BushCo Legacy 2greenspun.com : LUSENET : Beyond the Sidewalks : One Thread
I decided to start another political thread, since I messed up the last one and Joy seems to be lost somewhere in very busyland! (Joy, you ok?)
Firm in Florida Election Fiasco Earns Millions from Files on Foreigners Oliver Burkeman and Jo Tuckman The Guardian
Monday 5 May 2003
A data-gathering company that was embroiled in the Florida 2000 election fiasco is being paid millions of dollars by the Bush administration to collect detailed personal information on the populations of foreign countries, enraging several governments who say the records may have been illegally obtained.
US government purchasing documents show that the company, ChoicePoint, received at least $11m (£6.86m) from the department of justice last year to supply data - mainly on Latin Americans - that included names and addresses, occupations, dates of birth, passport numbers and "physical description". Even tax records and blood groups are reportedly included.
Nicaraguan police have raided two offices suspected of providing the information. The revelations threaten to shatter public trust in electoral institutions, especially in Mexico, where the government has begun an investigation.
The controversy is not the first to engulf ChoicePoint. The company's subsidiary, Database Technologies, was responsible for bungling an overhaul of Florida's voter registration records, with the result that thousands of people, disproportionately black, were disenfranchised in the 2000 election. Had they been able to vote, they might have swung the state, and thus the presidency, for Al Gore, who lost in Florida by a few hundred votes.
-- Anonymous, May 07, 2003
Bet the CIA doesnt like it either. Thats what we pay those spooks to do :>)
-- Anonymous, May 07, 2003
Did I miss fixing something? Anyway, I don't care if you start a new thread! :-)
-- Anonymous, May 07, 2003
Did you hear that Shrub's Budget Director, Mitch Daniels, resigned on Tuesday? The official reason is that he's going to run for governor of Indiana. It's only a coincidence that last Friday he and 29 others were issued subpoenas for questioning in an insider trading scandal.
-- Anonymous, May 08, 2003
I would suggest that we all do a little more research about ChoicePoint. I have heard that they (DataBase) are fostering a move toward implementation of software changes for "election reform" based on reaction to Florida's horrific voting debacle in the last presidential election. The idea of a company getting hold of the tabulation system for our votes is terrifying to me (too much opportunity for instant "back office" manipulation...I used to work in systems; I know!). The fact that this company is run by Katherine Harris' predecessor (and "friends", ahem!) and that they would like the opportunity to roll this out to all 50 states (via touch screen voting?) is a little um, bizarre, to say the least (shudder).
Other than hearing Greg Palast* on a talk show about this a couple of week's ago, I don't know quite where to look for details. EM, got links?
*author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy"
-- Anonymous, May 08, 2003
OH and since we're gossiping here, I also heard on BBC radio that the Haliburton Co (VP Cheney's previous barony) not only got the contract for putting out any fires in Iraqi oil fields, but darned if they didn't also get the contract for regenerating the plants *anyway* (although it wasn't disclosed to anyone prior to now...hmmm.). Maybe this is old news by now. I keep wondering about that secret energy meeting that the public isn't allowed to see records of attendees, etc. This was prior to Enron's demise, etc....I can just see these old guys in a room (cigar smoke, eye shades) divvying up the loot from the mid-East.
-- Anonymous, May 08, 2003
And will "anyone" care about what shenanigans they're up to? Shocking scandals have a way of becoming commonplace and "old hat" if they happen enough (and they've certainly happened enough!). And it's so confusing and complicated. I feel as though I wouldn't be able to comprehend all the ins and outs even if everything were revealed and widely published.
-- Anonymous, May 08, 2003
Don't have time to comment now, but here's a site with LOTS of info about the voting machine scheme. It's really almost unbelievable that all this stuff is happening to our country, and the media is complicit by their silence........
-- Anonymous, May 08, 2003
(Give yourself an hour, and be prepared to be intrigued.........)
In other, blacker forms of magic, the manipulative element remains but the polarity of the audience is reversed. Most members of the audience "know" that the implied explanation is correct and do not try to imagine how the effect was produced. Very few disbelieve it. If the events of September 11, 2001, were all part of an elaborate piece of stage magic, in effect, how could it have been arranged? This article explores one possibility. The name of the trick is "Ghost Riders in the Sky." It begins with a peek behind the curtain on that fateful day...........
ghost riders in the sky
-- Anonymous, May 08, 2003
I haven't had time to check out the link but I gotta say the republicans have gotta be the biggest buncha crooks on the face of the planet. Thats not to say the Dems are much better but this is so apparent---- and it doesn't begin here.
Think about it. They say they're for small government and saving taxpayers money, calling the democrats big spenders, so they "deregulate" to save the government money and allow more "freedom" to big business.
No oversight on the banks, wall street, or the utility industry or their accountants, people in positions of public trust. They're into self regulating and "volunteering" to abide by the rules. Creates a wild west atmosphere in these "conservative" areas of the economy. Billions upon billions of dollars were lost by pension funds and ordinary investors due to dishonest business practices and they get not much more than a slap on the hand, fines equalling a very small percentage of what they gained thru their misdeeds.
Meanwhile, under Reagan, the national debt goes from $800 billion in 1980 to 2 trillion in 1988. George Bush sr takes over and in four years he succeeds in running the national debt up to 6 Trillion dollars. The "big spender" democrat Clinton gets into office, develops balanced budgets and actually has budget surpluses and starts to pay down the debt yet is the cause for all that ails Amerika. Theres no telling what harm can come from having an illicit sex life doncha know.
In less than one term Shrub is presiding over RECORD deficits and a ballooning-once-again debt while proposing more tax cuts for the wealthy, saying its gonna help the economy.
It seems to me we're paying alot more for alot less. If this is smaller government why does the deficit keep growing? Ya think it might be because we've been bought and sold down the river so the rich and crooked can get richer?
Naaahhhh! Shrub is a man of integrity doncha know.
We're watching the nation be hijacked and the re-pubbas (republican bubbas)are cheering it on, so sightless are they.
-- Anonymous, May 09, 2003
The Republican Party platform in Bush's home state warns of what to expect from a federal government guided by religious right radicalism. The Texas platform "reaffirms the United States of America as a Christian Nation," and seeks to nullify the separation between church and state. It would abolish the EPA, and the Departments of Energy and Education. It dismisses global warming as "myth." And it promotes public school education "based upon Biblical principles," not upon secular humanism, which teaches Darwinian evolutionary theory and a scientific worldview.
Texans have paid the price for their leaders' anti-environmental stance. During George W. Bush's time as governor, the state gained the honor of having the dirtiest air in America. It also ranks 47th in water quality, and has the seventh-highest rate of release of toxic industrial byproducts.......
-- Anonymous, May 12, 2003
Are we awake to the takeover of our country yet?
June 19, 2003 Report by the E.P.A. Leaves Out Data on Climate Change By ANDREW C. REVKIN with KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.
The report, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, was intended to provide the first comprehensive review of what is known about various environmental problems, where gaps in understanding exist and how to fill them.
Agency officials said it was tentatively scheduled to be released early next week, before Mrs. Whitman steps down on June 27, ending a troubled time in office that often put her at odds with President Bush.
Drafts of the climate section, with changes sought by the White House, were given to The New York Times yesterday by a former E.P.A. official, along with earlier drafts and an internal memorandum in which some officials protested the changes. Two agency officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the documents were authentic.
The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.
Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion.
In the end, E.P.A. staff members, after discussions with administration officials, said they decided to delete the entire discussion to avoid criticism that they were selectively filtering science to suit policy.
Administration officials defended the report and said there was nothing untoward about the process that produced it. Mrs. Whitman said that she was "perfectly comfortable" with the edited version and that the differences over climate change should not hold up the broader assessment of the nation's air, land and water.
"The first draft, as with many first drafts, contained everything," she said in a brief telephone interview from the CBS studios in Manhattan, where she was waiting to tape "The Late Show With David Letterman."
"As it went through the review, there was less consensus on the science and conclusions on climate change," Ms. Whitman said. "So rather than go out with something half-baked or not put out the whole report, we felt it was important for us to get this out because there is a lot of really good information that people can use to measure our successes."
James L. Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House advisory group, said, "It would be utterly inaccurate to suggest that this administration has not provided quite an extensive discussion about the state of the climate. Ultimately, E.P.A. made the decision not to include the section on climate change because we had these ample discussions of the subject already."
But private environmental groups sharply criticized the changes when they heard of them.
"Political staff are becoming increasingly bold in forcing agency officials to endorse junk science," said Jeremy Symons, a climate policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation. "This is like the White House directing the secretary of labor to alter unemployment data to paint a rosy economic picture."
