantities of this valuable commodity come the logistical issues of moving it from one point to another. Most of the oil we produce is moved by rail. You have no doubt seen these mile long trains…hundreds of tankers filled with valuable, flammable crude…snaking their way through communities throughout the United States. The problem is that most of those tankers are obsolete and unsafe. And a large portion of the tracks on which they run are in the same condition.

There have been a number of train derailments in recent months; five already this year. When accidents occur the result is a catastrophic economic and environment disaster. The explosion starts with a huge fireball and sends large plums of toxic smoke billowing throughout the surrounding area. The fire cannot be extinguished; only contained until it burns itself out. Whole communities are destroyed or at the very least evacuated. Meanwhile the spill fouls streams, rivers, fields and roadways. The cleanup cost is enormous and can take months.

The most recent derailment occurred yesterday just outside the little town of Heimdal, ND. Ten tanker cars are still burning. The town has been evacuated.

North Dakota is one of the country’s most conservative states. No fan of the federal government, North Dakotans have made it clear that they would like the federal government to keep its nose out of their business. As fiscal conservatives the state legislature has worked hard to balance the state budget without raising taxes.

Most of the firefighters that are working to contain the Heimdal spill are volunteers with little or no training in such a mammoth undertaking. That is because the state legislature slashed funding for first responders by more than half.

While there has yet to be a determination as to the cause of the accident there is no doubt that the tracks and supporting infrastructure on which trains traversing ND depend is outdated and unsafe. The state legislature slashed the track safety and repair budget by 60%. When state transportation officials were asked how they intended to make up the difference and keep the tracks safe they said they would rely of the federal government to take care of it.

Recently the federal government passed regulations requiring railroads to replace their outdated and unsafe tankers with newer, more properly built models. But the regulations give the railroads five years to comply. Meanwhile billions of gallons of highly flammable crude will make its way through our communities; transported in unsafe, outdated tankers over crumbling tracks and bridges.

No word on Senator Cruz or Senator Paul’s position on the matter.

I have written often about the need for our country to engage in a comprehensive program to rebuild and maintain our crumbling infrastructure. If our elected leaders ever decide to engage in such an ambitious project it will take decades to complete. Meanwhile communities like Heimdal will suffer the consequences of our political procrastination.

My thanks to the staff of the Rachel Maddow Show for bringing these stories to light.

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