Okay, boys and girls, get out your #2 pencils. (Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever seen a #1 pencil?) Here is your Civics quiz question of the day:
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) isâ€¦
a. an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior.
b. the caretaker of more land and wildlife than any federal agency.
c. responsible for sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
d. currently being criticized for restricting the ability of its own biologists to monitor wildlife damage caused by surging energy drilling on federal land.
e. all of the above.
If you answered â€œe,â€? then congratulations! You win my enduring admiration. (Donâ€™t look so disappointed. Second prize was a quail hunting trip with Dick Cheney. Kevlar vest not included.) In case you were unaware, the BLM has apparently been shirking its official mission (see â€œcâ€? above) and spending considerably more time on reviewing and granting drilling permits than on protecting the wildlife that increasingly appears to be adversely impacted by such activity. Blaine Harden reported on this trend in yesterdayâ€™s Washington Post, in an article entitled â€œFederal Wildlife Monitors Oversee a Boom in Drillingâ€?:
PINEDALE, Wyo. — The Bureau of Land Management, caretaker of more land and wildlife than any federal agency, routinely restricts the ability of its own biologists to monitor wildlife damage caused by surging energy drilling on federal land, according to BLM officials and bureau documents.
The officials and documents say that by keeping many wildlife biologists out of the field doing paperwork on new drilling permits and that by diverting agency money intended for wildlife conservation to energy programs, the BLM has compromised its ability to deal with the environmental consequences of the drilling boom it is encouraging on public lands.
Here on the high sage plains of western Wyoming, often called the Serengeti of the West because of large migratory herds of deer and antelope, the Pinedale region has become one of the most productive and profitable natural gas fields on federal land in the Rockies. With the aggressive backing of the Bush administration, many members of Congress and the energy industry, at least a sixfold expansion in drilling is likely here in the coming decade.
Recent studies of mule deer and sage grouse, however, show steep declines in their numbers since the gas boom began here about five years ago: a 46 percent decline for mule deer and a 51 percent decline for breeding male sage grouse. Early results from a study of pronghorn antelope show that they, too, avoid the gas fields.
Yet as these findings have come in, the wildlife biologists in the Pinedale office of the BLM have rarely gone into the field to monitor harm to wildlife. moreâ€¦
Yet again we are presented with evidence of the Bush Administrationâ€™s general disregard for the welfare of the environment and wildlife and greater concern for fattening the wallets of its corpulent corporate cronies. That such short-sightedness and greed has come to dominate the political landscape and devastate the natural landscape is a true tragedy and will no doubt endure as one of the many horrible legacies of the Bush era.
BONUS question: What are you going to do about it?
Apparently, in Austria, publicly denying reality in the face of overwhelming evidence is a criminal offense. As has been widely reported, British historian David Irving was recently sentenced in a Viennese courtroom to three years in prison for having refuted the occurrence of the Holocaust. Regardless of how one feels about Irving or the crime, such as it is, for which he has been punished, the whole matter sets an interesting precedent. Were it similarly illegal in this country to deny the existence of a major global calamity, then President Bush would be under indictment for denying the reality of global warming. (Given the Presidentâ€™s many offenses during his tenure in the White House, not the least of which is misleading the country into war, charging him with a crime for failing to give credence to global warming is admittedly akin to charging Al Capone with tax evasion. But, hey, whatever gets the job done.) As anyone who has even mildly been paying attention the last 5 years knows, Mr. Bush is about as much a devotee of science as Mr. Irving is of the Torah. In an article published in the Miami Herald last year, entitled â€œUnder President Bush, Science Takes Back Seat,â€? Fred Grimm reflected on the Bush administrationâ€™s troubling aversion to science:
Good science hasn’t exactly been a presidential priority. Federal research budgets have been cut. Scientific findings at odds with political ideology have been altered or killed by political hacks. Politicos have overruled scientists at the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries.
