Party of Corruption and Cronyism"
Monday, March 14, 2005
JOHN BOLTON'S NOT A LOCK FOR AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS
By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Progressives around the world were dismayed this past week when the president announced the appointment of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, who had been Undersecretary of State for Arms Control during the president's first term in office - the man responsible for taking the United States out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and for making nonproliferation negotiations with North Korea and Iran more difficult with his hardline policies - had been thought to have lost out when Rice did not promote him to Deputy Secretary of State. There were even those who thought his "sidelining" might mean that the power of the neocons within the Bush Administration was on the wane. Thus, the sudden announcement - after several weeks of the President and his Secretaries of State and Defense having "played nice" with allies around the world - was definitely a bucket of cold water in the faces of those who thought George W. Bush might become more moderate in his dealing with the world.
As several writers have pointed out, Bolton has been a long-term foe of the United Nations, a perfect example of the old John Birch Society cry, "Get the U.S. out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the U.S."
In the early 1990s, Bolton stated, "If I were redoing the security council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."
As Sidney Blumenthal pointed out in The Guardian, "Bolton is an extraordinary combination of political operator and ideologue. He began his career as a cog in the machine of Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina... Bolton is often called a neoconservative, but he is more their ally, implementer and agent. His roots are in Helms's Dixiecrat Republicanism, not the neocons' airy Trotskyism or Straussianism."
Harry Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson called the unilateralists and McCarthyites of the early Cold War "primitives." Bolton is the modern version of the "primitives," and he could be properly classified a "neoprimitive." He was Colin Powell's enemy within. In 2001, he forced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, destroyed a protocol on enforcing the biological weapons convention, scuttled the nuclear test ban treaty and the UN conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. And he was the leading force behind the renunciation of our signature to the 1998 Rome statute creating the International Criminal Court. He described sending his letter notifying the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, of American withdrawal from the treaty as "the happiest moment of my government service".
In 1999, at the outset of American involvement in Kosovo, Bolton managed to make even an idiot like Bill O'Reilly look like a thoughtful commentator when he visited the "The O'Reilly Factor":
O'REILLY: And I find it difficult to stand by and watch another Cambodia, another Rwanda, unfold. And I believe the United States has a responsibility here.
BOLTON: Let me ask you this, Mr. O'Reilly. How many dead Americans is it worth to you to stop the brutality?
O'REILLY: I don't think I would quantify that because...
BOLTON: I think you have to quantify it. I think if you don't answer that question...
O'REILLY: ... I think if you're going to be a superpower...
BOLTON: ... you're ducking the key point that the commander in chief has to decide upon before putting American troops into a combat situation. We are now at war with Serbia. And the president has to be able to justify to himself and to the American people that Americans are about to die, or may well die, for a certain specific American interest.
O'REILLY: ... I do not believe in standing by while people are slaughtered.
BOLTON: ... Our foreign policy should support American interests. Let the rest of the world support the rest of the world's interests.
As Steve Clemons, President of the New America Foundation put it, "This debate about John Bolton is not just about him, or the United Nations -- it is about restoring a sense of integrity and common purpose among the great nations of the world and restoring U.S. leadership after the debacle that preceded the Iraq War."
The Bush Administration knows that Bolton is controversial, to say the least. They moved this past week to try and get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to fast-track the confirmation process for Bolton. This ran into a roadblock when Senator Richard D. Lugar, Chairman of the Committee, refused to allow the confirmation process to move forward this coming week. With the Senate and House set to go on a two week Spring Recess this coming Friday, March 18, it means the Bolton nomination hearings will not happen before the second week in April at the earliest.
This means there is still time to derail this terrible nomination. Phone calls from voters to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee this past week were responsible for derailing the fast-track strategy the White House was banking on.
Now we need to tell all the members of the Senate that we the people want someone at the United Nations who will actually take steps to improve our relations with the rest of the world, not make them worse. The President doesn't have to nominate a UN true believer. There are any number of Republicans with solid backgrounds who have some skepticism over the operations of the United Nations - and this is not a bad thing - who believe in the value of the organization and the possibilities of improving America's position in the world through our work with the UN.
Call your Senator! E-mail them at email@example.com - let them hear from you.
