Saturday, May 31, 2014

Your Weekly White House Wheeze

(Updated below)

President Obama has used a bunch of sick kids with breathing problems as the backdrop for his latest exercise in executive empathy. After delaying several EPA anti-pollution rules (for purposes of his own re-election) that might have  improved their lung function and prevented their hospitalizations in the first place, he's free at last to be airily concerned about the young asthmatics of America:
 Hi, everybody.  I’m here at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., visiting with some kids being treated here all the time for asthma and other breathing problems.  Often, these illnesses are aggravated by air pollution – pollution from the same sources that release carbon and contribute to climate change.  And for the sake of all our kids, we’ve got to do more to reduce it.
How did his administration reduce sickness-causing pollution during his first term? By not doing much at all to reduce it. For the appeasement of such sociopaths as the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the American Petroleum Institute, the Obama White House delayed, for purely political purposes, more public health regulations than any prior administration. These included rules for coal ash disposal, mercury emissions, industrial boiler emissions, ozone levels, greenhouse gas pollution, silica dust in the workplace...  and carbon emissions.

Moreover, agencies were specifically instructed to present no new anti-pollution rules until Obama was safely re-esconced in the Oval Office.

And now that he has only a couple of years to go in his legacy-burnishing campaign of caring for the lung capacity of Americans, he's belatedly all fired up about those fired-up coal plants spewing their toxins and messing up the climate:
But for the sake of our children, we have to do more. 
This week, we will.  Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants.  But right now, there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water.  But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air.  It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense. 
That’s why, a year ago, I directed the Environmental Protection Agency to build on the efforts of many states, cities, and companies, and come up with commonsense guidelines for reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants.  This week, we’re unveiling these proposed guidelines, which will cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot that threaten the health of the most vulnerable Americans, including children and the elderly.  In just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided – and those numbers will go up from there.
Of course, all those asthma attacks and heart attacks could have been avoided long ago if the Obama White House hadn't decided that personal political fortunes trumped human lives and well-being. When an American Lung Association pulmonologist told then-Chief of Staff William Daley in 2011 that the vast majority of Americans favored stronger rules for clean air, the multimillionaire ex- Morgan Stanley banker famously retorted, "Fuck the polls!"

Obama then decided that thousands of premature deaths and thousands of new cases of pediatric asthma were well worth another four years in the White House. From the New York Times story on the controversy:
The standard for ozone was last set in 2008 by the Bush administration at a level of 75 parts per billion, above the range of 60 to 70 recommended by the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel at the time, but never enacted. Environmental and public health groups challenged the Bush standard in court, saying it would endanger human health and had been tainted by political interference. Smog levels have declined sharply over the last 40 years, but each incremental improvement comes at a significant cost to business and government.
So Ms. (ex-EPA chief Lisa) Jackson asked health and environmental groups to hold their lawsuit in abeyance while she reconsidered the ozone standard, a job she expected to complete by the summer of 2010. Until then, an outdated ozone standard of 84 parts per billion, set by the E.P.A. of the Bill Clinton administration in 1997, remained the law.
Delay followed delay until the spring of this year, when Ms. Jackson determined that the standard should be set at 65 parts per billion to meet the Clean Air Act’s requirement that it be protective of public health “with an adequate margin of safety.” At 65 parts per billion, the agency calculated, as many as 7,200 deaths, 11,000 emergency room visits and 38,000 acute cases of asthma would be avoided each year.
And then industry leaders and potential donors made Obama an offer he couldn't refuse. He'd lose votes and big money contributions if he made wealthy Job Creators feel insecure. And thus, the battleground states of The Heartland took precedence over heart attacks. Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein (another Obama Harvard crony) decided that smog alleviation wasn't worth the alleged political cost. While he quietly withdrew 11 other anti-pollution rules from enactment, Obama's own very vocal rejection of the ozone standards was done in a manner specifically designed to placate Republicans and the polluter lobby. It was during this time that the White House was still in full-bore, post-Debt Ceiling fake crisis  austerity mode. Children's lungs were just going to have to serve as the scapegoat. The Obama people were pragmatically not going to let perfect pulmonary function be the enemy of their good:
“There was always a notion that they were looking for a regulation to use as an example of the reform initiative, a poster child, and this was potentially it,” said a senior E.P.A. official who asked not to be identified on a matter involving discussions with the White House. “We knew one was coming. We just didn’t know which one.”
And although Obama had blithely assured environmentalists and everybody interested in breathing that the ozone rules would be revisited in 2013, guess what happened once he was safely re-presiding in the Oval Office? The EPA has had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, back into court by clean air advocates over its failure to act and submit the new standards Obama had promised. From the Huffington Post:
 A federal judge in Northern California has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must produce new draft standards for ground-level ozone pollution, the main component of smog, by December.
Paul Cort, a lawyer with Earthjustice, said the group is excited about the ruling but "disappointed that it took all of this effort to get here." Earthjustice had filed the case on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, American Lung Association and Natural Resources Defense Council.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Tuesday directed the EPA to issue its draft proposal by Dec. 1, 2014, and a final rule by Oct. 1, 2015.
Needless to say, Obama did not tell the kids at the Medical Center and the thousands of other kids hooked up to their life-saving home nebulizers who might have been listening that they'll have to breathe filthy air for at least a couple more years. 
To further add to the cringe factor, the Children's Medical Center at which Obama spoke is located smack dab in the middle of the fourth smoggiest city in the nation. But at least he had the decency to close his bedside pediatric chats to the press. There are still some limits to presidential pandering and exploitation, after all.