Drafts of the report have been circulating for months, but a heavy round of rewriting and cutting by White House officials in late April raised protest among E.P.A. officials working on the report.
An April 29 memorandum circulated among staff members said that after the changes by White House officials, the section on climate "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change."
Another memorandum circulated at the same time said that the easiest course would be to accept the White House revisions but that to do so would taint the agency, because "E.P.A. will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental communities for poorly representing the science."
The changes were mainly made by the Council on Environmental Quality, although the Office of Management and Budget was also involved, several E.P.A. officials said. It is the second time in a year that the White House has sought to play down global warming in official documents.
Last September, an annual E.P.A. report on air pollution that for six years had contained a section on climate was released without one, and the decision to delete it was made by Bush administration appointees at the agency with White House approval.
Like the September report, the forthcoming report says the issues will be dealt with later by a climate research plan being prepared by the Bush administration.
Other sections of the coming E.P.A. report — on water quality, ecological conditions, ozone depletion in the atmosphere and other issues — all start with a summary statement about the potential impact of changes on human health and the environment, which are the two responsibilities of the agency.
But in the "Global Issues" section of the draft returned by the White House to E.P.A. in April, an introductory sentence reading, "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment" was cut and replaced with a paragraph that starts: "The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future."
Some E.P.A. staff members defended the document, saying that although pared down it would still help policy makers and the agency address the climate issue.
"This is a positive step by the agency," said an author of the report, who did not want to be named, adding that it would help someone determine "if a facility or pollutant is going to hurt my family or make it bad for the birds, bees and fish out there."
-- Anonymous, June 22, 2003
Is this not proof positive of all their stinkin lies??
><> <> Smoking Gun Quote Of The Week <> <>
Straight from the horse's mouth. Colin Powell said Saddam Hussein did *NOT* have any Weapons of Mass Destruction capabilities. He not only said it, he said it in no uncertain terms.
"President [Mubarak] and I, had a good discussion about...the fact that the sanctions exist.... for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.......we had a good conversation on this issue." -- Colin L. Powell, Secretary of State, Cairo, Egypt, February 24, 2001, Press Remarks with Foreign Minister of Egypt Amre Moussa
Read the entire official United States Department Of State transcript here: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2001/933.htm
More Links: "http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,7350504^2,00.html"
-- Anonymous, September 25, 2003
Just doin my part to keep folks on their toes! Irritate and agitate, it's what I do! :)
George W and his regime of warmongering chicken hawks are constantly doing political photo-ops with our soldiers and piously admonishing everyone to "support the troops." But you might ask Lt. Col. Dale Starr, Col. David Everly, Col. Clifford Acree, and several other soldiers about how the Bushites themselves support our troops.
These combat veterans were captured, imprisoned, and tortured by Saddam Hussein's minions during the 1991 war with Iraq. As prisoners of war, they sustained fractured skulls, burnings, broken bones, threats of dismemberment and castration during their nightmarish confinement, yet they survived and made it home. Here they found some solace in a 1996 U.S. law that allowed them to sue the Iraqi government for the physical and emotional injuries they suffered, with payments to be made from Iraqi assets that had been frozen by our government. Last summer, a federal court awarded this group nearly a billion dollars in damages.........
bushco once again screws the troops they care so much about
-- Anonymous, December 08, 2003
Another step, among dozens occuring every day behind our backs, on the road to theocracy........
RELIGION ON DISPLAY IN NATIONAL PARKS Christian Fundamentalist Influence on Park Service Decisions “Faith-Based Parks” Decried
Washington, DC — In a series of recent decisions, the National Park Service has approved the display of religious symbols and Bible verses, as well as the sale of creationist books giving a non- evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders within national parks, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Also, under pressure from conservative groups, the Park Service has agreed to edit the videotape that has been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995 to remove any image of gay and abortion rights demonstrations that occurred at the memorial.
“The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The Bush Administration appears to be sponsoring a program of Faith-Based Parks.”
This July, NPS Deputy Director Donald Murphy, ordered the Grand Canyon National Park to return three bronze plaques bearing biblical verses to public viewing areas on the Canyon’s South Rim. Murphy overruled the park superintendent who had directed the plaques’ removal based on legal advice from the Interior Department that the religious displays violated the First Amendment. In a letter to the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, the group sponsoring the plaques, Murphy apologized for “any intrusion resulting from” the temporary removal of the plaques quoting Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 and pledged “further legal analysis and policy review” before any new action is taken.
This fall, the Park Service also approved a creationist text, “Grand Canyon: A Different View” for sale in park bookstores and museums. The book by Tom Vail, claims that the Grand Canyon is really only a few thousand years old, developing on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. At the same time, Park Service leadership has blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis.
Last month, the Park Service announced that it would alter an eight- minute video containing photos and footage of demonstrations and other events taking place at the Lincoln Memorial. Conservative groups have asked to cut out footage of gay rights, pro-choice and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations because it implies that “Lincoln would have supported homosexual and abortion ‘rights’ as well as feminism.” The Park Service has promised to develop a “more balanced” version that include rallies of the Christian group Promise Keepers and pro-Gulf War demonstrators though these events did not take place at the Memorial.
The Park Service is also engaged in an extended legal battle to continue displaying an eight-foot-tall cross, planted atop a 30-foot- high rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve in California. PEER Board Member and former-Park Service manager Frank Buono filed suit to force removal of the cross. That suit is now pending before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
remember when national parks belonged to us all?
-- Anonymous, January 03, 2004
My favorite holy place on the planet being corrupted! Thanks for the information...I'll check it out.
-- Anonymous, January 03, 2004
here's a concern I would like to think everyone here has: the precious environment we all share, and pass on when we are gone:
Crimes Against Nature
Bush is sabotaging the laws that have protected America's environment for more than thirty years
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Illustration by Marco Ventura
George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. In a ferocious three-year attack, the Bush administration has initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws, weakening the protection of our country's air, water, public lands and wildlife. Cloaked in meticulously crafted language designed to deceive the public, the administration intends to eliminate the nation's most important environmental laws by the end of the year. Under the guidance of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the Bush White House has actively hidden its anti-environmental program behind deceptive rhetoric, telegenic spokespeople, secrecy and the intimidation of scientists and bureaucrats. The Bush attack was not entirely unexpected. George W. Bush had the grimmest environmental record of any governor during his tenure in Texas. Texas became number one in air and water pollution and in the release of toxic chemicals. In his six years in Austin, he championed a short-term pollution-based prosperity, which enriched his political contributors and corporate cronies by lowering the quality of life for everyone else. Now President Bush is set to do the same to America. After three years, his policies are already bearing fruit, diminishing standards of living for millions of Americans. I am angry both as a citizen and a father. Three of my sons have asthma, and I watch them struggle to breathe on bad-air days. And they're comparatively lucky: One in four African-American children in New York shares this affliction; their suffering is often unrelieved because they lack the insurance and high-quality health care that keep my sons alive. My kids are among the millions of Americans who cannot enjoy the seminal American experience of fishing locally with their dad and eating their catch. Most freshwater fish in New York and all in Connecticut are now under consumption advisories. A main source of mercury pollution in America, as well as asthma-provoking ozone and particulates, is the coal-burning power plants that President Bush recently excused from complying with the Clean Air Act.
Furthermore, the deadly addiction to fossil fuels that White House policies encourage has squandered our treasury, entangled us in foreign wars, diminished our international prestige, made us a target for terrorist attacks and increased our reliance on petty Middle Eastern dictators who despise democracy and are hated by their own people.
When the Republican right managed to install George W. Bush as president in 2000, movement leaders once again set about doing what they had attempted to do since the Reagan years: eviscerate the infrastructure of laws and regulations that protect the environment. For twenty-five years it has been like the zombie that keeps coming back from the grave.
The attacks began on Inauguration Day, when President Bush's chief of staff and former General Motors lobbyist Andrew Card quietly initiated a moratorium on all recently adopted regulations. Since then, the White House has enlisted every federal agency that oversees environmental programs in a coordinated effort to relax rules aimed at the oil, coal, logging, mining and chemical industries as well as automakers, real estate developers, corporate agribusiness and other industries.
Bush's Environmental Protection Agency has halted work on sixty-two environmental standards, the Food and Drug Administration has stopped work on fifty-seven standards. The EPA completed just two major rules -- both under court order and both watered down at industry request -- compared to twenty-three completed by the Clinton administration and fourteen by the Bush Sr. administration in their first two years.
This onslaught is being coordinated through the White House Office of Management and Budget -- or, more precisely, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, under the direction of John Graham, the engine-room mechanic of the Bush stealth strategy. Graham's specialty is promoting changes in scientific and economic assumptions that underlie government regulations -- such as recalculating cost-benefit analyses to favor polluters. Before coming to the White House, Graham was the founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, where he received funding from America's champion corporate polluters: Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, Alcoa, Exxon, General Electric and General Motors.
