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August 14, 2004

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"With all sincerity: WAKE UP FOLKS!"

How arrogant, please kindly apply that to yourself...

Edward, I'm glad you caught this one -- I was thinking of posting about it, but you did a much better job than I would have, Here's one more example: a court just struck down the administration's proposal to weaken the requirements for calling tuna 'dolphin-safe'. (A pdf of the court case is here; an article describing it is here.) The opinion is scathing: en route to finding the agency's decision "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law", the court calls some of the government's arguments "Orwellian", and says that "this Court has never, in its 24 years, reviewed a record of agency action that contained such a compelling portrait of political meddling." (Political meddling is a problem in this case since Congress had directed the agency to change the dolphin-safe label only on the basis of the scientific evidence that the change would not harm the dolphin populations.)

The dolphin-safe label is one of those things I would have thought we could all agree on: it benefits the environment by enhancing consumers' ability to make informed decisions, thereby allowing us to register through the market preferences we would otherwise have had no practical means of making clear. Likewise, the need to obey clear Congressional directions seems like a no-brainer. Apparently not.

How arrogant, please kindly apply that to yourself...

I'm sure that's self-explanatory in some quarters Joe, but perhaps you could elaborate on what you mean.

hilzoy, great example!

I owe the Times one on this. I've posted on a few of these individual items (and a few others where the Administration agency heads violated their mission statements by working for industry, rather than those they're supposed to be working for), but to have them piece it all together this way, is long, long, long overdue.

And you did not even mention the scientific 'adaption' the current administration proposes. I finally found someone putting it together quite eloquently in English here

How arrogant, please kindly apply that to yourself...

I'm sure that's self-explanatory in some quarters Joe, but perhaps you could elaborate on what you mean.

It's perfectly clear. When you shout "WAKE UP FOLKS!," you are declaring that you are awake, and other people are asleep, and they need your alert to wake up.

To put it in an unkindly form, which I know is not how you meant it, but so you have a clue as to how some readers might fairly take it, you are declaring that you have a superior form of awareness, and that it is necessary for you to bring your unusual insight to be poor benighted peasantry who are too dumb and unenlightened to perceive on their own what is going on.

Yeah, it's very arrogant. Not that I'm not. But that's a particularly annoying form of proclaiming one's sense of personal superiority. (Which, again, I'm quite sure was not your conscious intent, and, again, not that I am free of having an ego myself.)

The new DOT rules and regs for truck driver hours of service have been in the works for years. Your brief "incredible" description is totally out of context and misses the benefits of these rules by a mile. If this is an example of the meat of your revelations, then you just plain blew it. Carry on Mr. President, keep making the tough decisions and keep improving our great country. The chatter from the monkey gallery is just that. Ridiculous.

"...our brief 'incredible' description is totally out of context and misses the benefits of these rules by a mile."

For some odd reason, you neglect to bother to inform us of these benefits. This is a less than persuasive argument.

It's perfectly clear.

The arrogance may be perfectly clear -- I don't particularly find it to be arrogant, but I can see how others might -- but the expostulation's applicability to Edward himself? That's still in need of explanation.

Gary, if a few dozen more dead motorists and truck drivers shaves two cents a pound off the price of my asparagus and toilet paper, well, I think the benefits speak for themselves!

Guilty in advance of projection, but I sympathize. At one point in the not-too-distant past, I was hit with a super-sized order of news about recent administration outrages (easily predictable given Possion arrival processes, but that's no help at the time), and I was hit with a panicky feeling that nobody knows or cares.

(BTW, The Onion had a story on "outrage fatigue" that you might find amusing. And I don't think you/I/we're alone, given the extraordinary level of coherence, energy, and willingness to contribute financially that is widely observed among administration opponents today. But I digress, yet again.)

Anyway, following revelation (and any necessary cris du coeur), I think there are a couple of useful things to do:

-- Give money. To individual candidates (not presidential at this point), or to party committees. Every race, every district, matters at this point.

