The Week

Rahm Emanuel (Roman Genn)


Not two years after declaring carbon dioxide a “pollutant,” the Obama administration’s EPA is considering cracking down on “PM10,” a category of “particulate matter” that includes farm dust. There’s no need to bore oneself with the details, but the bottom line is that a 2010 EPA report has suggested three different possible regulations: One would leave the standard as is; the second would adjust the criteria so that they target different areas but provide the same overall level of protection; and the third would be the same as the second, only more stringent. The problem with the second proposal is that it would place the regulations disproportionately on rural areas — areas where, by the EPA’s own admission, the evidence that PM10 causes bad health effects are weakest. (They’re also areas that are naturally dusty, and so anti-dust efforts there entail declaring war on the wind.) The third option, meanwhile, is ridiculously overprotective, setting a PM10 level at which no study has found an effect, even a statistically insignificant effect. So the EPA now wants to regulate both the carbon dioxide we exhale and the dust on our shoes. You can’t deny they’re comprehensive.

Here’s another profile in civility: Tom Luna, the Republican superintendent of Idaho public schools, recently introduced an education-reform bill to the state legislature. The legislation gradually eliminates tenure, erodes seniority privileges, and increases the number of charter schools — all of which teachers’ unions dread. In response, they’ve gone Wisconsin on Luna. One thousand people protested the bill outside the state capitol. Hundreds of students walked out of class. A teacher showed up at Luna’s mother’s home to register his dissatisfaction. And one particularly thuggish opponent vandalized Luna’s car, slashing its tires and painting graffiti on its side. “I think Luna’s probably getting the clue that . . . we’re all against it,” one student told the Idaho station KTVB. He is certainly getting an education about the nature of the unions.

Bill Clinton violated every standard of civil discourse — red-faced with rage, finger wagging, viciously smearing his opponents, lying and suborning lies — and so naturally has been selected to co-chair a new national institute on civil discourse, along with George H. W. Bush. Bill Clinton famously tried to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Rush Limbaugh, so it makes a sort of perverted sense that he would jump on a project rooted in Democrats’ cynical attempt to pin the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by an addled psychopath on tea-party protesters and their colorful signs. Meanwhile Democrats, who obviously have not yet availed themselves of the benefits to be had from this new bipartisan national treasure, are parading around Wisconsin waving Hitler signs and calling openly for the murder of Gov. Scott Walker, without a peep of criticism from Clinton — or from President Obama, whose only comment on the situation so far has been to cheer them merrily on. Bill Clinton was a lucky president in mostly happy years, and has been a rash on the body politic ever since.

Growing corn to make ethanol for fuel is such a bad idea that even Clinton has misgivings. At an Agriculture Department forum, the master triangulator said that although ethanol and other “biofuels” can (supposedly) help America “become energy independent,” “we don’t want to do it at the cost of food riots” in poor countries. While that puts the case entirely too weakly, we welcome the ex-president’s conversion to fiscal responsibility. The department’s chief economist says that 37 percent of U.S. corn production could be used for ethanol next year, under a massively wasteful program that combines a federal mandate with a tax credit and a tariff. Rural legislators have managed to keep the ethanol bubble inflated through years of attacks, but with a new spirit of thrift taking hold in Congress, even the mighty farm lobby may have to make its share of sacrifices.

March 21, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 5

Books, Arts & Manners
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .