Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, November 20th, 2014.


Capture the Agency!

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Obama Administration

The “capture” of federal regulatory agencies by industry insiders has been going on for awhile and is one of the several hundred reasons government doesn’t work for the people any more. It peaked during the Bush II Administration, in which Dubya and Co. pretty much invited industry insiders to regulate themselves and even write laws benefiting themselves.

Early on President Obama’s choices for regulatory agency heads were a big improvement. But for most of his administration Republicans have cut funding for regulatory agencies and were able to block many appointments until Harry Reid dropped the nuclear option in the Senate a year ago.  I believe some agencies are still without heads, though.

But dang if the House hasn’t kicked agency capturing up a notch. It passed a bill that would — get this — restrict scientists from testifying on their own research to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, but would pave the way for corporate paid shills experts to testify instead. Lindsay Abrams writes,

The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, arguedthat the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.

But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

In what might be the most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

President Obama is threatening to veto this bill if it gets past the Senate. If he does, watch the Fox News bloviators scream about the President stifling science. See also House Republicans Pass Yet Another Underhanded Attack on Science.

Republicans are forever telling us they are not scientists.

For now, “I’m not a scientist” is what one party adviser calls “a temporary Band-Aid” — a way to avoid being called a climate change denier but also to sidestep a dilemma. The reality of campaigning is that a politician who acknowledges that burning coal and oil contributes to global warming must offer a solution, which most policy experts say should be taxing or regulating carbon pollution and increasing government spending on alternative energy. But those ideas are anathema to influential conservative donors like the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and the advocacy group they support, Americans for Prosperity.

We’re perpetually being told the two major parties are just alike, but while the Dems have their flaws, I can’t see them doing anything this blatantly corrupt.

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