And blithely ignoring the fact that his vaunted EPA is now reduced to defending itself against gross ineptitude in a court of law, Obama gushed:
That’s why, a year ago, I directed the Environmental Protection Agency to build on the efforts of many states, cities, and companies, and come up with commonsense guidelines for reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants.  This week, we’re unveiling these proposed guidelines, which will cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot that threaten the health of the most vulnerable Americans, including children and the elderly.  In just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided – and those numbers will go up from there.
Notice the careful parsing. He directed the EPA, with a wink and a nod, to cooperate with "companies" (i.e., sociopathic plutocrats) to come up with "common-sense" (i.e., weak) guidelines. This week he will roll out, with great self-serving fanfare, some "proposals" (as opposed to direct orders) to reduce morbidity and mortality.... someday.
These standards were created in an open and transparent way, with input from the business community.  States and local governments weighed in, too.  In fact, nearly a dozen states are already implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution.  And over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut their cities’ carbon pollution. So the idea of setting higher standards to cut pollution at our power plants is not new.  It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country.
The Business Community sure gave him input in an open and transparent way, back in 2011! And hooray for the market-based solutions. If folks can figure out a way to make a ton of dough by pretending to do right by the Breathing faction, then it's all cool. And yes, it is long past time for Washington (Barack Obama) to catch up with himself. The legacy is beckoning. The planet is heating up. The children are gasping.
Now, special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy.  Let's face it, that’s what they always say. 

But every time America has set clear rules and better standards for our air, our water, and our children’s health – the warnings of the cynics have been wrong.  They warned that doing something about the smog choking our cities, and acid rain poisoning our lakes, would kill business.  It didn’t.  Our air got cleaner, acid rain was cut dramatically, and our economy kept growing.
Hmm. Back in 2011, the Obama Administration itself had agreed that environmental guidelines would kill jobs and crush the economy. And, let's face it, crush Obama's hopes. Oh well.... at least he is finally obliquely admitting that he was a cynic, and that he was wrong. And even though Washington D.C. is the fourth smoggiest city in America, it is also the richest metropolitan area in America.... thanks in large part to the lucrative permanent media-political complex, the NSA and the Pentagon, and polluters' lobbying industry. The wealth of the richest One Percent does indeed keep growing. And growing. And growing. Like a malignant tumor that dies right along with the host.

