On Why Voting Matters, Or, Could You Outrun The Toxic Red Flood?

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(11AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

It is about a week before early voting begins for a bunch of us around the country, and that means this may be one of the last times I have to convince you that, frustrated progressive or not, you better get your butt to a ballot box or a mail-in envelope this November, because it really does mater.

Now I could give you a bunch of “what ifs” to make my point, or I could remind you how we spent all summer watching oil gush into the Gulf, and how that came to be…but, instead, it’s “Even More Current Event Day”, and we’re going to visit Hungary for a extremely real-world reminder of what can go wrong when the environmental cops are considered just too much of a burden by the environmental robbers-and if today’s story doesn’t scare you to death, I don’t know what will.

It ain’t Texas, but we will surely visit a Red River Valley…and you surely won’t like what you’re gonna see.

“…Oui, ma foi, c’est un bougre déterminé…”

–A sailor aboard the French ship Héros describing his Admiral, Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez, 1783. Quoted from the book Command at Sea, by Oliver Warner.

So here’s the long and the short of it: Monday afternoon a sludge pond failed near the town of Devecser, Hungary. That failure has so far released about 265,000,000 gallons of extremely toxic sludge from a facility that mines bauxite as part of the process of making aluminum.

That release manifested itself as a full-scale flash flood, which (courtesy of the RT network) looks something like this:

The red lake and the red mud that you see flowing like a river in the video has killed four people so far, injured hundreds, inundated four towns, and is on its way to the Danube River if it can’t be stopped, where it will become part of the water supply for millions of Europeans.

It turns out that bauxite ore contains alumina, which eventually become aluminum, but to get that alumina you apparently need huge quantities of caustic soda, in water, to make the extraction process work. The problem is that you extract more than just alumina: the same ore can contain lead, or cadmium, or any number of other heavy metals…including radioactive materials. The waste materials are discharged as sludge into holding ponds at the mine for further treatment, and the failure of one of those ponds is how we came to today’s story.

According to the BBC, emergency workers are pouring tons of plaster into the Marcal River in an effort to stop the flow of the liquid, and Hungarian Government experts believe the top inch of topsoil will have to be removed…from the entire land area affected by the flood.

So what’s all this have to do with the upcoming American elections?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

This is not a problem somehow unique to Hungary…nor Brazil, nor Jamaica, either. We have sludge ponds of our own, many associated with coal mining, and in fact, one of those failed in Kentucky in 2000, in a massive way, and by 2004, things hadn’t improved much at all in terms of cleaning up the mess. Others are associated with the other end of that process: coal-fired power plants have coal ash containments of their own, and they also fail. A pond failure in Tennessee in 2008 probably released over a billion gallons of waste into the local rivers.

And if our Republican friends have their way, this will continue.

Even as we speak, the EPA is considering regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste for the very first time-and if Republicans gain control of Congress, wanna guess how the considerating will come out?

Look, folks, I know we’re all frustrated that we aren’t where we want to be with this Administration, but you gotta know that if you don’t show up for this election, we are going to be dealing with Republicans who are far nuttier than what we have right now-and while I know that it was a fantastic change of pace to be able to vote for someone in ’08, the plain fact is that most of the time, you’re voting against something, and this time, that something is the insanity of the Tea Party.

These Republicans are some very determined buggers, to quote that French sailor, and we have to be just as determined to stop these folks-and to do it where it counts, in places like Kentucky and West Virginia and Delaware-because if we don’t, it means another generation of people in coal towns living with water they can’t drink and cancer they can’t cure, more rivers and wetlands and aquifers destroyed all over this country…and, eventually, it means all of this contamination, one way or another, will find its way to you and your family.

Voting matters, Gentle Readers, and this is just one reason why.

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  1. fake consultant

    consider what 2006 was like…and then reconsider whether you’re voting or not.

