Monday, April 30

A Page Straight from the Haggard Playbook

As soon as I read about the resignation of Randall Tobias (shown left with George W. Bush) last week, I immediately thought of Ted Haggard. Tobias was the U.S. State Department’s top foreign aid advisor and resigned after admitting that he was among the clients of a well-known Washington prostitute. Tobias, who served as the director of foreign assistance and the administrator of the Agency for International Development, required foreign recipients of AIDS assistance to explicitly condemn prostitution. He is a former chairman and chief executive of Eli Lilly and of AT&T International. He was chairman of the board of Duke University from 1997 to 2000. He has also been a major donor to various Republican campaigns.

Naturally, Tobias is claiming that he hired the prostitutes to give him massages, not sex. Wasn’t that Ted Haggard’s defense?

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Friday, April 27

A Page Straight from the Romney Playbook

In an appalling, but not at all surprising, change of heart, Rudy Giuliani announced this week that he opposes civil unions for same-sex couples. In response to New Hampshire’s imminent civil unions law, a spokesperson for the Giuliani presidential campaign issued a statement saying that the law goes “too far.”

While considered a longtime supporter of GLBT rights, Giuliani has never expressed support for same-sex marriage. At the same time, he has explained his opposition by pointing to the existence of civil unions, which, he has argued, effectively replicate marriage for same-sex couples:

“That’s why you have civil partnerships. So now you have a civil partnership, domestic partnership, civil union, whatever you want to call it, and that takes care of the imbalance, the discrimination, which we shouldn’t have.”
So why the sudden change? There’s really no mystery here. For months, political commentators have been saying that Giuliani’s liberal positions could make him poison for more conservative Republican voters, who would reject him in favor of Romney. Because God knows, Romney’s conservatism is genuine.

If you ask me, it’s a disgrace. But is it more disgraceful than the about-face of so many Democrats whose vocal opposition to the war in Iraq belies the fact that it was their failure to oppose Bush’s October 2002 Iraq War Resolution that put us there in the first place? Bush couldn’t have done it alone. He needed Congressional approval to send our military into Iraq. Fearful of appearing un-patriotic so soon after 9/11, Democrats in Congress fell into line and authorized the disastrous war in which the United States now finds itself. Is their change of heart any less politically expedient than Giuliani’s?

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Thursday, April 26

Naughty Fruits

Last night I played Boggle with the Joes. Little Joe loves games. He wants every night to be game night, and we are happy to oblige if it means we can keep him from spending hours in front of the television or computer. His favorites are Life, Monopoly and, more recently, Risk. On a regular basis, however, he’s just as likely to choose Scrabble, which he loves, or Boggle because it’s easier to squeeze these games into the hour space we have between dinner and his bedtime.

I hardly ever challenge in either Scrabble or Boggle, but last night, Joe (my partner, not Little Joe) made “sot,” which I thought was incorrect, so I took out the dictionary to challenge him. He claimed it refers to a fool and he ended up being right, but in the midst of looking up the word in question, I came across something that I would never have believed had I not seen it with my own two eyes.

I must admit that I thought I knew all there was to know about squirting cucumbers. I was wrong. The definition of a “ripened fruit [that] forcibly ejects the seeds and juice” is priceless, and I cannot help but think there’s a little camp involved here. One (or more) of those crusty old editors loved the idea of a squirting cucumber so much that they just had to include an illustration! Surely, they must have been aware of the naughty nature of it all. Joe and I had a good laugh over it.

Little Joe just rolled his eyes.

I have prayed for that very thing many times.

Christine Bakke is a lesbian who was recently interviewed by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America. On the show, she talked about her traumatic, disappointing, and often bizarre experience during four years of ex-gay “reparative therapy.” Read the story here.

She recalled how one of her stranger moments occurred in the midst of a prayer meeting when a fellow church member asked God to give Bakke the ability to accessorize. Apparently a tried and true method of identifying a lesbian is her inability to accessorize. It also appears that it’s not enough for lesbians to stop having sex with other women. They need to be fabulous as well.

It’s a humorous example of the pathetic way the ex-gay movement continues to conflate sexuality with gender. I wonder if that same church member, recruited to pray for gay men (as opposed to lesbians), would ask that God strip them of their ability to accessorize!

How many times I have prayed for the ability to accessorize! Perhaps I’m not really gay after all. Hallelujah, I’m cured!