-- If you live in, or are willing to travel to, a swing state, volunteer for door-to-door activity. (Phone banks, mailers, and other indirect methods are not nearly as effective, if at all.)

-- Write letters to local newspapers and TV stations, to lay out facts, counter talking points, and challenge spin and editorial bias.

I'll stick up for the administration on the Forest Service rules. The fact is that rules enacted in the name of protecting the environment have become so restrictive that as to not only destroy the old timber economy -- which, coincidentally, affects union workers as well as buccaneer corporations -- but also create some serious management problems especially when it comes to fire prevention, which affects people's lives.

Healthy Forests Initiative ain't perfect, but in fact it was loudly and proudly announced and supported by California's Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Environmental Defense doesn't like it, but they don't like anything.

And don't get me started on the old arsenic rules.

Just because something's good for business doesn't make it a bad idea.

Edward: The war on terror, like the federal budget deficit, serves many purposes, not the least of which is destroying Federal programs. It's remarkable how Al Qaeda and the Republican Party have enabled each of the others' hatred of the U.S. Government.

Joe: Is that you, from Tacitus, who always advises folks who complain a little too much to find another site to comment on? Please stay though....

.....but don't wake up. You are so beautiful when asleep.

Mm, asparagus. (Which, along with everything else, pretty much, I'm no longer supposed to eat.)

Or, in the alternative, I just got woken up 30 seconds ago, found the house on fire, and decided to wake everyone else up in the house as well.

Just imagine if all this outrage at my WAKE UP FOLKS comment (which was in direct response to the statement ""Now, when I hold focus groups with the general public and tell them what has been done, they exclaim, 'How could this have happened without me knowing about it?' "...so it's not anywhere near as "arrogant" as some want to make it) were instead directed at the Administration.

I know there are folks with microinterests who will approve of this or that regulatory shift. I'm sure I could find a few I approve of. That's not the point. The aggressive use of this method, bypassing congressional oversight, with its very, very, very heavy pro-business bent would be getting much more airtime if there were not a war on. To praise it as if it were totally above board (when, again, there was no highly produced press conference, complete with charts and pithy slogans to roll out most of these) is to suggest the executive branch of the government should be free to implement an extreme pro-business agenda
with no checks or balances.

Just because something's good for business doesn't make it a bad idea.

Never said it was. I'm on record repeatedly saying when something is both good for business and consumers/workers, etc. that's government working at its very best. But just because something is good for business doesn't mean it's also good for consumers or workers. Too many of Bush's agencies whose entire raison d'etre is to protect consumers and workers are instead implementing changes that benefit industry.

but the expostulation's applicability to Edward himself? That's still in need of explanation.

That was my question, yes. Thanks Anarch. Unless I'm asleep to my own arrogance. Not true...I hear it all the time. But in this case the note was to folks who find themselves surprised...

context is everything.

A call to "wake up" is hardly arrogant. The fact is that this administration's deregulatory, anti-environment, anti-consumer, anti-safety, crony capitalist agenda gets next to no airtime in a media atmosphere which screams that war is the only issue that matters and that everything's changed since 9/11.

More bothersome is the fact that these people can only get away with pursuing such an agenda in the dark. Americans as a whole like clean water and clean air and biodiversity. They want roads and cars to be safer and they want to be protected on the job and they don't want to be held hostage with their own paychecks. Thi administration pursues its domestic agenda the same way it pursued its plan for war - cloaked in deceit and distraction. If George Bush believed that his values were American values, he'd be trumpeting every gutted environmental regulation and every safety standard, instead of posing in front of wetlands on Earth Day promising to be the environmental president.

How many people on this thread were aware of all of the bullet points Edward listed? I wasn't. How about two-thirds of them? A half? If you don't know what your government is doing behind your back, it's time to wake the hell up.

WaPo goes deeper, first article of three.

"Just imagine if all this outrage ..."

What "all this"? You had one guy make a critical remark.

I blame Paris Hilton.

