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NOTES FROM THE WATERFRONT
SHRUB, SCIENCE AND THE BIG BANG

Don't miss Ellen Goodman's essay, Bush, the Scientific Academic. (Click.)

Those of us who live in California have experienced the back-lash of Bushites from Texas tampering with our wallets -- i.e., the stiff costs of power designed to stiff all.   "Go back to Texas" was often heard in the Bay Area -- and it was enough to send Houston developer Gerald D. Hines scurrying away from development of the Bay Area's beloved Treasure Island and 1,200 acres of land in Napa County.

Bush's faithful Condoleezza is a transplanted Texan.  Until her appointment by Shrub, she was on the board of Chevron USA.  In turn, Chevron USA garnered a 26.7% interest in Texas-based Dynegy, Inc., one of the lead suppliers of power to CA utilities.  Unlike most stocks in the market, in one year the share price of Dynegy, Inc. tripled as the rate paid by Californians for power doubled and tripled.  Wonder why some Stanford-ites refer to Condoleezza Rice as "Leezza the Lizzard"?  Side-winding profiteer is more like it.

California, in handling the Texas-based energy crisis, has had to deal with the huge, quadruple - chinned Bushite Spencer Abraham,  Shrub's Energy pick.  Abraham himself admits he and Shrub hit it off because both of them have twin daughters -- as good a qualification as any needed to suit Shrub's standards for appointment.

Getting back to science, as Ellen Goodman points out, one of George W.'s favorite subjects -- has Shrub studied the effects of "the Big Bang?"  How about the effects on the ozone layer if Texas were to illuminate at 500 times the "wattage" of Las Vegas for a single event?  Can Texas outshine "The Strip?" Inquiring minds want to know.  

Maybe Shrub's love of studying and science can help answer the above.  

PG&E has just filed for bankruptcy in California.  The State wants to buy the transmission lines.  This is great news for a state tired of being held hostage by private- interest-Texas energy providers (Reliant, Enron, Dynegy) -- a step in the right direction. Let's make our utilities "extra-municipal" where we may have a bit more local control.

If the above happens, and everyone in CA is willing to endure for a brief time a total blackout, doesn't science tell us Texas and Bush interests are vulnerable?  What happens if we take the power coming along those lines if we own them, and backfeed it to Texas generators?  Won't Texas glow in the dark?  

It has already been rumbled that Spencer doesn't like the idea of the State of California owning the transmission lines.  Is this true?  If so, is this because Spencer knows enough about power to understand "backfeed?"

In all fairness, PG&E engaged in a plan to safe harbor its cash into a Washington, D.C. based holding company "just a holler away" from the White House -- created January 12.  PG&E filed for bankruptcy April 6.  Was this under the advice of their counsel, former U.S. Attorney and Republican loyalist Joseph Russoniello? If so, they missed the mark and should seek more competent legal advice.  Bankruptcy codes still contain a "90 day preference period" body of laws. This essentially means that all transactions that occurred within 90 days of the filing of an action are not only subject to scrutiny, but to outright reversal as "preferential actions."  It only needs be shown that assets were willfully placed outside the reach of a company's creditors while the company was contemplating bankruptcy relief.  In the past, many prosecutions for fraud resulted from these types of "pre-filing" shenanigans.

Seems to us, however, that PG&E has already strategically chosen Washington, D.C. as its outpost of safety to prevent this, while keeping those Texas power providers enriched.

Shrub's "let's get back at California for voting for Gore and make huge profits while we are at it" mind-set is indeed myopic.  Throughout California's farming heartland, Bush's one stronghold of Republican support, farmers who can now barely afford to irrigate their crops have dropped out of the Republican party, swearing never again to be duped by a Texan ... or a Bush in whatever form it might exist.

Is Shrub into studying simple math?  Concepts in physics and behavioral sciences such as actions cause reactions? How about statistics?

At any rate, can Shrub answer our question about "backfeed and the Big Bang? Is this why he and his administration would stand in opposition to a State desiring to own some aspect of its utility infrastructure?  Or in opposition to a plan that might restore cash to PG&E so that it can pay creditors and be done with it?

Shrub sure messed things up for the Republican party in CA on this one when his Texas loyalists in energy turned against California's farming community (let alone some of his country club set left high and dry during rolling blackouts).  

