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January 14, 2004

DIRTY AIR....Does it ever end? The Bush administration is challenging yet another Southern California attempt to clean up our air. It's not even a new regulation that applies to carmakers or any other manufacturer, it's just a mandate that applies to our own cities and counties telling them they have to buy cleaner burning vehicles.

Whether you happen to approve of this or not, don't we have the right to decide what kinds of vehicles we ourselves are going to buy? It's just a mystery why the Bush administration insists on joining in on frivolous lawsuits like this. Do they just reflexively oppose anything that might reduce emissions?

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 14, 2004 08:25 PM | TrackBack


Yet they'll still use "States' Rights" as part of their platform. Just watch.

Dean, that New England Liberal Elitist himself, is way, way more likely to respect state's rights than anyone in the Bush admin...

Posted by: JoeF at January 14, 2004 08:35 PM | PERMALINK

They oppose it because they're afraid it might catch on. Personally I think the governments resources could be better spent. After all, I thought it was the republicans who were supposedly against 'frivolous' lawsuits.

I just want to ask them what they have against clean air?

Posted by: four legs good at January 14, 2004 08:37 PM | PERMALINK

Well, ya know, the Luna and Mars Exploration (LAME) program will have to develop efficient, large-scale air scrubbers for the Luna Base and the long, long trip to Mars. So, once again, our space program will develop technologies that we'll be able to use here on Earth, and we don't have to worry about our future air quality.

Posted by: josef at January 14, 2004 08:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Do they just reflexively oppose anything that might reduce emissions?"

Ummm, I hope this is just a rhetorical question.

Posted by: Dave Min at January 14, 2004 09:00 PM | PERMALINK

States rights are very important.
Scalia has opened my eyes to the importance of letting states force paraplegics to crawl stairs to get to mandatory court hearings.
Next to W., no one in U.S. history has done more to human rights than Scalia.

Posted by: RighteousRightie at January 14, 2004 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

Why on earth is the Supreme Court hearing this case? They're supposed to pick the hard ones.

Posted by: Katherine at January 14, 2004 09:30 PM | PERMALINK

They laugh when the liberatarians whine about the ol' 9th and 10th Amendment, but stuff like this is exactly why *both* the left and the right should be more supportive of limited federal powers.

Just because States' Rights was misused by the racists (the segregation issue actually was a Constitutional issue, of course) doesn't mean that the whole idea should be tossed.

Posted by: cure at January 14, 2004 09:33 PM | PERMALINK

You don't understand, Kevin! We can't allow those evildoers to interfere with Big Business' unfettered right to do whatever it wishes! Even the smallest statutes that attempt any sort of controls on corporations are the thin end of a very big wedge! Restricting profits in any way is un-American!

Now, letting two consenting adults of the same gender marry--that's different. Gotta pass a Constitutional amendment against that right away.

Posted by: Sharoney at January 14, 2004 09:35 PM | PERMALINK

This story has the one 9/11 victim that I have absolutely no sympathy for - Theodore B. Olson.

Posted by: Super Mario at January 14, 2004 09:46 PM | PERMALINK

George Bush the Candidate:

On Education: (from

"Johnson praised Bush for having a states' rights approach to education and said Bush will leave education to the states and let states decide, which is a fundamental difference between George Bush and Al Gore."

Then, on Oct 11, 2000

Q: What will you do to protect the environment?

BUSH: "There are practical things we can do. BUT IT STARTS IN WORKING IN COLLABORATIVE EFFORT WITH THE STATES. People care a lot about their land."
[Emphasis added for dramatic, partisan effect]

Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest Oct 11, 2000

Then, deriding "Command & Control" tactics:

BUSH: "I don’t believe in command and control out of Washington, D.C. I believe Washington ought to set standards, but we ought to be collaborative at the local levels."

Q: Would the federal government still have some new regulations to pass?

BUSH: "Sure, absolutely, so long as they’re based upon science and they’re reasonable, so long as people have input."

Bush says he wants to:
Tackle the brownfield problem by replacing the “old system of mandate/regulate/litigate” with decentralized state-led efforts."