Some 6,000 American scientists, including 48 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science recipients, and 135 members of the National Academy of Sciences, have signed a petition complaining about the Bush administration’s dismissive view of science. The administration’s political appointees have denied findings by the government’s own scientists on industrial mercury pollution, arsenic levels in drinking water, emergency birth control, AIDS prevention, endangered species, abstinence-only education and, most famously, global warming.
It is also worth noting that the President appears to seriously question the theory of evolution, given his suggestion last year that intelligent design be given equal footing in Americaâ€™s science classrooms. (I half expect him to deny the laws of gravity next.) On the surface, Mr. Bushâ€™s views, like those of Mr. Irving, appear laughable and ludicrous. But, unlike the Nazi apologistâ€™s, the Presidentâ€™s views are truly dangerous, for they shape public policyâ€”one that ignores, distorts, or suppresses the scientific facts to the detriment of us all. And that, in my mind, is criminal.
On healthcare, education, economic development, ethics in government, and environmental issues, Elizabeth Roberts provides answers on how she would lead Rhode Island to a better future as our first female Lieutenant Governor.
On the Job
What is your vision for the state of Rhode Island? How does this contrast with what your opponent, Kernan King, would bring to the job?
I have lived in Rhode Island for over thirty years and I know how wonderful our state is. I am also convinced we can be better. As a parent, businesswoman, community leader and for the past 10 years as a state senator I know the problems we face: Less access to affordable and good-quality healthcare, soaring energy costs and a high-tax burden on working Rhode Islanders. This all contributes to slow economic growth for our state. We can do something about it.
My opponent and I have had very different life experiences. I have made my home in Rhode Island. I have raised my children here. He has lived in Massachusetts and Florida and just recently moved back to our state in November. Our philosophies are different. We need to be responsible to our citizens and hold the line on taxes, but I don’t believe that the only way to spur our economy is tax breaks only for the wealthy.
We need to make healthcare a priority to create jobs. The number one obstacle for businesses wanting to expand is the cost of providing healthcare for new employees. I am sponsoring a bill that will create a public/private partnership to reduce the burden of healthcare costs on small businesses.
I also believe that the lieutenant governor needs to be an effective advocate for Rhode Islanders — not just the governor — no matter what party you are in.
Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, who reportedly demurred at national Republicans recommending that he run for lieutenant governor, described the position as such: “In Rhode Island, the job of lieutenant governor is to ride a bicycle around the state and wait for the governor to die.” Would you offer an alternative characterization of the job?
The lieutenant governor is not just an executive in-waiting. If you have a parent or grandparent in a nursing home, you know how fortunate we are to have a lieutenant governor that serves as an advocate for long-term care. If you have started a business with a grant from the Small Business Administration, you understand the importance of this office as an advocate for small businesses. And if you believe a horrible tragedy like Hurricane Katrina should never happen in Rhode Island, then you know how important the lieutenant governor is to emergency preparedness in this state.
The lieutenant governor’s clear role in succession is very important for stability in state government and for our economy. New Jersey doesn’t have a lieutenant governor and in a one-year period (2002) the state had 6 governors, with one serving for only 90 minutes. The people of New Jersey thought the position was so important, that they amended their constitution last year and created the position.
I note on your site you mention how you enjoyed walking your children to your community school in Cranston, Norwood Avenue School. As you know, that school has been closed in Cranston, and another community school, Horton, is now being slated for closing. This seems to be one way some school departments are dealing with their budget crises. What could we be doing to save small community schools?
My children received a wonderful education at Norwood Elementary and we are fortunate to have had that experience. Smaller schools and smaller class sizes result in a better education for our students. But we also need to reform our educational system to make sure children are learning and not just memorizing for tests. Standards are important and we need make sure students and teachers are meeting them. We also need to hold school boards and elected officials accountable to make sure we are using our educational dollars in the most responsible way. We can keep community schools open if we spend our money wisely and work hard to find creative solutions to our budget problems.
