Thursday, May 10, 2012

On the Environment: Romney and Hannity Share a Dirty Joke 1/2

Nomadic Politics Mitt Romney by Nomad

During times of extreme stress, it's always nice to see a person like Mitt Romney cut loose and have a good chuckle among his friends.  
We see far too little of this but it does make you wonder what kinds of things actually tickle Mitt's funny bone.
Here’s a exchange between Sean Hannity, Fox News host, and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney from May 8 2012.
HANNITY: It's pretty clear now, I think, in many ways, what the Obama campaign has planned. They can't run on their record, I make -- I contend they can't run on their record. So, they're going to -- they're going to use a lot of class warfare. There's been a lot of rhetoric that's been thrown around.

Let me show you, for example, this is -- like, you know, bad it's gotten. And it's very early. We still have six months to go. This is what the president said about the Republicans' plan. I just want you to hear it.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My plan says we're going to put teachers back in the classroom, construction workers back to work to rebuilding America, rebuilding our schools, tax cuts for small businesses, tax cuts for hiring veterans, tax cuts if you give your worker a raise.
OBAMA: That's my plan.
And then you got their plan, which is -- let's have dirtier air, dirtier water.
HANNITY: Is that -- do you want dirty air, Governor? I didn't hear you in the course of the campaign talk about dirty air and dirty water. Is that your plan?

ROMNEY: I think the only dirty air and dirty water is coming out of that clip that you saw of the president.
And that, my friends, is just an example of the kind of side-splitting humor that we will have to look forward to should Mitt Romney ever become president.
Firstly any time a man like Hannity moans about the amount of campaign rhetoric that is being “thrown around,” you may expect an mind-bending blur from hypocrisy to amusing irony.
Sean and Mitt went on to talk about Obama (class warfare alert) and tax cuts and small businesses and Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and that trillion dollar debt. The dirty air and dirty water remark, however, was never mentioned again aside from that flip retort and a chuckle amongst buddies. 

Really, the joke is a rather private one between Hannity- the man who has never let facts stand in the way of an opportunity to smear the president and Romney- who has proved satisfactorily that telling lies is NOT against the Mormon religion. A good time was had by all but that joke is really not the kind that people who drink water or breathe air should find too awfully amusing.

Romney and Koch
Let’s look into the president’s claim. To paraphrase it, the president claims he represents progress but Candidate Romney represents a step backward, especially in terms of environmental issues. Wonder what makes Obama say such a thing?
On the face of it, as governor, Romney has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the environment. For example, according to one source, back in 2005:

Governor Mitt Romney today announced that Massachusetts will take another major step in meeting its commitment to protecting air quality when strict state limitations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants take effect on January 1, 2006.
And there's this from the same year: 
Massachusetts under the Romney administration:

• Became the first state in the nation to establish a drinking water standard for the chemical perchlorate in order to protect sensitive populations;

• Set tough standards requiring significant reductions of mercury emissions from power plants; and

• Increased enforcement against environmental violators - one such effort was a unique aerial enforcement initiative that detected illegal wetland destruction through the use of computer-mapping technology.

Holy Moley! He has even made a name for himself going after polluters.
“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts cracked down on environmental violators at a record pace in the last fiscal year, hiking enforcement actions by 54 percent and assessed penalties by 49 percent. These results were achieved even as costs were reduced by nearly one-third at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Romney, as governor, earned a congratulatory pat on the back for all his work by none other than Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England regional office, who applauded Romney’s strong leadership dealing with environmental problems. 

For a Republican politician, that’s a rather stunning record. What am I saying? For a liberal, it’s remarkable. Is that mean old Obama fibbing about Romney?
Maybe not.
There’s one important caveat to all of his commendable work as governor of Massachusetts. This was before the new and improved Mitt Romney danced onto the national stage with his high hopes to be president. That good governor Romney is not the same person as the one that appeared on Fox News, yukking it up with Hannity. That was before Romney and the Koch brothers became bosom pals.

That’s the moment presumably that Romney sold his soul and abandoned all his worthy efforts on protecting the environment. According to Ari Berman, writing for The Nation:
The Koch brothers, in turn, have been major supporters of Romney. David Koch endorsed him in 2008 and held a fundraiser for Romney at his Southampton home in 2010. Bill Koch and his coal company, Oxbow Carbon, have donated $1 million to the Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future. At a recent retreat in California, David and Charles Koch pledged to spend $60 million during the 2012 election to defeat President Obama, which would no doubt give a major boost to Romney if and when he becomes the GOP nominee.
Romney’s estate tax plan alone could save the Kochs billions of dollars. His advocacy of the oil, gas and coal industries would also be a major boon to the Koch brothers’ many energy interests.
As they used to say, politics makes strange bedfellows but in the case of the brothers Koch and Mitt Romney, it was the candidate whose virtue was, without much fuss, compromised under the sheets.

