mr. grant’s rant: the plundering herd

Try to imagine a huge, exhaust-belching 2-stroke chainsaw engine on tank tracks if you want to get the idea. Add a couple of GoreTex™-clad weekend warriors with a boda bag of Jägermeister sloshing around in their guts and you’ll get the full picture…”

 

 

So what about the &$*@%# environment?

That’s what I’m wondering as the full effect of the 2002 national midterm elections begins to settle in. George Bush has unleashed a wholesale anti-environmental assault and it seems to have begun the minute the votes were counted in November 2002. Not that his environmental record was anything to crow about before the elections – it just seems it’s no coincidence that now, with Republicans firmly in control of both House and Senate, all bets are off.

And nobody is saying a damned word about it. Things aren’t quite as rosy for Bush as they were in the months after 9/11, as evidenced by the curious New York Times headline from January 24 (“Bush’s Backing, Though Still Strong, Shows Steady Decline”) but not once in that article do the writers or pollsters say one word about the Bush administration’s anti-environmental shenanigans. More Americans are pissed off about his economic policies and his handling of foreign affairs (namely, Bush’s headlong rush to a genuine shootin’ war with Iraq) but nobody is talking about what he and his corporate collaborators are doing right here, right now, to the environment, never mind the laws and standards that are in place to protect it.

Where to even start? Oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska was a hot-button topic in the early days of the Bush administration, and caused Dubya and Dick Cheney (whose disturbing, off-kilter grin has seemed positively demonic ever since he pocketed a cool $36 million as CEO of oil services company Halliburton) quite a black eye when Congress refused to pass a law opening the refuge to exploitation by Big Oil. But that was the Congress of April 2002, and the Republican victory in November doesn’t bode well for any chance of a repeat victory for environmentalists. Don’t forget that the 1980 law that created the refuge conveniently left Congress with the power to open it to drilling.

National parks are on the chopping block too, with Yellowstone, Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, and Denali national parks seeing the most danger from rollbacks to rules meant to minimize damage from people and pollution. The first beneficiary? Snowmobiles, possibly the most obnoxious, foul-smelling, nerve-wracking machines ever invented. Try to imagine a huge, exhaust-belching 2-stroke chainsaw engine on tank tracks if you want to get the idea. Add a couple of GoreTex™-clad weekend warriors with a boda bag of Jägermeister sloshing around in their guts and you’ll get the full picture. For years, national park policies have been designed to slowly phase the things out of public lands. But increasing pressure from businesses who profit from these National parks and who rent (you guessed it) snowmobiles at a going rates up to and over $200 a day resulted in a rule change enacted by the Bush administration which overturns the phase-out. Then it goes one better by allowing more snowmobiles into the parks than ever.

Now comes the news that the Bush economic plan would increase potential tax deductions for small businesses that spring for the largest, most noxious SUVs on the market. It’s nearly impossible to explain without inducing a catatonic state upon most consumers, but the plan is sure to increase sales of the neanderthal, gas-quaffing road barges that have a hell of a lot more in common with coal-fueled locomotive engines than they do with delivery vans. Under the Bush plan, any small business owner (produce dealers, construction contractors, or non-haulers like doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc.) could deduct nearly the entire price of any new stegasaurus-sized auto from their taxes as soon as they drive them off the lot. If it sounds like a great deal for small business owners, that’s because it is. But those SUVs are going to swill twice as much at the pump, and belch twice the emissions taint into the atmosphere in the process.

And if that sounds like an even better deal for Big Oil, that’s because it is.

What’s most ironic about the Republican onslaught against the environment is that it was the Republican Party that gave real teeth to the environmental movement in the first place. What’s happened to the Republican Party, anyway? Following its twists and turns through American history is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican — one who aggressively pushed to preserve national parks and wilderness treasures ad infinitum (that means “forever” in case Dubya wants to know) and he must be gnashing his oversized choppers like a beaver chewing hot pitch to see what’s become of his legacy. It’s hard to imagine Roosevelt and George Bush are champions of the same party: Teddy gave an hour-long speech in 1912 with a bullet lodged in his chest, for chrissakes, after being shot while campaigning for the Bull Moose Party. Dubya can’t even make it through Monday Night Football without lodging a pretzel in his gullet.