Two Democrats in Rhode Island, Peter Kilmartin and James Doyle, are proposing legislation to regionalize the administrative functions of school departments, reducing our systems from 36 to 5. Do you see potential for this legislation? Do you have concerns about it?
Reducing our system from 36 school departments to 5 may be severe at this point. There is a definite need to be more resourceful in a state as small as ours, but we need to find other creative solutions to maintain the strength of our neighborhood schools.
On Health Care
Some conservative critics in Rhode Island have charged that our healthcare for low income families is too generous. I wonder if you could respond to this criticism.
Annual doctor visits and asthma medication are cheap compared to what we would spend on a sick child in an emergency room. Preventative medicine saves money and puts less of a burden on our healthcare system.
The cuts to health care in the governor’s budget represent a drastic step that is unhealthy for families and children, detrimental to the health care services we depend on and harmful to businesses in the state. The cuts would increase the pool of the uninsured by at least 10,000 and increase premiums for all Rhode Islanders.
These cuts will drive low-income families off our programs and into the emergency rooms where costs are higher. This will affect the health of our state and end up costing us all money. More importantly, children and families are going to get sick and we will turn our backs on them.
On the national level, the President is calling for healthcare savings accounts and increasing the ability for people to “shop around” when consuming healthcare. One problem with this idea is that information about the quality of providers (their work history, complaints, special licenses, patient feedback) is not readily available. Nor is any information available about the costs which doctors charge. Do you think Rhode Island should take steps to provide more information to healthcare consumers, such as setting up a state-run database to provide information on the quality of individual providers and the prices they charge?
Government has a role in helping consumers make good decision about their healthcare needs. In Rhode Island, we are fortunate to have one of the best reporting systems in the country for healthcare quality. I help build the Performance Measurement reporting that is available online with the Department of Health. The report measures patient satisfaction and clinical performance, two very important criteria for evaluating healthcare facilities.
I also helped create the Office of Health Insurance Commissioner to oversee insurance companies and health care costs last year. The new commissioner, Christopher Koller, is a watchdog for consumers and the position is the first step towards better consumer education in healthcare.
On Gambling and Economic Development
There is just about nowhere in the state where you can be more than 20 minutes away from a gambling establishment. Yet more gambling places are constantly being proposed. Where do you stand on gambling?
I am opposed to a casino in Rhode Island because gambling is not an economic engine. We need a more broad-based economy based on sectors like biomedical research. Gambling is a too simple and narrow-minded solution and its implications are too complex and problematic for our state.
Do you have any other ideas to spur economic development in the state?
Biotechnology is a growing sector of our economy and we should continue to foster cooperation with the field. We need to build on the strengths of our local universities so we can be a national leader in research and development.
On the Environment
Are you in support of enlarging and further developing TF Green Airport?
We need to make sure we protect the quality of life for residents in Warwick and Cranston and maintain the economic interests of our state. Appropriate growth should be a priority as long as environmental and neighborhood concerns can be addressed. Residents of the towns directly impacted by plans should have some local input to mitigate issues with the state and the federal government.
Are you in support of plans to further develop a Liquid Nitrogen Gas terminal in Rhode Island or Fall River, MA?
I do not support an LNG terminal in Narragansett Bay. I do believe we need to focus on a comprehensive energy strategy that includes renewable resources.
On Corruption/Cronyism in Rhode Island
Should we be doing more in Rhode Island to combat corruption like the situation with Roger Williams Medical Center? If so, what?
As a public servant, I have devoted myself to the highest ethical standards and I believe all elected officials should be held to those standards. Public service must be built on trust whether you are serving constituents from Warwick and Cranston, or you are running an important public facility like Roger Williams hospital that serves all Rhode Islanders.
