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Tilting at Windmills

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June 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

CHENEY, PART 4....The fourth and final installment in the Washington Post's series about Dick Cheney is up, and it's a bit of a chin scratcher. It's about the environment, and the biggest chunk of the piece is devoted to Cheney's efforts to overturn a decision by federal scientists in 2001 that shut off irrigation water to farmers in Oregon in order to save some protected fish. As it turns out, Cheney had a few options for making this happen, but the one he chose was to ask the National Academy of Sciences to review the science. That was risky since the NAS panel was independent, but according to the Post, "Cheney was firm, expressing no such concerns about the result. 'He felt we had to match the science.'"

That's remarkably....honest and above board. So unlike the Cheney we know and loathe. On the other hand, the decision also turned out to be disastrous: a critique of the NAS opinion was quietly deep-sixed in typical Cheney-esque fashion, the fisheries eventually collapsed, the feds ended up out of pocket for $60 million in disaster aid, and last year a federal judge overruled the whole thing. That's more like it!

We also learn for the first time why Christie Whitman quit as EPA administrator. She wanted to construct some reasonable rules specifying exactly when old power plants would be required to install anti-pollution equipment, but Cheney, unsurprisingly, just wanted her to create "routine maintenance" loopholes so big that no plant would ever be required to install upgrades:

Whitman agreed that the exception for routine maintenance and repair needed to be clarified, but not in a way that undercut the ongoing Clinton-era lawsuits — many of which had merit, she said.

....The EPA sent rule revisions to White House officials. The read-back was that they weren't happy and "wanted something that would be more pro-industry," she said.

The end result, which she said was written at the direction of the White House and announced in August 2003, vastly broadened the definition of routine maintenance. It allowed some of the nation's dirtiest plants to make major modifications without installing costly new pollution controls.

By that time, Whitman had already announced her resignation, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family. But the real reason, she said, was the new rule.

"I just couldn't sign it," she said. "The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."

Needless to say, the power and refinery industry was a heavy contributor to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Just a coincidence, though, I'm sure.

Kevin Drum 1:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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The damage the GWB admin has done to the environment has gone mostly unnoticed in the glare of their foreign policy disasters and their domestic civil rights abuses, but nonetheless has been monumental and deserves to be told in full.

Posted by: Disputo on June 27, 2007 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

It's a shame that Democrats are afraid even to seriously raise the possibility of impeachment, when instead impeachment should be the best-case/soft-landing scenario for most members of an administration that rightly deserves to be imprisoned for their numerous, deliberate and blatant violations of our laws and constitution.

Cheney has claimed executive privilege to avoid disclosing his activities to the legislative branch of government, and now claims he is not within the executive branch to deny that he is bound by the rules and laws that the executive branch must follow.

Because Cheney has placed himself above the law and above the constitution, it is time to impeach him.

The Democrats should be bleeding out their eyes and crowing every minute of daylight that there this administration is either so ignorant or contemptuous of the constitution that it would claim it does not fall within one of the three branches of government. (Sorry neo-cons, but 'judge, jury and torturer' aren't branches of government)

Sue Cheney for reimbursement of all of the millions he has received as a member of the executive branch; compel him to comply with all of the document requests he has denied based on executive privilege; and prosecute him for failing to comply with executive branch regulations.

If he defends any one of those allegations with claims of exemption because he resides within the executive branch of government, that testimony can be used against him for those charges he has avoided with claims that he is not within the executive branch.

When the Vice President claims he is not required to follow the law because he is not within the executive branch, he is effectively claiming he is above the law, and that he is not bound by the constitution. It's the ultimate "f-ck you" to the entire nation - it's laws, its constitution, its citizens.

So why can't the Democrats muster the backbone to impeach Cheney? You don't have to have the votes to be able to hamstring the administration during the proceedings and embarrass them for all of posterity. You might also be surprised to see what facts bubble to the surface in the process (given all of the lies this administration has told, you can effectively regard any comments they are forced to make under oath to be perjury traps).

To remain relevant, Democrats need to pick the two biggest, ripest, and lowest hanging political fruits: get us out of Iraq; impeach the vice president and/or the president.

Posted by: Augustus on June 27, 2007 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

Bush and Cheney are going to make Godwin's law obsolete. This administration will replace the Nazis as the standard of malice.

The only good thing about it is that evil will forevermore be associated with incompetence.