Under the White House's guidance, the very agencies entrusted to protect Americans from polluters are laboring to destroy environmental laws. Or they've simply stopped enforcing them. Penalties imposed for environmental violations have plummeted under Bush. The EPA has proposed eliminating 270 enforcement staffers, which would drop staff levels to the lowest level ever. Inspections of polluting businesses have dipped fifteen percent. Criminal cases referred for federal prosecution have dropped forty percent. The EPA measures its success by the amount of pollution reduced or prevented as a result of its own actions. Last year, the EPA's two most senior career enforcement officials resigned after decades of service. They cited the administration's refusal to carry out environmental laws.
The White House has masked its attacks with euphemisms that would have embarrassed George Orwell. George W. Bush's "Healthy Forests" initiative promotes destructive logging of old-growth forests. His "Clear Skies" program, which repealed key provisions of the Clean Air Act, allows more emissions. The administration uses misleading code words such as streamlining or reforming instead of weakening, and thinning instead of logging.
In a March 2003 memo to Republican leadership, pollster Frank Luntz frankly outlined the White House strategy on energy and the environment: "The environment is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general and President Bush in particular are most vulnerable," he wrote, cautioning that the public views Republicans as being "in the pockets of corporate fat cats who rub their hands together and chuckle maniacally as they plot to pollute America for fun and profit." Luntz warned, "Not only do we risk losing the swing vote, but our suburban female base could abandon us as well." He recommended that Republicans don the sheep's clothing of environmental rhetoric while dismantling environmental laws.
I prosecute polluters on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance. As George W. Bush began his presidency, I was involved in litigation against the factory-pork industry, which is a large source of air and water pollution in America. Corporate pork factories cannot produce more efficiently than traditional family farmers without violating several federal environmental statutes. Industrial farms illegally dump millions of tons of untreated fecal and toxic waste onto land and into the air and water. Factory farms have contaminated hundreds of miles of waterways, put tens of thousands of family farmers and fishermen out of work, killed billions of fish, sickened consumers and subjected millions of farm animals to unspeakable cruelty.
On behalf of several farm groups and fishermen, we sued Smithfield Foods and won a decision that suggested that almost all of American factory farms were violating the Clean Water Act. The Clinton EPA had also brought its own parallel suits addressing chronic air and water violations by hog factories. But almost immediately after taking office, the Bush administration ordered the EPA to halt its Clean Air Act investigations of animal factories and weaken the water rules to allow them to continue polluting indefinitely.
Several of my other national cases were similarly derailed. Eleven years ago, I sued the EPA to stop massive fish kills at power plants. Using antiquated technology, power plants often suck up the entire fresh water volume of large rivers, killing obscene numbers of fish. Just one facility, the Salem nuclear plant in New Jersey, kills more than 3 billion Delaware River fish each year, according to Martin Marietta, the plant's own consultant. These fish kills are illegal, and in 2001 we finally won our case. A federal judge ordered the EPA to issue regulations restricting power-plant fish kills. But soon after President Bush's inauguration, the administration replaced the proposed new rule with clever regulations designed to allow the slaughter to continue unabated. The new administration also trumped court decisions that would have enforced greater degrees of wetlands protection and forbidden coal moguls from blasting off whole mountaintops to get at the coal beneath.
The fishermen I represent are traditionally Republican. But, without exception, they see this administration as the largest threat not just to their livelihoods but to their values and their idea of what it means to be American. "Why," they'll ask, "is the president allowing coal, oil, power and automotive interests to fix the game?"
Back to the Dark Ages
George w. Bush seems to be trying to take us all the way back to the Dark Ages by undermining the very principles of our environmental rights, which civilized nations have always recognized. Ancient Rome's Code of Justinian guaranteed the use to all citizens of the "public trust" or commons -- those shared resources that cannot be reduced to private property -- the air, flowing water, public lands, wandering animals, fisheries, wetlands and aquifers.
When Roman law broke down in Europe during the Dark Ages, feudal kings began to privatize the commons. In the early thirteenth century, when King John also attempted to sell off England's fisheries and erect navigational tolls on the Thames, his subjects rose up and confronted him at Runnymede, forcing him to sign the Magna Carta, which includes provisions guaranteeing the rights of free access to fisheries and waters.
Clean-air laws in England, passed in the fourteenth century, made it a capital offense to burn coal in London, and violators were executed for the crime. These "public trust" rights to unspoiled air, water and wildlife descended to the people of the United States following the American Revolution. Until 1870, a factory releasing even small amounts of smoke onto public or private property was operating illegally.
But during the Gilded Age, when the corporate robber barons captured the political and judicial systems, those rights were stolen from the American people. As the Industrial Revolution morphed into the postwar industrial boom, Americans found themselves paying a high price for the resulting pollution. The wake-up call came in the late Sixties, when Lake Erie was declared dead and Cleveland's Cuyahoga River exploded in colossal infernos.
In 1970, more than 20 million Americans took to the streets protesting the state of the environment on the first Earth Day. Whether they knew it or not, they were demanding a return of ancient rights.
During the next few years, Congress passed twenty-eight major environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, and it created the Environmental Protection Agency to apply and enforce these new laws. Polluters would be held accountable; those planning to use the commons would have to compile environmental-impact statements and hold public hearings; citizens were given the power to prosecute environmental crimes. Right-to-know and toxic-inventory laws made government and industry more transparent on the local level and our nation more democratic. Even the most vulnerable Americans could now participate in the dialogue that determines the destinies of their communities.
Earth Day caught polluters off guard. But in the next thirty years, they mounted an increasingly sophisticated and aggressive counterattack to undermine these laws. The Bush administration is a culmination of their three-decade campaign.
Strangling the Environment
In 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan declared, "I am a Sagebrush Rebel," marking a major turning point of the modern anti-environmental movement. In the early 1980s, the Western extractive industries, led by one of Colorado's worst polluters, brewer Joseph Coors, organized the Sagebrush Rebellion, a coalition of industry money and right-wing ideologues that helped elect Reagan president.
The big polluters who started the Sagebrush Rebellion were successful because they managed to broaden their constituency with anti- regulatory, anti-labor and anti-environmental rhetoric that had great appeal both among Christian fundamentalist leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and in certain Western communities where hostility to government is deeply rooted. Big polluters found that they could organize this discontent into a potent political force that possessed the two ingredients of power in American democracy: money and intensity. Meanwhile, innovations in direct-mail and computer technologies gave this alliance of dark populists and polluters a deafening voice in American government.
Coors founded the Mountain States Legal Foundation in 1976 to bring lawsuits designed to enrich giant corporations, limit civil rights and attack unions, homosexuals and minorities. He also founded the right-wing Heritage Foundation, to provide a philosophical underpinning for the anti-environmental movement. While the foundation and its imitators -- the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Reason Foundation, the Federalist Society, the Marshall Institute and others -- claim to advocate free markets and property rights, their agenda is more pro- pollution than anything else.
From its conception, the Heritage Foundation and its neoconservative cronies urged followers to "strangle the environmental movement," which Heritage named "the greatest single threat to the American economy." Ronald Reagan's victory gave Heritage Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation immeasurable clout. Heritage became known as Reagan's "shadow government," and its 2,000-page manifesto, "Mandate for Change," became a blueprint for his administration. Coors handpicked his Colorado associates: Anne Gorsuch became the EPA administrator; her husband, Robert Burford, a cattle baron who had vowed to destroy the Bureau of Land Management, was selected to head that very agency. Most notorious, Coors chose James Watt, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, as the secretary of the interior. Watt was a proponent of "dominion theology," an authoritarian Christian heresy that advocates man's duty to "subdue" nature. His deep faith in laissez-faire capitalism and apocalyptic Christianity led Secretary Watt to set about dismantling his department and distributing its assets rather than managing them for future generations. During a Senate hearing, he cited the approaching Apocalypse to explain why he was giving away America's sacred places at fire-sale prices: "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns."
Meanwhile, Anne Gorsuch enthusiastically gutted EPA's budget by sixty percent, crippling its ability to write regulations or enforce the law. She appointed lobbyists fresh from their hitches with the paper, asbestos, chemical and oil companies to run each of the principal agency departments. Her chief counsel was an Exxon lawyer; her head of enforcement was from General Motors.
These attacks on the environment precipitated a public revolt. By 1983, more than a million Americans and all 125 American-Indian tribes had signed a petition demanding Watt's removal. After being forced out of office, Watt was indicted on twenty-five felony counts of influence-pedaling. Gorsuch and twenty-three of her cronies were forced to resign following a congressional investigation of sweetheart deals with polluters, including Coors. Her first deputy, Rita Lavelle, was jailed for perjury.