Call the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Majority Staff at 202-224-4651 and tell them you want to see another Republican nominated to this important position.
We can win this one. Bolton is so far out of the mainstream, so far to the radical right, that even Republicans are worried by this nomination.
Steve Clemons published a sample letter at his blog, The Washington Note
which can give good guidance as to the tone to take and the points to make. I am quoting it here in full:
Dear Senator Lugar:
You are the kind of outstanding citizen committed to principled American leadership in the world that our Ambassador to the United Nations should also exemplify.
Many of your fans and those who feel that America must make some credible efforts at rebuilding bridges with parts of the world that have traditionally been friends and allies are hopeful that America will begin demonstrating fresh and revitalized, principled global leadership. President Bush's nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations inflames world opinion and may undermine America's efforts to constructively assist in UN reform efforts.
John Bolton has served in government a long time and deserves a fair hearing -- but that hearing must be fair for those who have serious questions and doubts about his candidacy.
Please do the right thing. The fair and balanced thing to do is give advocates and skeptics a reasonable amount of time to make their case or lodge their concerns.
at 11:20 PM EST
Monday, March 7, 2005
THE COMING "NUCLEAR WAR" IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE
By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Recently, the Republicans have been cranking up The Mighty Wurlitzer, portraying Democrats as "obstructionists" bent on preventing the Republicans in the House and Senate from enacting the President's mandate. This is particularly true with regard to judicial nominations, as can be seen in the fact that the President has recently renominated all 20 of his judicial nominees who were filibustered in the Senate during the last Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has made public threats to exercise "the nuclear option" if the Democrats attempt to mount a filibuster against any of the nominees this time around. For those who have been living on Mars during the past year, the "nuclear option" involves the Majority Leader requesting a parliamentary ruling from the Senate President Pro-Tem (Vice-President Cheney)regarding the traditional rule that 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture and cut off a filibuster and changing that to a simple majority of 51. With a Republican majority in the Senate of 55 members, this would effectively end any power by the minority to effect policy and completely solidify total Republican domination of the government.
Senate Democrats have threatened that if this comes to pass they will bring business in the Senate to a halt, with demands for roll call votes on every item coming before the Senate and other parliamentary maneuvers to end collaboration between the parties and any progress on legislation.
On Sunday, February 7, Senator Frist invoked the threat of "going nuclear" when questioned about the President's coming submission of judicial nominees. This was followed by the re-submission of the 20 whose nominations had been blocked in the last Congress, with Senate Judiciary Chairman Alan Spector demonstrating his newfound lapdog status with an announcement that he would schedule the nominees for committee votes at the earliest opportunity, without additional hearings.
It appears now that the Republican leadership has reconsidered their strategy. At present, it appears they have decided to spend the month they have before the Senate takes its two week Spring Recess on March 18 pushing through their prize legislation revising tort law, class action lawsuits regarding asbestos, and bankruptcy law, thus waiting until they return at the end of March to proceed with the possibility of nuclear warfare.
The nominee who it still seems will be the first to have his re-nomination brought before the committee is William G. Myers III, formerly Solicitor - the top lawyer - at the Interior Department, for a seat on the 9th District Court of Appeals. Myers saw his nomination filibustered in 2004 after 180 environmental, Native American and civil rights organizations came out against his record as a private lawyer representing mining, grazing and development interests in the west, and his actions as Solicitor at Interior between 2001-03 demonstrated his hostility to environmental and tribal concerns were sufficient to make it clear he would not be an impartial judge. These concerns are particularly important because the 9th Circuit considers more environmental cases than any other appeals court.
It now appears that Mr. Myers was "less than forthcoming" during the hearings on his nomination last year, when he was questioned by Senator Durbin about an event known as The Robbins Settlement and replied, "I was not involved in the negotiations or discussions of that settlement, other than to tell a subordinate attorney that he had authority to try to settle that case."
In fact, in light of a new report by Earl Devaney, the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior, it appears that William G. Myers III could be open to indictment on a charge of lying to Congress, given that the report specifically states that Myers was in fact personally briefed on the Robbins settlement and directed the attorneys who handled the final negotiation. The report charges that as Solicitor, Myers circumvented normal negotiation processes, kept the Bureau of Land Management out of the negotiations, ignored concerns about the settlement raised by the Justice Department, and engaged in "an inappropriate level of programmatic involvement" in the settlement talks.
