Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Bush Administration’

Battle over carbon dioxide moves to EPA

Posted by sanityinjection on February 19, 2009

The next development in the controversy over carbon dioxide and its role in climate change is likely to come from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency is under a Supreme Court order to make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide qualifies as a dangerous pollutant under the Clean Air Act:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/19/healthscience/19epa.php

The Bush Administration ignored this order on plausible constitutional and practical grounds. The Supreme Court’s role is to determine whether a law is constitutional; it has no power to order an executive branch agency such as EPA to do anything. Further, the Bush Administration knew that a finding either way would agitate a lot of people on one side or the other of the climate change debate, and preferred to avoid this.

Under the new management of the Obama Administration, however, the EPA has signaled its intent to comply with the Court order in the next few months, which it certainly can choose to do. The Clean Air Act is one of the more complex pieces of federal legislation ever written, so there is considerable room for interpretation. However, given the leanings of the Administration, it is expected that the EPA will decide that carbon dioxide is in fact a dangerous pollutant  properly subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.  This would give the Administration regulatory power to enforce carbon emission reductions without the need for (or in addition to) action by Congress, which could certainly help them further their goals regarding climate change.

Nevertheless, one wonders whether basic common sense should be taken into account:

Even some who favor an aggressive approach to climate change said they were wary of the agency’s asserting exclusive authority over carbon emissions. They say that the Clean Air Act, now more than 40 years old, was not designed to regulate ubiquitous substances like carbon dioxide.

In fact, carbon dioxide is the fourth most common ingredient in the air that we breathe, after nitrogen, oxygen, and argon, though far less abundant than all three. To suggest that a natural component of the earth’s atmosphere constitutes a “pollutant that endangers public health and welfare”, seems like a ludicrous stretch of the intent of the law. And the consequences could be very significant:

Under the clean air law any source emitting more than 250 tons of a declared pollutant would be subject to regulation, potentially including schools, hospitals, shopping centers, even bakeries, which has prompted some critics to call it the “Dunkin’ Donuts rule.”

Of course, EPA claims that they could write the regulations so as not to be draconian.

What disturbs me is that there seems to be more concern about whether a ruling would be practical or useful in combatting global warming than in the more fundamental question of whether it would be scientifically correct or in conformance with the enabling legislation. If the rationale for labeling CO2 a dangerous pollutant relies on the theory of global warming, then I would argue that the science is insufficient, and should not be whitewashed out of a political desire to do an end-run around Congress.

I have long held that the ideas that the ends always justify the means, and that the law is a convenience to be set aside when it suits the purposes of those with noble motives, are inherently destructive to our democracy. The Left cited this view in its justifiable criticism of the Bush Administration in areas such as waterboarding and “signing statements”. To reverse course now and embrace these arguments simply because it now benefits the Left politically to do so would be the essence of hypocrisy.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

2008 post-election analysis and the future of the GOP

Posted by sanityinjection on January 12, 2009

RealClearPolitics, in discussing the concept of “permanent majorities” and the cycle of party dominance in American politics, gives us this interesting look back at the 2008 election:

We see that McCain’s lead over Obama holds until Lehman Brothers and AIG collapse. McCain’s numbers drop again after he suspends his campaign, and Obama’s start to rise as the Dow later starts to fall. By the time the stock market bottoms out around 8,500, Obama had the 8-point lead that he would hold through Election Day.

Without the collapse, the campaign dynamic could have been quite different. For instance, how would the country have reacted had the Obama campaign been forced to go sharply negative, rather than employing the kind of “Rose Garden strategy” it was able to employ? If one accepts that the financial collapse hurt Republicans by even a couple of points, then Norm Coleman, Ted Stevens, and Gordon Smith would have stood a much better chance of holding their seats, and Republican House losses might have been quite reduced. In other words, were it not for the timing of an event that was out of the campaigns’ control, the election could have been different.

