The QueQue: Perry appointment push for nuke waste, River Walk to get Hippie Hollow treatment, Texas, meet Anonymous 

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Perry appointment push for nuke waste

Rick Perry is preparing to appoint a new slate of nuclear waste governors for the two-state Texas-Vermont low-level radioactive waste commission. His selection will determine just how much richer one of his most generous donors, Dallas’ billionaire “evil genius” (as D Magazine slugged him) Harold Simmons, owner of growing West Texas radwaste dump operator, Waste Control Specialists, will become. Past decisions suggest: very rich, indeed.

Simmons had a hard road getting the dump applications approved in the first place — despite the million dollars he’s ponied up for Perry, somehow the influence didn’t trickle down to several TCEQ employees who resigned in protest over the approval of an operating license. They alleged the site was characteristically flawed and sat atop the southern edge of the Ogallala Aquifer, the nation’s largest freshwater aquifer. But since gaining approval, the company has gone to work on the commission to expand their possibilities beyond Texas and Vermont — and with decades passed with no new dumps for the nuclear industry’s stockpiling wastes, there’s lots of interest out there.

Before last year’s vote to begin project waste-stream expansion, Perry tried to use his power of appointments to get rid of a resisting member of the body, Reuters reported last week. Perry staffer Teresa Spears offered commissioner Bobby Gregory, one of two members who opposed expanding the compact to other states, a high-profile board-of-regents position (that would have, conveniently, required his immediate retirement from the somewhat less prestigious Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission), which he turned down. The measure passed anyway, and as the commission continues to works on to continue to expand WCS operations into a national dump sticking Texas with the liability and risk, two new Democrat-appointed members from Vermont (two of eight seats are held by our partner state) suggest Perry will now have to not only not reappoint Gregory but bring in even more strident dump supporters to get his way. “It’s abundantly clear that this is something that the nuclear industry wants and politicians who support the nuclear industry are going to give them,” said Diane D’Arrigo, radioactive waste project director for the D.C.-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “It’s providing a sacrifice area for the nuclear industry, and if Perry’s willing to do this to the people of Texas, then we can’t expect any kind of environmental protection from him at all.” Of course, Perry’s said as much himself, suggesting in South Carolina this week that if he is elected, regulators “won’t know what hit ‘em.” Unrestrained radioactive dumping in Texas is just one part of that knockout formula he’s been blending, apparently.

 

River Walk to get Hippie Hollow treatment

For the first time in a decade, the city’s contract to sell San Antonio tourism far and wide will fall to an out-of-town firm. Council last week awarded a $7.5 million Convention and Visitors Bureau contract to an Austin-based Proof Advertising, skipping over local Bromley Communications, which held the lucrative contract for the past decade. Dozens of Bromley employees sat in the chambers wearing matching “I am a job” T-shirts as CEO Ernest Bromley tried to sway council members to opt for a local agency. A local advertising budget, funded with taxpayer dollars, he contended, should go to boost the local market. Proof, which city officials said outscored Bromley and five other firms vying for the contract, will start its new three-year contract at the end of the month, with a possible two-year extension.

Bromley said the loss would force him to cut about $600,000 from his firm’s $7 million payroll, though he didn’t clarify how many local jobs that entailed. In his brief speech to council, Bryan Christian, president of Proof Advertising, said, “The real question is, what is local? Is local meaning that I can move somewhere and become local? Is local meaning starting a new business there and growing beyond the boundaries or investing in new business and bringing them to the market? I believe it’s all the above.” Proof, he said would hire local talent to help staff the company’s new San Antonio office tasked with handling the new city contract. District 8 Councilman Reed Williams prodded his fellow councilmembers to support the new contract, saying, “Please don’t make the mistake of saying San Antonio’s only open to local business.”

While she worried over the prospect of losing local jobs, District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor said she was more concerned with the overall growth of San Antonio’s convention and tourism industry — an engine that accounts for some $11 billion in revenue and 106,000 local jobs, according to city stats. “Imagine 106,000 people wearing matching shirts. We want to increase overall impact,” she said.

 

Texas, meet Anonymous

The shadowy swarm of hackers/criminals/activists/pranksters hellbent on lulz (look it up) has largely remained quiet since mid-summer’s arrest of a de facto Anonymous leader (apparently a 19-year-old Scottish kid) following the group’s high-profile hack of Arizona’s Department of Public Safety. But now we know Anons have been plotting in the dark for the past two months, hacking Texas police servers, gathering personal information and a cache of embarrassing emails to dump online for all the world to see.

Late last week, Anonymous claimed responsibility for hacking the personal and work email accounts of over two dozen Texas police chiefs, posting the contents online, and hijacking the Texas Police Chief’s Association webpage. In a lengthy prologue to the 3 gigabytes worth of emails, photos, and memos the group dumped on a hidden server, Anonymous wrote: “Lewd jokes? Check. Racist chain mails? Check. You lost your radio license? Lulz. Playing on the fears of voters? Check. … We are attacking Texas law enforcement as part of “Chinga La Migra” as they continue to harass immigrants and use border patrol operations as a cover for their backwards racist prejudice.”

The effort targeting the “prison-industrial-complex” has since sparked an FBI investigation, according to James McLaughlin, executive director of the police chief’s association. Close to home, Anonymous hacked the accounts of Olmos Park Police Chief Fred Solis, charging him with passing along “anti-immigrant” jokes and emails (apparently, it was simply a photo of a Chihuahua dressed in scuba gear, with a caption reading “Mexican Navy Seals”).

Emails from former Helotes Police Chief Morton Ault, who was fired last year amid allegations of fraud, seem to be from his personal account, containing exchanges with women he met online, possibly on AdultFriendFinder — some of the back-and-forths are so graphic, they even make QueQue blush.

Perhaps most troubling — apart from the fact that dozens of Texas law-enforcement agencies can be so readily hacked, leaking sensitive and possibly damaging information on ongoing investigations — are the numerous racist chain messages and anti-Muslim jokes. *facepalm*

 

TCEQ and Express fails

The Obama administration’s decision to back off an already long delayed tightening of the nation’s ozone standards earned thumbs up from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, where commissioners are already busy trying to figure out how to sue their way out of separate regulations issued in July that clamp down on ozone-creating chemicals from power plants (which CPS Energy expects to cost the utility $100 million to comply with). In a press release the agency lauded the White House, saying there’s “no compelling scientific reason to revise that standard.” With language befitting of a free-market think tank, the TCEQ wrote, “We’re glad the Obama administration finally agrees with this position and has put a halt to this job-killing proposal.” With the White House getting beat down by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their ilk, it would seem appropriate to cover as news any Texas mayor stepping out to shame the anti-science and pro-dirty fuels mob — especially when he’s our own. Strange that your daily paper would attend a proclamation by Mayor Castro declaring September as Climate Change Awareness Month in our hostile political environment and not write about it. At least the Texas Daily Climate saw the news peg, writing: “Castro’s proclamation and endorsement of the climate change awareness activities, however, provided another telling illustration of widening divisions over climate and energy issues — not just between many Democrats and many Republicans, but also, to a notable extent in Texas, between municipal officials who don’t dispute the mainstream consensus in climate science and top state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, who do.” Sounds like a fascinating read. •

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