For those unfamiliar with The Robbins Settlement, allow me to educate you.
Harvey Frank Robbins is a Wyoming rancher accused of violating a number of federal grazing laws. Specifically, Robbins was accused by the Bureau of Land Management in 2000 of sixteen repeated cases of trespassing his cattle on federal land, resulting in overgrazing. In the arid west, this is a Big Problem, because over-grazing results in increased soil erosion which cannot easily be abated or repaired.
Robbins responded with a RICO lawsuit against the BLM employees who brought the charges against him, alleging they had violated federal racketeering law in their dealings with him. These kinds of lawsuits are called SLAPP suits, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Policy, in which environmentalists or other interested parties or government employees, are individually sued for large sums, forcing them to obtain legal counsel at personal expense and exposing them to a horrendous judgement. The defendants so sued soon learn that if they drop whatever action it is they have taken against the plaintiff that the suit against them will be dropped. These have been increasingly used by developers against government employees who have to approve their proposed development plans, and one such suit is currently in the news here in California with an Irvine developer who wants to destroy eagle habitat at Big Bear Lake to build vacation homes accusing the Fish and Wildlife employees who reviewed his Environmental Impact Report negatively of attempting to destroy his project in order to increase the value of their own homes in the area. Mr. Robbins' suit against the BLM employees alleged a conspiracy on their part to drive him out of business by denying him access to grazing land.
In 2001, with the SLAPP suit in federal court in Wyoming and the BLM attempting to negotiate a settlement with Robbins, he made a trip to Washington to complain to senior Interior Department officials about the unfair treatment he was receiving from the local BLM office.
According to the Inspector General's report, after that Myers assumed authority in the negotiations. The local BLM office - the people who were familiar with the facts of the case - were cut out of the negotiations, which were concluded in 2002. In that settlement, Robbins was excused from the 16 trespassing violations, and it was further specified that only the Director of the Bureau of Land Management could cite him for future violations, not the local BLM office in Worland or the state office in Cheyenne, as would be the normal situation.
Robbins was additionally given a new grazing allotment, "additional flexibility" over certain federal lands, rights of way across federal lands, and a special recreational permit to run a dude ranch.
The settlement that Myers negotiated was opposed by the United States Attorney's office for Wyoming and the regional managers of the Bureau of Land Management, who said it was inappropriate for an individual repeatedly accused of these violations to not only be let off but given additional rights, since this would undermine enforcement of federal range management laws.
Thomas B. Roberts, the Assistant United States Attorney who was representing the BLM employees sued by Robbins under the RICO Act advised attorneys working for Myers that any settlement with Robbins should include a requirement that he drop his suit. Roberts' advice was rejected and he refused to sign off on the settlement.
In January 2004, the Department of the Interior voided the settlement, stating that Robbins had violated its terms. Robbins responded with another suit against the agency, which is also now in the federal court in Cheyenne along with the original RICO suit.
When Senator Spector was informed of the President's plan to renominate the filibustered appointments, he told Human Events that he did not plan any hearings for the renominated candidates on the grounds they had already undergone examination by the Judiciary Committee. He did leave himself an out with the statement that "there would have to be an exceptional circumstance that would require an additional hearing."
Following the initial news of the Inspector General's report, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), EarthJustice and Community Rights Counsel have asked Spector to hold further hearings on Myers because of the information in the report. An aide to Spector has announced there would be additional hearings in early March in an effort "to improve the atmosphere" on the committee.
With the Senate Republican Leadership having now made the strategic determination that "pushing the button" prior to Spring Recess is a bad choice, it appears that these hearings on Myers will not happen at the earliest until the first week in April.
The Democrats and their allies have a month to see if they can't make the Republicans take reality into consideration in the judicial approval process. Even the Far Right has to consider being caught out lying to Congress as a bar to further public service. But never doubt the Right‛s ability to delude themselves that the report is just another "liberal plot" to keep good honest judges who will only interpret the law, not make the law, off the nation's courts.