The indictments and resignations put a temporary damper on the Sagebrush Rebels, but they quickly regrouped as the "Wise Use" movement. Wise Use founder, the timber-industry flack Ron Arnold, said, "Our goal is to destroy, to eradicate the environmental movement. We want to be able to exploit the environment for private gain, absolutely."
By 1994, Wise Use helped propel Newt Gingrich to the speaker's chair of the U.S. House of Representatives and turn his anti-environmental manifesto, "The Contract With America," into law. Gingrich's chief of environmental policy was Rep. Tom DeLay, the one-time Houston exterminator who was determined to rid the world of pesky pesticide regulations and to promote a biblical worldview. He targeted the Endangered Species Act as the second-greatest threat to Texas after illegal aliens. He also wanted to legalize the deadly pesticide DDT, and he routinely referred to the EPA as "the Gestapo of government." In January 1995, DeLay invited a group of 350 lobbyists representing some of America's biggest polluters to collaborate in drafting legislation to dismantle federal health, safety and environmental laws.
Gingrich and DeLay had learned from the James Watt debacle that they had to conceal their radical agenda. Carefully eschewing public debates on their initiatives, they mounted a stealth attack on America's environmental laws. Rather than pursue a frontal assault against popular statutes such as the Endangered Species, Clean Water and Clean Air acts, they tried to undermine these laws by attaching silent riders to must-pass budget bills.
But the public got wise. Moderate Republicans teamed up with the Clinton administration to block the worst of it. My group, the NRDC, as well as the Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, generated more than 1 million letters to Congress. When President Clinton shut down the government in December 1995 rather than pass a budget bill spangled with anti-environmental riders, the tide turned against Gingrich and DeLay. By the end of that month, even conservatives disavowed the attack. "We lost the battle on the environment," DeLay conceded.
Undermining the Scientists
Today, with the presidency and both houses of Congress under the anti- environmentalists' control, they are set to eviscerate the despised laws. White House strategy is to promote its unpopular policies by lying about its agenda, cheating on the science and stealing the language and rhetoric of the environmental movement.
Even as Republican pollster Luntz acknowledged that the scientific evidence is against the Republicans on issues like global warming, he advised them to find scientists willing to hoodwink the public. "You need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue," he told Republicans, "by becoming even more active in recruiting experts sympathetic to your view."
In the meantime, he urged them to change their rhetoric. " 'Climate change,' " he said, "is less threatening than 'global warming.' While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge."
The EPA's inspector general received broad attention for his August 21st, 2003, finding that the White House pressured the agency to conceal the public-health risks from poisoned air following the September 11th World Trade Center attacks. But this 2001 deception is only one example of the administration's pattern of strategic distortion. Earlier this year, it suppressed an EPA report warning that millions of Americans, especially children, are being poisoned by mercury from industrial sources.
This behavior is consistent throughout the Bush government. Consider the story of James Zahn, a scientist at the Department of Agriculture who resigned after the Bush administration suppressed his taxpayer- funded study proving that billions of antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be carried daily across property lines from meat factories into neighboring homes and farms. In March 2002, Zahn accepted my invitation to present his findings to a convention of family-farm advocates in Iowa. Several weeks before the April conference, pork- industry lobbyists learned of his appearance and persuaded the Department of Agriculture to forbid him from appearing. Zahn told me he had been ordered to cancel a dozen appearances at county health departments and similar venues.
In May, the White House blocked the EPA staff from publicly discussing contamination by the chemical perchlorate -- the main ingredient in solid rocket fuel. The administration froze federal regulations on perchlorate, even as new research reveals alarmingly high levels of the chemical in the nation's drinking water and food supply, including many grocery-store lettuces. Perchlorate pollution has been linked to neurological problems, cancer and other life- threatening illnesses in some twenty states. The Pentagon and several defense contractors face billions of dollars in potential cleanup liability.
The administration's leading expert in manipulating scientific data is Interior Secretary Gale Norton. During her nomination hearings, Norton promised not to ideologically slant agency science. But as her friend Thomas Sansonetti, a coal- industry lobbyist who is now assistant attorney general, predicted, "There won't be any biologists or botanists to come in and pull the wool over her eyes."
In autumn 2001, Secretary Norton provided the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with her agency's scientific assessment that Arctic oil drilling would not harm hundreds of thousands of caribou. Not long afterward, Fish and Wildlife Service biologists contacted the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which defends scientists and other professionals working in state and federal environmental agencies. "The scientists provided us the science that they had submitted to Norton and the altered version that she had given to Congress a week later," said the group's executive director, Jeff Ruch. There were seventeen major substantive changes, all of them minimizing the reported impacts. When Norton was asked about the alterations in October 2001, she dismissed them as typographical errors.
Later, she and White House political adviser Karl Rove forced National Marine Fisheries scientists to alter findings on the amount of water required for the survival of salmon in Oregon's Klamath River, to ensure that large corporate farms got a bigger share of the river water. As a result, more than 33,000 chinook and coho salmon died -- the largest fish kill in the history of America. Mike Kelly, the biologist who drafted the original opinion (and who has since been awarded federal whistle-blower status), told me that the coho salmon is probably headed for extinction. "Morale is low among scientists here," Kelly says. "We are under pressure to get the right results. This administration is putting the species at risk for political gain -- and not just in the Klamath."
Norton has also ordered the rewriting of an exhaustive twelve-year study by federal biologists detailing the effects that Arctic drilling would have on populations of musk oxen and snow geese. She reissued the biologists' report two weeks later as a two-page paper showing no negative impact to wildlife. She also ordered suppression of two studies by the Fish and Wildlife Service concluding that the drilling would threaten polar-bear populations and violate the international treaty protecting bears. She then instructed the Fish and Wildlife Service to redo the report to "reflect the Interior Department's position." She suppressed findings that mountaintop mining would cause "tremendous destruction of aquatic and terrestrial habitat" and a Park Service report that found that snowmobiles were hurting Yellowstone's air quality, wildlife and the health of its visitors and employees.
Norton's Fish and Wildlife Service is the first ever not to voluntarily list a single species as endangered or threatened. Her officials have blackballed scientists and savaged studies to avoid listing the trumpeter swan, revoke the listing of the grizzly bear and shrink the remnant habitat for the Florida panther. She disbanded the service's oldest scientific advisory committee in order to halt protection of desert fish in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that are headed for extinction. Interior career staffers and scientists say they are monitored by Norton's industry appointees to ensure that future studies do not conflict with industry profit-making.
Cooking the Books on Global Warming
There is no scientific debate in which the White House has cooked the books more than that of global warming. In the past two years the Bush administration has altered, suppressed or attempted to discredit close to a dozen major reports on the subject. These include a ten- year peer-reviewed study by the International Panel on Climate Change, commissioned by the president's father in 1993 in his own efforts to dodge what was already a virtual scientific consensus blaming industrial emissions for global warming.
After disavowing the Kyoto Protocol, the Bush administration commissioned the federal government's National Academy of Sciences to find holes in the IPCC analysis. But this ploy backfired. The NAS not only confirmed the existence of global warming and its connection to industrial greenhouse gases, it also predicted that the effects of climate change would be worse than previously believed, estimating that global temperatures will rise between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees by 2100.
A May 2002 report by scientists from the EPA, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, approved by Bush appointees at the Council on Environmental Quality and submitted to the United Nations by the U.S., predicted similarly catastrophic impacts. When confronted with the findings, Bush dismissed it with his smirking condemnation: "I've read the report put out by the bureaucracy. . . ."
Afterward, the White House acknowledged that, in fact, he hadn't. Having failed to discredit the report with this untruth, George W. did what his father had done: He promised to study the problem some more. Last fall, the White House announced the creation of the Climate Research Initiative to study global warming. The earliest results are due next fall. But the White House's draft plan for CRI was derided by the NAS in February as a rehash of old studies and established science lacking "most elements of a strategic plan."
In September 2002, administration censors released the annual EPA report on air pollution without the agency's usual update on global warming, that section having been deleted by Bush appointees at the White House. On June 19th, 2003, a "State of the Environment" report commissioned by the EPA in 2001 was released after language about global warming was excised by flat-earthers in the White House. The redacted studies had included a 2001 report by the National Research Council, commissioned by the White House. In their place was a piece of propaganda financed by the American Petroleum Institute challenging these conclusions.
This past July, EPA scientists leaked a study, which the agency had ordered suppressed in May, showing that a Senate plan -- co-sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain -- to reduce the pollution that causes global warming could achieve its goal at very small cost. Bush reacted by launching a $100 million ten-year effort to prove that global temperature changes have, in fact, occurred naturally, another delay tactic for the fossil-fuel barons at taxpayer expense.
