Supreme Court okay for...
By Nicole Colson | July 2, 2004 | Page 2
SHOULD THE public have the right to know when politicians cut backroom deals to let big business write public policy? Not according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a decision last week, the justices ruled 7-2 that a lower court should "reconsider" an earlier ruling that would have opened up Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force papers to the public. The ruling allows Cheney to continue to hold onto documents from closed-doors meetings with energy industry insiders.
Though Cheney has been tight-lipped about the whole process, task force meetings definitely excluded environmentalists--while including private sessions with executives like Ken Lay, the former CEO of bankrupt energy giant Enron. Last year, the General Accounting Office found that several corporations and industry groups--including Chevron and the National Mining Association--gave detailed energy policy "recommendations"--at least some of which were adopted wholesale by the Bush gang.
The full extent of industry involvement is still a mystery--because Cheney's office has refused to turn over records from the task force for more than three years now. The Bush administration had argued in court that privacy is important for "candid" White House discussions on "difficult" issues. In other words: the public's right to know stops where the shady deals begin.
In the end, the Supreme Court ducked the privacy issue--and bought the Bush gang some extra time in what might have become an embarrassing election year revelation by suggesting that a lower court reconsider whether task force documents could be obtained through a federal open government law, instead of a court challenge.
Still, Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to suggest that the White House might be above the law under any circumstances. "Special considerations applicable to the president and the vice president suggest that the courts should be sensitive to requests by the government" in such special appeals, Kennedy wrote for the majority.
It's not surprising the court decided the Cheney case this way. After all, Justice Antonin Scalia took part in the deliberations--despite his 30-year friendship with Cheney and his recent duck hunting trip with the veep.
Worsening threat of global warming
WAS DICK Cheney fiddling with energy executives while the environment burned? It seems that way. According to Agence France Press, a new computer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research has shown that global warming may be happening faster than anyone thought.
The computer is projecting that global temperatures could rise by an average of 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit--1.1 degrees higher than previous estimates--in the coming decades if carbon dioxide is released at its current rate by the burning of fossil fuels. An extra 1.1 degrees may not seem like much--but in global climate terms, the impact would be devastating.
Past estimates have been less accurate because of problems producing consistent results in trying to determine the impact of other sources of global warming, such as radiation from clouds or thunderstorms and the effect of aerosol gases on the environment. But according to Clifford Jacobs, a scientist at the National Science Foundation, with the new models, "the degree of uncertainty has narrowed."
The average global temperatures of the last two years were tied for being the second warmest on record since the late 1800s, when data were first collected, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. United Nations data show the 10 warmest years on record have all been since 1990.
Meanwhile, business-focused skeptics in both mainstream parties claim environmental worries are little more than hysteria.