As I wrote back in that glittery era of deficit hysteria and belt-tightening -- Tighten Up Your Bronchioles: You're in the O-Zone:
 As expected, President Obama has caved to his CEO buddies, and big business "job creators", and his boss John Boehner, and canned the EPA's new clean air standards.  Demanding respiratory health in an economic recession is just asking too much of the corporation persons, said the president in a Friday news dump.
I guess Malia and Sasha don't have asthma.  They don't live in inner cities, where substandard housing, mold and pollution are major contributors in raising the childhood asthma rate to historic levels.  The EPA estimates that without the tough new pollution standards that are now shelved, thousands more people will die of asthma attacks and exacerbation of respiratory diseases every year.  Emergency room visits will skyrocket. American morbidity and mortality rates will rise even further up the list of most unhealthy third world countries. Global warming is making pollution worse.
The 2014 version of Obama seems to have conveniently developed a memory deficit. His concern-trolling weekly address continues,
In America, we don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children.  The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technology to break the old rules.
As President, and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond fixing.  The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way.  But a low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come.  America will build that engine.  America will build the future.  A future that’s cleaner, more prosperous, and full of good jobs – a future where we can look our kids in the eye and tell them we did our part to leave them a safer, more stable world.
In America, the ruling class has already made its choice. Money does indeed trump the health of ordinary people. And when the planet heats up and the oceans die and Sasha and Malia develop premature COPD, Daddy can always cynically look them in the eye and say at least he tried to give the appearance of trying.

Update, June 2: The New York Times has the official EPA announcement on carbon emissions reduction here. It's purely aspirational at this point.(no executive order from Obama on coal plants, in other words.) The year 2015 seems to be the go-to year for these reports, seeing how it's an off-election year. And the plan is flexible, so as to show due deference to the energy industry. And, it is guaranteed to unleash a torrent of polluted bribery cash the likes of which the fourth most polluted city in the nation probably has not yet seen. May sane and honest minds prevail.


annenigma said...

Wow. Not only do I mute the volume when Obama speaks and change the channel as soon as his face appears, but I just realized that I actually skip reading what you quote him as saying.

It's like having a commercial come on the tv screen for a phony product or service promoted by some shyster. I simply can't stand to give my time or attention to such bullshit.

Today it finally dawned on me that I was actually avoiding his written words as I found myself skipping entire paragraphs attributed to him. I just go straight to your comments on either side of them. I think it's a self-protective measure. His word pollution might not give me asthma but it certainly sickens my heart.

Thanks Karen for having the fortitude to wade through such bullshit and giving us your insightful and entertaining analyses.

Karen Garcia said...


I mute most of his speeches too. I entirely skipped his West Point address, and thankfully so many other writers eviscerated it that I was able to spare myself.

But when I read the transcript of today's weekly address, I just couldn't take it... given that his "big announcement" on emission standards is being touted enthusiastically and unquestioningly by the media. Nobody is bringing up his actual history. Or if anybody is, I've missed it.

ste-vo said...

Birds of a feather flock together. I do the same thing. It actually started with George W. Bush - years ago. Stopped in early 2008 - for a while...but it's back.

Eric Veltri said...

Sometimes I wonder what the point is in commenting. I believe that the elites control not only our government but that of most of the world. Are we thinking they will change their greedy, world destroying behavior just by our shaming them into it?
The meme of the ruling classes seems to be a social darwinian survival of the fittest which justifies an immoral focus on greed &conquest. Until & unless that changes I see nothing changing

Pearl said...

Eric Veltri: I can understand only too well your frustration with the enormity of the challenges we face. But commenting IS changing people's attitudes -just see how Karen has affected the readers to Krugman's and other columnists by exposing the ugly facts of how the current administration along with
Congress are refusing to follow the wishes and needs of the people who put them in office.
In order for change to occur, people have to organize in opposition and that can only be accomplished by passing information around via commenting.
We don't know what will happen in the future but we can predict a much worse outcome if we don't speak up, share our concerns and organize like minded citizens.
It is also important for morale, to support people who feel alone in their beliefs while questioning what is happening in government and need guidance to formulate their thinking.
When so much secrecy is involved we need information more and more. Just observe how one man,
Ed Snowden, has opened up meaningful discussion about NSA activities which are being challenged. If he had felt there was no point in taking a courageous chance about what he knew, things would be much worse all around and it is encouraging other whistle blowers to speak out.
Every little bit we all do that we can, is vitally important for all our futures. Concern for our environmental problems is becoming more prominent in the media which is now creating more pressure for change in that area is an example.

