Hail Mary

On a weekend when the whole world is holding its breath to see how investors will respond tomorrow to numerous bailout plans here, there and everywhere, a story about a Bush administration plan to gut more crucial provisions within the Endangered Species Act might seem unimportant.It is not. If the Pomboza, that awesome duo of former Rep. Richard Pombo and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Maryland's newest congressman, had had their way in Congress, the act would have been gutted long before now. And the result of that would have been even more destruction of natural resources for the construction of more over-priced McMansions, bought by speculators for more subprime mortgages to default on when the boom busted. Yet, at precisely the moment when the values of the ESA, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts as well as state environment laws like the California Environmental Quality Act, and the people who have tried to defend them before land-use authorities and in court, should be respected more highly at least for the damage they prevented to the environment and to the global economy, the Bush administration is trying to do by administrative order what Congress three times denied by legislation during this regime, whose corruption has not yet begun to be fully analyzed.Environmentalists speculate that this executive rewrite of the ESA is a "Hail Mary," a last ditch attempt to pay off developer contributors to the president. That's fairly typical of the end of a presidential administration. However, the Bush regime in some instances does plan for the future. It has already brought a US Army brigade back from Iraq for active deployment in the US. This rewrite may be to pave the way for make-work public infrastructure projects that will make millions for construction companies, will be the object of great pork fights in Congress, and will incidently employ a few people for a little while. The European Community is already planning to cut back on its environmental goals in favor of such public projects and to go easier on industry in these hard times.Nature is far more resourceful in the long-run than humanity. One only has to look at the society-wide failure of character in the US, which produced this global credit crisis. Millions of people, one way or another, were in on the deal. And that's what they say is "just human nature." In the long-run, Nature will compel the human economy to obey Its laws again, despite Bible-thumping Armageddon freaks.But, in the short-run, it would be more civilized, pleasant and meaningful if American society actually understood its own environment, the dangers to it, the responsibility to protect it and the human necessity of living with it rather than constantly, unconsciously to destroy it and its own economy at the same time. But, of course, the universities, high-tech and bio-tech corporations are always promising us that we can live the wonderful lives we have right now in the future if we will only invest in their next set of black boxes to solve the messy problem of our relationship to Nature. This constant promise, which constantly fails, reminds us that it was the best "educated" business class in national history that brought us the present global financial crisis.There is no sign anywhere that business, technology, university or political leaders have learned anything from the present debacle. Anyone who points this out is accused of not being "positive," not helping "confidence," or coming up with "positive solutions."Yet, if we are not to be hypocrites in advocating eco-justice, which includes environmental, social and economic justice, in fact if anyone takes the word "justice" seriously at all, there is nothing positive to say about the present environmental, social and economic destruction that has been caused by the national speculative real estate boom that busted. There is nothing positive to say about crumbling, half-built subdivisions of McMansions or of crumbling military and financial empires. We speak from California, which produced a third of the nation's total foreclosures in August, has probably produced about a third of the total foreclosures since the crisis began and will no doubt continue, month after month, to produce about a third of the total number of foreclosures in the nation. Enormous environmental destruction was done to create a lot of those "housing products" now in foreclosure.Noriel Roubini, an economist whose reputation as "Dr. Doom" has, in recent weeks, been greatly elevated by the accuracy of his predictions, was quoted last summer on the subject of the housing market: Roubini Sounding Austrian...Robert Blumen...7-29-08http://blog.mises.org/archives/008352.asp...Sixth, the existence of GSEs (government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks)....is a major part of the overall U.S. subsidization of housing capital that will eventually lead to the bankruptcy of the U.S. economy. For the last 70 years investment in housing - the most unproductive form of accumulation of capital - has been heavily subsidized in 100 different ways in the U.S.: tax benefits, tax-deductibility of interest on mortgages, use of the FHA, massive role of Fannie and Freddie, role of the Federal Home Loan Bank system, and a host of other legislative and regulatory measures.The reality is that the U.S. has invested too much - especially in the last eight years - in building its stock of wasteful housing capital (whose effect on the productivity of labor is zero) and has not invested enough in the accumulation of productive physical capital (equipment, machinery, etc.) that leads to an increase in the productivity of labor and increases long run economic growth. This financial crisis is a crisis of accumulation of too much debt - by the household sector, the government and the country - to finance the accumulation of the most useless and unproductive form of capital, housing, that provides only housing services to consumers and has zippo effect on the productivity of labor. So enough of subsidizing the accumulation of even bigger