NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Blame Game update: NY Times short memory

EU ROTA notes in April of this years the NY Times was against fixing the levees, and now they are more interested in blaming Bush for not fixing the problem. Note below that the Clinton Administration did not support fixing the levees, they saw it as a local problem.

From 13 April 2005 Editorial:
Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health of America's rivers and wetlands should pay attention to a bill now before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would shovel $17 billion at the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and other water-related projects -- this at a time when President Bush is asking for major cuts in Medicaid and other important domestic programs. Among these projects is a $2.7 billion boondoggle on the Mississippi River that has twice flunked inspection by the National Academy of Sciences.

The Government Accountability Office and other watchdogs accuse the corps of routinely inflating the economic benefits of its projects. And environmentalists blame it for turning free-flowing rivers into lifeless canals and destroying millions of acres of wetlands -- usually in the name of flood control and navigation but mostly to satisfy Congress's appetite for pork.

This is a bad piece of legislation.
George at EU ROTA has more examples here.

Click here for a private e-mail comment. For public comment select comments below.


Blogger Frederic Christie said...

Actually, draining wetlands is one of the main PROBLEMS, not the solutions. Wetlands serve as a natural hurricane buffer. Their drainage has exacerbated the ecological crisis that is the hurricane. Perhaps broadening your reading, checking out Z Net's blogs or similar, would be advisable?

Bush cut levee moneys 44%, so this argument at best indicates that the environmentalists are probably right: he backed the bill as another pork initiative (and, of course, Clinton would do the same thing).

Mon Sep 05, 11:49:00 AM PDT  
Blogger steve frisch said...

Great article from Business Week.

The conclusions:

1)Restore natural buffer zones
2)Limit development in the most vulnerable areas
3) Get serious about climate change
4) Make a Presidential appeal
5) Increase energy diversity
6) Boost energy efficiency

So here is a premier business magazine with a moderate to conservative record saying ....hey we need to make changes.

Russ,I know you pride yourself on being a bit of a contrarian...and there is great value in questioning conventional wisdom. Even if the widom questioned has not really become conventional yet.

But you go a bit too far with your insistence that all things done in the name of the economy are good.

It is not a good thing when we eliminate natural wetlands that protect us from catastrophe.

It is not a good thing if ocean temperatures are rising, no matter the cause.

It is not a good thing to be dependant upon sources of oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuala and Iraq.

The point one of the Chamber of Commerce's main jobs is 'encouraging consumption' is not a good thing.

Mon Sep 05, 12:11:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Russ Steele said...


I agree with many of the points you make based on the Business Week article. Let’s look at where we agree, and disagree, and why.

It is not a good thing when we eliminate natural wetlands that protect us from catastrophe.

You may be surprised that I agree with you, the wet lands are an important resource for the environment. Yes, when New Orleans is rebuild we should consider the natural defenses that the wet lands offers. Screwing with mother nature can get us in big trouble. She is very difficult to control. It is better to work with her, than against her.

It is not a good thing if ocean temperatures are rising, no matter the cause.

As the ocean temperature rise, we need to adapt, trying to manipulate mother nature by focusing on a single gas in a complex mixture of gases, aerosols, particles and clouds, is lunacy. We need to anticipate the consequences of a warming ocean, the warming of the tundra, the loss of water resource stored in glaciers. Our world is slowly warming, as it has in the past, and will return to colder times as it has in the past. Mankind survived by adapting, and so will we, and our ancestors. Let’s stop trying to control mother nature, by controlling the output of CO2 and get on with the job of adapting to a warmer world.

It is not a good thing to be dependent upon sources of oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Iraq.

I agree, so why are we not doing more exploration in Alaska, California and Florida. The gulf oil fields just survived a Class 5 hurricane and not one drop of oil escaped. Why are we ignoring our oil shale assets, which can provide a 500 year supply of oil, while we develop new sources of energy. The current alternative energy sources cost us more energy than they produce, with the exception of nuclear energy. We are smart enough to figure out how to deal with the waste products. We are smart enough to figure out how use nuclear energy to release the oil trapped the shale fields.

The point one of the Chamber of Commerce's main jobs is 'encouraging consumption' is not a good thing.

Consumption is tied to jobs and our economic viability. As we have shown time and time again, when we provide people the the means for acquiring wealth, the world benefits -- lower population growth, more concern for the environment, and a more positive vision for the future. If we do not consume the products manufactured, then the economy is not sustainable. While capitalism is not perfect, it is better than any other system. What are the alternatives to consumption you would use to replace our current economic system? What is the good thing that you aspire.

Mon Sep 05, 07:26:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Russ Steele said...


