The past week has been one of stark contrasts. The deaths of two remarkable Americans --- George Kennan, who urged the country to seek diplomacy rather than war, and former Rochesterian Sol Linowitz, who applied his wisdom and judgment to better the world --- were reminders of what this country once stood for. And the Bush administration and its supporters in Congress continued to remind us of the country's new values.
Laurence Britt details the problems of the latest Bush appointments in this issue. To these travesties are added... where should we start?
With the Republicans' grandstanding over the tragic case of Terri Schiavo? With the continued pressure to cut taxes for the wealthy? The news that Halliburton overcharged the government by more than $108 million for fuel it bought for Iraq? Senate Republicans saying that we don't need to know whether the Bush administration misused and distorted intelligence reports in the lead-up to the Iraq war?
Or how about Donald Rumsfeld's deciding that we should send more than half of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to other countries --- where, the New York Times reports, they'll be beyond US court jurisdiction and could be tortured?
Or the president's "town meetings" on Social Security, staged events that masquerade as conversations with ordinary Americans? These average citizens, the Washington Post reported, are Bush supporters who are not only screened but are rehearsed.
How about the Environmental Protection Agency's new rules governing the emission of mercury into the air from US coal-burning power plants? Mercury, a highly toxic substance, can damage children's brains --- and the brains of pregnant women's fetuses. Under the new rules, it'll be years before safe levels of mercury emissions are reached.
Then there's the assault on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the latest indication of the Bush administration's loyalty to the energy industry. In his book "American Dynasty," author Kevin Phillips has documented the long, long history of the Bush family's association with energy companies. And Republican loyalists in the House and Senate seem happy to help the president help his friends. Never mind that ANWR will provide little in the way of new oil --- when it provides new oil (an estimated 10 years from now) --- if it provides it. (Even some of the big oil companies have become less enchanted: "I don't know if there's anything in ANWR or not," the Times quotes an ExxonMobil executive as saying.)
And certainly never mind that the country has abandoned any pretense at seeking the real path to energy independence: conservation. The most we could hope for from ANWR, according to news reports, is 1 million barrels of oil a day. We could save that much, the Times said last week, by "closing the so-called SUV loophole --- making light trucks as efficient over all as ordinary cars."
"Increasing fuel-economy standards for cars by about 50 percent, to 40 miles per gallon... would save 2.5 million barrels a day," said the Times.
It has taken little time for the Bush administration to wreak havoc. And sadly, it will take generations to clean it up.