As co-chair of the legislative committee charged with healthcare oversight, I worked hard to reform the state’s largest healthcare insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield when they were losing the public’s trust. Our efforts helped refocus the non-profit’s mission to provide affordable healthcare and increased accountability to the public that Blue Cross serves. We will be holding hearings in the coming months to make sure hospital administrators conduct themselves ethically and have the public’s best interest in mind.
Do you think the separation of powers legislation passed in 2004 has impacted problems of cronyism and conflict of interest in Rhode Island politics?
Separation of Powers has greatly reduced the conflicts of interest in our state and I am happy to have played a role with this legislation. Government needs to be for all people, not just the powerful or well-connected. Part of creating a healthy and strong Rhode Island has to be eliminating corruption from our public bodies. I know strong ethics and a dedication to doing what’s right can make a difference for Rhode Islanders.
Finally, is there anything else you want to say? What message do you want to get to the people of Rhode Island?
I’ve dedicated my career to tackling the toughest issues facing Rhode Islanders and finding creative solutions that help people. My hard work and persistence has gotten results for my constituents. Now I am ready to put my experience and commitment to work on behalf of all Rhode Islanders.
I also want to become the first female lieutenant governor because I believe young women, like my two daughters Kathleen and Nora, deserve female role models in leadership positions.
I would love to hear from Kmareka readers and I would be honored to ask for their support.
Thanks, Senator Roberts. I have two daughters as well, ages six years and six months. My hope is that by the time they are old enough to vote, strong female leaders like yourself will be the rule rather than the exception in Rhode Island politics.
The review is called George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan and I’d like to add that in my favorite passage in the review, Drum points out that Ronald Reagan was no Ronald Reagan either. In other words, Reagan’s actual behavior, and many of the things that happened during his administration, were not nearly as small government and “traditionally conservative” as conservatives like to believe. From the article:
What’s more, as Bartlett tacitly acknowledges, Reagan in practice wasn’t as conservative as his supporters remember him being. Sure, he famously cut taxes in 1981, but he raised taxes in nearly every year after thatâ€”including corporate taxes. He took a stab at cutting Social Security, but backed off after losing seats in the 1982 election and ended up endorsing a conventional liberal solution that increased payroll taxes and created a massive trust fund. He reduced the growth of domestic spending, but he never eliminated the cabinet departments he had promised to eliminate. In fact, he even added a new one. And he supported expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, an important anti-poverty measure. The reason that even liberals look back on Reagan a little more fondly today than they did at the time is that, in the end, he turned out to be a fairly pragmatic guy. (For more on this, see “Reagan’s Liberal Legacy,” by Joshua Green, January/February 2003.)
This is the reality that true-believer conservativesâ€”Bartlett among themâ€”don’t want to believe. For all the trash talking from right-wing leaders like Grover Norquist and Tom DeLay, the fact is that America is only a moderately conservative country. And despite the electoral success of conservatives over the past decade, that hasn’t changed much. Although party affiliations have shifted as Southern conservatives have migrated to the GOP, Harris polls since the early 1970s show that Americans self-identify as about 20 percent liberal, 35 percent conservative, and the rest in between, and those numbers have been rock-steady for decades. So where’s the conservative revolution?
Well, that’s kind of reassuring. If Kevin Drum is right, we’re still winning, and even with the flop that is Bush, there is hope. Now if we could just get back some of the billions he gave away in tax cuts and restore them for social security….
One day, when historians look back on the debacle of the Bush Presidency, I imagine that they will remark on the penchant of administration officials for secrets and lies. I imagine that these historians will cull through reams of official documents in making their case. I imagine these documents will have been made available through long-established declassification protocols and as legislated by the Freedom of Information Act. I imagine that, in a democracy, the release of such material is uniformly viewed as both essential and desirable. I imagine wrong.
As reported yesterday by Scott Shane in the New York Times, and picked up by the International Herald Tribune among others, the U.S. government has a secret program to reclassify previously declassified documents. This nefarious sleight of hand has apparently been going on for years:
In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have removed from public access thousands of historical documents that had been available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.
