S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Congress, Bush & the Environment - dirty little secrets

Today in Congress, to prevent the Bush administration from making recess appointments, there is only a pro forma session of the Senate scheduled. But things are bubbling beneath the surface, particularly on the oil/energy issue. Polls reveal that the people of the U.S. want something stronger done. And, predictably, Speaker Pelosi has reversed her position on the matter: CNN reports that Pelosi said on Larry King Live that she would be open to a vote on offshore drilling as part of a larger energy package. To quote:

On Monday night, Pelosi said the vote would need to be part of a larger discussion that would include investing in renewable energy resources and releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Those options would help bring both immediate and long-lasting solutions to the energy crisis, she said.

Fox to Watch the Hen House - Recess appointments may be out for our current president (OCP), but that has not stopped the administration to quietly gut the Endangered Species Ace via rule-making fiat while Congress' back is turned. The Washington Post of August 12, 2008 has the story: "Endangered Species Act Changes Give Agencies More Say," by Juliet Eilperin. To quote:

The Bush administration yesterday proposed a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects, eliminating the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades.

The new rules, which will be subject to a 30-day per comment period, would use administrative powers to make broad changes in the law that Congress has resisted for years. Under current law, agencies must subject any plans that potentially affect endangered animals and plants to an independent review by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposed new rules, dam and highway construction and other federal projects could proceed without delay if the agency in charge decides they would not harm vulnerable species.

. . . "I am deeply troubled by this proposed rule, which gives federal agencies an unacceptable degree of discretion to decide whether or not to comply with the Endangered Species Act," said Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who asked for a staff briefing before the proposal was announced but did not receive one. "Eleventh-hour rulemakings rarely, if ever, lead to good government -- this is not the type of legacy this Interior Department should be leaving for future generations."

. . . An aide to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she, like Rahal, had requested but not received a briefing. The panel is drafting a letter to Interior and will hold an oversight hearing, the aide said.

In a statement, Boxer called the rules change "another in a continuing stream of proposals to repeal our landmark environmental laws through the back door" and added: "I believe it is illegal, and if this proposed regulation had been in place, it would have undermined our ability to protect the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the gray whale."

McCain to Senate: No vacations -- But is this a reason to make McCain our new president? "Chutzpah Watch: McCain calls on lawmakers to spend more time on the job in Congress," is by Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report (8/5/08). To quote:

. . . McCain told a biker rally, “Tell em’ to come back and get to work. When I’m president of the United States, I’m not going to let them go on vacation.”

This strikes me as amusing for two reasons: the hypocrisy and the misplaced priorities.

On the latter point, McCain hasn’t been “willing” to leave the campaign trail for anything, but all of a sudden, he’s ready to head back to his day job to tackle a coastal drilling bill that wouldn’t do any good anyway.

Hatch Act Violation? -- "How Karl Rove’s Plan to Kill Salmon Led to a GOP Senator’s Reelection," by Jason Leopold, The Public Record August 05, 2008, reveals that Karl Rove may have tried to influence employees of the Interior Department regarding electing an Oregon Republican. To quote from the story:

In January 2002, at a retreat in West Virginia, Karl Rove gave a PowerPoint presentation to at least 50 managers at the Department of the Interior to discuss polling data, and emphasized the importance of getting Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican, reelected that year.

The way to get Smith reelected to another term, Rove reportedly told the Interior Department officials, would come via the agency's support of a highly controversial measure: diverting water from the Klamath River Basin to farms in the area that were experiencing unusually dry conditions, thereby supporting the GOP's agricultural base.

If Rove and other White House officials discussed campaign strategy at federal office buildings, that would appear to be a violation of the Hatch Act. Recently, Congress launched an investigation into a briefing that J. Scott Jennings, the deputy director of political affairs, held at the General Services Administration. In the presentation, Jennings outlined polling data from the 2006 national elections and issued a list of the Republican Party's electoral targets for 2008. Jennings's presentation may violate a law known as the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes.
That investigation is still ongoing.

Earlier dirty little secrets - A link from "betmo from CREW, Citizens for Responsibility Ethics in Washington: "Citizens diverting campaign funds to Kin," Loophole in Ethics Rules Is One That the Senate Did Not Close Last Year. It always comes back to this, those dirty little violations of ethical campaigning.

View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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