Tag Archives: Rick Perry

It Just Goes On And On

This time, it’s Rick Perry. (Mr. “Oops”)

Watching the Trump Administration cabinet reminds me of going to the three-ring circus when I was a girl: it was impossible to watch what was happening in all three of the rings at the same time. And there were lots of clowns.

The New Yorker has turned its attention to Rick Perry, who has always struck me as one of the clowns. 

On March 29, 2017, Robert Murray, the founder and owner of one of the country’s largest coal companies, was ushered into a conference room at the Department of Energy’s headquarters, in Washington, D.C., for a meeting with Secretary Rick Perry. When Perry arrived, a few moments later, he immediately gave Murray a hug. To Simon Edelman, the Department’s chief creative officer, who was on hand to photograph the event, the greeting came as a surprise. At the time, Edelman did not know that Murray’s political-action committee and employees had donated more than a hundred thousand dollars to Perry’s Presidential campaign, in 2012, and almost as much to Donald Trump’s, in 2016.

At one point in the meeting, as Edelman recalls, Murray handed Perry a document titled  “Action Plan for reliable and low cost electricity in America and to assist in the survival of our Country’s coal industry.” Edelman snapped a closeup.

According to the article, it was barely six months later that Perry sent a letter directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a new rule. The ostensible reason for the rule was “to protect the resiliency of the electric grid” from what he described as vulnerability to power disruptions. (Interestingly, barely a month before Perry sent the letter,  Perry’s own staff had issued a report concluding that “reliability is adequate today.”)

Perry’s letter instructed the Commission to emphasize “traditional baseload generation”—in other words, coal and nuclear.

Perry proposed that all coal plants in certain areas, including many that do business with Murray Energy, be required to keep a ninety-day supply of coal onsite to provide “fuel-secure” power. Edelman was alarmed: the language in Perry’s letter clearly echoed Murray’s “action plan.” ..Edelman shared his photos of the March meeting with reporters from the progressive magazine In These Times and, later, the Washington Post. The photographs were published on December 6th. The next day, Edelman was placed on leave.

Edelman has since sued Perry and the Department of Energy, and the remainder of the article analyzes the evidence and the federal laws that would seem to have been violated both by Perry’s issuance of the letter and his dismissal of Edelman. Not surprisingly, it concludes that both were wrongful.

The degree of corruption that characterizes this administration is breathtaking. Trump and his “best people” seem utterly oblivious to ethical principles, let alone the legal constraints that govern their operations. I suppose we should be grateful for their overwhelming incompetence–the bumbling that opens windows into their ethical and legal transgressions and mercifully undercuts the efficacy of their efforts to roll back regulations and initiate policies to enrich their benefactors. (Last Sunday, the New York Times had an article about Scott Pruitt’s rush to undo EPA regulations, and quoted  environmental lawyers to the effect that persistent, sloppy legal work and inattention to detail has made it much easier to challenge his efforts in court–and win.)

American citizens need to use the next two and a half years to demand a great cleansing of federal agencies. If the predicted “blue wave” materializes in November, Congress will need to initiate a thorough and bipartisan audit of compliance with government’s settled ethical obligations.

Donald Trump didn’t appear out of nowhere. This corrupt, unhinged ignoramus and his “best people” circus are the result of several decades during which plutocracy grew and voters were apathetic. It will take a sustained and determined effort to right the ship of state.

If that blue wave doesn’t materialize, the U.S. will join a list of failed democracies that is getting longer every year.

What Would I Do Without Texas?

As I have noted several times, I owe Texas a debt of gratitude. Whenever I am searching for an example of bad public policy to use in class, the Lone Star State comes through for me.

I thought about Texas’ reliability during a research presentation by one of the teams of students in my graduate Law and Public Affairs class. They had chosen Cap and Trade as the policy proposal they were analyzing, and they began the presentation with a brief history of environmental regulation in the U.S. The student delivering that portion of the presentation noted that federal rules were a response to a couple of the downsides of our federalist system: not only is there often a lack of uniformity, but there are some unfortunate consequences to the fact that states compete with each other to lure businesses and jobs. Before the establishment of the EPA, lack of environmental regulations was one of the “advantages” states offered relocation prospects–“come to our state, and you won’t be bothered by pesky rules keeping you from discharging your toxins in that nearby river.”

Even today, some states allow more pollution than others. According to the student researchers, Indiana is the 7th most polluted state in the country.

Texas, of course, is the worst.

Indeed, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been widely quoted touting his philosophy of economic development, which boils down to:  states wanting to entice business can succeed by reducing or eliminating regulations.

So what if a few fertilizer plants blow up and level some neighborhoods?  So what if polluted air exacerbates asthma and other medical conditions, sickening citizens and driving up medical costs?  So what if the companies most likely to be attracted by an absence of regulation are those looking to evade reasonable standards for safety and environmental compliance?

