**A commenter pointed out to me the apparent insensitivity of the juxtaposition of "Watermelon" and Obama. I am sorry — that thought never crossed my mind. IF you'd be so kind as to either read till the end OR skip to it now, you'll see that no such disrespect was intended! I do apologize if anyone was offended--the furthest thing from my mind. GR
This week, President Obama gets the podium to harangue us with his final retrospective, and prospective: the State of the Union address. Rumor has it that he’s just about had it with the recalcitrant 114th Congress, and will avoid pushing specific legislation — a fruitless task, he’s learned the hard way, given the sizable majorities of Republicans in both houses. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from trying. Trying, that is, to get his extraordinarily ambitious domestic agenda implemented by the simple process of rulemaking, thereby bypassing the Legislative branch entirely, ruling from “the White House” through the immensely vast and complex aggregate of federal agencies, who can be depended upon to do his bidding, or else.
More on that soon. Let’s get back to health and science. I’ve heard that he’ll propose a “moon shot” against cancer, inspired by Vice President Biden’s tragic loss of his son to brain cancer. At least it’s not another “Manhattan project,” right? Remember Richard Nixon’s well-funded “War on Cancer” from 1970 or so? How’s that been going?
Surprisingly well, in fact, although the inroads we’ve made against cancer (or more accurately, “cancers,” since the uncontrolled cellular chaos we call cancer is a conglomeration of different diseases) has little to do with that Nixon war. Scientific and medical progress against the various types of neoplasia goes in fits and starts, each incremental advance building upon the last one and supporting further progress. If Obama, or Biden, believe that throwing a few more millions into the NCI pot will help “defeat cancer,” they are as mistaken as those who march in pink to defeat breast cancer. Cancer is largely a disease of aging, and we can only hope to impede it, not conquer it (recent good news from the American Cancer Society notwithstanding, showing the continuing decline in cancer deaths in our country). The gradual downward trend in cancer incidence and death derives from the parallel gradual decline in smoking, mainly, although increased colonoscopic screening for colon cancer has helped, as has better diagnostic imaging and more effective surgical and medical treatments. But a moon shot against cancer is a “who could object” winner, politically.
On more substantive health moves, or lack of them, the recent Omnibus budget bill failed to effectuate the one key item that might actually save more lives than any other: the Cole amendment to the bill (named for the Oklahoma representative who is the main sponsor) would have eliminated the vile “substantial equivalence” date for e-cigarette and vapor products when applying for market approval from the FDA. As written now, the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 requires and extensive documentation for any “tobacco” product not on the market as of February 2007 to remain on the market. Since there were essentially no e-cigarettes on the market then, if the act is not amended, the entire ecig “industry” — mostly mom-and-pop small businesses — would have to spend millions of dollars and hundreds of man-hours providing a premarket tobacco application (PMTA) to the FDA, a task that will bankrupt just about the entire marketplace. This would leave the reduced-harm products to be scooped up by Big Tobacco, an outcome allegedly feared by the FDA and our other public health officials. Yet, their drumbeat of attacks against ecigs and vapor products indicates an entirely other agenda, for their actions will only keep smokers smoking and keep those cigarette taxes rolling in. The CDC, FDA, NIH, and just about all the academic centers, medical journals and politicians are determined to fear monger and distort and outright lie about the illusory dangers of e-cigs, for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with public health.
You’d think, for instance, that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would have more important things to worry about than ecigs and vaping, right? Like trying to keep his police force from mowing down innocent minority kids, and then aiding and abetting the coverup of such acts. But no! His Dept. of Health has just released a new PR campaign, with the oh-so-clever headline, “VAPING: LIQUID POISON.” Yet, no one has been harmed at all by ecig vapor. I find it a continued source of frustration and anger at our “public health” gurus that, given that the nation’s most important preventable cause of premature death is cigarette smoking, and yet we focus our resources on fighting against the likeliest best method to help smokers quit.
What else is to be found in the recent Omnibus bill? How about GMOs? You remember, one of the favorite punching bags for the chic progressives who have grown tired of regaling us against vaccines. Frankenfoods! Well, there was a proposal to forbid states from individually mandating the labeling of foods containing GMOs, so as to prevent a hodge-podge of 40+ state regulations on this (of course, there is nothing at all to stop anyone from labeling their own product as “GMO-free”). Sadly, this proposal was excised from the bill before it was signed at December’s end. So when little Vermont implements its GMO labeling law, which could be soon, every food company in the USA, or the world, will have to decide whether to keep sending products to Vermont with a special “Vermont Only” label — or just say “the hell with it, let them eat ice cream.”
Another unscientific effort by Congress was the arbitrary reversal of the FDA’s approval of the AquaAdvantage salmon. After about a decade of evaluation, stalled at the executive branch by the president’s craven distaste for appearing to flout his progressive anti-science base, finally the FDA said that it was all clear for marketing the GMO fish (although not for another 2 or 3 years). Not so fast: the new bill contained a provision that in effect upended the science-based approval, throwing a political- and economic-based monkey wrench into the plan. No big salmon for you.