This is significant as it pertains to the current soul-searching going on in the Republican party. Viewed in this light, 2008 does not represent any kind of wholesale rejection of Republican policies or values. What it does indicate is that the electorate lost confidence in the GOP’s ability to manage the economy, which is significant. If the Republicans want to remold themselves in response to the elections, the key to doing that would seem to be to regain the high ground on economic issues by returning to a policy of fiscal discipline. Under the Bush Administration, Republicans in Congress passed spending increase after spending increase and Bush vetoed none of them. They called for tax cuts, but without corresponding cuts in spending voters may well have wondered where those tax breaks were going to come from.

It’s true that a significant portion of the spending increase was in the defense sector. But if that is to be justified (and I think it can be), then it has to be accompanied by reductions in other areas. Instead, Bush and the GOP horse-traded away fiscal responsibility to the Democrats in return for the latter party’s support of the war funding.

Republicans are beginning the process of arguing themselves into apoplexy over whether the party should become more or less socially conservative. This argument is pointless and needlessly divisive. To borrow a phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The truth about the Bush Administration

Posted by sanityinjection on December 22, 2008

Even the most ardent Bush-haters out there should admit that most of the information we get about the Bush Administration and its policies comes to us filtered through a defiantly biased lens.  In response to this, Ed Gillespie debunks a number of widely-believed accusations against the Administration that are not so well supported by the facts:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/12/myths_and_facts_about_the_real.html

Of course, Gillespie is as biased a source as they come, just in the other direction. So one must put his information together with what we already know in order to get an accurate picture.

One area Gillespie doesn’t even touch on is the Administration’s great efforts toward the eradication of AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. Anyone involved in AIDS relief activities – no matter how left-wing they may be – will tell you that the Bush Administration has been by far the best in this area. It’s not something the mainstream media wants you to be reminded of, though.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Details of the final auto bailout

Posted by sanityinjection on December 19, 2008

This one comes from the Bush Administration and does not have to be approved by Congress. It consists of $9.4 billion in emergency loans for GM and $4 billion for Chrysler. The companies will have to meet the same conditions specified in the Congressional plan that failed to pass – submit acceptable restructuring plans by March 31 or repay the loans immediately.

President Bush explained his rationale for approving the loans this way:

“If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy and liquidation for the automakers. Under ordinary economic circumstances, I would say this is the price that failed companies must pay. And I would not favor intervening to prevent the automakers from going out of business. But these are not ordinary circumstances.  In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action.”

The problem with this is that there is no way that GM and Chrysler are going to meet that March 31 deadline. The biggest reason is that without bankruptcy protection, they will be unable to get relief from their creditors and they will be unable to force renegotiation with the auto workers, whom you will recall have refused to discuss changes to their contract which extends through 2011. I don’t see how they can become solvent without these steps.

That is the difference between this plan and the Congressional plan, which in its final form would have required the creditors and the UAW to come to the table. The Bush Administration can’t make that happen by itself. Therefore, while I sympathize with what the President is trying to do, I think it’s misguided and will fail. April Fools will be on the taxpayer when GM and Chrysler default on their loans and go into bankruptcy. With no Congressional law requiring the government to be paid before other creditors, we’ll be lucky to get half of that money back.

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National security primer: The 4 nations that threaten the US

Posted by sanityinjection on October 6, 2008

Back in 2000, George Bush famously coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” in reference to three nations he felt were a malevolent presence on the world stage: Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. While the phrase itself was criticized as simplistic and naive, Bush was doing publicly something that every President should at least do privately: Identifying the major threats to the security of the United States of America.

I thought it might be helpful to do a brief review of what those threats are today in 2008, and will continue to be in 2009 for the next President. I am defining “threat” as a danger to American lives, so I am setting aside for now factors such as industrial espionage and other attacks on our economy – these may well be extremely dangerous to the long-term prospertiy of our country, but are unlikely to cost lives in the near future.

Based on current and expected conditions, I see four major threats to the United States currently in the international arena. In order from greatest to least, they are:

1. AL QAEDA – Nothing is of greater concern than those here in America (mostly on the Left, it must be said) who dismiss Al Qaeda as no longer being able to pose a serious danger to the US. The fact that we have been able to avoid additional attacks on the American homeland since 9/11 has more to do with a lot of hard work by the intelligence community and the military than by lack of capacity or effort on the part of Al Qaeda. There is no reason to believe that the organization is not capable of launching another attack of the same scale as 9/11, although hopefully our ability to deter it is now greater.