MacMansions through the tax system and the GSEs. There is nothing good to say about any institution or individual involved in the speculative real estate boom. If a regime takes over the White House by a straight party vote in the US Supreme Court, authorizes torture, lies about its reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, suspends Habeas Corpus, has set a new low standard for corruption in all its done (including the corruption of the voting process), has, in fact, corrupted its citizens in numerous ways, corrupted ESA regulators, we should not be the least surprised that it would attempt to destroy crucial provisions of the ESA. It has been said for years that we live in a post-industrial and post-guilt society. It is now being said we have been living for some time in a post-democratic society, the individual who is the basis of democracy having been long ago expertly and painlessly "socialized" out of his individuality by the Higher Learning. The word "justice" is incomprehensible to all our movers and shakers. Even the Great Obama speaks of change. He doesn't speak of justice although we are constantly reassured by his supporters that that is what he really means. But, considering the career of Bobby Kennedy, it is perhaps wise for presidential candidates to leave the subject of justice alone. In any event, they have been remarkably good at ignoring it since 1968. And, so why shouldn't the people have forgotten it to the point that they sort of elected George W. Bush, twice. And they still bow down and rave to this Beelzebub in the fool's mask of Alfred E. Newman because he gave them what they wanted in their hearts, socialized to savagery, the smell and taste of Armageddon.Nature, it's said, always bats last. It will be interesting in a scientific sort of way, to see how human nature in the USA responds to consequences. Hell bent on power, dominion and profit for so many years, how will they handle it?---------------------------------  10-12-08Reuters Environmentalists Slam Bush 'Fox-in-Henhouse' Plan...Deborah Zabarenkohttp://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/10/12-4WASHINGTON - A Bush administration plan to let U.S. agencies decide for themselves whether their actions put wildlife at risk is drawing fire from environmental groups, which say this is like letting a fox guard a henhouse.The Interior Department, one of two federal agencies pushing for this policy change, rejects the environmentalists' critique, saying the new rule would cut bureaucratic red tape and free government scientists for more important work.But a coalition of conservation groups sees the move as an attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act."This is exactly the fox guarding the henhouse," Michael Daulton of the National Audubon Society said. "It's a scary proposition to think about agencies with no wildlife expertise at all making decisions about the fate of species, potentially leading to extinction."The 35-year-old Endangered Species Act is meant to protect threatened wildlife by relying on the best available science, the environmentalists noted. Government scientists must now consult with agencies on projects that could put species at risk.The rules change could take scientists out of the equation, the conservation coalition maintained.Audubon, which aims to protect birds, was among more than 120 groups that joined to flood the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service with 100,000 negative comments about the plan on Friday.This flood of paper was timed to coincide with the end of an official "public comment" period on the proposed rule change, which ends on Tuesday. After that, it is unclear when or whether the rule will be adopted.'HAIL MARY PASS'"This proposed rule change is obviously a Hail Mary pass to industry friends in the final days of the Bush administration and it will fail," said Janette Brimmer, a lawyer with Earthjustice.A Hail Mary pass is a desperate last-minute play in American football.At the heart of the matter is the notion of dropping a requirement for U.S. agencies -- from the Transportation Department to the Army Corps of Engineers -- to consult with scientists before they take on projects that could threaten wildlife on the Endangered Species list.As the Interior and Commerce departments wrote in their plan, released in mid-August with little fanfare: "We propose to add language that action agencies are not required to consult on those actions for which they determine their action will have 'no effect' on listed species or critical habitat."These two agencies set a 30-day public comment period, which was extended for an additional 30 days. Conservation groups urged a 120-day period for comment from the public and Congress, and said comments should be allowed by fax and e-mail in addition to paper letters, the only form now accepted."The abbreviated timeline and restrictive commenting options raise serious concerns that the Department of the Interior is attempting to rewrite a bedrock environmental statute without allowing for anything approaching adequate public involvement," the environmental groups said in a letter to the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service.Chris Paolino, an Interior Department spokesman, said scientific consultation occurs in the planning phase of federal projects, and that these scientists do not simply "rubber stamp" government efforts.The aim of the proposed rule change, Paolino said by telephone, "is to streamline the process a little bit, remove red tape where we can and remove the backlog of consultations that had developed over the last 30 years and allow for those projects where there's an accepted 'no negative impact' to an endangered species to move forward."The Bush administration has been widely criticized for its record on endangered species. Since President George W. Bush took office in 2001, 58 species have been added to the list, compared with 522 during the eight years of the Clinton administration and 231 in the four-year presidency of George H.W. Bush, the current president's father.Editing by Eric Walsh.