It seemed like a good idea, and no doubt Christine Todd Whitman, the outgoing head of the Environmental Protection Agency, found it appealing. Two years ago, the E.P.A. launched a massive effort to review, catalog and analyze the many environmental problems that plague the country and, therefore, the world. When published, this report would serve as a definitive text on our stewardship of precious natural resources. It would tell us what has been done and what still needs to be done.
Yes, it was a good idea, all right-just a little too good for the energy barons who run the Bush administration. When they heard that the report took global warming seriously and dared to suggest that human behavior, through the use of fossil fuels (that’s oil to you), contributed to this potential catastrophe, the White House stepped in. There was a run at the White House stationery office on white-out, erasers, scissors and brightly colored pencils.
The E.P.A. report was censored by the guardians of American liberties in the Bush White House.
When the report is released, it will contain only tepid language about the interesting little fact that global temperatures are rising, that (despite the horrendous spring in the Northeast) the planet is getting far too sultry, and that many scientists think the junk pouring out of our smokestacks and tailpipes may contribute to this problem. Actually, instead of science, the report now contains propaganda. The White House inserted “studies” by the American Petroleum Institute-now there’s an unbiased source-designed to make us think that global warming is a fantasy designed to subvert the sales of sport utility vehicles.
This is outrageous and corrupt behavior, but also about what we’ve come to expect from a White House that believes what’s good for the oil industry is good for America-or at least that portion of America fortunate enough to sit on the boards of oil companies.
Making this episode even more infuriating is the behavior of Ms. Whitman. She should be offended. She should be angry. Instead, she assures us that she is “perfectly comfortable” with the censors in the White House.
Actually, her choice of words tells us why Ms. Whitman has been a disaster at the E.P.A. She is, in fact, “perfectly comfortable” with her bosses. After all, they got her out of a mess in Trenton, gave her a cabinet-level job and raised her profile as the model Republican woman. All she had to do, in return, was remain “perfectly comfortable.”
Several weeks ago, Ms. Whitman announced that she would step down as E.P.A. administrator to become “perfectly comfortable” somewhere else. Wherever she goes, she should remember to bring along lots of light clothes.
It’s hot out there, Ms. Whitman. Not that your agency will be allowed to say anything about it.
No Silver Lining In Aide’s Arrest
Two years ago, Michael Boxley, a top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was accused of sexual assault. Mr. Silver did nothing, and no official charges were filed. Just a few days ago, Mr. Boxley, who worked as Mr. Silver’s $130,000-a-year chief counsel, was taken away in handcuffs, formally charged with raping another young woman. Mr. Silver called the arrest “unfortunate for everybody involved.”
One could argue that the arrest of an accused rapist is fortunate, indeed. Given the previous accusation against Mr. Boxley, it’s especially hard to see why we should regard his arrest as “unfortunate.” It sounds as though young women in Albany are safer today than they were before Mr. Boxley’s arrest.
Perhaps Mr. Silver was talking about himself. There’s no question that Mr. Boxley’s arrest is “unfortunate” for the Speaker-after all, he offered nothing but support for Mr. Boxley when the previous accusations surfaced. In fact, Mr. Silver said he had the “utmost personal confidence” in Mr. Boxley at the time.
Apparently, that confidence was misplaced. On June 11, Albany police arrested Mr. Boxley and charged him with raping a fellow Assembly employee. Several days later (although not immediately), Mr. Silver placed Mr. Boxley on unpaid leave-but, as the New York Post reported, the suspect has accumulated nearly 1,500 hours in vacation and personal time. The paper noted that he’ll be collecting his full-time salary-courtesy of you, the taxpayer-for about nine months.
Amazingly, Mr. Silver apparently can still show his face in polite company. Nobody has demanded an accounting from him, never mind his resignation.
Perhaps we’ve simply gotten used to poor judgment and bad behavior from public servants.
It’s the Economy , Stupid
John R. Talbott, a onetime investment banker for Goldman Sachs, predicts a real-estate crackup in his new book, The Coming Crash in the Housing Market. The title alone is enough to send some people screaming into the night. After all, the housing market’s performance has been the one bright spot in the gloomy economic news of the last two years or so.
The problem with Mr. Talbott’s analysis is that it didn’t go far enough-he focused only on housing. In fact, it’s simply part of a larger, depressing picture. The housing crash, when and if it comes, will follow larger downturns in the national economy.
Despite interest-rate and tax cuts, the economy is stalled and shows little signs of revival. There’s not much reason to believe that we will see an uptick any time soon. While the market has rebounded sharply in recent months, government at every level is struggling. The city is broke, the state is broke and Washington is running up record deficits.
Unfortunately, we have problems that go well beyond a crash in the housing sector.