On Thursday, February 24, Senator Arlen Spector attempted to demonstrate he has regained his independence as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee by publicly stating his opposition to conservative attempts to use "the nuclear option," stating that "I'm going to exercise every last ounce of my energy to solve this problem without the nuclear option." He then offered as his strategy to break the logjam and promote cooperation a plan to hold hearings on William G. Myers III, saying he believed that Myers has more support among Democrats than the other 20 nominees, noting that he was adopting an argument promoted by Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who has stated there should be a variety of political viewpoints among federal judges on the same bench. He concluded by saying, "The Ninth Circuit is a very liberal circuit. I think that William Myers would give some balance to the Ninth Circuit."
So tell me, Senator Spector, does consenting to the appointment of a perjurer provide "diversity" on a Federal Appeals Court?
If the Senate Democrats are willing to support the appointment of a perjurer to the federal courts, then it doesn't matter whether the Republicans exercise the "nuclear option" or not.
There is perhaps a month before any vote will be held on the appointment of William G. Myers III. It is time for the Democratic grass roots to let the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee know that this idea is completely, totally, and absolutely unacceptable.
at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, March 7, 2005 12:55 AM EST
THE IRONY OF COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM
By Ryan Oddey
I have always been a fan of irony, especially in the political arena. The Republican Party has long been a source of irony, and I would probably find it funnier if this behavior did not have such a negative effect on our nation. For me, the two biggest Republican ideals that reek of hypocrisy and irony are the GOP claims of "fiscal responsibility" and "compassionate conservatism." Although President Bush and other claim to be compassionate and fiscally responsible, the actions of the Republican Party show that nothing is further from the truth.
Although it is looking less likely that the Bush plan for Social Security will ever be passed, America is still in danger of the White House deceiving the public in order to get what they want. For example, President Bush plans on asking congress for an addition $80 Billion dollars that will be used to conduct more military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes on top of the $25 billion dollars of emergency funding that is already approved for the current fiscal year.
Asking congress for an additional $80 Billion dollars in funding is just the tip of the iceberg. It is no secret that Bush and his advisors totally underestimated the cost of going to war with Iraq. The worst part of this lack of planning comes down on the soldiers, who have to look through landfills and scrap yards searching for any additional body armor. American men and women have died because President Bush and his administration failed to give our soldiers enough armor to protect themselves and the vehicles they use. We will never know how many soldiers died as a direct result of a lack of protective gear but one thing is for certain, even one death caused by a lack of preparation and/or honesty by the Bush administration is one to many. Is this Bush's idea of "compassionate conservatism"?
Now, the Republican majority in congress will have to decide if they should approve Bush's request for additional spending in the Middle East. Those who are against the additional funding will be looked upon as anti-soldier, because they are denying money that would be used, hopefully, to make our military operations safer. Those who approve the funding will have to justify why other programs are losing money in order to cover up for President Bush's lack of preparedness. We have already learned that Bush plans on reducing the amount of money Medicare will receive this year. With the current administrations stance against raising taxes, more programs will face budget cuts. Education, homeland defense, and other health care programs will continue to suffer under the Bush administration. Maybe this is Bush's idea of "compassionate conservatism".
The recent inauguration cost the city of Washington DC over $17 million dollars in security costs alone. In spite of the soldiers who are fighting a war overseas, the President still managed to have a clear enough conscious to celebrate his reelection with fancy parties, music superstars, and candlelight dinners. Ironically, it's the taxpayer who paid for a good portion of this inaugural ball, one that was called the "least public" inauguration on record. I remember when all these Right Wingers questioned Bill Clinton's moral integrity, where are all these people now when Bush is throwing an extravagant party paid for by the public while the sons and daughters of America are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan? . Where is the moral responsibility, as well as the fiscal responsibility, of planning a multi-million dollar inauguration while our soldiers die because they do not have enough protective equipment? Where are the people who praised Bush as being the "people's president" when his inauguration was less public then Richard Nixon's second inauguration? The hypocrisy of people on the right who blasted Bill Clinton for his moral being yet refuse to question the ideology of President Bush is enough to induce nausea. Ironically, its these same hypocrites that call the Republican Party the party of fiscal responsibility.