And all the other people and narratives we're more interested in watching than in paying attention to what the government is doing.

Seriously, none of the iniatives noted above is particularly secret, and anybody who wants to pay even a little attention can follow each twist and turn. Industry and advocacy groups are following them all, and there are notice and comment periods.

More to the point, this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that should have been expected from GWB in 2000 and up to Sept 20, 2001. I mean, no one can be faulted for failing to predict that we'd be on our second war to rid the world of evil (through nation-building, no less) -- with another in the offing -- but that federal regulations would be substantially revised to help big businesses? That's some kind of surprise?

More to the point, this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that should have been expected from GWB in 2000 and up to Sept 20, 2001.

That should be Sept 10, 2001, right?

What "all this"? You had one guy make a critical remark.

Yeah, but it hurt my feelings. ; (

You agreed with him that it could be seen that way, btw....

More to the point, this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that should have been expected from GWB in 2000 and up to Sept 20, 2001.

Why? What part of "I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity." from his inauguration speech foreshadowed working around Congress?

Where in these promises is there a hint that he would act without the checks and balances the Constitution intended to guide the nation:

  • Together, we will reclaim America's schools, before ignorance and apathy claim more young lives.

  • We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent. And we will reduce taxes, to recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans.

  • We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge.

  • We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.

    Notice the use of "we." What about "we" suggests he'll clandestinely leap frog over our representatives in the House and Senate?

    What in this statement suggests his agencies would work to help industry: Government has great responsibilities for public safety and public health, for civil rights and common schools.

    Where in this statement is any indication at all that we should expect these aggresive measures to work around the law: I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it as well.

    Why should we have expected this faithlessness from GWB? I don't see where it was obvious.

  • Why should we have expected this faithlessness from GWB? I don't see where it was obvious.

    From his record in Texas?

    That's not my argument, btw -- I don't know enough about his tenure there to say -- but that's the one I've heard most often.

    I'm going to say it: George Bush is a big fat wuss.

    If he can't come out and debate these issues in public like a man*, he's not fit to be commander in chief.

    *Lying does not count as debating.

    Yeah, but it hurt my feelings. ; (
    Yes, that's always painful. Would a hug help? (Non-sarcastic; I'm actually a very friendly guy with people I like, and I do sympathize.)
    You agreed with him that it could be seen that way, btw....
    Yup. I find that sort of trope rather annoying, on the cited grounds, without regard to subject or speaker, but not terribly so. I remain aware, as perspective, that I have plenty of my own forms of expressed arrogance, many of which are no less inherently offensive and no more justifiable.

    Of course, if we were all free to shed our inhibitions, and I simply started telling people "man, how stupid are you to say that?" or "good lord, can't you at least write at junior high school level -- and try actual English this time, please?," or somesuch, and someone told me that was arrogant of me, and I noted that that hurt my feelings, would that mean that I was justified in making the remark?

    I was joking Gary...but thanks for the offer of the hug. You caught me in a moment of hyperbole. I was looking for an out.

    Praktike: If he can't come out and debate these issues in public like a man*,

    Or, better yet, like a woman. Really.

    *Lying does not count as debating.

    It can be a tactic of debate. It's just that it's a losing tactic, as Bush & Co are discovering.

    Or like a woman.

    Last August, for example, the administration relaxed its clean-air rules by allowing thousands of corporations to upgrade their plants without having to install expensive pollution-control equipment, saying that would allow plants to modernize more easily, leading to greater efficiency and lower consumer costs.

    Do they (WaPo) mean that they reversed the previous Admin's Executive Order, bringing the regulations back to where Congress intended. If it is a reversal, someone misstated the case, no?

    Edward,

    Bullet No. 1 - What data? Compiled by whom? Regarding what types of vehicles? Is the information even valid?

    Bullet No. 2 - Environmental groups purposefully delay environmental reviews so that loggers will not be able to get in at all. Then, you get thick undergrowth which becomes tinder-dry and burns like hell. Good faith positions on both sides would go a long way, here.

