Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, the Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Bush Administration to California: Eff You

| Thu Dec. 20, 2007 1:44 PM EST

bush-finger.jpg

You know how the Right loves states' rights? Turns out that only applies when "states rights" means "persecuting minorities." It turns out that "Trying to avert near-certain global climactic doom," is not, apparently, a "state right."

Earlier today, the EPA denied California's request for a waiver that would allow the state to regulate automobile emissions. (This comes after a court fight that forced the EPA to rule on the request). The decision, according to the lede of a must-read Washington Post story, "overruled the unanimous recommendation of the agency's legal and technical staffs." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of course promised to take the decision to court. David Bookbinder, the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel, told the Los Angeles Times, "These guys are 0 and 4 in court," he said. "And they're about to go 0-5." That's the part of this story that really says "Eff You": The EPA knows it's going to lose in court. From the Post story:

William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents officials in 48 states. . .[said the EPA] "has issued a verdict that is legally and technically unjustified and indefensible."
EPA's lawyers and policy staff had reached the same conclusion, said several agency officials familiar with the process. In a PowerPoint presentation prepared for the administrator, aides wrote that if Johnson denied the waiver and California sued, "EPA likely to lose suit."
If he allowed California to proceed and automakers sued, the staff wrote, "EPA is almost certain to win."

So in this one, the good guys will probably win again. But victory will mean delaying important greenhouse gas regulations for a stupid, petty, pointless court fight the Bush administration already knows it will lose. Chalk up another point for auto industry lobbyists and bad government.

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House Dems Propose New Ethics Office, But Reform Groups Say "Not Good Enough"

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 5:00 PM EST

A task force appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved a step closer today to creating an Office of Congressional Ethics by approving a report calling for such an office. (Only the four Democrats on the bipartisan panel voted for the proposal.) And a resolution creating this sort of office was scheduled to be filed today, CQ Politics reports. But the proposal, which would establish an investigative office without the power to issue subpoenas, is being attacked as toothless. In a quickly issued press release, four good-government groups--Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, and Public Citizen--declared, "Without subpoena power or access to subpoena power, the Office can be ignored in its efforts to interview individuals and obtain documents that may be central to the ethics matter at hand."

Public Citizen et. al. are pulling for an amendment that would grant the new office subpoena power. And that's going to be tough fight. After all, the GOP members of the task force refused to endorse even a weak version of the office. And the Democrats have not been wildly enthusiastic about this endeavor. The task force's report was originally due May 1. The task force was only eight months late. The Democrats, now in power, do not seem eager to push reform with bite.

The Music We Play for Terrorists (and Dictators)

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 2:34 PM EST

From Newsweek, via Matthew Yglesias:

In addition to waterboarding, Zubaydah was subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded with blaring rock music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One agent was so offended he threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators, according to two former government officials directly familiar with the dispute.

This is unfortunate news for the Chili Peppers. But it does bring to mind another musical attack: the U.S. "Rock 'n' Roll assault" on Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1990. When Noriega was holed up in the papal embassy in Panama City, the U.S. blasted music on enormous speakers as part of an attempt to flush him out. Because of the Freedom of Information Act, the most important details of this operation are now declassified: We know what was played during those fateful days. Some highlights after the jump.

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