A fiscally responsible president would have had an inauguration that was not the most expensive in history. The $17 million dollars that Washington DC had to spend on the Bush victory party could have gone to much better things. An additional $17 million dollars would mean more money for education, more money for health and fire services, and more for the upkeep of necessary programs such as public transportation. President Bush and the organizers of the inaugural ball felt that their party was worth taking $17 million dollars from other programs and projects. This decision is not just a lapse in fiscal judgement, it is a loss of moral judgement as well as a fine example of "compassionate conservatism" at its best.
We saw how fiscally irresponsible Bush was during his first four years in office. Bush promised Tax cuts upon his "election" in 2000 and he did so in his first year in office. What Bush failed to point out was that although he cut taxes, he did not cut government spending to the same degree. The result of this was an increase in the budget deficit. Now, someone who was fiscally responsible would solve this problem by cutting the amount of funding programs received, or raising taxes. The Bush Administration decided it would be better to make the budget deficit larger, and cut taxes even further. Paul O'Neill, Bush's Treasury Secretary during part of his first term, advised the administration against the tax cuts. When O'Neill suggested the administration be fiscally responsible by not cutting taxes Vice President Cheney said "You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the midterm elections, this is our due." Shortly after this exchange President Bush called Paul O'Neill and asked for his resignation. The irony here, is that the supposed party of fiscal responsibility fired one of its own for attempting to get Bush to practice what he preached. I wonder what Paul O'Neill thinks about "compassionate conservatism."
"Compassionate conservatism" was born as an idea to help George W. Bush win the Republican Nomination, and then the presidency, in 2000. Karl Rove, the power-that-is in the Bush Administration, who planned the 2000 campaign decided to learn from the failures of George H.W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, and others
In theory, "compassionate conservatism"involves promoting an agenda that stresses values such as education, healthcare, and other programs that help Americans lead a better life. In reality, the Bush policies have resulted budget cuts that have crippled or outright eliminated the programs many Americans depend on.
The evidence of Bush's lack of compassion can be seen when we take a look into the recent past. In 2000, when Bush accepted the GOP nomination for President, he gave a speech about a juvenile delinquent Johnny Demon. He spoke about how Johnny asked if there was any hope for him once he completed his sentence, and talked about how our nation is responsible for confronting the problems people like Johnny Demon faced. Candidate Bush spoke of tearing down the wall that stands between the rich and the poor, and develop a nation that gives everyone a fair chance. The crowd at the GOP convention applauded wildly as Bush laid out his example of "compassionate conservatism."
As President George W. Bush begins his second term, the story of Johnny Demon exemplifies much of the Bush presidency. National Public Radio recently reported that Johnny Demon had turned 21 in April, 2004, and was without a job or a permanent home. Furthermore, he had no idea that Bush had even used his name in the acceptance speech back in 2000. I wonder if the audience at that GOP convention back in 2000 would still applaud as wildly, now that the world knows how the last few years have gone for Johnny Demon. This story goes beyond irony, and dips into the pool of despair.
Unfortunately, Johnny Demon isn't the only person who "compassionate conservatism" forgot. Although some would say that the Bush tax cuts during his first term offered some compassion, we should not forget that because of those tax cuts, numerous domestic programs saw their government funding reduced. Furthermore, the deficit is larger than it has ever been and many crucial programs are in trouble. If this is Bush's idea of compassion I would hate to see what he would do if he got angry.
If there is one group that has reaped the rewards of "compassionate conservatism", it is the upper class - the top one percent of tax payers. They were the ones who benefitted most from the Bush tax cuts. Furthermore, these wealthy people do not need or use programs like Medicare and thus they do not feel the effects when our domestic programs go to hell. The wealthy will never depend on a Social Security check to pay the bills. The wealthy will never need the government to help provide food for their children.
The nation has elected a leader who talks a good game, but when it comes the time to back up his words, he fails the American people.
Many Bush supporters are from rural America. One would think, that Bush would at least show compassion to his own voting constituency. Yet, in the latest budget proposal, the president has suggested that we reduce the amount of money the government gives to assist farmers. That's not how I would say thank you.
Rather than show compassion to the working people who re-elected him, Bush would rather give the wealthy more advantages.
The current Social Security payroll tax only taxes the first $90,000 of income. Anything you make over that is not taxed for Social Security. That means - if you made $90,000 last year, you are going to put the same amount into Social Security as people like Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and others who have more money than they would ever need. That isn't even fair, let alone compassionate.
Everyone should pay their far share of taxes, based on the concept of a graduated tax that takes into consideration the ability to pay. We can go back and forth on if there is a Social Security crisis or not, but what cannot be disputed is the fact that Social Security would be much better off if everyone paid their fair share of Social Security tax. Rather than propose a plan to eliminate the $90,000 dollar limit for Social Security tax, the President would rather roll the dice on a chance at privatization. Every nation that has tried a plan similar to this has seen results that range from bad to disastrous.
Other groups to feel the brunt of compassionate conservatism include the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, and the Veterans Administration. It is nothing less than appalling that a person who has no problem sending men and women to Iraq under false pretenses also has no shame when it comes to cutting veteran programs.
The Republican Party claims to be the party of fiscal responsibility, yet the Bush Administration has a history of financial mismanagement. The Republican Party claims to practice "compassionate conservatism" yet they continue to cut the programs many Americans depend on to survive. In spite of all this, the Republican Party still claims to be the party of values.
I guess the GOP likes irony a lot more than I do.
at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, March 7, 2005 12:54 AM EST
By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Republicans like to point out that the first great conservationist to put his views about the environment and our will to save it into political action was Theodore Roosevelt. They neglect to mention that T.R. was detested by Mark Hanna, the Republican strategist most admired by Karl Rove. The Republican Right fought Roosevelt tooth and nail and breathed a sigh of relief when he chose not to run for re-election in 1908. They so detested him that my grandfather, a loyal Republican operative in Johnstown, Pennsylvania - was cast out for supporting T.R.'s 1912 comeback attempt. "The more things change, the more they remain the same," - today's GOP enforces ideological party loyalty against moderate and progressive Republicans and policies.
I recently ran across a textbook from 30 years ago, when I was working on an MPA degree in Environmental Management. It was the infamous "The Limits to Growth," published by the Club of Rome. The book was fiercely attacked for forecasting that global climate change would have an adverse impact on civilization, an end to limitless oil reserves and perhaps the end of oil itself, long-term problems associated with the storage of nuclear waste, and over-population. The funny thing is, all those problems are still problems, each more obvious than it was then.
Global warming is now considered a demonstrated fact by most scientists armed with the facts, yet the United States refuses to take part in any multi-national initiatives to fight this.
It is mainstream news that within a few decades, we will pump more oil than we discover replacements for. India and China - which didn't figure in the consumption statistics 30 years ago - exacerbate those figures as they compete for oil and China produces nearly as many SUVs as does the United States.
When the trans-Alaska pipeline was built, it was predicted by those defending the use of tankers to transport oil that there would be one accident in 20 years. The Exxon Valdez oil spill came almost 20 years to the day after that prediction. Prince William Sound has still not recovered, and our "national energy plan" is to increase production on the Alaskan North Slope.
We still have no storage for nuclear waste that will be dangerous for a half-life longer than recorded human history.
Last November, the head of the EPA said Bush's re-election was a mandate to implement the president's environmental policies. These include:
Revision of the Clean Air Act to rely on "voluntary" cleanup by industry, relaxing pollution limits on ozone, elimination of vehicle tailpipe inspections, lowering pollution standards for cars, SUVs and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment, end all new-source review suits against coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies.
Revision of the Clean Water Act to increase allowable pollution including a complete end to monitoring mercury.
Revision of the Endangered Species Act to make economic impacts on human activities a higher priority, making it more difficult to list a species and easier to de-list a species.
Revision of the National Environmental Policy Act to limit challenges to Environmental Impact Statements, and limiting the cases in which an EIS is required.
Changes to international audit law to allow corporations to keep information about environmental problems secret. Restriction of class-action lawsuits for asbestos claims, even as Halliburton is shown to know its W.R. Grace subsidiary hid facts about pollution from asbestos mining in Montana that had an adverse effect their workers and families, and the surrounding community.