    Bullet No. 3 - Is this the same thing that we went over before? It was hardly a Dickensian nightmare.

    Bullet No. 4 - How much would this cost? Where would the money come from? What kind of cost-benefit analysis was done? What is the risk to reasonably healthy patients of getting TB? ( Patients who are going to die shortly often catch diseases like TB or pneumonia and are included in statistics along with more healthy patients.)

    Bullet No. 5 - Please. A bunch of people complaining that the guy in a nearby cubicle has a nicer chair. This has almost nothing to do with safety in the workplace.

    Bullet No. 6 - Possibly correct! But, what is the workload of each enforcement official now? Are they duplicating efforts of state governments? What are the legal obligations for good faith monitoring within industry? Regarding the last point, I can tell you that helping industry comply with the rules can go a long way towards preventing all kinds of trouble. An ounce of prevention and all that.

    Bullet No. 7 - Do you know anything about trucking? Does anybody at the NYT? For a lot of people, an eleven hour day is shorter than normal. It is certainly shorter than the hours I used to work. You also failed to mention that the new rule requires two more hours of rest in between driving sessions than the previous one.

    I do not intend to be too confontational, here, but... come on. I understand that you cannot dig up all the background information for every point, but you should at least approach this with some modesty.

    I will also note that it very easy to propose new spending initiatives and very tough to roll back unnecessary ones. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in such situations. Perhaps you should as well.

    Nathan: I know about several of these. No. 4: This is a very good idea, not just on worker safety grounds but for the sake of public health. TB is rising in significant parts of the country. Last time I checked, its rates were considerably higher among the poor, many of whom use emergency rooms for medical care. You truly do not want TB to spread any more than it has to, especially since there are some nasty drug-resistant strains out there, which are much harder to treat.
    No. 5: evidently you've never had an ergonomic injury. A friend of mine had carpal tunnel syndrome and was unable to write or type for several years -- kind of a drag, since she was an academic. Anyways, this rule requires only that when companies report workplace injuries, they indicate which are ergonomic. It makes sense since it's not onerous and would allow us to tell how many ergonomic injuries are out there, and thus what, if anything, needs to be done about them.
    No. 6: it's high; they currently inspect only 2% of workplaces. Helping companies conform is of course a good idea, but without enforcement it's not at all clear that companies would have an incentive to comply.

    Timmy: Congress originally passed a law requiring that all new power plants meet certain clean air standards, but allowing existing power plants not to, so long as they were not significantly upgraded. Routine maintenance was, however, allowed. The idea was that these power plants would eventually be replaced, and the new power plants would meet the standards. The trouble was that the utilities did all sorts of things to their power plants and called them 'maintenance' when they were really upgrades. The new rule basically says: OK, we're not even going to try to rule out upgrades; you can upgrade your plants at will without triggering the provisions of the Clean Air Act. This was not at all what Congress intended.

    Hilzoy,

    What are the costs, the risks, and the return on investment for special TB measures? And, what about the administration saying that current measures will adequately address TB in hospitals?

    If it only requries them to report when an injury is ergonomic, then it may be fine. But, what actually constitutes an ergonomic injury? Are we going to be recording things that are not worth considering?

    Unless you are proposing a radical change in the role of government in enforcing health and safety rules, they cannot enforce them by regularly monitoring workplaces. They enforce the rules reactively by giving very stiff penalties when an accident occurs, if the company was not following the rules. This is the only way it can work.

    Hilzoy, simply put, what did Clinton's Executive Order do? Second and related, you mention maintenance, I've never seen a maitenance program which increased rated generating capacity per se (the key driver of the law), other than marginal (longer running periods and turbine blade efficiency) on the other hand if by maintnenance you mean efficiency same generating capacity but less pollution (burning less fuel, producing less polution), you will have to explain how this violated the parameters of the original law.