Biotech agriculture is in fact one of the most promising ways we have to keep malnutrition in check — IF those who oppose science when used in this area will allow it. A few years ago, when GMO corn was sent on an emergency basis to African nations where their populations were starving, the leaders refused to accept it under the belief that such corn was tainted. And Golden Rice remains in limbo, thanks largely to Greenpeace, while hundreds of thousands of impoverished Asians and Africans die of immune deficiencies linked to low levels of vitamin A.
“Reform” of the 39-year old chemical safety law, affectionately called TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976), seems about to pass, after almost a decade in limbo. Why does TSCA need reforming? Because the enviro-left got into bed with the American Chemistry Council, whose members — flush with fracking-derived chemical precursors and natural gas — just got tired of fighting Sens. Lautenberg (RIP) and Boxer and their anti-chemical coterie, and said, “OK, let’s all just get along.” Really, the main objections to the law were that it had not led to the wholesale bans and restrictions on chemicals that groups such as NRDC posited to be toxic. Could it be, however, that all those endocrine-disrupting, gender-bending, obesigenic, carcinogenic toxic chemicals were, actually, non-toxic after all? Yes it could! In fact, ACSH did a study of the whole litany of toxic chemical “clusters” identified by NRDC in 2011, and found any objective evidence for chemical toxicity in exactly three out of the 42 alleged.
If finally enacted this year, the reformed TSCA will be a potent drag on chemical innovation, grant even more power to the EPA, and become a lifetime employment guarantor for innumerable petty bureaucrats at the EPA, while conferring absolutely zero health or environmental benefit upon anyone. (The EPA's calculations of the public health benefits of their regulations, like their cost estimates, are derived from computer-modeling mixed with magical thinking). Do we really want to give the EPA even more power over us? They poisoned the Animus River in the southwest by their clumsy investigation of the Gold King mine, destroying heritage sites for Native Americans and befouling the acreage of many ranchers and farmers, without owning up to any responsibility. Imagine what would happen to a small landowner who did the same?
Now, on to the jewel in the Obama crown: his plan to conquer global warming by trashing our estimable power grid and energy supply chain, in his quixotic attempt to hold back the tide of climate change by trashing our fossil fuel industries, with coal being target number one. Recall, the president and his Secretary of State have both been quoted as saying that climate change is America’s most important problem!
Congress over the past 7 years has been uncooperative in helping him and his main accomplices, EPA Administratixes Lisa Jackson (aka Richard Windsor: she invented double emails way before Hillary) and the current attack dog, Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has gone so far as to propose that the industries being targeted should deem the efforts to annihilate them as, rather, a good opportunity to re-invent themselves in a cleaner business — an opportunity, rather than an auto-de-fé.
I refer to the NRDC-conceived-and-written “Clean Power Plan,” which invokes such beloved tropes as “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) and an “our way or the highway” invitation to either develop a state-by-state plan to reduce “carbon pollution” (formerly known as carbon dioxide) levels by a third (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030 — or else. Or else meaning that the EPA will eagerly do it for them. Problems: 1: the states are mostly not amenable to such a willy-nilly switch from what seemed to be perfectly fine energy/electricity generation to a system of “sustainable” energy that is at present not so reliable, and yet way more expensive; 2: Congress has been presented with CCS plans before and has expressed disdain for this approach in no uncertain terms (indeed, some enviro-activists have referred to this as a billion-dollar carbon-trading scam); 3: CCS has nowhere been shown to actually work efficiently. Never. Anywhere. 4. Legal folks of various political persuasions have opined that the…creative use of the Clean Air Act as a basis for this extensive schema does not pass muster.
These caveats are certain to give any court reasons to at least mull over the ramifications of this new paradigm. And indeed, twenty-six states and a passel of businesses and trade groups are suing to prevent the EPA from moving forward with the CPP. Of some interest: although the CPP was finalized in August, it was not formally published until October, to prevent (it is thought) the issue from coming before a court until after the December Paris climate conclave, IPCC-COP21. It would hardly do to have the world’s leading proponent of the massive global wealth transfer against global warming having his signature program thrown out by a federal judge while he himself was in Paris canoodling with all the climate experts in his thrall.
Similar comments might be made regarding another key feature of the Obama doctrine: the “Waters of the U.S.” or WOTUS (the EPA insists on calling it the Clean Water Rule), which would place rivers, streams and rivulets under the control of the EPA. This too has been challenged, and a federal appeals court has upheld a temporary injunction on its implementation. (In a revelatory sidelight, the agency was found in violation of federal rules by conducting a sub rosa social media campaign to drum up pseudo-grassroots support for this horrendous regulation; the GAO called them out for the astroturf campaign and for the covert nature of its provenance).