The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassifed pages began in 1999, when the CIA and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office, especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.
But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecyâ€”governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involvedâ€”it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archivesâ€™ open shelves. more…
I suspect, had Mr. Aid not had the presence of mind to notice this discrepancy and then to report it, we would likely be none the wiser. Just as, had news of the NSAâ€™s warrantless surveillance of American citizens not leaked out, we would be unaware of that program. It is frightening to bear witness to this steady erosion of our liberties and to the arrogant mindset that spawns such. One can only wonder what else is going on behind closed doors in the so-called interest of national security. Now, will we ever know?
Okay, you can’t really compare them, but it’s a catchy headline. The following is from Dr. Joseph Mercola at Mercola.com. I’ve been reading his newsletter for about a year now, and while I don’t subscribe to most of his dietary suggestions (I’m no food puritan) I appreciate that he is providing information on food that does not get much play in the mainstream media.
The Most Dangerous Potato Chips to Eat
Public knowledge of the serious dangers found in potato chips may finally be surfacing. The California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) has filed notices with the state’s attorney general against potato chip manufacturers:
Lay’s potato chip maker PepsiCo Inc.
Pringles maker Proctor & Gamble Co.
Cape Cod potato chip parent Lance Inc.
Kettle Chips maker Kettle Foods Inc.
… that would require them to place labels on their products warning consumers about the high levels of acrylamide found inside. Acrylamide is formed when starchy foods are baked or fried at high temperatures and is considered a cancer-causing chemical by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Manufacturers who sell their products without such warnings are in violation of California law, California Proposition 65.
What Do the Chip Makers Have to Say?
The reaction from the chip makers was on the defensive … though the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) wavering position on the dangers of acrylamide certainly doesn’t help.
Perhaps the FDA should review the report developed by the ELF that listed just how far various chip brands exceeded the state’s required warning levels for acrylamide. The offenders include:
Cape Cod Robust Russet: 910 times
Kettle Chips (lightly salted): 505 times
Kettle Chips (honey dijon): 495 times
Pringles Snack Stacks (pizza-flavored): 170 times
Lay’s Baked: 150 times
The California Attorney General sued the potato chip makers in August of 2005. There is no further news on the case, so I assume it is in process and an outcome is pending.
For those who like to go from point to counterpoint, here is a rebuttal.
This story is getting attention in both the liberal and conservatives blogospheres, as everyone is trying to figure out the ramifications of a deal whereby the United Arab Emirates would take over a $6.8 Billion dollar contract for US port security.
Questioning the United Arab Emirates’ track record in the War on Terror, seven U.S. lawmakers said Thursday they want a committee led by Treasury Secretary John Snow to thoroughly review a deal that would let a UAE-based firm run six major U.S. ports.
“We’re calling for the full six-week investigation. It’s a serious investigation and the reason why this is critical is while maybe there’s nothing wrong with this company, how do we know they’re not infiltrated?” asked Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “The United Arab Emirates has had people involved in terrorism. In fact, some of its financial institutions laundered the money for the (Sept, 11) terrorists. And to just blithely go ahead and treat this as another economic transaction is all wrong.”
Currently, London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the fourth largest port operator in the world, runs the six ports. But the $6.8 billion sale of P&O to UAE-owned Dubai Ports World (DPW) would effectively turn over North American operations to the government-owned company in Dubai.
A bipartisan group of seven lawmakers have called for a full investigation of the matter. Vito Fosella (R-NY) had this to say:
“At a time when America is leading the world in the war on terrorism and spending billions of dollars to secure our homeland, we cannot cede control of strategic assets to foreign nations with spotty records on terrorism,” Fossella said.
Okay, this particular cartoon may not have been exactly what the White House was intending to condemn, particularly as it was drawn some months before the current cartoon brouhaha began. Nonetheless, I find it more than a little apropos. The cartoonist is James True from Asheville, NC, and his work can be found at www.jtrue.com.