Pearl said...

As soon as I finished my response to Eric Veltri, I turned on the TV to an interview with Maya Angelou by Oprah. They were speaking about the medal of freedom she had just received from the President and how overwhelmed she was thinking of all the people that had paved the way for her to be able to speak and work and live - of all the people that had come to the U.S. to live better lives and be free and fought for their rights and how she had tried to pave the way for others now.
So no matter how we feel, remember those who have found medical discoveries to keep us alive and well, who have fought for better conditions in the workplace, who have educated us in school, who have worked hard at their jobs and helped raise us and why we should continue to pave the way for others. We have the means of modern communication to use now and I think anyone writing in to Sardonicky has the means and ability to do so and should.

Isaiah Earhart said...

Thank you Karen for another wonderful piece.

When the lame stream media started the "this president gives a crap about the environment" reconfiguration of this corporate kiss ass president, I really felt the purpose of the effort into the smoke and mirror campaign was to provide cover for the ensuing outrage when it is disclosed that Obama already made a deal to okay tho Keystone XL pipeline.

After all, we can't allow our progressive office appointees to lose money in investments.

Isaiah Earhart said...

Hi Karen,

I hope I am not bothering you with this request, but the last link "Friday news dump" in your extremely awesome piece does not seem to be working, and I am quite interested in what You linked to there.

Karen Garcia said...


Fixed the link, which takes you to the original, official White House announcement scrubbing the ozone rule. (Surprised that they haven't also scrubbed the actual announcement, but then again, they never expect people to go back years just to wallow in bullshit disguised as a bouquet of roses) Not only was it a Friday news dump, it was a Friday before the Labor Day weekend news dump! It is quite humorous reading, with Obama promising that the ozone rule would be enforced by 2013 and that somehow, postponing it proved his devotion to asthmatic children and the hardworking EPA folks he just threw under the bus. The doubletalk is quite breathtakingly Orwellian, even by his standards. He might as well have said that dirty air is healthy air.

annenigma said...

We understand now that voting does nothing to change things, protests do nothing to change things, and using the courts does nothing to change things. The entire system is rigged and rotten to the core.

We can do what Karen does. We can become Sardonickistas (or whatever Will called us) and try to educate and enlighten each other and the public through comments here, there, and everywhere we can.

We can start with the fact that corporate media routinely serves up massive piles of hot steaming government issued bullshit because they are simply interested in protecting and serving the establishment. We can refer people to websites that we've found of value that cut through the crap and reveal what is really going on. We can shame, mock, and ridicule those in government and industry who are corrupting, subverting, and destroying our system of government in order to take away their legitimacy and respectability.

We can keep naming names. Unlike the government, we don't need expensive facial recognition programs or other means of surreptitious surveillance to identify who they are. We know who they are. They're members of The Club. As George Carlin once said, it's the same club they use to beat us over the head.

We could engage in personal strikes by boycotting certain companies or industries, such as joining credit unions instead of using one of the big banks and keep urging others to do the same.

We could certainly boycott the corrupt Duopoly that fights to keep independent parties and candidates off ballots, off nationally televised presidential debates, and off key committees if they do get elected. Dropping one's registration with the Duopoly sends a clear message to party leaders that we're outraged and disgusted and won't give them our loyalty, our MONEY, or our vote unless/until they earn it.

Unfortunately people keep supporting them and then wondering why nothing changes. Why would they change if it never costs them anything to continue their corruption?

I think the Occupy movement, the betrayals of President Obama, and Edward Snowden have all worked effectively to change the attitude and understanding of what happened to our former democracy. We can keep raising consciousness and connecting with each other so that when other opportunities or an actual political figure arises to make a difference, we'll be on the same wavelength and be better positioned to effect change. That's important. It gives us a fighting chance.