  2. AndyS In Colorado

  3. Shaharazade

    from environmental to the economy and ‘foriegn policy’ I see no difference at all. 2006 was better in some ways as the Dems hadn’t out Bushed the bushies yet. We now have the abuses codified via the DoJ, we have hits out in plain view ordered by this ‘powerless’ president, were freakin bombing Laos whoops I mean Pakistan and killing those pesky insurgents for no reason other then fun and profit I guess. We have the environmental policy from hell with drill baby drill and fracting and clean coal and they took any attempt to pass legislation off the table cause Lindsey Graham was unhappy or some such bs.

    This week really got my enthusiasm up. Yesterday congress passed unanimously by voice vote a nasty bill that facilitates the bogus criminal foreclosure scam. Then there was the refusal to vote for any kind of economic equality via the Bush tax cuts. Pakistan is on fire and we gotta bomb the insurgents cause terrorists will kill yer family . To top it off we found out what we all knew the the WH dealt away the PO in July before the bogus hyped town hall scarry teabaggers hit the airwaves and the WH lied about it. Then they lied about what the extent of the damage was from the BP gusher. They are trying a child soldier who they tortured and force feeding prisoners at gitmo, but at least they waitied till after sunset for Ramadan.

    They are not going to restore anyone’s civil rights they are actively trying via the courts to increase the unitary executive and state secrets. Obama and the congress are a joke a bad Kabuki and wimpy to boot . So tell me again why I should vote for these fuckers? I really don’t think supporting or voting for evil that may be a little better or has a kinder false face is a good thing to do as a citizen. It’s freakin extortion and I really do not believe in any of their lies anymore. I not only want them to lose I want my 2000.00$ back. They deserve to lose and I’m not a cowardly progressive I’m a liberal a lefty and proud of it. Mushroom clouds, economic cliffs, or teabaggers none of these scare me more then what’s going on now. Fear isn’t going to work when both sides are offering the same agenda and policies and when we win we lose. Why would I vote for this?

    I will vote local issues and candidates but not necessarily Democrat’s unlike NPK I prefer to fight the villains in power who make no bones about what they are instead of telling me this is change or that I’m irresponsible because this is reality. Forget about it.  


  4. tahoebasha3

    I can’t disagree with what you’re saying — what they began and accomplished over eight years (and longer), they are salivating to get back in and continue with their agenda (though many policies continued by Obama, as you know, to our chagrin).  If the Republicans get back in, we will see our steady progression to third world status sped up to an overnight reality.

    BTW, sadly, Hungary: Toxic red sludge has reached the Danube

    KOLONTAR, Hungary – The toxic red sludge that burst out of a Hungarian factory’s reservoir reached the mighty Danube on Thursday after wreaking havoc on smaller rivers and creeks, and downstream nations rushed to test their waters.

    The European Union and environmental officials fear an environmental catastrophe affecting half a dozen nations if the red sludge, a waste product of making aluminum, contaminates the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river. . . .

    Also, in the “corporations are people” concern.  A complaint has been filed with the IRS against Karl Rove’s Group, because of the secret and massive amounts of money expected to be collected under a not-for-profit banner “American Crossroads” “and spend that money to influence elections and buy candidates who will act on behalf of those companies and their deregulatory policies.”  Formal Complaint Filed Against Karl Rove’s Group For Violating Tax Laws  Let’s Keep The Momentum Going. Sign On, Send, and Support!  Check Out Our New Ads Directed At Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida and Illinois Senate Races.  (See Actions)  

  5. Activist Guy

    Neither party has the least interest in countering that hegemonic ideology.  I’m not saying there’s no difference between the parties.  What I am saying is that the difference between them is the difference between “the good cop” and “the bad cop”.  We should understand, that for different segments of American society, the roles of the two parties are reversed.  If you’re a white southern suburban white collar sub-professional working in the office parks of Alpharetta, GA, the Dems are your “bad cop”, just as to most folks here the Rubes are the “bad cop”.  In the end, supporting either party reinforces, buttresses, the hegemony of Reaganism-Thatcherism.  I prefer to fight hegemony itself, it’s the only way there could ever possibly be any genuine “change”.

  6. bigsurtree

    I’m literally speechless. I guess Harry can at least claim a measure of sanity if we give him the benefit of the doubt.

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