History will show that it was a demented, beady-eyed crook — Republican Richard Nixon — who saw fit to enact some of the most sweeping, enlightened environmental legislation of the 20th century by signing the National Environmental Policy Act into law in 1970. Environmentalists had been fighting against rampant pollution for years, but at that time there were nearly 100 separate federal agencies fighting amongst themselves in Washington D.C. “Tricky Dick” saw a threat to his reelection in the popularity of staunch Democratic support of environmentalism and moved to cut them off at the nuts. He did it with a centralized, independent agency with the teeth to get the job done: the Environmental Protection Agency. Watergate, Vietnam, Kent State, and Communist witch hunts aside, Nixon is remembered – with a certain amount of disbelief – as the man who created the very environmental laws that George Bush and the big oil hoarde has set out to plunder and destroy.

Nixon wasn’t exactly a tree-hugger himself – he never could stand environmentalists and didn’t give them or their issues the time of day. He simply demanded that something be done, signed the NEPA bill, and then promptly forgot about it. He hated the outdoors, and was never so awkward as those public appearances when he found himself forced to feign an “outdoorsy” persona around election time for a needed PR boost. David Halberstam recounted one such gaffe in his book, The Fifties: the famous scene of Nixon strolling down a California beach, wearing a full business suit and a pair of wing tip dress shoes. The press fell over each other laughing, and even Nixon’s secret service detail had to struggle to keep their composure, like schoolboys trying to stifle belly laughs at a thunderclap of classroom flatulence. Nixon grew up in Northern California, surrounded by some of the most spectacular forests in the world, but was too busy working or studying in his relentless, nearly psychotic drive to the top to ever venture near them.

Nixon was the classic outsider — he knew it, and he resented it. One suspects his high school and college days were probably spent with a succession of kick me signs taped to his back by both jocks and trustafarians; he never touched a drop of alcohol; and he was so inept with women he couldn’t have gotten laid if he’d climbed up a chicken’s ass and waited his turn. The man may never have had a single close friend in his life. Dwight Eisenhower once wondered aloud how one could live to be Nixon’s age (then only in his 30s) and never have any friends?

What motivated Nixon was power, and he couldn’t have that without being elected, and if clean water, clean air, and protected national parklands were what voters wanted, then that’s what he would give them. The man spent most of his life with not two nickels to rub together — he hated and envied the rich with as much venom as he hated the chiseled, slick, effete Harvard-types he spent his political life trying to screw at every opportunity. He wasn’t nearly as interested in money and influence as he was in power, which proved to be his downfall when he let his anger, paranoia, and resentment run unchecked.

George Bush, by contrast, is the classic Frat Boy. He’s got lots of friends and owes plenty of favors to those who have been only too happy to help him along in his rise to the presidency. Sure, he wants power, but ultimately he’s most interested in the power bought by money. It can’t be any plainer than that to those who watch what he does rather than laugh at what he tries to say. He is the polar opposite of Nixon in nearly every respect. From all reports he’s always had an easy time of life, and has lived it to the fullest, although exactly how fully he has never been willing to say. His mastery of cronyism, his firmly entrenched role of good ole boy, is rooted deeply in Big Oil. And you can say what you will about Nixon’s shrewd, Machiavellian usurping of environmentalism for his own benefit — he didn’t do it purely for profit or in repayment of favors long past. Dubya’s motivations are on a much more base, vulgar level than Nixon ever approached.

Bush is raping the environment for the same reason that a dog licks himself in his nether regions: because he can. He pays attention to the polls (or at least Dick Cheney tells someone to do it for him) and as long as he enjoys the approval ratings heís had since 9/11, he will not hesitate to hand every spare inch of public lands he possibly can to his cronies for their benefit. As Mark Crispin Miller says in The Bush Dyslexicon, George W. Bush is a man “who never tried, and doesn’t care.” Why the hell should he care if voters are willing to roll over and give him a pass? Why the hell should he care, if those same voters are going to give him the support he needs in Congress? How can environmentalists hope to get anyone’s attention when all Bush and Cheney have to do is distract a cowed, apathetic American electorate by waging an endless war against an undefinable, untouchable enemy? And failing that, they can just toss expendable lives and ordnance at a country like Iraq if voters ever start paying attention to what’s happening to the environment.

Nothing, I repeat nothing, is going to change unless we put down the Cheetos, turn off the tube, and start talking about this stuff. We need to start looking beyond the smokescreens and take notice of who is hurling turds into our own backyards as our thoughts are focused on the developing horror unfolding in the middle East.

Write a letter, make a phone call, send a fax or email. But most of all do something! A good starting point for courses of action can be found here:

NRDC: Natural Resources Defense Council

For a scientific analysis of Dubya’s environmental record read the articles on this website:

The Bush Record on the Environment

Now get busy!

 

Originally published:
Issue Twenty-Four
February 2003

 

 

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