On January 23, 2020, it was announced that Trump’s EPA had “rolled back” clean water rules. A better description would be “gutted”. When environmental protections are removed, the proponents of removing them always invoke the imagery of innocent small landowners, struggling family farmers and small business owners being maliciously harassed by an arbitrary, unreasonable, capricious bunch of ignorant government bureaucrats who just want to stand in the way of progress. Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator, said: “EPA and the Army are providing much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects.” It is important to know that the Army he references is the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps of Engineers plays a role in enforcing the Act and permitting projects. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for some of the most boneheaded decisions and biggest ecological disasters in the history of the United States. You have to look no further than the flooding disaster following Hurricane Harvey to get a glimpse of its ineptitude and shortsightedness. For a more in-depth look at the Corps of Engineers and, at best, its mismanagement of the Clean Water Act, read Paving Paradise, a comprehensive history of the Corps’ role in the destruction of the Florida ecosystem for the benefit of developers and politicians. It is also noteworthy that Wheeler made this statement to a group of homebuilders, a group vitally interested in maximizing its profits from land investments regardless of the damage done to the environment. I’m sure mining companies, chemical plants, refineries, oil and gas companies, industrial-scale agricultural businesses and many other polluters are also happy with this.
Jim Lehrer has died at age 87. Mr. Lehrer anchored the PBS NewsHour for 36 years. Mr. Lehrer was born in Kansas, but was raised in Beaumont and San Antonio. He got his start as a journalist for the Dallas Morning News. Mr. Lehrer moderated several presidential debates. He was a model broadcast journalist. Mr. Lehrer is quoted as having said “I have an old-fashioned view that news is not a commodity. News is information that’s required in a democratic society, and Thomas Jefferson said a democracy is dependent on an informed citizenry. That sounds corny, but I don’t care whether it sounds corny or not. It’s the truth.” Jim Lehrer cared deeply about the truth. We need more like him.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has announced he intends to change the rules of the Texas Senate if Republicans lose their 19 to 12 Senate majority in 2020. Under the current Senate rules, it is required that a bill receive a 3/5 majority vote to be brought to the floor. Patrick wants to change the rules to a simple majority to protect Republican control of the Senate. This isn’t Patrick’s first attempt to change Senate rules. In 2007, Patrick attempted to change the rule in effect at the time which required a 2/3 vote to a simple majority. He failed on a vote of 30 to 1.
After he became Lt. Governor, Patrick tried again in 2015 to change the rule to a simple majority. The rule was then changed to the present 3/5, 19 vote, requirement. Clearly, Patrick is nervous and he has every reason to be confident the Senate will change its rules. The Senate used to be thought of as the calm, deliberative chamber that could be counted on to curb the worst impulses of the House. That is why the Senate rules were what they were. The rules protected to some extent the interests of the minority party and forced compromise. Those days are long gone.
Republicans everywhere are using every tool in the box to cling to power. This includes voter suppression through voter ID laws, voter intimidation, purging of voter rolls, suppression of the response to the census, prevention of ex-felons from voting, gerrymandering, stripping newly elected Democratic governors of power, etc. One has to wonder what their strategy will be when the worm finally turns.
Corps of Engineers Logo : property of Corps of Engineers
Video of Jim Lehrer is property of PBS News Hour / PBS.org
Image of Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick property of TexasTribune.org