The most costly of the Obama program may well be the new ozone regulations (actually the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, NAAQS), which would massively increase the costs of doing business — any business — across a wide swath of the country. To get this level (70 ppm ozone, down from 75 but instead of 60) without a major uproar, the EPA used a time-honored technique: they first proposed an obscene standard of 60 ppm, then compromised at 70—such a relief!). If allowed to stand, a large fraction of American counties would be found to be non-compliant, with the resulting expense and employment ramifications, again to no one’s benefit.
And now that we have espied the earliest benefits of the fracking-derived shale gas revolution, with gas prices plummeting under two-dollars a gallon and an aura of pleasant nonchalance about the international religious strife in the petro-despotisms of the middle east (as opposed to the intense anxiety we felt in the 70s), the imperial agencies of the EPA and the Dept. of the Interior have taken aim at the fracking industry. They have proposed onerous rules ostensibly to regulate leakages of methane, giving little thought to the facts that fracking-related methane leaks have been cut down substantially over the past few years, and that oil-and-gas derived methane is a fraction of the total methane output. (Seriously, what do you think gas prices would be now, what with Saudi Arabia and Iran about to come to blows and the Chinese stock market in turmoil, if not for fracking?). And now the EPA Science Advisory Board has announced that it is going to re-evaluate their prior report exonerating fracking from groundwater contamination. This couldn’t be part of the broader crusade against fossil fuels, could it?
How about that Keystone XL pipeline, huh? Well, the leftists who only want fossil fuels “kept in the ground” were ecstatic when President O finally put his foot down and said “No.” He actually announced that clearing it would present the wrong message when he was on his way to Paris for the climate summit — nothing to do with real economics or health. So now, Trans-Canada, which lost billions upon that decision, is now suing the president for exceeding his authority, and Canada is suing the U.S. under NAFTA, for violating the terms of the agreement which frown upon politically-motivated policies such as that enunciated by the president about his Keystone veto.
The Omnibus bill did allow us to resume exporting oil and natural gas, which is a good thing. The ban on exports dates from the Arab-Iranian oil boycott of the 1970s, but we’ve enjoyed a glut of these products for quite a while now, and oil is at historic low prices. In exchange, the Republican leadership gave away the farm by being willfully blind to the extension of tax subsidies for sustainables such as solar and wind. Also moving forward, the billions of dollars contributed to a variety of green climate groups will also continue.
But what about nuclear energy? Clearly, nuclear is the safest, cleanest source for climate fanatics as well as climate denialists, or even skeptics. Nevertheless, many in the left-wing climate camp disdain nuclear, based upon…what? I have no idea, same reason they fear vaccines and GMOs, perhaps. Meaning pure anti-science ideology trumping anyone’s best interest. And by the way, there was zilch in the Omnibus bill in support of Obama’s verbal pro-nuclear and “all of the above” chatter. In summary, the global warming zealots want us to disassemble our energy production, meaning fossil fuels largely, and transfer billions to the undeveloped world so they too can use solar and wind power instead of the efficient sources that raised our own economy since the industrial revolution — while they diss the two cleanest sources of effective, reliable energy delivery, nuclear and natural gas. Bummer, man.
Obama came on as the leader of “the most transparent administration in history,” but has proven to be quite the opposite. He has ruled from on high through a bevy of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, who have doled out billions of dollars to pet environmental groups and programs. When the EPA’s “secret science” data were requested by Congress, they have been stonewalled. The sad fact is that there is no middle ground on the science of global warming — one is either an advocate for doing everything possible to stem the tide of disastrous man-made global warming, or one is branded a denier. To even venture to propose a debate or discussion turns you into an enemy, a shill for Big Fossil Fuel. Yet, even a proponent of this policy, Secty. Of State Kerry, avers that even if we do everything we can, the fact that India and China will continue to use coal into the foreseeable future means we alone cannot keep to our states goals. Temperatures may well rise, but the data say that rise will likely be in the one-degree centigrade level, worst case scenario. And the gloom and doomsayers on weather cataclysms cannot point to any such unusual activity anywhere on earth.
The entire climate agenda of the Obama-Kerry-McCarthy cabal is merely an excuse for their agenda: massive wealth redistribution from the wealthier countries to the poorer countries, under the auspices of various international governing authorities. They well know it would take decades for even the most efficient and honest rulers of third world countries to effectuate a transformation of their economies to carbon-free sustainables; therefore they know as well that their mantra of urgent, now-or-never action being required is nonsense. But they cannot afford to allow the cataclysmic prophecies of such as Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” to be downplayed, so the alarmism and fear-mongering must proceed. And while they’re at it, why not make a hefty profit from all those new, sustainable business opportunities for themselves and their cronies (Al Gore, e.g., is now a multi-millionaire).
Answer to the pre-test question: Watermelon Environmentalists are green on the outside but red inside. (h/t: Hank Campbell).