Princeton geo-scientist Michael Oppenheimer told me, "This administration likes to emphasize what we don't know while ignoring or minimizing what we do know, which is a prescription for paralysis on policy. It's hard to imagine what kind of scientific evidence would suffice to convince the White House to take firm action on global warming."
Across the board, the administration yields to Big Energy. At the request of ExxonMobil, and with the help of a lobbying group working for coal-burning utility Southern Co., the Bush administration orchestrated the removal of U.S. scientist Robert Watson, the world- renowned former NASA atmospheric chemist who headed the United Nations' IPCC. He was replaced by a little-known scientist from New Delhi, India, who would be generally unavailable for congressional hearings.
The Bush administration now plans to contract out thousands of environmental-science jobs to compliant industry consultants already in the habit of massaging data to support corporate profit-taking, effectively making federal science an arm of Karl Rove's political machine. The very ideologues who derided Bill Clinton as a liar have institutionalized dishonesty and made it the reigning culture of America's federal agencies. "At its worst," Oppenheimer says, "this approach represents a serious erosion in the way a democracy deals with science."
Inside the Cheney Task Force
There is no better example of the corporate cronyism now hijacking American democracy than the White House's cozy relationship with the energy industry. It's hard to find anyone on Bush's staff who does not have extensive corporate connections, but fossil-fuel executives rule the roost. The energy industry contributed more than $48.3 million to Republicans in the 2000 election cycle, with $3 million to Bush. Now the investment has matured. Both Bush and Cheney came out of the oil patch. Thirty-one of the Bush transition team's forty- eight members had energy-industry ties. Bush's cabinet and White House staff is an energy-industry dream team -- four cabinet secretaries, the six most powerful White House officials and more than twenty high-level appointees are alumni of the industry and its allies (see "Bush's Energy-Industry All-Stars," on Page 183).
The potential for corruption is staggering. Take the case of J. Steven Griles, deputy secretary of the Interior Department. During the first Reagan administration, Griles worked directly under James Watt at Interior, where he helped the coal industry evade prohibitions against mountaintop-removal strip mining. In 1989, Griles left government to work as a mining executive and then as a lobbyist with National Environmental Strategies, a Washington, D.C., firm that represented the National Mining Association and Dominion Resources, one of the nation's largest power producers. When Griles got his new job at Interior, the National Mining Association hailed him as "an ally of the industry."
It's bad enough that a former mining lobbyist was put in charge of regulating mining on public land. But it turns out that Griles is still on the industry's payroll. In 2001, he sold his client base to his partner Marc Himmelstein for four annual payments of $284,000, making Griles, in effect, a continuing partner in the firm.
Because Griles was an oil and mining lobbyist, the Senate made him agree in writing that he would avoid contact with his former clients as a condition of his confirmation. Griles has nevertheless repeatedly met with former coal clients to discuss new rules allowing mountaintop mining in Appalachia and destructive coal-bed methane drilling in Wyoming. He also met with his former oil clients about offshore leases. These meetings prompted Sen. Joseph Lieberman to ask the Interior Department to investigate Griles. With Republicans in control of congressional committees, no subpoenas have interrupted the Griles scandals.
With its operatives in place, the Bush energy plan became an orgy of industry plunder. Days after his inauguration, Bush launched the National Energy Policy Development Group, chaired by Cheney. For three months, the task force held closed-door meetings with energy- industry representatives - then refused to disclose the names of the participants.
For the first time in history, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office sued the executive branch, for access to these records. NRDC put in a Freedom of Information Act request, and when Cheney did not respond, we also sued. On February 21st, 2002, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and other agency officials to turn over the records relating to their participation in the work of the energy task force. Under this court order, NRDC has obtained some 20,000 documents. Although none of the logs on the vice president's meetings have been released yet and the pages were heavily redacted to prevent disclosure of useful information, the documents still allow glimpses of the process.
The task force comprised Cabinet secretaries and other high-level administration officials with energy-industry pedigrees. The undisputed leader was Cheney, who hails from Wyoming, the nation's largest coal producer, and who, for six previous years, was CEO of Halliburton, the oil-service company. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was chairman of the Aluminum Company of America for thirteen years. Aluminum-industry profits are directly related to energy prices. O'Neill promised to immediately sell his extensive stock holdings in his former company (worth more than $100 million) to avoid conflicts of interest, but he delayed the sale until after the energy plan was released. By then, thanks partly to the administration's energy policies, Alcoa's stock had risen thirty percent. Energy Secretary Abraham, a former one-term senator from Michigan, received $700,000 from the auto industry in his losing 2000 campaign, more than any other Senate candidate. At Energy, Abraham led the administration effort to scuttle fuel-economy standards, allow SUVs to escape fuel- efficiency minimums and create obscene tax incentives for Americans to buy the largest gas guzzlers.
Joe Allbaugh, director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, sat next to Abraham on the task force. Allbaugh's wife, Diane, is an energy-industry lobbyist and represents three firms -- Reliant Energy, Entergy and TXU, each of which paid her $20,000 in the three months of the task force's deliberation. Joe Allbaugh participated in task-force meetings on issues directly affecting those companies, including debates about environmental rules for power plants and -- his wife's specialty -- electricity deregulation.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans, an old friend of the president from their early days in the oil business, was CEO of Tom Brown Inc., a Denver oil-and-gas company, and a trustee of another drilling firm. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, a mining-industry lawyer, accepted nearly $800,000 from the energy industry during her 1996 run in Colorado for the U.S. Senate.
In the winter and spring of 2001, executives and lobbyists from the oil, coal, electric-utility and nuclear industries tramped in and out of the Cabinet room and Cheney's office. Many of the lobbyists had just left posts inside Bush's presidential campaign to work for companies that had donated lavishly to that effort. Companies that made large contributions were given special access. Executives from Enron Corp., which contributed $2.5 million to the GOP from 1999 to 2002, had contact with the task force at least ten times, including six face-to-face meetings between top officials and Cheney.
After one meeting with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, Cheney dismissed California Gov. Gray Davis' request to cap the state's energy prices. That denial would enrich Enron and nearly bankrupt California. It has since emerged that the state's energy crisis was largely engineered by Enron. According to the New York Times, the task-force staff circulated a memo that suggested "utilizing" the crisis to justify expanded oil and gas drilling. President Bush and others would cite the California crisis to call for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Energy companies that had not ponied up remained under pressure to give to Republicans. When Westar Energy's chief executive was indicted for fraud, investigators found an e-mail written by Westar executives describing solicitations by Republican politicians for a political action committee controlled by Tom DeLay as the price for a "seat at the table" with the task force.
Task-force members began each meeting with industry lobbyists by announcing that the session was off the record and that participants were to share no documents. A National Mining Association official told reporters that the industry managed to control the energy plan by keeping the process secret. "We've probably had as much input as anybody else in town," he said. "I have to take my hat off to them -- they've been able to keep a lid on it."
When it was suggested that access to the administration was for sale, Cheney hardly apologized. "Just because somebody makes a campaign contribution doesn't mean that they should be denied the opportunity to express their view to government officials," he said. Although they met with hundreds of industry officials, Cheney and Abraham refused to meet with any environmental groups. Cheney made one exception to the secrecy policy: On May 15th, 2001, the day before the task force sent its plan to the president, CEOs from wind-, solar- and geothermal-energy companies were granted a short meeting with Cheney. Afterward, they were led into the Rose Garden for a press conference and a photo op.
While peddling influence to energy tycoons, the White House quietly dropped criminal and civil charges against Koch Industries, America's largest privately held oil company. Koch faced a ninety-seven-count federal felony indictment and $357 million in fines for knowingly releasing ninety metric tons of carcinogenic benzene and concealing the releases from federal regulators. Koch executives contributed $800,000 to Bush's presidential campaign and to other top Republicans.
Last March, the Federal Trade Commission dropped a Clinton-era investigation of price gouging by the oil and gas industries, even as Duke Energy, a principal target of the probe, admitted to selling electricity in California for more than double the highest previously reported price. The Bush administration said that the industry deserved a "gentler approach." Administration officials also winked at a scam involving a half-dozen oil companies cheating the government out of $100 million per year in royalty payments.
Southern Co. was among the most adept advocates for its own self- interest. The company, which contributed $1.6 million to Republicans from 1999 to 2002, met with Cheney's task force seven times. Faced with a series of EPA prosecutions at power plants violating air- quality standards, the company retained Haley Barbour, former Republican National Committee chairman and now governor-elect of Mississippi, to lobby the administration to ignore Southern's violations.
