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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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Lynne  •  Nov 20, 2014 @3:26 pm

    Thanks for this, Barbara. Well-written!

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 20, 2014 @3:45 pm

    ‘Mr. Rooster, your services at the henhouse are no longer going to be needed.
    And no, we don’t need an update from you right now.
    You may leave, retire, or find another job.
    We now have Mr. Fox to count the hens, and make sure that they’re well taken care of. We’re sending him in to do a hen-count in the henhouse right after this hearing, and he’ll determine the security measures necessary for their continued safety.”

    Yeeesh…
    The minute you think things can’t get any worse, or stupider, the American people vote in still more Republican loons who are in thrall to rich and powerful sociopaths and psychopaths!

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 20, 2014 @4:09 pm

    Oh, and who needs climate experts?
    There’s no such thing as climate change!

    6+ feet of snow in Buffalo, NY, with up to another 3+ feet coming, who needs to hear about climate change?

    Besides, those people are stuck in their homes, desperately trying to keep warm – and hopefully, stay fed.
    PROFITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Bonnie  •  Nov 20, 2014 @4:37 pm

    It is one the main reasons I retired when I did. The incompetence at the top levels was starting to filter down to the lower levels that I worked. I started working for the Federal Government in 1973. A lot of Presidents came and went; and, most of us at the level I worked seldom noticed. The thing I am most disturbed about is the imminent demise of the U.S. Postal Service, which I am hearing may happen with this group of Republicans. The USPS has a long storied history that goes with the history of our country. It is at present perhaps the best bargain for services that any one could find. And, I will not feel sorry for the rural rednecks who voted in these horrid excuses for Congressmen when they discover that they will no longer receive their mail in a timely, inexpensive manner.

  5. joanr16  •  Nov 20, 2014 @5:00 pm

    It’s weird… David Koch pays big bucks to broadcast Nova on PBS (“the David H. Koch Fund for Science”), and then, 24/7, everything else he does is meant to dumb down the country.

    Jeez, if he wants to throw those science funds away, he could just give them to me.

  6. grannyeagle  •  Nov 20, 2014 @5:08 pm

    There is an excellent book: “The Coming Global Superstorm” by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber which explains how global warming can lead to an ice age. They aren’t scientists but they did their homework. The movie “The Day After Tomorrow” was based on this book. I think those who live in New York and farther north will find it interesting.

  7. grannyeagle  •  Nov 20, 2014 @5:11 pm

    Bonnie: I agree with you about the USPS. They are getting a bum deal. I really appreciate my mail carrier even if my dog doesn’t.

  8. Dolorous Stroke  •  Nov 20, 2014 @6:58 pm

    The numbers are in and October 2014 was the warmest October on record. September 2014 was the warmest September on record. Same with August 2014. Likewise June 2014. May 2014 too. You’d think that would be newsworthy.

  9. Mike G  •  Nov 20, 2014 @8:20 pm

    Republican country hicks will be spitting mad when they’re paying $3 to mail a letter through Privatized Postal Corporation. But Fox will find a way to blame it on Obama.

  10. Swami  •  Nov 21, 2014 @3:48 am

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Dick Cheney featured on a United States Postage Stamp.

  11. joanr16  •  Nov 21, 2014 @9:40 am

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Dick Cheney featured on a United States Postage Stamp.

    Verily, G.W. Bush would thrill at the chance for one last lick of Cheney’s back side.

  12. Swami  •  Nov 21, 2014 @4:13 pm

    I don’t know, Joan. My assumption would be that W has had enough of Cheney backside lickin’ to last him a life time. But then again, the old pecking order habits are hard to break.

  13. Mike Salazar  •  Nov 22, 2014 @5:54 am

    Nice article overall, but be careful with quoting the Union of Concerned Scientists. Thirty years ago they were a highly respected organization based on the integrity of their work on nuclear armaments and nonproliferation. Since then they have been infiltrated by nonscientists with ideological axes to grind, which has had the unfortunate effect of draining away much of their credibility and their accumulated fund of good will.

  14. Doug  •  Nov 22, 2014 @9:43 am

    I’m not sure if Obama hasn’t finally realized that the GOP leadership is ALWAYS going to play Lucy to his Charlie Brown nature and jerk the football away. Maybe, just maybe, he’s not going to play. If the GOP will negotiate in good faith on any issue, he will probably engage. He can’t refuse a good-faith offer from the GOP leadership, though it’s never happened yet.

    Congress can’t pass anything unless Obama signs it (without overriding his veto, which they don’t have a two-thirds margin to do) I can believe the president would trade the USPS for serious legislative progress on emissions or corporate tax reform. But the GOP isn’t going to ‘give’ any of that in negotiations, so why should Obama allow the privatization of the Postal Service?

    Obstruction is a two-way street. Obama can do a lot through regulation and administration. If he’s willing to require that the GOP Congress negotiate with democrats or become intimate with his veto powers – the GOP may find they are the lame ducks. Even they know the majority they have will evaporate in 2016.

  15. Bill Bush  •  Nov 22, 2014 @10:55 am

    This latest “you’re disqualified because you’re qualified” brought to us by the “I’m not a scientist” crowd is straight out of Animal Farm’s differential equality of animals. It is absurd to the point of being Kafkaesque.



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