More importantly, Al Qaeda is number one on the list because of all international actors, it is the only one actively seeking to kill and harm Americans as we speak. To the extent that the US has a Great Enemy in the world, Al Qaeda is it, and it has nothing to do with our policy on the Israeli-Palestinian question as the isolationists would have us believe. It’s based on the simple fact that Al Qaeda recgonizes America as the chief obstacle to its goal of a worldwide Islamic state. If they can find the means to harm us, they will do so without hesitation. Therefore, it stands to reason that eliminating Al Qaeda as an entity should be our number one foreign policy objective – and that is going to necessitate much greater political and military involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries such as Somalia and Indonesia.

2. NORTH KOREA – This may come as a surprise to some, but North Korea was made a member of the “Axis of Evil” for good reason. North Korea’s military, by itself, has only a limited ability to attack America. It has a huge army but is unable to project that power beyond the Korean peninsula, and its missile technology, while advancing, is no match for North American defense systems.

Rather, the biggest danger of North Korea is their ability and willingness to share nuclear technology with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. North Korea is a country on the verge of collapse, and that makes them dangerous and unpredictable. Handing over technology to terrorists is unlikely to be a policy of the North Korean government, which would stand to gain little for such an arrangement. What North Korea needs most is food, and Al Qaeda cannot give them that. However, should the leadership of the country go into flux, or should there be a loss of central control over military and scientific apparatus, it is easy to imagine some unscrupulous individual selling nuclear technology for personal enrichment.

I think the Bush Administration has taken the right tack with North Korea so far. A military approach would, if anything, increase the danger – even a huge victory for the US might create the kind of chaos and instability that is to be feared. Unfortunately, the North Koreans have weaseled out of living up to every agreement they have signed, when it comes down to verification. The Bush Administration’s strategy has been to try to work with China to put pressure on the North Koreans. Hopefully, Kim Jong Il will be succeeded by a capable leader with a more pragmatic stance toward working with the West.

3. PAKISTAN – This one may also come as a surprise to some. Pakistan has never been formally hostile to the US, and its government is a nominal US ally. However, the US is not viewed so positively by a large swath of the Pakistani people. Pakistan is currently harboring the leadership of Al Qaeda, and the tribespeople of the northwest provinces as well as significant segments of the Pakistani security apparatus are supporting them. Further, Pakistan has never had what I would call a stable government. It has had a long series of military coups, and the federal government’s control over the various regions is not nearly what it should be. Pakistan is a confirmed nuclear power, and there is a very real danger of nuclear technology falling into the wrong hands – we have seen this already to a degree with Abdul Qadeer Khan. Finally, Pakistan’s continual tensions with nuclear neighbor India raise the spectre of a possible nuclear conflict the like of which has never been seen.

The current government of Pakistan has every reason to want to work cooperatively with the United States. However, the pro-Taliban, pro-Al Qaeda elements of the ISI security organization must be eliminated in order for such cooperation to succeed. The US should also step up non-military assistance of all kinds to Pakistan. The more schools and hospitals that are built with American money, the more incentive the Pakistani people themselves will have to side with us against the terrorists.

4. IRAN – There are three reasons Iran is lower on the list than the other three. The first is that despite their rhetoric to the contrary, the US is not Iran’s primary enemy – Israel is. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology is dangerous, but it is primarily aimed at Israel, as is its support of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The Iranian people, by and large, do not hate Americans. The second reason is that Iran actually has a very stable government with civilian control of the military and a functional if warped  democracy. Although they are always testing us to see what they can get away with, they are unlikely to do anything rash. The third reason is that Iran has no more interest in seeing a Sunni Islamist caliphate of the type envisioned by Al Qaeda than we do.