Eric Veltri said...

I really appreciate the job Karen does. I have no idea how she gets the information she does. I hope she can keep up the good work. That said, it will take an effective organization that has media and political power to overcome the present global corporate hegemone. I see no such development on the horizon. We need such a development to effect change. Without it nothing will happen.

Pearl said...

Many years ago the unforgettable Izzy Stone who reported the truth about Vietnam (which was most effective) was asked where he was getting all the information he was printing in his Newsletter, thinking he had some secret connections somewhere. He answered with a smile: "I read the newspapers."

'Before there was an Internet, Izzy Stone was doing the work we associate with today's best bloggers. Like them, he was obsessed with citing original documents and texts. But before search engines, Izzy had to consume ten newspapers per day -- and physically visit government archives and press offices, and personally pore over thousands of words in the Congressional Record. That's how he repeatedly scooped the gullible, faux-objective MSM of his day in exposing government deceit, like that propelling the Vietnam War.'

Will said...

Great post today, Anne. Speaking of, anyone up for some educating & enlightening reading material can stop by and get some sweet CliffsNotes-style info about the myriad ways the corporate state screws us every day. (Doesn't cost a thing unless you want it to.)

P.S. I fancy the term "Sardonickist." Sounds dangerous. :)

annenigma said...

@Will, my fellow Sardonickist, thanks for the link to

I had deleted a portion of my comment where I wished someone would put up Wanted Posters for members of The Club, then I went to this site and I saw their Bankster Series of Most Wanted Posters - awesome! They even have cards for Republicrats/The Duoploy among so much else. Good stuff.

We can always count on you to find interesting websites that also have humor in them. Thanks again, YukYuk!

annenigma said...

'Justices Turn Down Appeal From Times Reporter Facing Jail'

Now that the U.S. Government stands poised to take the New York Time's James Risen prisoner, will he be the next prisoner swap in exchange for the NYT not publishing future classified leaks?

Naturally there would be SECRET negotiations and it would all be CLASSIFIED and all parties GAGGED, so we'll never know - unless he actually goes to jail.

We do know that's how power works.

Isaiah Earhart said...

I am sure the Sardonickistas probable know this by now, but this should be a scandal of enormous proportions. I got an email from Partnership for Civil Justice Fund this morning. The email detailed how our DHS Fusion Centers (hundreds of millions of dollars) around the country considered the Black Friday Boycotters as terrorists.

Environmentalists, animal rights activists,.......

annenigma said...

Re: EPA Announcement

I'm underwhelmed.

Pearl said...

I think that any target dates for regulations eliminating or cutting back pollution output is secretly arranged to coordinate with the exact time the planet will extinguish itself as a result. This way no one will be forced to answer to their lack of attention in sparing the health of the citizens. Of course they will also extinguish themselves after most of the others have already gasped their last breaths which is the only thing we can look forward to. Mission accomplished.

annenigma said...


Good link. The whole concept of Fusion Centers infuriates me but their spying on Occupy doesn't surprise me one bit. That's exactly what they were created to do. What a fascist regime we live under.

Do you comment at The Intercept? (Such as it is so far) You should post it somewhere there, maybe at Glenn Greenwald's 'Dispatches' blog. As with here, there are often unrelated but helpful comments and links. Hopefully they will unveil their new and improved version soon.

Definitely keep passing that one along.

Isaiah Earhart said...

Hi Anne,

I do comment on The Intercept. I have been commenting on Glenn's column for years (Salon, The Guardian, Twitter...).

The Intercept seems to be in some version of Purgatory. I trust Glenn completely, but the squillionaire worries me a bit.

I just sent the link to Glenn, very good idea.

Has anyone heard anything about when Taibbi is going to write for Pierre Omidyar's offshoot of the Intercept?

I hope Pierre Omidyar didn't just load a train with the best journalists in the world bound for the center of some enormous black hole.

Anyway, I get to see Glenn speak in Seattle on June 17th. I can't wait.

Thanks Anne