Posted by: bad Jim on June 27, 2007 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

They wouldn't say it's "just a coincidence"

I think they'd go with something closer to "Contributions didn't dictate policy decisions. Contributors agreed with political views we already held."

"Besides, we never put quid pro quos in writing, so you'll never prove it."

Posted by: You'll Never Be Able To Prove It on June 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK

"The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."

And, that is the fascism of the Republican Party -- the President is a king and a dictator, and everyone serves at his pleasure, and that's that, and if you can't stand it, you resign, and, guess who's left? Alberto Gonzales and kin.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on June 27, 2007 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

What a shame she didn't have the guts to publicly challenge her boss(es) and dare them to fire her.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on June 27, 2007 at 5:14 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it striking how often Cheney's MO involves constructing redefinitions of laws and regulations which eviscerate those laws and regulations of any meaning? Or reclassifying people and institutions so they become exempt from the rules that are clearly supposed to govern them? Captured terrorists are "illegal combatants", slipping through supposed loopholes in the Geneva Conventions; the VP's office falls between the Executive and Legislative branches, so no rules apply to it; torture techniques are redefined as "special interrogation" or whatever; the FISA court supposedly lacks jurisdiction over the precise activities the FISA court was created to oversee; power-plant upgrades are redefined as "maintenance" so they won't be governed by clean-air regulations -- on and on and on. It's government by loophole, a sneaky slippery smartassed teenager's approach to the law.

The SC's recent ruling in "Hein" seems kind of similar: taxpayers have standing to sue over government appropriations of money to religious groups except...when the appropriation is conducted by the executive branch. Meaning that all future appropriations will be by the executive branch so no one can sue, rendering the standing to sue moot.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 27, 2007 at 5:18 AM | PERMALINK

"the fisheries eventually collapsed, the feds ended up out of pocket for $60 million in disaster aid.... That's more like it!"

Here we see Kevin at his most typically liberal: revelling in bad news. Bad news for America is good news to liberals, because when all is said and done, the basis of liberalism is hatred for America.

Posted by: Al on June 27, 2007 at 6:08 AM | PERMALINK

We also learn for the first time why Christie Whitman quit as EPA administrator.

Now we know why Karen Hughes leave too.

And Colin Powell...

Any non-Cheney loyalist went bye-bye.

I'm suprised Cheney hasn't gotten rid of Bush yet.

Posted by: Cheryl on June 27, 2007 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

Oops, that should be:

Now we know why Karen Hughes had to leave too.

Posted by: Cheryl on June 27, 2007 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK

Al, please work on your reading comprehension. Kevin is not reveling in bad news. He's reveling at Cheney's mendacity and its results.

Posted by: Otto on June 27, 2007 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't good enough that Whitman resigned because "I just couldn't sign it," she said. "The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."

Any American government administrator who is put into that position should also go public and explain the resignation. Anything less is a failure to serve the American public.

She didn't go public because she would have caught flack from the Republicans and her career might suffer. How many people have died for her careerism?

In most cases, this flaw in American public "service" traditions is best seen by the military flag officers who did what Rumsfeld wanted in order to protect their career, and if they didn't, they retired - quietly.

We have all been poorly served by such career-minded people.

Posted by: Rick B on June 27, 2007 at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK

The only good thing about it is that evil will forevermore be associated with incompetence.

Posted by: bad Jim

Except for the fact that thousands of administration supporters have made billions of dollars because of this 'incompetence'.

Dumb like a fox.

Posted by: slanted tom on June 27, 2007 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

"The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."

No. No. No. NO.

This mindless, needlessly deference to Bush in all he does is exactly why this crap gets done and Cheney and Bush get away with it. The President has a "right" to have someone defend crap policies? NO! It's in his best interests, maybe, but the COUNTRY has a right to an Environmental administrator who...you know, actually puts the ENVIRONMENT FIRST. I'm not sure where the 'rights' of the President to have yes-men supercede the rights of the people who have leaders and enforcement who actually work for the best interests of....THE PEOPLE.

Posted by: Kryptik on June 27, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Rick B, well, she did write a book that kind of described the problem.

Posted by: TJM on June 27, 2007 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

A month later, Cheney got what he wanted when the science academy delivered a preliminary report finding "no substantial scientific foundation" to justify withholding water from the farmers.