Militarily, Iran is not in a position to threaten the domestic US. Nevertheless, the prospect of Iran as a conduit for nuclear technology to terrorist groups is very real. The collapse of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq has left a power vacuum in the Gulf that Iran is eager to fill. And any significant conflagration in the Middle East involving Israel would be disastrous for the US. Unfortunately, nuclear negotiations with Iran have been fruitless, as Iran is happy to stall for time and evade sanctions with the help of Russia and China. We should continue a carrot-and-stick approach, but we need to find better carrots and more effective sticks. Nor should we rule out direct US-Iran diplomacy if an opportunity presents itself. We must insist that Iran abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons and the support of terrorism in exchange for normalization of relations with the US, free trade and assistance with civilian nuclear technology, with safeguards. A prolonged war with Iran is not to be desired, although surgical strikes by the US and/or Israel against Iranian nuclear facilities cannot be ruled out.

Notably absent from the top four are Russia and China. Although these great nuclear powers have the ability to harm America, they have little incentive to do so. Russia does not have an economy capable of sustaining a war with the US, especially as the oil bubble is now bursting. Their geopolitical interests lie mainly around their own borders and have a lot to do with ensuring access to markets for their oil and natural gas. I would probably put them 5th on the list simply due to their nuclear arsenal, but Russia’s leadership is not insane enough to provoke a nuclear conflict with the US – nor are they interested in spreading nuclear technology and thus further diluting their own military advantages. Russia has its own problem with Islamic nationalism and has no sympathy whatsoever for Al Qaeda. As for China, there is no evidence that China has expansionist aims beyond reunification with Taiwan. There is no question that they are trying to increase their share of the world’s economic power, but that will have to come before any military adventurism. Although they do not always see eye to eye with the US on international issues such as Iran, they have shown no interest in proliferating nuclear technology. Like Russia, China has a Muslim minority problem in its western provinces and is not interested in supporting Islamic nationalism. China would be 6th on the list, only because of the possibility of being drawn into military conflict with the US if there is an escalation in Taiwan, which at the moment seems unlikely.

Whether Obama or McCain is elected President, the new Commander-In-Chief will have to focus primarily on these entities in constructing his foreign policy. Of course, there are other important areas too – relations with Canada and Mexico, free trade agreements with allies such as Colombia, and the eternal quest for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. But the primary goal of our foreign policy should always be to protect the lives and liberty of Americans here at home, and that can’t be done without a realistic assessment of the threats we face.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Exploding more myths of the Bush Presidency

Posted by sanityinjection on June 11, 2008

We all know that the Bush Administration has pursued a relentlessly unilateral foreign policy, refusing to consult with or engage the help of our European allies and permanently damaging US-European relations. Right?

Erm, well, perhaps not. The Wall Street Journal blows up first the “unilateralism” charge:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120666168987070241.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks

and then the notion that our relationship with Europe is broken:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121305526251459171.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries

My thanks to the folks over at the Flopping Aces blog (www.floppingaces.net) for bringing these articles to our collective attention.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Did Bush really lie to the country about Iraq?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2008

Fred Hiatt, the editorial director of the Washington Post has a great piece up on this very question:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/08/AR2008060801687.html

Hiatt points out that, contrary to the popular “Bush Lied” bumper stickers, even the Democrats’ investigation showed that in virtually every area, President Bush’s statements arguing the need to go to war with Iraq were “substantiated by intelligence information”.

Now, you can legitimately argue that a lot of that intelligence turned out to be crap. You can also argue that influential individuals within the Bush Administration may have cherry-picked from the available intelligence to find what they wanted to hear. But that’s very different from stating that the President deliberately lied to Congress and the American people to trick them into approving the war with Iraq. This slander has become all too common. Kudos to the Post for once again demonstrating that it is the best major newspaper in America, because it is willing to print the truth even when it is “An Inconvenient Truth” for the paper’s general left-wing leanings.

Of course, the idea of the President lying to the country is easy to swallow given how common it’s been among Bush’s predecessors (LBJ, Nixon, Clinton.) But to those sporting “Bush Lied” bumper stickers, let’s not tarnish the current President with this label unfairly – there remain plenty of legitimate areas in which to criticize Bush and his Administration without resorting to the intellectual equivalent of “Bush Is a Doodie-Head.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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