My little buddy

Monday, August 13, 2007

Crimes Against Nature

***I've broken this article up, as it is extremely long. Here's Part I*****

Published by the December 11, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone
by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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 federal Department of Agriculture has stopped work on fifty-seven standards, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has halted twenty-one new 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?"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We're Baaaack....Part Deux

Ok, so on to the rest of the week. Monday morning we drove into Newburyport again and actually caught the train this time. An hour late. There was a malfunction with the draw bridge over the Saugus River so the train couldn't get out to any point north of Chelsea until almost 9 AM. Not what we had planned. We wanted to get into the city so we could go to the Boston Public Gardens before it rained, but we weren't destined to get there I guess. When we got into Boston around 10 AM, we caught the subway to Science Park so we could go to the Museum of Science and catch the Duck Tour . First of all, when were approaching the draw bridge right beside the Museum, the alarm went off and the gates came down. And who should keep on walking, but Nick and Tori. When they realized the bridge was actually going up, they RAN back. Kris and I, and the couple behind us, had a good chuckle. Anyway, when we got into the Museum, they had duck feet on the floor to show the way to the duck tour booth .... and that pic to the left would be Nick doing the duck walk. Needless to say, we trailed far, FAR behind her.

We got the 12:30 Duck Tour .... with Sven the Viking in the "manly purple duck". Yes, he is wearing a fur skirt and a horned helmet. The duck tour was great. It was a wonderful way to see all parts of the city that we may not have seen otherwise. My only complaint was that he drove way too fast. There were so many picture opportunities that got missed because he was driving so fast I couldn't snap a pic or I couldn't pass the camera off to Nick who was sitting on the other side of the Duck. I will post some the pics that I did get on Facebook. Uploads are so much easier there. Anyway, after the duck tour, we went back to the Museum. Kris and I headed to the Planetarium to watch a show on the origins of the universe while Tori and Nick went through part of the museum. The show was very interesting. The downside for me was that I was EXTREMELY tired and started to doze off a couple of times. Although most of it wasn't new info for me, there were a few tidbits of info that have been discovered in the last couple of years that were new to me and very interesting. Then we all met up again to eat, then wandered around the Museum a bit more then hit the gift shop ... where Tori was monkeying around.

Since it was getting late, and we hadn't gone to the ONE site I really wanted to see, we headed back to the subway station. A couple of trains later we "arrived". Is it sad that the only site that was an absolute must for me was Harvard? Oh look, there's me and John J Harvard. Nick, Tori and I walked around campus a bit, took some pics. It really is a lot like UNB .... beautiful old buildings, lots of trees and greenery. It was a beautiful area. And Cambridge is gorgeous!

Here's a funny .... what's that growing under the trees at Harvard, an Ivy League school in Boston? Oh yeah ... Boston Ivy! Hehe.

So, on the way home from Boston, I noticed a sound coming from my rear driver's side tire. Crap! What now? It wasn't a flat, that was obvious. But I had to get it checked before we hit the road to come back on Wednesday. So the plan for Tuesday had originally been to go to Kittery and Fox Run in Portsmouth. Fortunately, my aunt Mary told me that the Sears at the Fox Run had automotive service. Bright and early Tuesday (if you can call 10 bright and early, but with our group it seemed to be) we headed to Portsmouth. I dropped the car off at Sears and off we went shopping. We split up in two groups since we weren't interested in the same stores. Kris and I managed to get some great sales, make some great finds. (Psst, Mel! I got a new purse for $11 at Sears and it's gorgeous!) We also went to Lane Bryant and I was SURE I wouldn't find anything that would fit ... but luckily enough, I have lost just enough weight that I got 4 tops! Woohoo! One of them was definitely a Tori-top .... in fact, she thinks she has one just like in white. After about and hour and a half, I went back to the service center to get the news. I should stop here and say that I needed my tires changed in the spring. I just wanted a tire change. Nothing more. So I made a BIG mistake and went to - yes- Crappy Tire. Needless to say they tried to screw me over - which I wrote to Head Office about and got a refund. So back to the present. The mechanic tells me - the lugnuts were loose on that tire, so the tire was loose and rubbed rust into the brakes. So he cleaned the brake up and tightened the lugnuts. For FREE! How amazing are they! I plan on writing to Sears HQ with some positive words. Anyway ... all was well again in our world and we kept on shopping. We hit Kohl's, AC Moore, Old Navy in Portsmouth and Tommy, Yankee Candle, Crate and Barrel, etc.. in Kittery before heading back to Dover. I decided to take the back roads to Dover from Kittery so everybody could get a good look at the beautiful homes all through there. There are so many colonial homes down in the tri-state area and the owners take such good care of them. Not at all like here, where so many are left to fall in disrepair.

So Wednesday, we were up quite early to pack the car ... we put Kimmartha's carrier on top of the truck and started to pack it .... only to find it wouldn't hold a lot. In fact, it didn't hold half of what we thought it would. So that made packing the truck even trickier ... it was packed solid! And that was with Krista putting stuff on her lap and under her feet. We had no room for anything else. We stopped briefly at the Christmas Tree Shop to pick up a gift card for my aunt as a thank you for having us at her house. I REALLY wanted to shop, but there was no room for much of anything. I managed to get a sheet set and some flat stuff, but that was it. Same for Nick ... some flat stuff, even though she REALLY WANTED(to the point I thought she was going to cry when she told me about it) to get the red fall themed casserole dishware that was $3.99 a piece ... but she realized there wasn't room so she took a hit for the group. Thanks Nick!
We made great time coming back once on the road after Portland. And the ABSOLUTE BEST PART OF THE TRIP!!!!!!was that they let us go at the border! Krista was over by a couple of hundred, I was over by 50 or 60, and believe it or not, Nick was under. And they didn't stop us!