There was not enough clear evidence that proposed higher lake levels would benefit suckerfish, the report found. And it hypothesized that the practice of releasing warm lake water into the river during spawning season might do more harm than good to the coho, which thrive in lower temperatures.

Cheney's a pretty smart guy. The NAS is a scientifically conservative organization and is bound to write all sorts of uncertainties into the report. By highlighting a few sentences you can easily create holes to divert a few million gallons of water through.

The report actually calls for some extreme measure and what looks like 100 million in new research. The bottom line of the report is that the fish are being screwed by 100 different processes and the USBR diversion is just one small (and unstudied) part. Halting the USBR diversion will not be enough by itself to allow fish populations to rebound.

My guess is the majority of their recommendations are still being ignored (they include removing and/or re-engineering several dams, destroying miles of levees, creating oxygenated refugia in Klamath Lake, reintroducing suckers to Lake of the Woods after removing non-native fish, etc.)

Anyway . . . read the report yourself:

http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309090970

Posted by: B on June 27, 2007 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Just watched Blair give way to Gordon. The transference from one competant to another. I am jealous of England at the moment. They do like to have talent and common sense in their leaders. They don't get elected by wearing cowboy hats and clearing brush and being inarticulate.

When the US called Tony to Iraq he responded ... but not too much. Just enough to say he cared but not enough for it to matter. He paid a little and got a lot. And so he preserved the alliance even when the his partner in the alliance was enthusiastic and dangerous dolt.

Bill Clinton got in because he played dumb, but the american public will not get fooled again. They want a truly stupid man or woman for president and they will get him or her. Who of the present candidates is a complete idiot? He or she are the one to watch.

God Bless America

Posted by: trurl on June 27, 2007 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

"The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."

I don't get it. The president has the right to 1) have someone so loyal that they will argue that up is down on his behalf, 2) have someone so stupid that they think the decision is in fact defensible, or 3) have someone so excited to talk to the media that they don't care what side of the argument they are taking?

Let's start over Ms. Whitman. Start your sentence with: "The American people have the right to have an EPA administrator who . . ."

Posted by: B on June 27, 2007 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Surely this was all known six years ago. Amazing how it's all news now. Nonetheless, enjoy the brilliant satire from Bruce Kluger and David Slavin here.

(The link gives you an error message but it seems to come through.)

Posted by: Wayne on June 27, 2007 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Question to Sean Hannity, Al and Egbert:

Why does Dick Lugar hate America?

Posted by: mmp1123 on June 27, 2007 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Ah Kevin

Like the typical liberal that you are you value the life of fish over the life of the farmers in Oregon.

You realize that farmers make most of the food you eat?

Posted by: egbert on June 27, 2007 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

And why is Whitman going public now? It couldn't be because she's trying to retrieve her reputation from the garbage can where she threw it by assuring the 9/11 workers that the air at ground zero was safe to breathe?

Posted by: Bloix on June 27, 2007 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

"That's remarkably....honest and above board. So unlike the Cheney we know and loathe."

It's not that he's honest Kevin, never a liar has been born who doesn't occasionally tell the truth.

And dirty tricks take more effort. It's less work to
be above board, especially if you know you can just ignore the results and do what you want anyway.

Posted by: Archie on June 27, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Ah egbert, why are you threatening to kill all the farmers, eh?

Do you hate farmers?

Posted by: Heg on June 27, 2007 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Oh egbert, fish can be food too. Fisherman were devastated by this water diversion.

Posted by: The Bobs on June 27, 2007 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Like the typical liberal that you are you value the life of fish over the life of the farmers in Oregon.

You realize that farmers make most of the food you eat?

But Egbert, commercial fishermen provide a fair share of the nation's food supply, too--their needs ought to be taken into account as well as those of the farmers. Don't you or your cats like eating salmon?

And while farmers may provide most of the nation's food supply, it turns out that a lot of the farmers in question wound up being paid not to grow food, in order to support prices.

Not exactly a brilliant comment, even for you.

Posted by: rea on June 27, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Al: "Here we see Kevin at his most typically liberal: revelling [sic] in bad news."

That's it? Oh, just as a tiny aside: who is the source of all this bad news? You are so done, douchebag.

Posted by: Kenji on June 27, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

You realize that farmers make most of the food you eat?

Mmmmm. Stupendous. And as usual, you got some people to earnestly argue with you. It's a gift.

Posted by: shortstop on June 27, 2007 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

revelling [sic]

That's how we spell it.

Posted by: The rest of the English-speaking world on June 27, 2007 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

What was really telling about the article was the description of Cheney's management style. He reaches down into the bureacracy to find the individuals that can get things done, he install people with his values and outlook in positions of power and trusts then to make decisions, and as in the Klamath case he even will utilize the National Academy of Science to examine an issue. Its very effective management.

Imagine how history would have been different had Cheney spent early 2001 addressing issues of national security with the same zeal that he showed in chasing a few votes in the Pacific Northwest and rewarding some campaign contributers. Its time to put aside the old canard that the 9/11 attacks probably could not have been prevented. This administration had priorities that did not include monitoring and pre-empting terrorist threats.

Posted by: rk on June 27, 2007 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly, the liberals, who value the life of fish substantially more than the well-being and security of the Americans, distracted the administration with trivia like the save-the-fish effort in Oregon, taking precious time away from the patriots like Cheney who would otherwise have spent it making us secure and safe from the terrorists who had already declared their intentions to harm us.

Evidently, then, 9/11 could have been easily prevented, but for the meddling of the liberals and the environmentalists in the affairs of the state.

Posted by: gregor on June 27, 2007 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Gregor
Do you read? The government funds the damn farmers through the nose with YOUR tax dollars to maintain their bankrupt industry. Then they complain because they can't maintain a proper water supply. And we have to sacrifice an entire species because the government couldn't run a orgy in a frat house. And Bush is the one that increased farms subsidies! Yes he did! He of the great GOP that was going to make government sane! So much for small government. So much for cutting back the welfare state. Government is bigger than ever! Republicans can't stand up for anything. You're only a little better than democrats. Which make you really bad. Disband the republican party. Its lost its point.

Posted by: trurl on June 27, 2007 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Surely this was all known six years ago. Amazing how it's all news now. Nonetheless, enjoy the brilliant satire from Bruce Kluger and David Slavin here.

(The link gives you an error message but it seems to come through.)

Posted by: Wayne

Art imitating life? Anyway the satirists couldn't have known how coal and coal fired electricity figured into the split.

Always, always, it's look at THIS but don't notice THAT.

Posted by: slanted tom on June 27, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Imagine how history would have been different had Cheney spent early 2001 addressing issues of national security with the same zeal...

No ROI on that. Remember, government should be run like a business.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 27, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

why Christie Whitman quit as EPA administrato...r

Wo she wasn't really ashamed to have taken part in the big f*cking lie about the air at Ground Zero being safe? These people are beneath contempt.

Posted by: thersites on June 27, 2007 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

It's a shame that Democrats are afraid" Augustus.

True.

This would have been a moment to shine for us.

Impeaching these two would have SAVED how many of our sons and daughers lives? Or civilian lives in Iraq? In Afganistan?

Impeaching these two would have been preventative medicine for US politics and our contitution and our rights as humans, but now all we hope for is a 30-40 (?) percent damage-control of a cancer spread throughout the governmental and national body.

Impeaching these two would have set the GOP power-grab back a few years, maybe just enough to have a younger more idealistic set of politicians in there to continue fighting against their Good Ole Boy machinations.

Impeaching these two might have turned the tide on global warming a bit sooner, giving us a slightly wider margin for error to benefit continued life on this planet.

It would have been such a moment in which to shine, but we didn't. We bear as much responsibility for Cheney's actions as he does, by our own inaction.

What a message not impeaching these two has sent to the GOP; that same self-satified message that impeaching Bill sent to Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: Zit on June 27, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats, if they want to justify their electoral victory and repeat it in 08, should keep on saying: The Republicans want to send our kids to die in Iraq. Democrats want to bring them home safely and quickly.

Seems like the Dems are too afraid to speak the truth.

Afraid of what, though? The neurons fire, the brain recoils, and the mind boggles.

Posted by: gregor on June 27, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

trurl, I think gregor was funnin' with you.

Posted by: Kenji on June 27, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Get this,

as if the US weren't provincial enough,

THE FBI IS visiting the nation's top technical universities in a bid to stop students taking their holidays outside the country.

. . .

The FBI wants the universities to impose rules that will stop US university students from working late at the campus, travelling abroad, showing an interest in their colleagues' work, or have friends outside the United States, engaging in independent research, or making extra money without the prior consent of the authorities.

. . .

The Feds are convinced that if you are doing any of these things you are likely to be a foreign agent who is nicking technology for foreign powers.

Following rules which have been abandoned in Eastern Europe, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to spy on their colleagues for signs of suspicious behaviour and report any concerns to the FBI or the military.

Posted by: cld on June 27, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

My thinking is that we could have just paid the farmers crop insurance then and saved ourselves a bunch of money. By the way, it's a Bureau of Reclamation dam system. This system is set up to, in theory, charge the agricultural community for the water they take out of it, eventually paying off the cost of system construction. Funny story: that never happens, thanks to gubmint always forgiving the debt a few years after the dam gets built. (To his credit, Ronald Reagan actually put an end to these boondoggle Reclamation projects.) So, the water the farmers are chanting for is actually already pretty much a gift from the taxpayers.

By the way, wild salmon not only taste better, they're better for the environment than farmed.

I particularly like the fact that Cheney didn't have the balls to invoke the "God Squad."

By the way, the New Source Review portion of the Clean Air Act permits maintenance of older facilities without triggering environmental upgrades. After the study of years and years of power plant maintenance records, the EPA actually did come up with a firm figure on what percentage of total plant value could reasonable be spent per year on maintenance: 2 percent. The Cheney Administration announced the figure to be 20 percent. You could rebuild your facility in five years without diminishing the particulates it spewed.

My daughter takes three different medications to treat her asthma. I take this personally.

Posted by: Brian C.B. on June 27, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK
If liberals could choose between Castro and Cheney, which would they choose?

Choose between those two for what?

Posted by: cmdicely on June 27, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Choose between those two for what?

Obviously to find a cold dark place to hide the head of mhr.

This liberal would definitely choose Castro for hiding mhr's head, given that now he has a convenient plastic chute for the entrance.

Posted by: gregor on June 27, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Choose between those two for what?

Dinner? Definitely Castro. I love Cuban food.

A ride downtown? Mmmmm, prolly Castro. Dick's had too many DUIs.

Maudlin jingoism, lying as a basic component of statecraft and rampant contempt for their own citizens? Hang on...I'm thinking.

Writing bad troll parodies? Neither of them can touch you, my friend. Now bow to the other parody trolls here--the good ones.

Posted by: shortstop on June 27, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Woo hoo! Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas White House, Cheney's office, Justice, National Security Council re warrantless eavesdropping.

Posted by: shortstop on June 27, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

This whole Cheney thing is really very simple. Apply Occam's razor. Why would someone so obsessively fight any oversight into his activities if they were legal? They wouldn't. Cheney is a criminal doing what all criminals do: try everything they can to get away with their crimes.

Posted by: southend on June 27, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

So Cheney is just a criminal who's just not in jail yet? I thought so .....

Posted by: Erika on June 27, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Cue Irl Englehardt, former CEO and Chairman of the Board for Peabody. One of the original "Pioneers" that raised $100,000 dollars for the Bush/Cheney election efforts. Was he at the Energy Advisory Group meeting with Unca Dick?

No need to upgrade environmental controls during "routine maintenance efforts." After all, how would Peabody sell that dirty coal to Duke Energy?

Posted by: Ex - Republican Yankee on June 27, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

rea said: And while farmers may provide most of the nation's food supply, it turns out that a lot of the farmers in question wound up being paid not to grow food, in order to support prices.

Source for this assertion? Klamath County doesn't receive much in the way of commodity subsidies, according to EWG.org. They total $29.1 million over the past decade, and about $8.5 million was in disaster payments (i.e. not price supports). Only $15 million over the past decade has been for commodity subsidies.

Posted by: Bob on June 27, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK
...Only $15 million over the past decade has been for commodity subsidies Bob at 3:02 PM
According to Klamath County census data, there are 1228 farms in Klamath county which amounts to approximately $12,200 per farm or roughly $100 per farm per month average. That's not too shabby. Posted by: Mike on June 27, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Mike, do you really believe farms shut down production for payments of $100/month? I grew up in that area, and most of the fields do not lie fallow.

$100/month is very shabby.

Posted by: Bob on June 27, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

"I just couldn't sign it," she said. "The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."

No, Christine, they don't....but you did have a duty to take action against things you oppose instead of going gently into that good night....

Posted by: nota bene on June 27, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

I remember reading about all those rotting fish ... It was as sickening as the smell must have been.

Posted by: Neil B. on June 27, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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