If you care about open government and transparency in Washington state, please read this excellent piece by Kim Drury. The state’s Public Disclosure Commission—easily one of the best state sunshine agencies in the country—stands to get hit hard by budget cuts this year. The expected cuts could mean laying off 17 percent of the staff, continuing to rely on aging technology, and struggling to fulfill its critically important mission of letting the public see who pays to play in Washington politics.
New crude-by-rail rules came out last week, just in time for the fifth oil train explosion this year. Toothless as the regs may be (and they are largely toothless), the CEO of the Norfolk Southern railroad complains that they could make oil-by-rail too expensive. In other words, even a very limited attempt to protect communities from incineration may be too much for the profit margins of oil companies and railroads.
Tragically—no, appallingly—the Obama administration’s approach is clearly weighted toward the industry. Over at Forest Ethics, Todd Paglia lays out a blistering case against the rules. As he points out, “That means oil trains hauling up to a million gallons of explosive crude oil in the most dangerous tank cars will keep rolling through a downtown near you FOREVER.”
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Not only that, but as the Spokane Spokesman-Review points out, quite rightly, the much-ballyhooed new oil train rules will drastically limit public disclosure. They effectively shroud the industry in secrecy. And while the public watches explosion after explosion on the tracks, we’ll just have to trust that these same operators are playing by the rules.
Finally, an answer to the eternal question of what women want: the dad bod. (Right?)
The best sketch on birth control access I’ve seen in a while, courtesy of Amy Schumer.
This is fascinating—this is where we truly see the intersection between social justice, economic security, and sustainability: Commuting time has emerged as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. A large, continuing study of upward mobility based at Harvard finds that the longer an average commute in a given county, the worse the chances of low-income families there moving up the ladder. “The relationship between transportation and social mobility is stronger than that between mobility and several other factors, like crime, elementary-school test scores or the percentage of two-parent families in a community.”
Eric Alterman asks: Why do political reporters refuse to show us the money? “In virtually all of our political debate and news coverage, the competition between the two parties is treated as one of personalities and ideas.” It’s nonsense, he writes. Reporting it this way, these journalists are guilty of perpetuating the fairytales about the health of our democracy that disguise the corrupting influence of top donors. Alterman doesn’t mince words:
In fact, American political life revolves around two mutually reinforcing truths. The first is that our democracy has been severely corrupted by money; the second is that the conservative movement, and hence the Republican Party, is dominated by ideological extremists who demonstrate zero interest in the problems of actual governance. Taken together, these truths not only define our political debate; they ensure that virtually nothing is decided on its merits—up to and including our national elections.
And, a little fodder for your next conversation with a clean energy naysayer: Hawaii will soon get all its electricity from renewables.
Finally, Smith College president, Kathleen McCartney (my alma mater), gives us something to think about this Mother’s Day: Is it time to rethink the social construct of motherhood as one step toward building political will for better policies to support families—as an economic priority rather than a side issue or women’s issue (Thanks to Obama for framing it that way in the SOTU). (P.S. For your reference: The United States ranks last among 38 developed nations in paid parental leave benefits: we guarantee none.)