The White House then forced the Justice Department to drop the prosecution. Justice lawyers were "astounded" that the administration would interfere in a law-enforcement matter that was "supposed to be out of bounds from politics." The EPA's chief enforcement officer, Eric Schaeffer, resigned. "With the Bush administration, whether or not environmental laws are enforced depends on who you know," Schaeffer told me. "If you've got a good lobbyist, you can just buy your way out of trouble."
Along with Barbour, Southern retained current Republican National Committee chairman and former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot. Barbour and Racicot repeatedly conferred with Abraham and Cheney, urging them to ease limits on carbon-dioxide pollution from power plants and to gut the Clean Air Act. On May 17th, 2001, the White House released its energy plan. Among the recommendations were exempting old power plants from Clean Air Act compliance and adopting Barbour's arguments about carbon-dioxide restrictions. Barbour repaid the favor that week by raising $250,000 at a May 21st GOP gala honoring Bush. Southern donated $150,000 to the effort.
Cheney's task force had at least nineteen contacts with officials from the nuclear-energy industry -- whose trade association, the Nuclear Energy Institute, donated $100,000 to the Bush inauguration gala and $437,000 to Republicans from 1999 to 2002. The report recommended loosening environmental controls on the industry, reducing public participation in the siting of nuclear plants and adding billions of dollars in subsidies for the nuclear industry.
Cheney wasn't embarrassed to reward his old cronies at Halliburton, either. The final draft of the task-force report praises a gas- recovery technique controlled by Halliburton -- even though an earlier draft had criticized the technology. The technique, which has been linked to the contamination of aquifers, is currently being investigated by the EPA. Somehow, that got edited out of the report.
Big Coal and the Destruction of Appalachia
Coal companies enjoyed perhaps the biggest payoff. At the West Virginia Coal Association's annual conference in May 2002, president William D. Raney assured 150 industry moguls, "You did everything you could to elect a Republican president." Now, he said, "you are already seeing in his actions the payback."
Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company and a major contributor to the Bush campaign, was one of the first to cash in. Immediately after his inauguration, Bush appointed two executives from Peabody and one from its Black Beauty subsidiary to his energy advisory team.
When the task force released its final report, it recommended accelerating coal production and spending $2 billion in federal subsidies for research to make coal-fired electricity cleaner. Five days later, Peabody issued a public-stock offering, raising $60 million more than analysts had predicted. Company vice president Fred Palmer credited the Bush administration. "I am sure it affected the valuation of the stock," he told the Los Angeles Times.
Peabody also wanted to build the largest coal-fired power plant in thirty years upwind of Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and International Biosphere Reserve. With arm-twisting from Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and another $450,000 in GOP contributions, Peabody got what it wanted. A study on the air impacts was suppressed, and park scientists who feared that several endangered species might go extinct due to mercury and acid-rain deposits were silenced.
At the Senate's request, Griles had signed a "statement of disqualification" on August 1st, 2001, committing himself to avoiding issues affecting his former clients. Three days later, he nevertheless appeared before the West Virginia Coal Association and promised executives that "we will fix the federal rules very soon on water and soil placement." That was fancy language for pushing whole mountaintops into valleys, a practice worth billions to the industry. As a Reagan official, Griles helped devise the practice, which a federal court declared illegal in 2002, after 1,200 miles of streambeds had been filled and 380,000 acres of Appalachian forestlands had been rendered barren moonscapes.
Now Griles was promising his former coal clients he would fix these rules. In May 2002, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers adopted the language recommended by his former client, the National Mining Association. Had Griles not intervened, the practice of mountaintop- removal mining would have been severely restricted. Griles also pushed EPA deputy administrator Linda Fisher to overrule career personnel in the agency's Denver office who had given a devastating assessment to a proposal to produce coal-bed methane gas in the Powder River basin in Wyoming. Although Griles had recused himself from any discussion of this subject because it would directly enrich his former clients, he worked aggressively behind the scenes on behalf of a proposal to build 51,000 wells. The project will require 26,000 miles of new roads and 48,000 miles of pipeline, and will foul pristine landscapes with trillions of gallons of toxic wastewater.
Blueprint for Plunder
The energy-task-force plan is a $20 billion subsidy to the oil, coal and nuclear industries, which are already swimming in record revenues. In May 2003, as the House passed the plan and as the rest of the nation stagnated in a recession abetted by high oil prices, Exxon announced that its profits had tripled from the previous quarter's record earnings. The energy plan recommends opening protected lands and waters to oil and gas drilling and building up to 1,900 electric-power plants. National treasures such as the California and Florida coasts, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the areas around Yellowstone Park will be opened for plunder for the trivial amounts of fossil fuels that they contain. While increasing reliance on oil, coal and nuclear power, the plan cuts the budget for research into energy efficiency and alternative power sources by nearly a third. "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue," Cheney explained, but it should not be the basis of "comprehensive energy policy."
As if to prove that point, Republicans simultaneously eliminated the tax credit that had encouraged Americans to buy gas-saving hybrid cars, and weakened efficiency standards for everything from air conditioners to automobiles. They also created an obscene $100,000 tax break for Hummers and the thirty-eight biggest gas guzzlers. Then, adding insult to injury, the Energy Department robbed $135,615 from the anemic solar, renewables and energy-conservation budget to produce 10,000 copies of the White House's energy plan.
To lobby for the plan, more than 400 industry groups enlisted in the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth, a coalition created by oil, mining and nuclear interests and guided by the White House. It cost $5,000 to join, "a very low price," according to Republican lobbyist Wayne Valis. The prerequisite for joining, he wrote in a memo, was that members "must agree to support the Bush energy proposal in its entirety and not lobby for changes." Within two months, members had contributed more than $1 million. The price for disloyalty was expulsion from the coalition and possible reprisal by the administration. "I have been advised," wrote Valis, "that this White House 'will have a long memory.' "
The plan represents a massive transfer of wealth from the public to the energy sector. Indeed, Bush views his massive tax cuts as a way of helping Americans pay for inflated energy bills. "If I had my way," he declared, "I'd have [the tax cuts] in place tomorrow so that people would have money in their pockets to deal with high energy prices."
Looting the Commons
Although congress will have its final vote on the plan in November, the White House has already devised ways to implement most of its worst provisions without congressional interference. In October 2001, the administration removed the Interior Department's power to veto mining permits, even if the mining would cause "substantial and irreparable harm" to the environment. That December, Bush and congressional Republicans passed an "economic-stimulus package" that proposed $2.4 billion worth of tax breaks, credits and loopholes for Chevron, Texaco, Enron and General Electric. The following February, the White House announced it would abandon regulations for three major pollutants -- mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
Early in the Bush administration, Vice President Cheney had solicited an industry wish list from the United States Energy Association, the lobbying arm for trade associations including the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Edison Institute. The USEA responded by providing 105 specific recommendations from its members for plundering our natural resources and polluting America's air and water. In a speech to the group in June 2002, Energy Secretary Abraham reported that the administration had already implemented three-quarters of the industry's recommendations and predicted the rest would pass through Congress shortly.
On August 27th, 2002 -- while most of America was heading off for a Labor Day weekend -- the administration announced that it would redefine carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming, so that it would no longer be considered a pollutant and would therefore not be subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The next day, the White House repealed the act's "new source review" provision, which requires companies to modernize pollution control when they modify their plants.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the White House rollback will cause 30,000 Americans to die prematurely each year. Although the regulation will probably be reversed in the courts, the damage will have been done, and power utilities such as Southern Co. will escape criminal prosecution. As soon as the new regulations were announced, John Pemberton, chief of staff to the EPA's assistant administrator for air, left the agency to work for Southern. The EPA's congressional office chief also left, to join Southern's lobbying shop, Bracewell, Patterson.
By summer 2003, the White House had become a virtual pi-ata for energy moguls. In August, the administration proposed limiting the authority of states to object to offshore-drilling decisions, and it ordered federal land managers across the West to ease environmental restrictions for oil and gas drilling in national forests. The White House also proposed removing federal protections for most American wetlands and streams. As an astounded Republican, Rep. Christopher Shays, told me, "It's almost like they want to alienate people who care about the environment, as if they believe that this will help them with their core."
EPA: From Bad to Worse
On August 30th, president bush nominated Utah's three-term Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt to replace his beleaguered EPA head, Christine Todd Whitman, who was driven from office, humiliated in even her paltry efforts to moderate the pillage. In October, Leavitt was confirmed by the Senate.
Like Gale Norton, Leavitt has a winning personality and a disastrous environmental record. Under his leadership, Utah tied for last as the state with the worst environmental enforcement record and ranked second-worst (behind Texas) for both air quality and toxic releases. As governor, Leavitt displayed the same contempt for science that has characterized the Bush administration. He fired more than seventy scientists employed by state agencies for producing studies that challenged his political agenda. He fired a state enforcement officer who penalized one of Leavitt's family fish farms for introducing whirling disease into Utah, devastating the state's wild-trout populations.
