One of the peculiarities of our media right now is that, as everyone knows, the best political reporting is being done by a couple of comedy shows on cable. Another source that has been surprising me is Rolling Stone, which has unshackled a couple of wild men, Tim Dickinson and Matt Taibbi, to go after the corruption and insanity of American politics — one of those things we once upon a time expected our newspaper journalists to do. I guess the powers-that-be think it’s safe to let the drug-addled hippies and punks (and college professors) who read Rolling Stone to know about the failures of our government, but the bourgeoisie must not be perturbed.
If you care about the environment, you must read Dickinson’s Obama’s Sheriff. It’s nominally about our new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, but without saying much about him, it instead dives into the seedy, greedy world of the Interior Department of the past 8 years. Under Bush, we basically gave away our natural resources to anyone willing to chew them up and turn them into a pile of poisonous rubble and decaying trash.
Here’s a sample.
LESS WILDLIFE Julie MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary at Interior, routinely overruled the department’s biologists, limiting the amount of “critical habitat” protected from drilling and other development. Federal judges overturned several of her decisions as “arbitrary and capricious,” and among federal scientists her name became synonymous with political interference. “It became a verb for us: getting MacDonalded,” said one staffer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When the inspector general reviewed 20 listings for endangered species in which MacDonald played a role, he found that she had “potentially jeopardized” 13 of them — a track record that “cast doubt on nearly every [endangered species] decision issued during her tenure.” Her decisions frequently benefited private interests, including her own: Her ruling that the Sacramento splittail fish is not an endangered species protected her family farm in California — an operation that clears as much as $1 million a year.
DECAYING PARKS By the time Bush left office, the National Park Service was stuck with a backlog of up to $14 billion in deferred maintenance. The marquee attraction at Dinosaur National Monument — a rock face of exposed Jurassic fossils — remains off-limits because the visitor center is unsafe, and inadequate storage facilities threaten to damage artifacts from the Battle of Little Big Horn. Because of the lack of funds, the government was unable to buy land surrounding Valley Forge and Zion National Park, putting the property at risk for “detrimental development.” Worst of all, the administration’s failure to create a grazing plan at Yellowstone Park to accommodate the plains buffalo — the animal that graces the Interior Department’s seal — contributed to the deaths of more than 1,100 bison last year. It was the greatest buffalo slaughter since the species was driven to near extinction by hunters in the late 1800s.
Keep in mind that this is only a taste — it goes on for page after depressing page. We’ve been robbed.
And what about Salazar? He gets a couple of paragraphs at the end, giving him props for being willing to go in and shake up the tradition of corruption…but also points out that he’s from the conservative rancher tradition, and is going to continue the policies of free give-aways of our resources. So, I guess we can expect less snow-bunny sex with mining representatives and less cocaine-snorting ministers, but the destruction will continue.