    Nathan,

    You're missing the point. I can muddy the waters on each of those items as well, asking questions until they seem "debatable" at worst. The list was a test to see how many you knew had actually happened. If you knew all had happened, you win a gold star. If you were surprised by a few, well, then, we have a problem.

    I do not intend to be too confontational, here, but... come on. I understand that you cannot dig up all the background information for every point, but you should at least approach this with some modesty....

    I will also note that it very easy to propose new spending initiatives and very tough to roll back unnecessary ones. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in such situations.

    Absolutely not.

    My overarching theme is that the time for modestly giving the administration the benefit of doubt is past. They admit they're working around Congress in an agressive manner. They admit they're predominantly changing things to benefit business and industry. They're doing so through agencies that are funded specifically to protect workers and consumers.

    That last point bears repeating. We are paying the salaries of these officials to ensure that industry greed doesn't create dangerous conditions for workers and consumers. But in this way, they're NOT doing that. They're not doing what we pay them to do. Each new regulation they find a loophole through for business takes time away from some pro-worker/pro-consumer initiative they should be working on. It's the opposite of what we're paying them to do.

    What do modesty or benefit of the doubt have to do with insisting our public officials are doing their jobs as defined by law? That, if they're supposed to, they actually work for the people, and not industry?

    It's a matter of accountability.

    Edward,

    You say that you just listed these points to see if people knew that these thigns had happened. Then, you condemn the administration for doing these things, without researching them to find out what they actually mean!

    It is entirely possible that you are right on every count, but you cannot expect me to accept these points without any supporting information.

    You don't need background info to muddy the waters, you need it know what is going on.

    "The list was a test to see how many you knew had actually happened."

    Again Edward makes my point... he feels the need to "test" us.


    "The list was a test to see how many you knew had actually happened."

    Again Edward takes an interesting apporoach... not only do we need to wake up, but we need to be tested by him.


    Expectations:

    Edward: Really, now, that "uniter not a divider" stuff was aimed at a narrow slice of the electorate that wanted that from a Republican, in the wake of the Impeachment. Plenty of other people -- industry people, for example -- also heard the message they were looking for, and supported Bush in 2000 because they knew this was what would happen. It's not surprising that in a broad coalition like our parties, you'd have narrowcasting of messages. [Lest anyone think I'm picking on Reps, I think Clinton did exactly this, going horribly wrong at it in 92 with respect to gays in the military.] It's also not surprising that the people who were appointed in the various agencies would support these positions: they believe in them, and were selected because they do.

    Of course, we don't elect just one guy to an executive spot. We're selecting between teams of, what, 3,000 people. (This is why it's so maddening that voters are persuaded by things like how goofy a guy looks riding a tank, or whether a guy did cocaine 30 years ago, or whether a guy has 5:00 shadow, or whatever. What matters is what the 3,000 people are going to do. But, well, we like looking and laughing at Paris Hilton more than thinking about policy anyway . . .)

    Anarch: It's a typo, but not the one you think. I agree that September 11, 2001 "changed everything." I also think, though, that the president "changed everything" again with his address to the joint session in late September, when he defined the nature of the US response. Either of his predecessors might have gone a different way -- seizing Osama and his senior folks Noriega style, with active collaboration from the Pakistani ISI, leaving the Taliban and Iraq regimes substantially undisturbed -- but Bush announced a crusade against evil. A crusade that has nation building at its very core. This, it seemed to me, was a bigger step than his prior record reflected.

    I think it's clear enough that this has been the source of much difficulty. The appointees selected for foreign policy and defense positions were from the team that does not believe in nation building. Now they have to do it, and with a vengeance. They have had a rough learning curve, and it's always a very difficult endeavor (as anyone in Bosnia, Haiti, East Timor, or Somalia could tell you).

    I guess I really took offense at Edward's post because I work in the trucking industry and it's people like Edward who seem to have little to no experience in the industry that are making it impossible to earn a decent living driving.

    Speaking from experience I welcome the changes.