A national energy policy opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increased drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America, as well as changes to wilderness protection regulations of the BLM which will result in the last clean air in America - in northeastern Wyoming - being dirtier than the air I breathe in Los Angeles as drilling is increased by 1,000 percent.
One has to ask, why?
Bill Moyers recently described what he sees as the major problem we face at present: "One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington... Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts."
Writing at Grist magazine online in October 2004, reporter Glenn Scherer states:
"Forty-five senators and 186 representatives in 2003 earned 80- to 100-percent approval ratings from the nation's three most influential Christian right advocacy groups -- the Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. Many of those same lawmakers also got flunking grades -- less than 10 percent, on average -- from the League of Conservation Voters last year."
"Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming Apocalypse."
"We are not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. The 231 legislators (all but five of them Republicans) who received an average 80 percent approval rating or higher from the leading religious-right organizations make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. Congress. These politicians include some of the most powerful figures in the U.S. government, as well as key environmental decision makers: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), Senate Republican Policy Chair Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and quite possibly President Bush."
A 2002 Time/CNN poll found 59 percent of Americans believe the prophecies in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Nearly 25 percent think the Bible predicted 9/11. Belief in the Apocalypse is a powerful driving force in American politics.
There are two groups to look at. The traditional dispensationalists are well-known, led by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. They believe in the End Times and that salvation is all that matters, but they see this taking place in "God's time." The Dominionists put responsibility for the return of Jesus Christ not in biblical prophesy but political activism. They believe Christ will only make his Second Coming when the world has prepared a place for Him, that the first step in readying His arrival is to "Christianize" America.
The Dominionists believe that - until Jesus' return - "the Lord will provide." A popular dominionist high-school history textbook - America's Providential History - states: "The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's Earth. The resources are waiting to be tapped." In another passage, the writers explain: "While many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."
Individuals with the power to set national priorities with regard to conservation of the environment hold these views. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has called for "march[ing] forward with a Biblical worldview" in U.S. politics, to convert America into a "God centered" nation whose government promotes prayer, worship, and the teaching of Christian values. James Inhofe, the Senate's most outspoken environmental critic, is also unwavering in his wish to remake America as a Christian state. Both oppose the EPA, calling it "the Gestapo." DeLay has put forward legislation to gut the Clean Air and Endangered Species acts. In 2003, Inhofe invited a stacked-deck of fossil fuel-funded climate-change skeptics to testify at a Senate hearing that climaxed with him calling global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
Inhofe makes major decisions based on heavy corporate and theological influences, flawed science, and an apocalyptic worldview. "I trust God with my legislative goals and the issues that are important to my constituents," Inhofe has told Pentecostal Evangel magazine. He chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the single most important congressional committee dealing with environmental legislation. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Inhofe received more than $588,000 from the fossil-fuel industry, electric utilities, mining, and other natural-resource interests from 1999 to 2004. Eight of the nine Republican members of the committee received an average of $408,000 per senator from the energy and natural resource sector in the same period. In 2003, Inhofe received a perfect 100 percent rating from all three major Christian-Right groups. By contrast, the eight Democrats and one Independent on the committee received an average of $132,000 per senator from that same sector.
It might be well here to consult the Patron Saint of Right Wing Revolution - Adolf Hitler had it figured out 80 years ago:
"In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods."
This is how the Noise Machine of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy works, folks. Peer-reviewed environmental science that contradicts an End-Timer's interpretation of Holy Writ is automatically wrong, which explains the disregard for science among Christian fundamentalist lawmakers - the denial of global warming, of the damaged ozone layer, and of the poisoning caused by industrial arsenic and mercury. When God is going to take care of all things and The End Is Near, who needs to worry about such things, especially when they prove The Second Coming?
I have painted a dark picture here. When it comes to proposing an alternative, I'll let my favorite Southern Baptist, Bill Moyers, provide the necessary guidance at the conclusion of the sermon: "The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism...What we need is what the ancient Israelites called hochma, the science of the heart, the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you. Believe me, it does."
at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, March 7, 2005 12:54 AM EST
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