Gary Stock: UnBlinking

Glance askance: Dick Cheney hit the web's power switch over his handling of US domestic energy policy. Big time! The media has been largely critical of official secrecy, and private websurfers are overwhelmingly suspicious. Even Republican allies have begun challenging Bush's energy plan, or lack thereof. Online opinion is a strategic reserve the web has been storing up for years - a renewable resource with high energy output. It's slick, it's dark, and it won't stay underground for long.

Getting Drilled in a Pristine Area, Part Four
Part Three of "Getting Drilled in a Pristine Area" explained how Cam Toohey, an oil industry lobbyist, tapped into the heart of the Bush White House. It turns out he's not the only oil industry pipeline into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Other industry insiders have maintained more secretive connections, but the web is the mother of all connections - and the web remembers.
UnBlinking scans the wealth of information on the internet, gathering background on people and events. Using public search engines, UnBlinking collates what may be known (and what may have been forgotten). Please use QuickTopic to share your comments. [Usability note: All links here open into the same target window.]

Thu 2001-08-02

Did You Feel That?
Update  The aptly named and often irreverent MetaFilter scores with the first (2001-08-01 10:25 PM PST) blog of the Reuters release House Approves Arctic Drilling. As Solistrato put it:
Oh, yes, and billions of dollars in tax breaks for energy companies, and the total rejection of stricter fuel efficiency standards.

I'm just... ugh. I said in an earlier thread that it's a hoot to see the puppet strings on Bush and his cronies. Now, it seems, the joke's on me. And us.
Other responses reveal high sarcasm regarding the political system, with a degree of cynicism appropriate to the times. MeFi regular Pracowity gets to the heart of the matter thus:
A large majority of Americans are short-sighted, self-centered, and greedy. If they are told to choose between either a small chance of very slightly lower gas prices now or the preservation of a huge beautiful wilderness forever, they will clutch at the faint chance of a cheaper drive to Wal-Mart this weekend.
The US Senate plans to address energy proposals in September, 2001 (presumably providing the oil industry sufficient time to manipulate gas prices higher, thereby enhancing Senate support :-)

Thu 2001-07-26  

Spreading Oil on Troubled Waters

Cam Toohey, the Arctic Fox in the Henhouse, is among friends in Washington. Since our last UnBlinking, questions have grown over energy industry influence on national policy. It seems that oil lobbyists, among others, have had extraordinary access to presidential policy. Looking back in time for "cheney energy policy," various search engines prove the web has been paying close attention - with no lack of editorial comment.

Here's a quick retrospective of media attention since the Bush inauguration.

01-07-26 Just an hour ago, Reuters mentioned that Senator Joe Lieberman likely will decide tomorrow "whether to seek what would be the first congressional subpoenas against the Bush administration.

01-07-26 Earlier today, the Chicago Tribune published a report on Bush's allies in Illinois who "warned fellow Republican President George W. Bush that his energy policy could damage the environment."

01-07-25 Reuters reported some embarrassment over Cheney's official residential electric bill being paid by the Navy:
The White House said earlier this month it wanted the Navy, which oversees the 33-room official vice presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory, to pick up the bill for electricity, natural gas and water that is projected at $136,000 for this year.

The bill has been paid from the vice president's budget, with the Navy covering over-budget portions. But with higher energy costs, the White House said it would have to come back to Congress for more money next fiscal year and this was a simpler way to manage the issue.
(Emphasis added, though you might have noticed anyway :-) The Seattle Post Intelligencer remarked that the heated debate "was meaningless," since as vice president, all of Cheney's living expenses - including electricity - are covered by taxpayers.

01-07-19 Make Them Accountable gathered items, particularly from the Washington Post about lawmakers who are suspicious that the administration's energy policy was shaped by industry officials who contributed to President Bush's campaign.

MTA also echoed a succinct question by E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post: What's Cheney Hiding?   Dionne wryly repeated complaints from Congress about excessive White House secrecy (humorous in particular because those complaints were made about Bill Clinton, by House Republicans).