    Timmy: the case we seem to be discussing is described by the NYT thus:
    "Last August, for example, the administration relaxed its clean-air rules by allowing thousands of corporations to upgrade their plants without having to install expensive pollution-control equipment, saying that would allow plants to modernize more easily, leading to greater efficiency and lower consumer costs.

    Utilities had lobbied for change; environmental groups filed suit. In December, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit blocked the rule, at least temporarily, indicating that the court doubted the administration had authority to modify the Clean Air Act by regulation."

    There is no Clinton Executive Order mentioned here, nor does one figure in the actual history of the case under discussion. This is a change Bush made, pure and simple. You can read about it here; a good background piece is here.

    Of course, a Clinton directive is mentioned in the next para. of the NYT article, but by then we've moved on to a different case, involving air conditioners.

    Joe -- thanks for your last clarification.

    I only just started being one of the five posters here, so I don't regard myself as having acquired any real referee status. So just take this as one person's impressions of the 'was Edward arrogant?' controversy. -- First, the parts of it that were of public interest -- Joe pointing out that Edward's language might be taken as arrogant, Gary's explaining why, Edward's explaining what he actually meant, and Joe's last clarification -- seem to me to have been more or less exhausted. Speaking as a reader of this thread, I'd rather read about regulation than about possible defects in Edward's expression.

    Second, any criticism of someone's character (e.g., saying that Edward is arrogant as opposed to saying that he occasionally expresses himself in a way that might be taken that way) should, I think, involve some consideration not just of this phrase, but of Edward's character in general, at least insofar as we can discern it from his other posts. I do not know Edward (or Moe, von, or Sebastian), but for what it's worth he has never struck me as being arrogant. I can see how this phrasing might come off that way, but given the rest of what he's written, it seems to me that this doesn't illustrate his character, but just the fairly obvious fact that we all at times write things that are open to constructions we didn't intend.

    Third (a meta-point): it's worth asking whether what sort of blogging world we want to live in. Either (a) one in which our posts are considered against the backdrop of our general character, as far as it can be determined from our other writings, or (b) one in which every possible implication of every post is regarded as one we actually intended, and one which therefore reflects on our character. In (a), we need to be careful about what we say, since otherwise we will over time develop the general character of being irresponsible and thoughtless. But we can expect that if despite this fact we screw up now and again, our mistakes will be taken in context. If (b), we will have to be much more careful, examining each and every word for possible unintended implications; and we might never get around to posting anything at all. Personally, I prefer world (a), not just as a poster but also as a reader -- more interesting things get written when people aren't always putting their every word under a microscope. But your mileage may vary.

    Joe: I guess I really took offense at Edward's post because I work in the trucking industry and it's people like Edward who seem to have little to no experience in the industry that are making it impossible to earn a decent living driving.

    Speaking from experience I welcome the changes.

    Anyone who has been tailgated or cut off by a trucker who was either not paying attention due to fatigue or was otherwise driving aggressively has practical experience with the trucking industry (and while not all truckers do these things, enough do for trucking safety to be a very personal concern for many of us). If I work an 11 hour day, the worst thing that could possibly happen is for me to fall asleep on my keyboard. For a trucker, the worst that can happen involves 16 tons of steel and cargo plowing into a school bus.

    Now, I'll gladly listen to arguments on both sides, but don't try to tell me I don't have the necessary experience to make judgements about long-haul trucking. That carries as much weight with me as a fox trying to tell me I don't have enough experience with henhouses.

    hilzoy, thank you for the sites, and it wasn't an Executive Order is was an Executive Memrorandum #792 relating to New Source Review.

    That is, in scheduled maintenance (replacing of turbine blades and refurbishment of burners) efficiencies were obtained (less pollution more energy due to improvement in replacement blades and computer controlled boilers). At issue was the installation of scrubbers, which were requried (due to high sulfur eastern coal) on all new plants and major modifications, notwithstanding the environmental impact. That is, scrubbers were required even if the plant met clean air standards without them.

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