Diminished health and safety is a small price to pay for job creation bragging rights. Just ask Rick Perry.

But What About the Children?

I see where a federal judge has upheld the part of Alabama’s harsh new immigration law that requires public schools to check the immigration status of all students. This is one more effort to punish the children of undocumented immigrants.

What I find particularly galling about laws like this, and opposition to the Dream Act (which recognizes what any sane person understands–that a two-year-old did not intentionally ‘break the law’ by coming to the US with his parents) is that the people who are dead-set against allowing these children to attend public schools or universities tend to be the same people who can be found piously proclaiming their concern for ‘the children.’

Protect the children from exposure to porn on the internet! Protect the children from recognizing the existence of gay people! Protect the children from studying ‘dirty’ books in school, or taking them out at the local library!

This heartfelt desire to ‘protect’ children would certainly be laudable if it weren’t so selective. But somehow, this often-expressed concern doesn’t extend to paying taxes to insure that poor children have enough to eat, and it doesn’t extend to educating them so that they can be productive members of the only society they have ever known.

Even Rick Perry, in the only statement he has made that I agree with, has said that people who would keep children of undocumented immigrants out of school are heartless. But then he heard the voice of the Tea Party, genuflected, and apologized. God forbid a candidate for President should show some human compassion!

How mean-spirited have we become?

A Logic Question

Tom Friedman is not a favorite columnist of mine–although I often agree with him, he often seems a bit too smug, a bit too self-satisfied with his own superior analytical skills. But today, he hit one out of the ballpark. After asking “Is It Weird Enough Yet,” he eviscerates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry for their insistence that climate change is just a hoax, perpetrated by research scientists to generate funding. Not only does Friedman explain (in language that even Rick Perry should be able to understand) how the extreme weather we are experiencing is a consequence of global climate change, he explains what is necessary if so-called “green jobs” are to generate real economic growth.

But let’s say you still aren’t convinced.

Ever hear of “Pascal’s wager”? The philosopher Blaise Pascal was dubious about the existence of God, but he reasoned that–since one could not know for certain–the logical course of action was to act as though he did.  If it turned out that God was real, great. If not, you would have lived a good life. In other words, by acting as though you believe even if you don’t, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Global climate change invites a similar logic. If we decide to act on the advice of the 98% of scientists whose research supports the finding, and climate change is real, we’ll save the planet. If it turns out that our fears are ill-founded or exaggerated, we’ll end up doing a lot of things we need to do anyway–recycle, use energy more efficiently, etc.

When we have everything to gain by a particular course of action, and nothing to lose, refusing to take that action is more than weird. It’s self-destructive.

Through the Looking Glass

Politics in the US continues to take on aspects of unreality, if not mass insanity. The newest evidence is the probable entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry into the GOP Presidential primaries.

As Timothy Egan describes Perry, he wouldn’t seem to be a threat in any rational universe:

“Perry’s tendency to use prayer as public policy demonstrates, in the midst of a truly painful, wide-ranging and potentially catastrophic crisis in the nation’s second most-populous state, how he would govern if he became president.

“I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, ‘God: You’re going to have to fix this,’” he said in a speech in May, explaining how some of the nation’s most serious problems could be solved. […]

Perry is supposed to be the savior. When he joins the campaign in the next few days, expect him to show off his boots; they are emblazoned with the slogan dating to the 1835 Texas Revolution: “Come and Take It.”  He once explained the logo this way:  “Come and take it — that’s what it’s all about.” This is not a man one would expect to show humility in prayer.

Perry revels in a muscular brand of ignorance (Rush Limbaugh is a personal hero), one that extends to the ever-fascinating history of the Lone Star State.  Twice in the last two years he’s broached the subject of Texas seceding from the union.”

So one more lunatic joins Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, et al. Does it really matter? Can’t we just take this latest candidacy as evidence that Obama will not have trouble being re-elected? Not if James Moore, author of Bush’s Brain, is correct.  He proposes the following, chilling scenario:

“His Saturday speech in South Carolina will make clear that he is entering the race for the White House and will spawn the ugliest and most expensive presidential race in U.S. history, and he will win. A C and D student, who hates to govern, loves to campaign, and barely has a sixth grader’s understanding of economics, will lead our nation into oblivion. […]

After he wins the nomination, protocol will require Perry to have discussions with Bachmann about the vice presidential slot, but he will, eventually, turn to Sarah Palin. The general election will force the Texan back toward the middle and he will stop talking about faith and abortion and gay marriage; Perry will campaign on jobs and the economy.”

Richard Hofstadter wrote two seminal books about the American electorate: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life and The Paranoid Style in American Politics. It was bad enough when paranoia and anti-intellectualism were undercurrents to be dealt with, but in our current fantasy environment, it is sanity that is the undercurrent and wonderland that threatens to overwhelm us.