The Bush Administration has taken another step to trample on the public interest in its hurried efforts to provide last-minute help to polluters and resource-abusers. Yesterday, the Bush EPA (better known as the Energy Polluters Association under this president) issued regulations saying that new power plants are not required to install technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This is outrageous -- and in direct contravention of a 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court. But when has the Bush Administration ever cared about the law? In the Bush-Cheney view, the law is merely something to ignore.
There's always a rush by outgoing presidential Administrations to put in place new rules and regulations before the new Administration assumes office, but never before has there been such a blatant and cynical effort to enable corporate polluters to engage in practices that are knowingly and dramatically harmful to the environment.
Bush's team is feverishly promulgating rules intended to loosen environmental restrictions on gas and oil drillers, loggers, factory-farm owners and coal-plant operators. Bush is aiming to gut the Endangered Species Act by prohibiting federal wildlife scientists from weighing the effect of greenhouse gases on species and their habitats. Bush's administration has approved a rule making it easier for coal companies to dump debris from mountaintop mining operations into streams and valleys, devastating downstream water quality. They're rushing through rules to make it easier for utilities to put coal-fired power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. There seems to be no end to the Bush-Cheney willingness to screw the public interest in favor of the very worst corporate evil-doers.
Bush and Cheney spent eight years in office catering to the needs of their friends in energy industries. I guess we shouldn't expect their last weeks in office to be any different.
We should note, however, that it's not just the environment that Bush loves to fuck over. He hates workers, the poor, women, and the elderly, too. Why not? What's not to hate? That's the Bush-Cheney worldview. You can find a complete summary of Bush's astonishing, full-blown, final middle-fingered salute to America here at Think Progress or here at Rolling Stone. Just more dramatic proof that this is the most vile, deliberately harmful president in our history.
Noting that Bush's last-minute end-runs, jamming as many destructive regulations through the executive branch as he can during his waning days as president, Brave New Films has released "George W. Bush's Nightmare Before Christmas," a satirical spin on the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The film highlights Bush’s last-minute regulatory push:
While children are dreaming of toys, dolls and ponies,
I’m out here scheming how to help out my cronies. Yes to all my pals in the big corporations.
Here’s my gift to you: some new regulations.
It might be funny if it weren't so full of sad truth. Watch it:
Greg Levine at firedoglake has an interesting post today about an effort by FCC Chairman Ralph Martin to push through a plan for a free wireless internet that would also filter out all porn. It would be part of a plan to auction off a part of the airwaves. The winning bidder would be able to sell a fast wireless internet connection, but would be required to set apart one-quarter of the airwave space for a slower, free service that would filter out all porn. Levine's post is worth reading to see what is wrong with this proposal.
The post is also worth attention because it includes the following video that features a song by Tom Lehrer about smut. Readers of my generation (you'll know you ARE of my generation if you recognize the name Tom Lehrer) will appreciate this stroll down memory lane (as well as Lehrer's amusing take on porn).
UPDATE: Also, on the same topic, see this fine comment by John Cassidy in this week's New Yorker. He concludes his piece this way:
Although Obama has talked about the need for more effective regulation,
he hasn’t yet provided many details, and, unlike the two Roosevelts, he
has been somewhat reluctant to couple his proposals with a populist
critique of American capitalism. During the primary campaign, he won
support by making the case that the political system, having been
captured by special interests, ignores the welfare of ordinary people.
Putting together a similar indictment of the financial system seems
like a logical next step, and it would help Obama build a mandate for
the reforms that he has proposed, such as expanding health-care
coverage, reversing the Bush tax cuts, and investing in alternative
energy. Adding to that a coherent plan to deal with the banking crisis
and restore the government’s proper role as overseer of the economy
wouldn’t amount to a new New Deal, but it would be a good start.
Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, has an illuminating op-ed piece in this morning's Journal, highlighting the ways in which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are "unique in their thuggery." He writes about the "crony capitalism" of these organizations and their many defenders in the media, government, and Wall Street.
It's an ugly, ugly picture -- uglier, even, than Angelo Mozilo's face (speaking of thugs).
The Washington Post today carried a front-page article that leads off with these three paragraphs:
The Defense Department, the nation's biggest polluter, is resisting orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Fort Meade and two other military bases where the EPA says dumped chemicals pose
"imminent and substantial" dangers to public health and the
The Pentagon has also declined to sign agreements required by law that cover 12
other military sites on the Superfund list of the most polluted places
in the country. The contracts would spell out a remediation plan, set
schedules, and allow the EPA to oversee the work and assess penalties
if milestones are missed.
The actions are part of a standoff between the Pentagon and
environmental regulators that has been building during the Bush
administration, leaving the EPA in a legal limbo as it addresses
growing concerns about contaminants on military bases that are seeping
into drinking water aquifers and soil.
A typical reaction to an article of this sort might be: "How can that be? Surely the government must have an easier time controlling or regulating itself than it has controlling the private sector!"
In fact, the government typically has a harder time controlling itself because federal government agencies generally lack prosecutorial power or other kinds of leverage against one another. In this case, as the Post notes:
Under executive branch policy, the EPA will not sue the Pentagon, as it
would a private polluter. Although the law gives final say to EPA
Administrator Stephen L. Johnson
in cleanup disputes with other federal agencies, the Pentagon refuses
to recognize that provision. Military officials wrote to the Justice Department last month to challenge EPA's authority to issue the orders and asked the Office of Management and Budget to intervene.
So, the Pentagon can essentially tell the EPA to go soak its head and there's nothing the EPA can do about it as long as the White House is unwilling to intervene.
It was thirty years ago when I first learned of this curious problem of federal government agencies having a harder time controlling other government agencies than they do controlling private businesses, from an article by James Q. Wilson and Patricia Rachal.* Their article focused on the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which is responsible for ensuring that employers doing business with
the federal government comply with the laws and regulations requiring
nondiscrimination. Wilson and Rachal showed that the OFCCP had a much harder time getting other government agencies to comply than did agencies whose job it was to get private businesses into compliance.
In the case addressed by the Post article, there's no chance that the White House will intervene because Bush doesn't give a damn about the environment.
* James Q. Wilson and Patricia Rachal, “Can the Government Regulate Itself?” The Public Interest 46 (Winter 1977): 3-14.