01-06-26 Salon Magazine described concerns that representatives of the power industry, many of whom were big donors to President Bush, were exercising undue influence on official policy. Salon linked out to an excellent ABC News Energy Showdown Timeline. ABC cited perhaps the most bizarre argument ever made (even in Washington) for corporate secrecy:
While the White House claims to be cooperating, Cheney - through his attorney, David Addington - is refusing to release both the names of people who participated and the schedule of meetings..." It is a constitutional issue - the right to petition," said Cheney's spokeswoman, Juleanna Glover Weiss. "People should have the right and freedom to come to the government without having to release their names to the press."
01-06-24 As the Washington Post and others reported, "The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, last week issued a "demand letter" to Vice President Cheney, the first ever to a president or vice president, requiring the White House to turn over materials of its energy task force."
The threat by the Governmental Affairs Committee escalates a dispute between the executive branch and Senate Democrats that began in March. Lieberman, then the committee's ranking member, sent letters to the three Cabinet secretaries in March demanding information about correspondence and the agencies' reviews of the regulations. In the minority in the Senate, Lieberman had to get permission from Thompson to issue a subpoena. Appearing April 22 on CBS's "Face the Nation," Lieberman complained that he had "not received anything but a runaround from EPA and the other agencies."
Some of Senator Joe Lieberman's early queries are available at his official web site. For example, on 01-03-21 he asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton to explain who was influencing policy decisions. Lieberman's comments strike close to the ANWR target:
...you announced that you will propose to completely eliminate the new so-called "3809 regulations," which are aimed at, among other things, holding mining companies responsible for clean-up of their own toxic waste left on public lands. As you know, this rule was the result of a four-year decision-making process with extensive public comment, open hearings, and consultation with local officials.

As Ranking Member of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, which is responsible for overseeing the proper conduct of regulatory decision making, I am very troubled by this decision to undo so many years of work and by the quick and closed-door decision-making process that led to it.
01-06-21 U.S. Representative Mike Honda (D-San Jose) challenged U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham over the lack of scientific basis for the Bush energy plan. Honda said, regarding Bush's decision not to appoint a Science Advisor, "The failure to make this important appointment speaks volumes about this Administration's disregard for objective scientific analysis when making policy decisions during its first six months."

01-06-04 RollCall questioned corporate influence over the Bush White House. Ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee John Dingell [Michigan] and [California Representative Henry] Waxman asked GAO to investigate whether the energy industry worked with Dick Cheney to create the new energy policy.  

GOP: Gas, Oil, Petroleum

If the newsgroups at Deja Goo, er... Google, are any measure, public opinion has been running ten to one against cheney energy policy for months. Most submissions are reprinted material from the New York Times, Washington Post, or other less mainstream media. Some were posted to liberal-leaning threads, but a surprising majority are where scattered across soc.retirement, alt.fa.rush-limbaugh, and alt.politics.republicans. The titles alone are uniformly damning:
smoggy air: cheney energy policy (triangle.general)
Cheney Energy Approach Contradicted by Energy Dept Study (soc.retirement)
Bush Energy Policy: Fuels Rush In (soc.retirement)
An Energy Policy with Tunnel Vision (alt.politics.bush)
Burn Baby Burn, The Bu$h Energy Policy (alt.politics.republicans)
Cheney Energy Task Force Under Investigation (rec.backcountry, alt.wolves)
Halliburton dick's energy "task force" under investigation (alt.politics.usa.republican)
Why is Cheney stonewalling on secret energy policy meetings? (alt.fan.rush-limbaugh)
The "National Energy Policy" per Dubya and Cheney UNMASKED!!! (direct to the article)
BUSH/CHENEY ENERGY POLICY -- DRUNKS TO CARPOOL! (alt.politics.bush, alt.true-crime)
This latter commends The Smoking Gun for coverage of Bush's DUI arrest, as well as a DUI for Dick Cheney, and other drinking and driving arrest records. This is an example of how the web community links together all the loose ends.

The online curses continue to echo at IsDickCheneyDeadYet.com. Pointing out that after inauguration "George W. Bush is now only a heartbeat away from the presidency," IDCDY reassures readers that Cheney is "Not dead yet." On Friday, July 27, 2001:
Dick Cheney had a routine checkup on his pacemaker earlier today. Doctors grew concerned when they discovered that the pacemaker was not attached to anything and that, in fact, Dick Cheney did not even actually have a heart. The concern of the Doctors waned when they realized that that was perfectly normal for Republicans. Still not dead.
The web: it's hard to dodge the punches when 100 million people are throwing them.

01-05-17 John Hanger, President and CEO of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future weighed in:
...the Bush-Cheney approach to energy reveals that the Administration is not so much committed to conservative ideals as it is committed to rewarding their financial backers. The Bush-Cheney energy policy intervenes in markets or refuses to do so, depending on which philosophy bails out industry allies.
01-05-17 Back at his web site, Lieberman dropped a sound-bite bomb on the Cheney energy plan:
When I compare what the White House promised us in this report with what they delivered, I'm tempted to call on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the Energy Task Force for deceptive advertising...