Across the board, the rhetoric supports the generally conservative, decentralized approach to government. Is that actual policy?

Absolutely not. Whatever name or phrase you choose to describe it, this is an administration that says one thing and does another.

Posted by: James W. at January 14, 2004 09:46 PM | PERMALINK

if they talk, they are lying. If they say they are for family values, it means they want you poor as dirt so they can buy your 9 year old daughter as a toy. Harsh? Maybe, but I bet closer to the truth than many can ever concieve.

I mean stock portfolioes and art collections just dont quite add up. Its about total power.

Posted by: SnarkyShark at January 14, 2004 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

While I generally support states' rights over federal law--and while I tentatively do in this case--it's also easy to see the other side (as no one on this blog seems able to do). Car, truck, and bus manufacturer want to know the standards and build to them. That's fine if there's 1 federal standard; if there are 200 municipal standards, it's wildly inefficient.

Posted by: Tom Sherman at January 14, 2004 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Sure, absolutely, so long as they’re based upon science and they’re reasonable..."

He neglected to mention that he believes in Chewbacca science and since he's utterly without the ability to reason, he has no clue what reasonable is anyway.

His first clue that global warming is a real phenomenon is going to be when the Gulf of Mexico is lapping at his ranch doorstep.

Posted by: four legs good at January 14, 2004 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Sherman, you're missing the point. The municipalities aren't mandating standards for the manufacturers, they're just telling their city agencies (police, transit, etc.) that they have to buy fuel efficient vehicles. How could you possibly quibble with that? If american automakers don't wanna, I'm real sure Toyota and Honda will be happy to step in.

Posted by: four legs good at January 14, 2004 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Because they're not frivolous in the long-run, Kevin, ya liberally liberal.

Posted by: bj at January 14, 2004 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin >"..."Do they just reflexively oppose anything that might reduce emissions?"..."

No, they reflexively oppose anything that might restrict any oil organization`s income

in other words "...follow the money..."

"Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob" - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Posted by: daCascadian at January 14, 2004 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, using the Clean Air Act to prevent the use of cleaner burning autos. There seems to be a pattern emerging here.

Posted by: terrance at January 14, 2004 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

SnarkyShark: With statements like that, I promise you'll never get anywhere with people that disagree with you.

The next time you read about Howard Dean altering a position on guns over the course of 6 years, or, the next time some twit complains about Wes Clark qualifying his opinion on the Iraq war depending on the facts on the ground, consider the wildly inconsistent viewpoints of George Bush the candidate and GWB the Prez when it comes to the scope of US military power.

Consider his wildly inconsistent views on nation-building and the use of American force in so-called "humanitarian" missions.

If the policy will aid his constituency and expedite political goals, he's easily persuaded to do it, regardless of previously stated principles to the contrary. This is one of the jarring messages to come out of the O'Neill tell-all, which no one really wants to talk about.

Posted by: James W. at January 14, 2004 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

God, I hate to rationalize the Bush administration. Not that I am defending this action, but are we reading the same article? The regulation covers "cities in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and the U.S. Postal Service, as well as to private firms that haul trash or shuttle travelers to airports"

I don't see the regulation of USPS to survive...supremacy clause. I hope everything survives. I'd hope to make the policy federal policy....

Posted by: Adam at January 15, 2004 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

The air really is getting dirtier in Southern California. It's still much better than it was thirty years ago, but the trend is deplorable.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 15, 2004 01:28 AM | PERMALINK

Anything that affirms the right of a government (i.e. the people) to require anything of capital will be vigorously opposed. They believe public good derives from deregulation. Just like they believe peace derives from massive war or preparation for war.

Their goal is to destroy the regulatory power of government. These are their principles and ideology.

Unrestrained capital. Unrestrained. Period.

Posted by: Tim B. at January 15, 2004 02:36 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to say why the supreme court agreed to hear this case, but considering that there are already 2 rulings against the diesel engine manufacturers it sounds like a pretty easy decision, perhaps they are just trying to shore up their state's "rights" credentials.

Posted by: lanic at January 15, 2004 05:11 AM | PERMALINK


In the same day (almost in the same breath), Kevin posts(laments) about Bush's attempt reducing a federal mandate on air conditioner efficiency as a bad thing. Thrilled that the courts over-ruled it.

Then he pisses and moans when the same government entity mandates that those who work and play in some of the worst pollution in the country buy more efficient cars.

Clinton federal mandates = good
Bush federal mandates = bad

Obtuse? Methinks so.

Posted by: Black Oak at January 15, 2004 05:55 AM | PERMALINK

If California had given its electoral votes to W in 2000, he'd support your state rights up to a point. But you didn't so now he's going to make sure your life is hell. It's as simple as that. Cmon now! He encouraged Kenny Boy to screw you, and he doesn't give a ###t about your state or its people.

Posted by: Greg at January 15, 2004 06:06 AM | PERMALINK

Black Oak,

But Kevin raises a good point. As a small-government conservative, you'd think the administration would let CA determine it's own rules.

But I'm beginning to think that there's a group in the GOP called "Bush Defenders," and another called "conservatives." The former reaches out and strikes whenever the admnistration is questioned. These are the "patriotism" guys. "My way or go to France."

The other group are the grown-ups.

Posted by: Sebastian at January 15, 2004 06:25 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure a Bush website somewhere claim he is for clean air. So what is the rational for this lawsuit.

If a single town buys cars based on high gas mileage that tells one automaker to improve fuel efficiency, but if the county would simply buy what is already out there then the whole industry is free to research and develop high gas mileage cars in the most efficient business way possible.

See, when suppliers decide to not improve that is the free hand of the market. If buyers change their requirements that is a distortion of the market.

Or socialism. Or something. My head hurts.

Posted by: Tripp at January 15, 2004 06:51 AM | PERMALINK


I actually agree with you.

My point is that Kevin was OK with one federal mandate (energy efficient A/C), but not another (more fuel efficient cars).

I think it's a bit hypocritical and has shades of cherry picking.

These two are very similar. If more energy efficient A/C is good for Texas in the summer as a federal mandate, then why is more fuel efficent cars in CA as a federal mandate a bad thing for CA?

I don't see how you can come down on both sides of the fence on this.

Posted by: Black Oak at January 15, 2004 07:28 AM | PERMALINK

Listen carefully Black Oak. The Bush administration is arguing against increased fuel efficiency.

"Lawyers for the makers of diesel engines, the oil industry and the Bush administration on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to throw out an anti-pollution rule that has been in effect in Southern California for two years. It requires the buyers of new buses, garbage trucks, airport shuttles and other fleet vehicles to choose cleaner-burning engines."

Posted by: Hoyt Pollard at January 15, 2004 07:45 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm real sure Toyota and Honda will be happy to step in."

They already have, kids. Honda sells two gas/electric hybrids now; Toyota has one with several more on the way. Detroit's hybrids are vaporware.*

If Detroit spent some of their lobbying money on engineering and design, maybe they could sell some cars without absurd discounting.

* Diesel has its place, too: if we actually get low-sulfur fuel here in the states and can solve some of the particulate issues, between diesels and hybrids we could reduce the fuel consumption of the US fleet by a fair amount.

Posted by: JKC at January 15, 2004 07:47 AM | PERMALINK

Mea Culpa.
I read over that too fast.

Posted by: Black Oak at January 15, 2004 08:14 AM | PERMALINK

These two are very similar.

No, the two situations are very different. Do you have any understanding of the legal issue here? Because you certainly haven't demonstrated that you do.

Posted by: Constantine at January 15, 2004 08:16 AM | PERMALINK

Sigh...Black Oak, where did Kevin say that he opposes federal mandates or that he opposes state and local mandates? Kevin is simply in favor of energy efficiency and conservation. There's no inconsistency here, no hypocrisy, just practicality.

If you'd stop that knee of yours from jerking quite so much, you might actually give your brain a bit more time to think before you post such bilge in the future.

Posted by: PaulB at January 15, 2004 08:17 AM | PERMALINK

"Do they just reflexively oppose anything that might reduce emissions?"


Posted by: jason at January 15, 2004 08:51 AM | PERMALINK

Leave no car behind.

Posted by: ch2 at January 15, 2004 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

Crony capitalism, big oil, big auto, big company, big gov't support. Bush is terrible about using big gov't to promote friendly big companies.

When are Dems seriously going to stop promoting big gov't? Of course the Dems want the big gov't to do good ... how many Rep presidents will there have to be, using big gov't to favor cronies, before Dems start seeing the truth.

Big gov't doesn't solve the problem. Big gov't IS the problem.

Of course, if it's OK for there to be differences in pollution standards between states, maybe it should be OK for there to be differences on other issues, abortion for instance.

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 15, 2004 09:40 AM | PERMALINK

First, I'd say the case has some merit, because they aren't just deciding to buy cleaner vehicles, but also requiring contractors to comply. This could be construed as a "regulation". It's thin, but it isn't without merit.

Second, we'll have to wait until we see the ruling to really understand why the Supreme Court decided to take this on, but this Court is very interested in promoting states rights (except when it comes to recounts in Florida).

Third, the Bush administration has a responsibility to enforce the laws in the courts. This case represents a gray area, to be sure.

Fourth, I think the administrations support is of the cynical kind that you see a lot of in politics: I'll support this, knowing it will lose, because it will activate my base. Kind of like voting against flag burning, or the partial-birth abortion ban.

Not that I'm hoping for the suit to succeed, mind you. This sort of thing could actually play well for the Democrats in SoCal in the next election, and if, for example, the court were to say that regulations could not be placed on contractors, this could be used to split off some conservatives in SoCal, which is more strongly Republican than NoCal, where I live.

Posted by: Jay Gischer at January 15, 2004 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and you and yours never demonstrate the same? I mean, hell, whether you agree with it or not, shouldn't we be allowed to hire whoever we want?

Posted by: urnahole at January 15, 2004 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

All of these comments show how a little information can a long way -- a long way to obscuring the issue. The federal Clean Air Act imposes various air pollution control requirements on vehicles and other sources of pollution that are sold in interstate commerce, but it also severely restricts the ability of state and local governments to do the same. The argument is that if every state or locality were ableo to adopt pollution regulations for cars, lawnmowers, and the like, it would be costly to manufacturers, disrupt national markets, and substantially increase costs to consumers. While generally true, I believe this argument is often overstated. Nonetheless, it is one of the policy choices enacted into the Clean Air Act.

At issue in this case, ultimately, is whether a local pollution control agency (not the State itself, so the formal federalism concern is a bit weaker) can adopt rules that, some claim, are de facto pollution regulations on new vehicles. As a matter of statutory interpretation, it is actually an interesting question, and the federal government's arguments are not frivolous (and can be justified as a legitimate effort to protect the federal government's interest in proper enforcement of a federal statute). That said, I expect the federal government to lose, but it is a reasonably close case.

Posted by: Jonathan Adler at January 15, 2004 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you Johathan! I was going to make some of the same points but you were much better. Re the AQMD- this is not a "state" or a "city" or a "county" with their imperfectly performed obligations to balance the often conflicting goals of lowered pollution, economic activity/growth, and the benefits of having an outdoor barbecue or two during the summer. They are not an elected body and are not even held to account by voters for their actions. So, besides the issue of the interstate commerce clause alluded to by Johnathan, it seems to me there might be an issue of setting up a de facto single issue judiciary to impose regulations on the cities, counties, and its residents with no prospect of being held to account.

Posted by: Lloyd Albano at January 15, 2004 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Seems like everything the Bushies do anymore can be summed up in one succinct phrase:

Fucking Assholes.


I believe municipalities can enact their own requirements as long as they do not undermine the clean air act- that is, weaken it. More strignant laws are perfectly acceptable, if I'm not mistaken. Kinf of like the minimum wage.

On the topic of assholes, I'm really curious why Black Oak always feels it necessary to be an asshole himself? BWAHAHA- crap is the stuff of 12 year olds, yet every fucking time you visit you put on the caps and let out a BWAHAHA or something similar and then some little quip about how stupid something Kevin or someone else said, and sometimes you're not even discussing the correct issue.

Do you get off on being a dick?

I'm a little more sensitive to asswipes today, so it's a bigger deal than usual, by why oh why would you spend your your time being a complete jackass and going out of your way to deride and insult people? Things get heated here, sure, but that's the only reason you show up: to be a prick. You very rarely debate anything, most of the time the most you will do is state your opinion and how stupid everyone else is and spend the rest of your time mocking anyone who challenges you without engaging them.

Why would you do that? I'm serious. Why would anyone do that?

Is the answer simple? Are you just emotionally immature and stunted? Do you process everything as a personal affront?

I don't expect to get any answers except "you whine and bitch, you're such an idiot, Tim", etc., because, well, that's how you are... but I just don't get it.

I come here, I'd like to think, to engage on current topics that I'm concerned about. I can get pissy but unless I'm just making a snarky comment, like the above, I generally try to actually debate the subject at hand, getting pissy only when assholes play their asshole games.

I don't go to places like instapundit or some other right-leaning blog to mock and goad them, in fact I don't go to them at all. You, on the other hand, come here specifically to be a jackass, ridicule people, and pick fights...

What the hell is the matter with you? I can't imagine why someone would like to go out of their way just to insult people. Sure, I'm being insulting now, but I don't come here with the expressed interest of doing that. Why would you? Is that how you assert your concept of masculinity or something? I mean, you don't discuss anything, you never, ever challenge your own assumptions, you just "be a dick". Why? What's wrong with you? Are all your friends spiteful assholes as well? Are you so fucked up you're incapable of caring about anything outside of your immediate circle?

How does a person enjoy being an asshole?

Anyway... just a little pensive today.

Posted by: Tim at January 15, 2004 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, Tim, maybe it's time to ease up on the caffeine a bit.

I'm kidding, of course. You gave voice to something many of us were thinking. There's a thin line between being a provacateur in an attempt to spur debate and a jackass. Some people trip over that line more often than others.

Posted by: CrockMeister at January 15, 2004 02:08 PM | PERMALINK

Tim, you are a bit mistaken. Under the Clean Air Act, states and municipalities are generally allowed to adopt more stringent air quality standards and emissions control standards for industrial facilities. With a few exceptions, however, states and municipalities are not allowed to adopt more stringent standards for cars, trucks, etc. Thus, the key question in this case is whether the rule in question is a de facto standard. This may not be good policy, but it is clearly the law.

Posted by: Jonathan Adler at January 15, 2004 02:14 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, at the argument, the justices didn't seem very engaged (I wasn't there, but I heard from people who were) or even as familiar with the issues as they usually are. They didn't jump in immediately with questions, but let the lawyers explain the basics for what seemed like hours. There was even some speculation that they may decide to dismiss it as improvidently granted.

Posted by: anon at January 15, 2004 02:41 PM | PERMALINK


Can you explain to us the rules about when states are and are not allowed to violate federal laws like the Clean Air Act?

Is it as simple as "States are allowed to violate federal laws when they do something I like, but not when they do something I don't like" or is there more intellectual integrity to it?

Posted by: Mike at January 15, 2004 07:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Do they just reflexively oppose anything that might reduce emissions?"

Yes, they do. It reminds me of last summer, when they came out in favor of the hunting of endangered species in Africa. Their justification? The money charge for the right to kill endangered species could be used for: protecting endangered species.

On environmental stuff, these guys really seem to be evil in a way that I don't believe that people are. I mean I don't think mwa aww aww! I'm evil. I think evil tends to arise from the absence of good, (like dark and cold) or misperceived self interest. But on the Bush administration on the environment really sends me back to the human nature drawing board.

They remind me of Simon Bar Sinister. I'm not motivated to donate to the Natural Resources Defense Council. I want to call Underdog.

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