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali stands in a wonderful position to protect consumers as he handles the PG&E case.  May he'll remember his roots in representing the consumer -- not the corporate side of the bankruptcy equation.  This is one of those rare cases when creditor banks would breathe a sigh of relief as much as consumers to find all that money pumped by PG&E into its Washington, D.C. holding company backfed -- and shuttled to California.

Notice the deal kicked off with rate hikes when it was "for certain" Shrub would be "appointed" by the Supreme Court.  Remember for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Now that's science.  As to the loss of votes, now that's math.   


Bush, The Scientific Academic 
by Ellen Goodman © 2001

And to think that I was skeptical of George W. when he said education would be at the top of his dance card.  Maybe the malapropisms misled me.  Maybe I was put off by his most famous tip for teachers:  "You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."  

Oh me, of little faith.  We are only months into the first semester of this administration and never before have I seen a president so committed to studying.  Every time George W. wants to get rid of some troublesome bit of public policy, he doesn't expel it, he sends it back to study hall.  As principal-in-chief, he justifies his decisions on scientific grounds, not political ones. He has become the champion of ever more research.

Remember arsenic and old water regulations?  Bush kicked up his administration and his class in retro politics by rolling back the standards for arsenic coming out of the tap.

Did he raise a deregulated glass of cheer with his corporate buddies?  Nah.  He explained to the nation:  "We pulled back so that we can make a decision based on sound science."

I cannot imagine that his "sound" studies will say anything to contradict the grim facts.  Will they discover that the carcinogen cures baldness or eliminates cellulite?  Still, nothing will quench this man's thirst for knowledge.

How about RU-486?  When Bush came to the Oval Office, the abortion pill had been approved for the market.  Did Bush's appointee say that he would do anything to prevent the FDA-approved drug from getting in the hands of women?  Nope.  In professorial tones, Tommy Thompson, the new head of (Cap?) health and human services, merely said "it should be reviewed" for safety.

A peer review would require no more than a scan of the vast international medical literature.  But these guys just can't get enough of science class.

Co2?  Global warming?  We should be grateful that this president hasn't denied global warming.  That would be a bit like denying evolution -- oops, that's next week.  But when he pulled away from the Kyoto treaty, he justified it largely on the grounds of the "incomplete state of scientific knowledge."  In fact, the link between carbon emissions and global warming is about as "incomplete" as the link between tobacco and lung cancer.  But ... study, study, study.  

While we are hard at work, how about equal pay?  On April 3, Equal Pay Day, a Labor Department survey from pre-Bush days showed that a woman working in a government contract job earned 72 cents for every dollar a man made.  Did the new secretary of labor, Elaine Chao, challenge the goal?  No, just the "flawed study."  

Chao is a member of the Independent Women's Forum, a conservative group that declared the end of the pay gap last year, saying a 20-something woman earned as much as a 20-something man.  

Want to bet that the Labor Department's new research will prove that any woman can close the wage gap simply be remaining young and childless?  May the science be with you!  If all this studying is making you a bit queasy, count your blessings.  Your kids could be starring in an Imodium ad.  For a moment Wednesday, Bush had decided to drop one little test in school:  the test for salmonella.

For a while teachers were going to be held more "accountable" than meat vendors.  The cover story?  The tests for the bacteria in the lunch were burdensome and -- you go it -- NOT SCIENTIFIC.  In this case, the Bush folks pulled an all-nighter in another science - political science.  After an uproar, beef will still have to pass a pop quiz.  

School daze, school daze, dear old golden rule daze.  As such earnest students, what are we to make of George W.U.?  The good news is that the Bush administration knows it can't just slash environmental regulations, ignore working women or favor cattlemen over school kids - without pretense.  The bad news is that they can "disappear" any regulation into the eternal study hall.

Or into the corporate labs of scientists-for-hire.

The new administration has begun to sound less like an executive branch and more like a scientific review board with a simple standard: a cost-benefit analysis.  Benefit to the corporate buddies, cost to us.

Let that be a lesson.  There will, I promise you, be a final exam.

Ellen Goodman is a columnist for the Boston Globe.  E-mail her at .


 

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