Leavitt has a penchant for backdoor deals to please corporate polluters. Last year he resurrected a frivolous and moribund Utah lawsuit against the Interior Department and then settled the suit behind closed doors without public involvement, stripping 6 million acres of wilderness protections. This track record does not reflect the independence, sense of stewardship and respect for science and law that most Americans have the right to expect in our nation's chief environmental guardian.
The Threat to Democracy
Generations of Americans will pay the Republican campaign debt to the energy industry with global instability, depleted national coffers and increased vulnerability to price shocks in the oil market.
They will also pay with reduced prosperity and quality of life at home. Pollution from power plants and traffic smog will continue to skyrocket. Carbon-dioxide emissions will aggravate global warming. Acid rain from Midwestern coal plants has already sterilized half the lakes in the Adirondacks and destroyed the forest cover in the high peaks of the Appalachian range up into Canada. The administration's attacks on science and the law have put something even greater at risk. Americans need to recognize that we are facing not just a threat to our environment but to our values, and to our democracy.
Growing up, I was taught that communism leads to dictatorship and capitalism to democracy. But as we've seen from the the Bush administration, the latter proposition does not always hold. While free markets tend to democratize a society, unfettered capitalism leads invariably to corporate control of government.
America's most visionary leaders have long warned against allowing corporate power to dominate the political landscape. In 1863, in the depths of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln lamented, "I have the Confederacy before me and the bankers behind me, and I fear the bankers most." Franklin Roosevelt echoed that sentiment when he warned that "the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any controlling power."
Today, more than ever, it is critical for American citizens to understand the difference between the free-market capitalism that made our country great and the corporate cronyism that is now corrupting our political process, strangling democracy and devouring our national treasures.
Corporate capitalists do not want free markets, they want dependable profits, and their surest route is to crush competition by controlling government. The rise of fascism across Europe in the 1930s offers many informative lessons on how corporate power can undermine a democracy. In Spain, Germany and Italy, industrialists allied themselves with right-wing leaders who used the provocation of terrorist attacks, continual wars, and invocations of patriotism and homeland security to tame the press, muzzle criticism by opponents and turn government over to corporate control. Those governments tapped industrial executives to run ministries and poured government money into corporate coffers with lucrative contracts to prosecute wars and build infrastructure. They encouraged friendly corporations to swallow media outlets, and they enriched the wealthiest classes, privatized the commons and pared down constitutional rights, creating short-term prosperity through pollution-based profits and constant wars. Benito Mussolini's inside view of this process led him to complain that "fascism should really be called 'corporatism.' "
While the European democracies unraveled into fascism, America confronted the same devastating Depression by reaffirming its democracy. It enacted minimum-wage and Social Security laws to foster a middle class, passed income taxes and anti-trust legislation to limit the power of corporations and the wealthy, and commissioned parks, public lands and museums to create employment and safeguard the commons.
The best way to judge the effectiveness of a democracy is to measure how it allocates the goods of the land: Does the government protect the commonwealth on behalf of all the community members, or does it allow wealth and political clout to steal the commons from the people?
Today, George W. Bush and his court are treating our country as a grab bag for the robber barons, doling out the commons to large polluters. Last year, as the calamitous rollbacks multiplied, the corporate-owned TV networks devoted less than four percent of their news minutes to environmental stories. If they knew the truth, most Americans would share my fury that this president is allowing his corporate cronies to steal America from our children.
(From RS 937, December 11, 2003)
For more information on the Bush administration's environmental actions, see The Bush Record from NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council
-- Anonymous, March 05, 2004
In your name by Marge Piercy
In your name, we have invaded come with planes, tanks and artillery into a country and wonder why they do not like us be proud
in your name we have bombed villages and cities leaving torn babies, the bloated bellies of their mothers, a little boy crying for his father who lies under his broken house the smashed arms of teenagers in the sunbaked streets every death creates a warrior be proud
In your name we have taken men and women from their homes in the afternoon breaking down their doors in the night waking them to the rattle of weapons leaving their children weeping with fear be proud
in your name we have taken those we suspect because they were in the wrong place or because someone who hated them gave their names or because a soldier didn't like the way they stared at him put them in cells and strung them up like slaughtered cattle stripped their clothes and mocked them naked ran electricity through their tender parts set dogs to rip their flesh in your name be proud
This is who you are becoming. There is none other but you sanctioning this.
In your name young boys from Newark and Sandusky are shot at by people who live in the place they have been marched to. In your name a young woman from Detroit is disemboweled by a bomb. In your name the sons of out of work miners step on land mines. In your name their bodies are shipped home. In your name fathers return to their children maimed and blind, their brains seared.
This is who you are in Athens or in Lima not Ohio when people glare at you in the street. This is the person your passport identifies, the one who allows the order to be given for blood to be mixed with sand for bones to be mixed with mud
In your name is all this being carried out right now as we sit here, as we speak, as we sleep. Every day we do not act, we are permitting. Every day we do not say no, we all say yes be proud.
-- Anonymous, September 01, 2004
On a lighter note........didja hear today's Bushism? My sides hurt!
I have only one word: COCAINE!
"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."*Sept. 6, 2004
-- Anonymous, September 07, 2004
More ways this wonderful administration will leave the world a better place for our children.......
Bring on the plague years The last thing the world needs right now is a global bioweapons race. Yet President Bush seems determined to start one.
- - - - - - - - - - - - By Alan H. Goldstein and Kate Braverman
Oct. 28, 2004 | Historians joke that those who remember the past are also condemned to repeat it. On Dec. 28, 1984, President Ronald Reagan had a vision to eliminate nuclear terror from the skies of America. His vision was the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars." Reagan said, "Through the SDI research program, I have called upon the great scientific talents of our country to turn to the cause of strengthening world peace by rendering ballistic missiles impotent and obsolete."
The Great Communicator envisioned an umbrella in the sky that would protect America from nuclear missiles. The Strategic Defense Initiative, with its estimated price tag of $50 billion to $100 billion in 1984 dollars, was never implemented. A major argument against SDI was that is violated the spirit, if not the exact terms, of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT). By building a defensive system that made existing offensive systems obsolete, we would force the Soviet Union to generate a next generation of offensive weapons.
This same argument can be applied to the Bush administration's strategic biodefense initiative. Unfortunately, the American scientific community is apparently too terrified to mention it. As a result, American science is now leading the way into the next global arms race in bioweapons.
No one talks much about ICBM attacks any more. It is beyond irony that 20 years later, our fear of nuclear attack is focused almost entirely on a low-tech dirty bomb generally depicted as a suitcase containing some plutonium and a couple of sticks of dynamite. The moral of the story is clear: Technology does not equal security. Yet here we go again. Last year President Bush ordained Project Bioshield to protect us from dangers yet to be identified. In 2005 the United States will begin in earnest to build the "Star Wars" technology for this strategic biodefense initiative. The same xenophobic faith-based agenda that propelled us into Iraq has led this administration to declare war on medical research. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Our country has never been attacked by biological agents. Yet the president has decreed "biodefense" to be America's top R&D priority.
How did we get here? How did biodefense become the R&D priority No. 1 for the United States? Why are we pushing the envelope to create sixth-generation countermeasures when there is no evidence that terrorists have even second-generation bioweapons? The answer is that our president is convinced that the fate of the free world is balanced on a single vial of doomsday microbes. And, as we know, once George W. Bush has made a decision, there is no turning back. The tragic result is that America is conducting the wrong research for the wrong reasons on the wrong diseases.
But beneath the monumental waste of resources, something far more horrible has been created. By turning our immense R&D machine toward the development of "biodefense" systems, Bush has declared that America intends to unilaterally explore the bioweapons potential of every tool in our vast technology arsenal. Our president justifies himself as a wartime leader acting in defense of our country. But the bleak reality is that the world sees America in relentless pursuit of bioweapons technology. Their reasoning is simple and correct: It is not possible to create an ultra-sophisticated biodefense network without the offensive systems to test it. Given America's isolationism and policy of preemptive warfare, those who fear us most will be compelled to compete. The result will be a new arms race ultimately dwarfing the nuclear horror of the Cold War.
The foundation for this new policy was presented in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, in which he said, "It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
This policy, worthy of Dr. Strangelove himself, is cosmically circular. If, in fact, our enemies can manufacture biologicals so deadly that one vial will cause mass destruction, then a fail-safe defense is impossible. In a rational, fact-based world such a policy would be viewed as a ghastly mistake, a breakdown of logic. But our president uses his "gut" instead of logic ... and he does not make mistakes. He has a pathologically uncomplicated vision that we are under attack by evildoers armed with the most sophisticated bioweapons imaginable. He knows that to be saved, our nation must be rendered "in-vial-ate," and he has issued directives to make it so.
