Monday, November 24, 2014

Sideways, Backwards, and .....

I watched the last half of the movie Sideways today.  A particular scene struck me.  If you don't know the movie, it would take too much time to describe it, but it a nutshell it is about life, with a side of wine.  The scene in question involves two of the main characters, a male and female, who have spent time together with another couple but not time together, alone.  It is a typical give and take scene involving two people feeling our their way at the start of a possible relationship.  At one point, the male character asks the female why she is so interested in wine.  Her response is a series of statements, more than a few which begin with "it makes me think about".  It is a very reflective answer, one perhaps not all that common in real life, as so many of us delay truly describing the things in life that make us think, move us, make us, let alone revealing them on a first date.  I've seen this movie many times, yet today was the first time I was moved to reflect on that scene.  One of the many "it makes me think about" was that wine makes her think about the people who tended the grapes, bottled them, participated in all the phases of the wine making process, and about the fact that if it was an aged bottle of wine, many of those people may be dead.  The connections of our lives between the past, the present, and the future can be very humbling, very inspiring, very educational.

The past week's votes in the United States House of Representatives, included a bill which would negate specific rulemakings by the EPA unless all data from underlying scientific studies, including confidential health information about participants, has been make publicly available.   Proponents claimed this was necessary to provide transparency in the EPA (again Republican's ability to frame the topic to sound reasonable), while in reality it was another in a series of GOP attempts to strip the EPA of its ability to protect the environment.  Opponents cited some specific air quality related studies that enable the EPA to administer its oversight of the Clean Air Act as studies being targeted in this bill.  Curiously, an amendment to the bill sponsored by Dems was not passed.  It would have exempted EPA actions which might be taken to combat health threats to drinking water resulting from a nuclear or terrorist attack, or to approve Ebola disinfectants.  One must wonder why the GOP thought these concerns not worthy or passing. 

Another GOP sponsored bill which passed is meant to reshape the EPA's scientific advisory board to make it more industry friendly for those industries that the EPA regulates.  The bill would diminish academic representation and expand corporate membership, permit experts with financial ties to the industries regulated if they disclose their ties.  A democratic amendment to bar representatives who have financial ties to the industries regulated was summarily defeated.  I doesn't take much thought to conclude that by having less non-scientific and more industry related board members may result in an EPA less concerned about health and more concerned about profit.  

As a side note, these bills will not pass in the Senate as they stand.  Not just because the Senate is controlled by the Dems, but because nothing passes in the Senate without 60 votes as is obvious from two Senate bills which featured tallies of 58-42, and 59-41 where each was defeated as they didn't reach the 60 vote supermajority.  Not sure when this rule came into effect, why the Senate cannot pass bills when a simple majority is reached, but it reflects the gridlock in effect in Washington today.  I know the 60 vote is meant to keep the majority party in power from running roughshod over the minority party, but it seems to be stalling legislation that might be beneficial.  I have heard some pundits say that this supermajority rule is a more recent phenomenon, in that it is in effect much more than in the past.  The GOP certainly will use any and all methods to prevent the Obama Administration from passing anything, but in this case one of the above mentioned votes concerned the Keystone Pipeline.  I guess it is another example of being careful what you wish for, you might get it, as the GOP wants nothing passed but that nothing now includes bills they support.

What truly irritates me is this lack of connection between the past environmental disasters that have occurred in the United States, the success of the EPA to reign in so much of the pollution, air, water and ground, that would occur if businesses had no oversight, and the apparent backwards tilt of the GOP in thinking that, if left un-regulated, businesses would do any better at containing their methods of pollution than they did in the age of acid rain, Love Canal, etc.  It is especially short sighted when one factors in the incredible profit margin mentality that runs all large corporations, and has resulted in the shipping of jobs overseas to save labor, the fight against increasing minimum wages, and the delusional admiration of the government run Chinese economy where environmental regulations are non-existent, and the concern for the health of the environment and the people is ignored. 

As for ..., well, I maintain a belief that man in general, and Americans in particular will lose interest in looking backwards, will become more financially solvent that they can stop moving sideways, and might realize that forward thinking is not just being open to the latest I-phone or virtual reality device, but a construct that understands the past and its lessons, applies those lessons to present day issues, and proposes solutions that account for the ever changing nature of the world, the ever changing nature of man.    

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