The bill for levee improvement was $20 billion and no governemt, Republican or Democrat was will to step up to the challenge. I April the NY Time called the Republican proposal to spend $2.1 billion as a pork barrel project. Now they, as you are blaming Bush for a disaster that has been in the offing since they started building levees in the 1800s with slaves.

Mon Sep 05, 07:32:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Frederic Christie said...

"The bill for levee improvement was $20 billion and no governemt, Republican or Democrat was will to step up to the challenge. I April the NY Time called the Republican proposal to spend $2.1 billion as a pork barrel project. Now they, as you are blaming Bush for a disaster that has been in the offing since they started building levees in the 1800s with slaves. "


Your argument would make an ounce of sense if I was exclusively blaming Bush. But notice how the first paragraph mentioned Bush not a whit, the second critiqued Clinton as well, and my extended meditations on the hurricane as well as the whole body of my writing (which I can understand you may not have read, being a busy person) have actually been precisely about the broader history you rightly emphasize. It is the whole set of racist, sexist, imperialist, capitalist, anthropocentric and statist systems that have propelled this crisis, not merely one man or "his" Administration. And the media does not mention this fact because it too is part of the fabric of rule, preferring to run a constant disaster pornography script to paralyze the polity.

My blog has a Z Sustainers article by Michael Parenti called How the Free Market Killed New Orleans. I think that is far more accurate than the liberal selective diatribe, ignoring that the word "free" should be in quotes there, as no markets have ever been truly free, especially not the ones we have.

Mon Sep 05, 11:03:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Frederic Christie said...

(Replying to rebuttal to Steve)

Your commentary on the wetlands is, of course, laudable, but when you move onto saying that we should exploit oil, here some leaps of logic are being finessed, and I'm afraid they show your true priorities. If currently we face warming, why would it necessarily be wise to exploit more? Inducing scarcity into the marketplace may be the jumpstart necessary to switch away from a hydrocarbon economy. It's sure not a prima facia matter of logic that enhanced exploitation will be vital.

But even if you can prove that this is at all a relevant reply, the ecological impact of extracting what is left (and it really is getting down to fairly puny amounts) may be worth more than the cost to society. The overarching theme here is a need to switch away from oil.

Now, I'm not doctrinaire about these matters, though I consider myself an ecologically-oriented leftist. If the planet would be better off taking a few more jabs from extraction instead of resource wars that might escalate to nuclear conflict and humanity crashing because it did not have the oil left to transfer, while it is a hard question I would certainly lean towards extraction.

"Consumption is tied to jobs", when recognizing that jobs provide money that lead to consumption, is really a nice bit of hand-waving. If people are consuming resources too quickly, the fact that people are rich doesn't seem relevant, does it? In fact, isn't that the problem?

Your argument, in general, that prosperity improves ecological standing is laughably empirically denied; the WHOLE BREADTH OF HISTORY shows that as countries' productivity has increased, so has ecological destruction. The first time that we've had a global population in the billions with modern production is also the first time that global ecological threats have shown up.

I agree that enhanced prosperity reduces population growth. But an even better indicator is inequity. That is: Kerala, a poor state, but Communist, cut its population growth faster and more dramatically than China's, even though China's GDP grew much faster and China has higher per capita GDP, because Kerala is still committed to good gender and economic policies. The inequity that capitalism and America induces not only slows growth rates (see Dani Rodrik) but also destroys the ecology uniquely (see Murray Bookchin).

However, a lack of resources could also reduce population growth, and even if population were to HALF, the fact that capitalism incarnates relentless growth as a endless force means that every 23 years or so with a 3% GDP growth consumption doubles. It's a treadmill that you can't get off once it's going too fast, because it keeps getting faster.

Capitalism better than any other system? Capitalism enslaves workers to plutocrats and capitalist, externalizes costs onto others, misprices and misallocates, has waste industries such as advertisement and excess military consumption, and allows some to amass so much wealth that the political system becomes a sham. I agree that, were there no alternative, we'd be boned. Luckily, there is. I refer you to Albert/Hahnel's parecon (and I would be more than willing to engage in a capitalism v. parecon debate with you on a fair forum of your choosing),

Mon Sep 05, 11:22:00 PM PDT  
Blogger steve frisch said...


Lets try to do this point by point.

1) Wetlands: It appears we agree here, but let me go into a little more detail. We should work to rebuild the miles of marsh that seperated NO from the sea. But we should also stop the continued degradation of coastal wetlands along the entire coast, and the channelization of coastal waters to reclaim land for transport, canals and development. Lets start using shipping channels based on the actual geography of the earth. In addition, as we rebuild critical coastal areas, not to mention flood zones, shouldn't we go out of our way to assure that we stop building directly in disaster prone areas? And take steps to use modern knowledge to reduce the risk to life and property if we cannot completely eliminate development in disaster areas? Even in areas with a 30% slope in oak woodlands? This will require regulation. That is what it means.......Looks like we are in agreement.

2) Global warming: You said "We need to anticipate the consequences of a warming ocean, the warming of the tundra, the loss of water resource stored in glaciers."

This would imply to me that you agree that data indicates the earth is warming. What I don't understand is how we can just accept the point, as you would suggest.

To the extent that global warming is human caused, and to the extent that global warming is going to destroy peoples economies and cultures, surely we have some responsibility to control it? And the data would show that, at current rates of warming, huge areas of the globe, including coastal cities worldwide and entire cultures in the Pacific islands and Asia, will be gone.

The disconnect here, which I have noticed in your argument for months about global warming, is the sense of responsibility. How can we admit that warming is happening and not take some responsibility?

The reason in your case, I believe, is that you do not believe that it is human caused.

But here your are in disagreement with the International Panel on Climate Change, the National Academy of Sciences, the US Environmental Protection Agency led by Bush appointee Mike Leavitt, the US Department of Defense, MIT, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and just about every climatologist in the world. It is a myth that there is real debate on this issue. the jury is in..climate change is real.

It is vanity to believe that your education as a businessman and technology dude... make you more qualified to make this judgement than almost the entire body of modern climatologists and geologists.

So lets assume for a minute that you are wrong and climate change is human caused...then don't we have a personal responsibility to do something about it?

3) Oil Production: Of course in an effort to reduce foriegn depenene you immediatly leapt to continued development of petroleum resources. Agreed we will need to continue to develop new oil.

The problem is that the cost of developing those resources, in economic but also social and environmental cost, is going to be huge. The easy oil is the oil developed first. A friend of mine who works for (I shudder) BP on oil exploration told me last week....'we can develop the oil but it is going to rend the surface of the earth like nothing we have ever seen. It will cost ten times what we have been paying for the last century'. This is an oil company executuve and committed capitalist.

I would suggest that it is now cheaper to develop new technologies, alternative sources of energy and to require conservation. We have to change the way we live to include a more reasonable use of existing resources.

This does not mean we will never drill for oil again; it means we have to start saving oil for things oil can cost effectively do in the future. It is kind of like being on a lifeboat...if you drink all the water on day two you never make day twelve.

4) Consumption: I guess I am saying we need to start living within our means. That is a tough lesson, but a necessary one. We have the fattest kids in history, and they are dying because of it. We have huge gas guzzling monsters that could house a family of four. We demand houses that are twice the size of our parents generation. We consume energy and water like there is no consequence. We are not conservative....we are liberal in our consumption. We need to develop an ethic of minimalism that asks the question...what are the consequences of my consumption?

This is not a critque of is a challenge to capitalism to change to meet the know like communism proved it could not, and led to it rotting from inside?

You said if we do not consume the products manufactured, capitalim falls...I say demand different products..lead the movment to consume in a responible manner.

I agree that historicly wealth has led to less population and better environmental we should lead the effort to spread wealth to every corner of the world based on wise use (no pun intended) of resources and responsible consuming.

Tue Sep 06, 06:44:00 AM PDT  
Blogger steve frisch said...

Plus just think about the great things minamalism could lead to.

Greater enjoyment of music, the arts and nature.

More time with our families, rather than having to resign to spend time with them.

Enjoyment of locally grown products like foods and wines. I am getting tired of peaches from Chile.

Time to think about deep things like philosophy and religion instead of NASCAR and Brittany Spears.

Tue Sep 06, 06:51:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Frederic Christie said...

To argue that reducing consumption is a challenge of capitalism to meet the times is like arguing that it is a challenge of feudalism to meet the times by giving civil liberties. The fundamental basis of capitalism, by privileging short term profit over societal or long-term gain, by allowing some to externalize costs on others, by making resource decisions made by a relatively small group of plutocrats, by demanding constant growth and privileging asocial types of investment and prices, is one that cannot shift away from consumption barring massive public perception change (which will in turn be fought against) or government intervention. Parecon has none of these debits and thus is the rational way to deal with ecological crises. It provides the decision making apparatuses and incentive structures to deal with ecological problems.

Your comment that we should think about deep things, not NASCAR and Britney Spears, implies certain aesthetic value judgments that not everyone will accept. It is an elitist outlook that places a subjective opinion as an objective benefit. But yes, it strikes me that people would choose to spend less time working in exchange of less time consuming. However, even if they wouldn't, I think even a pro-marketeer could see that in this society the decision to double living standards and keep working hours constant rather than keep standards constant and working hours halved is one that was NOT made democratically but forced by the machinery of the market.

Tue Sep 06, 12:48:00 PM PDT  

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