Koch Brothers- Making Things Dirty
Koch Industries is largest privately owned energy company in the United States It is also the country’s second largest private company. According to Forbes, in 2007 Koch Industries generated $98 billion in revenue and had 80,000 employees. Wikipedia gives us this profile about the corporation:
Koch companies are involved in core industries such as the manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, as well as other ventures and investments. The firm employs 50,000 people in the United States and another 20,000 in 59 other countries.
Additionally besides generating spare change for the Koch brothers to spend on their political whims, Koch Industries has a reputation for generating a lot of pollution. Not merely of the political kind.

In a study released this spring of 2010, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten “Toxic 100 Air Polluters” in the United States. 
Wait, is that the same Massachusetts that Romney was governor of? 
According to Jane Meyer’s expose on the Koch brothers in The New Yorker:
During the Clinton Administration, the energy industry faced increased scrutiny and regulation. In the mid-nineties, the Justice Department filed two lawsuits against Koch Industries, claiming that it was responsible for more than three hundred oil spills, which had released an estimated three million gallons of oil into lakes and rivers. The penalty was potentially as high as two hundred and fourteen million dollars. In a settlement, Koch Industries paid a record thirty-million-dollar civil fine, and agreed to spend five million dollars on environmental projects.
Back in March 2011, CBS reported on Koch Industries violations of the Clean Water Act. According to an EPA enforcement complaint, a Georgia-Pacific paper mill on the Coffee Creek in Arkansas - owned by the billionaire Koch Brothers- pumps out 45 million gallons of paper mill waste including hazardous materials like ammonia, chloride, and mercury each day. 
Each profit-saturated day. 

Another slithering tentacle of the Koch octopus is the Mercatus Center. Affiliated with George Mason University, Mercatus is a conservative think tank that is used by the Koch brothers to produce academic opinions in order to shape government policies that favor the free-market approach. It was founded and funded by the Koch Family Foundations. According to financial records, the Koch family has contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. (Basically it is the corruption of independent research.)

According to Greenpeace, back in 2001, 14 of 23 government regulations targeted by the George W. Bush White House were suggested by Mercatus, including rollbacks of Environmental Protection Agency pollution regulations. (I reported more on Mercatus in a piece I did on Wendy Gramm, wife of Phil Gramm, and former Enron executive, who has been influential in Mercatus.)

Recently, Mitt has been a speaker at events organized by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) an organization that receives the bulk of its funding from the Koch brothers. This pretend grassroots organization in turn funnels money to the causes and candidates that meet with Koch approval. 
In the Wisconsin primary, for example, endorsements by several AFP darlings, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis and Koch-backed U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, both of whom have received substantial financial support from the brothers, helped sway public opinion in Romney's direction. Alternet noted:
While the impact of endorsements is a point of argument among pundits and political scientists, 60 percent of voters in the Wisconsin primary said that Romney's endorsements were a factor in determining their vote, according to exit polls.
All too predictably, the man whose administration in Massachusetts was hailed for cracking down on environmental violators, sang a very different tune at his victory speech in Wisconsin:
[R]egulators have to see their job not just as cracking down on the bad guys but also as protecting economic freedom and promoting enterprise and fostering job creation. Washington has to become an ally of business, not the opposition of business.
Shocked? Well, you get what you pay for. 
The AFP has worked tirelessly against EPA regulations attempting to limit emissions from industry. Overly-stringent environmental standards, they say, negatively impacts the economy and, by requiring coal-powered plants to reduce smog and soot pollution, regulations will raise electricity rates to all Americans. More recently AFP reportedly spent $1.6 million for a very heavy-handed attack ad which was packed with misinformation. 
According to Sourcewatch, AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s "green jobs" czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks. 

According that New Yorker article:
Casting his group as a champion of ordinary workers who would be hurt by environmentalists, [Tim] Phillips [President of AFP] went to Copenhagen [in 2009].and staged a protest outside the United Nations conference on climate change, declaring, “We’re a grassroots organization. . . . I think it’s unfortunate when wealthy children of wealthy families . . . want to send unemployment rates in the United States up to twenty per cent.”
But Mr. Hannity, isn't this class warfare? 

So the questions are:
  • Has Romney simply sold out? It has been known to happen in the world of politics.. occasionally.
  • Or, is he lying to the Brothers Koch in order to gain their unlimited financial backing to defeat Obama? 
  • As president, will he switch back to being the tree-hugging environmentalist he was in Massachusetts? Or perhaps a third incarnation that's yet to manifest itself? 
  • One final question, this to voters: How can anybody trust a man who would lie so easily.. to everybody?

In the second part of this post, we will examine how this dirty joke goes beyond Romney's relationship with the Koch brothers. And how Sean Hannity, as a member of staff for Rupert Murdoch, must been holding back quite a chortle of his own.