Billions of dollars have been consigned to convert our national borders into filtering systems capable of withstanding Class 4 biohazards and beyond. Bush demands that we prepare for everything from salmonella-based attacks on the nation's salad bars to the release of genetically engineered Ebola virus in Grand Central Station. These policies are the emperor's new clothes, and his arrogant certainty makes him impermeable to a reality check. In fact, no country has the capability to generate the advanced bioweapons we are frenetically devising countermeasures for. As for making America "in-vial-ate," we can't even keep thousands of illegal aliens, human beings substantially larger than microbes, from crossing our borders with impunity every week.
Bioweapons fill us with bottomless anxiety precisely because we can't know what will be unleashed, what its symptoms will be, or how it will be disseminated: through the air, in our drinking water, in our food. We can't know how fast it will spread or how it will kill. The molecular biology revolution has given humans the ability to move genes beyond their evolutionary borders. This has taken the theory of biowarfare into a whole new dimension, pulling national security analysts along with it. In the age of biotechnology, gaming bioterror attacks poses the same problem as defining infinity. You can always add one more zero to any number, and you can always add one more mutation to any organism's genome. Without rational limits to these war games, we enter an endless maze of pure bioterror hysteria.
The full extent to which biodefense has infected our government's thinking can only be appreciated by getting up close and personal with the entire federal R&D apparatus. Such a view was on display recently at a conference on federal biodefense held near Washington. At this meeting, it became clear that rational limits were definitely not on the agenda. The take-home message was that federal researchers have been ordered to make bioterror priority No. 1. Paranoid hallucination is now policy, forcing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to become a subcontractor to the Department of Homeland Security. The contract is called Project Bioshield, a $5.6 billion purchase order that converts the world's premier medical research facility into a factory churning out countermeasures for an array of bio-hypotheticals. Other federal agencies, from DARPA to the EPA, have received similar marching orders. Even the USDA has been mandated to work on agro-terror. The astronomical budget numbers attached to these mandates have shaken the entire life sciences research community to its very foundation.
The presentations at last week's federal biodefense meeting moved seamlessly to connect the dots between serious science and surreal scenarios. Lawrence Kerr, the assistant director for Homeland and National Security at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) summarized the president's manifesto, "Biodefense for the 21st Century."
The document is a case study in hubris, beginning with its "Pillars of Our Biodefense Program." The pillar of "threat awareness" requires us to "anticipate and prepare for novel or genetically engineered biological threat agents." Such a task would easily consume the entire federal R&D budget. But this is only the beginning. In a country where tens of millions lack basic health insurance, the White House offers us a comprehensive bioterror package that includes three initiatives: Biowatch, Biosense and Bioshield. Like Bioshield, the Biowatch and Biosense programs start with the assumption that the enemy has or will obtain highly advanced biological weapons of mass destruction. But when Kerr begins to discuss "dual-use biological research" the sense of a fantasy being carved into stone becomes overwhelming.
The enemy, it seems, may very well be us. The screen behind Kerr showed a collage of research publications in the world's most prestigious journals: Americans pushing back the frontiers of science. But, with biodefense as priority No. 1, the message from the White House is that university researchers need to recognize that their work could pose a threat to public health or national security. The biological community, we are informed, lacks an ethos of security. Given that 36,000 people died from the flu last year while anthrax (from an unknown source) has claimed a grand total of five lives, one must wonder if the White House lacks an ethos of reality.
As the presentations continued, the dots became harder to connect. We will construct "immune buildings" that sample the air every two minutes (a quarter-million times a year) and respond to a single weaponized spore by unleashing laser-guided micromachines that spew synthetic antibodies. We will re-glaze Washington and New York City with window panes that change color upon contact with airborne bioterror agents. We will develop long-range sensors that can follow and analyze clouds to determine if they are filled with pathogens. We will nanofabricate self-cleaning surfaces capable of removing every last microorganism and virus particle. These are phantasmagorical juxtapositions for a nation already plagued by decaying infrastructure and an array of other problems awaiting even low- technology solutions. Can we justify the construction of "immune buildings" when many of our schools, highways and bridges are literally falling down? Should we be re-glazing office buildings with biosensor windows when millions live in substandard housing? Should we develop materials that decontaminate theoretical bioweapons when we cannot rid our environment of common but deadly pollutants?
Based on the mandate imposed by Bush's "Biodefense for the 21st Century," the answer is unequivocally yes. We will do it, and at any cost. Analysts estimate that NIH's real budget will decrease by 6 percent over the next five years, except in biodefense, where it may continue to increase by as much as 20 percent a year. An NIH official informs us that "when faced with a threat, we must understand it down to the molecular level." For those of us who are caught outside our "immune buildings" during an attack, that means Project Bioshield to the rescue. Biodefense research of the 21st century will give us elaborate strategies to triage victims on-site using portable gene scanners. First-responders will infuse us with the precise dose of vaccine to counter the enemy's cocktail of toxins and pathogens. Meanwhile the hot zone will be analyzed by forensic scientists specially trained and equipped to deal with the scene of a bioweapons attack. Since we can't touch surfaces contaminated with infectious agents, fluorescent laser scanners will project remote holographic reproductions of the original weapon, complete with fingerprints. Meanwhile, using breakthroughs in "synthetic biology," the infectious agent itself will be reconstructed by computer simulation. Its genome will be fully sequenced in milliseconds and compared with a worldwide database that contains all known pathogens, their laboratories of origin, even the names of the scientists who developed them.
Back in the real world, we don't even possess a system for X-raying the cargo of our commercial airplanes. Budget dollars will be found for these futuristic projects even though we can't guarantee a sufficient stock of flu vaccine for our children and seniors. Blueprints already exist for the most sophisticated biomedical research laboratories on earth. We will build them to test our new "countermeasures" even as unfunded stem cell researchers flee the country to find laboratories to work in.
The Conference on Federal Biodefense had a take-home message of Orwellian majesty: Americans will finally get universal healthcare, but only if they are exposed to a bioterror attack.
This diversion of resources will inevitably delay cures for diseases that already afflict millions of our family members and friends each year. But this policy becomes even more insidious once we understand that the most probable attack scenarios involve biological agents available right here in the United States. The clear and present danger lies not with a tiny high-tech vial smuggled in from a clandestine genetic engineering facility but from the national paralysis that will ensue when a low-tech concoction sets off our frenetically overamped security apparatus. Using common household items and samples available literally underfoot, any motivated high school student could produce enough material to place the entire country on red alert. Every terrorist organization on the planet knows this. So it is irrationally paranoid for America to spend tens of billions of taxpayer dollars over the next decade in a futile attempt to make America's borders "in-vial-ate."
There is a surreal immorality at every level in the subversion of what could and should rightly be allocated toward medical research. The devastation caused by this cruel hoax will far exceed the dreams of even the most fanatical bioterrorist. Project Bioshield, the Homeland Security Biological Defense Test Bed and their ilk are -- like so much of the Bush Doctrine -- founded on denial and delusion. This administration is willing to imperil ts own citizens to provide the deceptive illusion of safety. But beyond this human tragedy -- far, far beyond it -- is the probability that our unilateral pursuit of the most advanced countermeasures will set off a new round of global bioweapons development. The result will be arsenals of unimaginable destructive capacity.
In his recent New York Times Magazine article, Ron Suskind describes a meeting with a senior advisor to Bush who considered Suskind to be "in the reality-based community." This advisor went on to explain how things worked in the Bush White House. His bottom line: "We're an Empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." The title of this article is "Without a Doubt," but the president's biodefense policy shows the world nothing but doubt -- doubt and bottomless fear. "Biodefense for the 21st Century" is driven by the single concept that America's enemies have, or can obtain, technology every bit as powerful as ours. Rather than an empire that creates the world's reality, our posture is supremely defensive and xenophobic.
9/11 gave Bush post-traumatic stress syndrome. His emotional disturbance is now setting America's R&D policy for the future. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby millions may die, but not from the actions of others. This policy is the distillation of a scientifically ignorant man, isolated from the fundamental intellectual ideas of our time and haunted by ghosts. It's Halloween in D.C., now and indefinitely. Terror, not terrorism, has become the transcendent issue of our time. It's a season of hallucinatory landscapes, buzzwords chanted like magic spells above a multibillion- dollar cauldron where, in the name of national security, America is creating a genetically engineered witch's brew to poison the planet.
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About the writer Alan H. Goldstein is the director of the Biomedical Materials Engineering Science Program at Alfred University in New York. The ideas stated here reflect the personal views of the author. They are in no way related to his professional affiliation with Alfred University.
Kate Braverman publishes novels, short stories and essays.
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