"You can sum up this plan in a few words," Lieberman said. "Drill first, everything else comes later..."

"So the question remains, The lights are out in California, but is anyone home in the White House?"
01-05-14 Time Magazine questioned Is the White House tone deaf, or is it Cheney? Time published a wonderful photo by Doug Mills of Associated Press, clarifying Cheney's mood, and the direction his energy policy may be headed: cheney energy
policy downhill
Still Ticking, but Going Downhill Fast
              01-05-13 Earthside Publisher Dave Chandler railed against the "Drain America First" policy of the "secret federal energy committee". However, Earthside also articulated the science of the Hubbert Peak model of oil reserve depletion. This model (proposed by the late Dr. M. King Hubbert, Geophysicist) clarifies that most US oil reserves are already gone. cheney energy policy
Still Ticking, but Going Downhill Fast

( Please note a direct correlation between Cheney's facial expression and the Hubbert Peak model :-)

01-05-13 Gil Friend, systems ecologist and business strategist at Natural Logic, Inc. weighed in with a business perspective on Cheney's tone:
As the NY Times reported, he said "he would oppose any measure based on the premise that... people should 'do more with less'." What is he actually proposing? That we do "less with more?" I can't think of any another CEO (or any local grocer) who runs their business that way. "Hey, I've got a great idea. Let's spend more money on expenses, produce less product and make less money."
01-05-10 Tom McNichol provided further comic relief in Salon, lampooning Cheney's statement that "conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis, all by itself, for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." McNichol provided Dick Cheney's 10 tips to conserve energy, such as reminding us, "Don't be fooled by solar energy: The sun is 'off' 50 percent of the time."

01-04-13 Just before Tax Day, Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking journal CounterPunch, echoed an Associated Press report that Cheney earned $36 million during 2000, most from exercising stock options given to him as CEO of Halliburton.

Yes, the oil company.  

The Inner (Arctic) Circle

So, has oil industry had too much access to the Bush White House? An investigation by Common Cause revealed " a pattern of special favors" for Bush's "inner circle of $100,000 donors." The entire report is worth reading, since the pattern of abuse and access is so remarkable. Here are some relevant excerpts:
President Bush also took special care of Arco in his national energy strategy. The cornerstone of his proposal - and one of Bush's favorite causes - was the opening of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR, or "An-war"). Administration and industry officials argued that ANWR's coastal plain represented the nation's last great hope for a large domestic oil find.

Before George Bush took up residence in the White House the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimated the probability of recovering significant quantities of oil from ANWR at only 19 percent. But shortly after the administration released its energy proposal, Bush's BLM released new figures: a 46 percent chance of large recoveties. [sic]
[ED: The neologism re'covet'ies in context is supremely amusing :-]
When the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group, charged that the new figures were politically motivated, Interior Department officials countered that they were based on "proprietary" oil industry data, which it refused to release...

...Not surprisingly, 20 oil interests are represented on Team 100, including some of the biggest in the business. Altogether they have given more than $3.8 million to Bush's '88 election bid and to GOP national committees since then.

But one company stands head and shoulders above the rest. Atlantic Richfield (Arco) tops its competitors in the amount of soft money it has contributed to the team and in its impact on key policy proposals. While some in the industry - particularly smaller, independent companies - might complain about specific administration proposals, Arco has repeatedly benefited.

Thanks to Lodwrick Cook, chair of Arco, the company's relationship with the White House is strong and well-financed. In 1988 Cook and company president and CEO Robert Wycoff each contributed $100,000 to Team 100; since then the company has donated $462,360 in soft money to the RNC - plus $200,000 to the President's Dinner fund. All in all, Arco has contributed $862,360 in soft money to the '88 Bush effort and GOP national committees. For years Cook has been a GOP stalwart: He chairs the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation; he's a Bush and Reagan golfing partner; and in August, he will host the "GOP Gala Luncheon" at the party's national convention.

Arco spokesperson Al Greenstein acknowledges that Cook's "access is related to the fact that he is a supporter of President Bush."
If you've read carefully, you alread know the punch line: that Common Cause report about special favors to oil executives was written in 1992 - describing former President George Herbert Walker Bush. Such attention must have made the power elite nervous. But, what could they do to get their fingerprints off the weapon of influence? How to bury the obvious?

Think again about Cam Toohey, Interior Secretary Gale Norton's new Special Assistant for Alaska, former Executive Director of Arctic Power, a pro-drilling oil-industry lobbying group. Lo and behold, Arctic Power - the lobbyists paid for by politicians and power companies - was founded in... 1992.


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