Wednesday, April 25


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been issued a subpoena to appear before House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee next month to testify about the Bush administration’s case for the war in Iraq and their false claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium from Niger.

Read the full story here.

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Thursday, April 19

Sinking Buildings + Rising Seas = We’re Fucked

There’s an inescapable irony in being comforted by truly discomforting stories that serve to remind me that I’m not alone in worrying about the sort of things that could easily be (and often are) dismissed as neurotic. It’s nice to know that at least I’m not alone in my neurosis.

I love Boston. Although I went away to college and I’ve lived abroad on two separate occasions, I always knew that I’d settle here, where my roots are. My grandparents came to Boston from Greece almost a century ago, and my family and friends are here. It’s more than that, however. I love the city and the region that surrounds it. Boston is far from perfect, but as a built environment, it stands out as one of America’s loveliest cities.

Which is why I cannot help but be alarmed when I read stories about dwindling ground water supplies that threaten to erode the foundations upon which so much of Boston is built. Perhaps it would be done differently today, but back in the 19th century, the way they approached construction atop landfill was to drive wooden pilings into the muck and build atop those. When groundwater levels drop leaving those pilings exposed to air, they rot, and that’s bad news for the structures sitting on top of them. This isn’t speculation either. It’s already happening.

If that wasn’t frightening enough, we have the spectre of massive flooding as a result of rising sea levels. A study done by Applied Science Associates of Narragansett, Rhode Island, created a hypothetical model to simulate the effects on Boston’s topography in 100 years if a) sea levels rise by 15 inches, b) the city settles 6 inches, and c) a storm surge hits during high tide. It’s not a pretty picture. Neither was the one painted by an EPA-commissioned study back in 2005. The flooding that was produced just this past week throughout coastal areas should give us an unpleasant taste of what’s to come.

I don’t want this post to be all problem and no solution. The first and most important step is to be aware. Far too few are aware of the threats facing our city and it’s easy to dismiss fears of sinking buildings and rising seas as alarmist melodrama. Take some time to learn about the Boston Groundwater Trust and the city’s Groundwater Conservation Overlay District (soon to include the North End and Fort Point area). Take some time to learn about climate change and environmental sustainability.

Otherwise, we might be forced to do what Chicago did in the mid-19th century. It was drastic, but it did the trick.

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Saturday, April 14

Dear Leon and Anonymous:

Thank you for your comments. They are much appreciated.

There is a subtle distinction between my warning young people not to be taken in by the laid back, hip atmosphere of Reunion Christian Church and accusing them of deception. My point was simply to praise the Dig article for its juxtaposition of Reunion’s more progressive and non-traditional worship with their theology, which is far from progressive and quite traditional.

I don’t believe that Reunion is being deliberately deceptive. I think they are being strategic. They consciously strive to reach a younger audience and have created a vibe that they feel will resonate with that audience. They’re trying to reach those who feel church is dry and boring by offering a worship that isn’t dry and boring. And that is fine.

But it doesn’t change the fact that they are still evangelicals. Ask them if Muslims are going to heaven (no, not if they accept Jesus, but as believing Muslims). Heck, forget Muslims, ask them about Catholics. Ask them about the final destination of a person who thinks Jesus was pretty cool, but doesn’t believe that he was the Son of God or that he came back from the dead. I could be wrong, but I’d place my bet on their answer being the eternal flames of hell. Ask them if it’s OK in God’s eyes to be gay.

If those things (along with the other medieval stuff that evangelicals believe) are OK with you, that’s your business. And, frankly, it’s none of my business, unless of course you start lobbying the civil government to adopt laws that marginalize me and all those others who don’t conform to your vision of a Christian nation. Then it is my business to criticize you and to do so loudly.

I’m all for live and let live, but I’m not going to sit back while the Religious Right tries to impose creationism (or is it “intelligent design?”) on the public schools, while undermining diversity training in those same schools, or tries to pass laws preventing same-sex couples from obtaining the same rights and privileges as other couples. I will fight those who do these things and whatever else is on their wacky (and very dangerous) political agenda, and I’m not above lampooning them for the buffoons that they are.

Admittedly, I don’t know where Reunion stands on political engagement. For a long time in America, evangelicals and fundamentalists avoided politics. Many historians have argued that the fundamentalists’ retreat from the public sphere had to do with their humiliation during the Scopes trial in 1925 (even though they won the case). All that began to change in the late 1970s, when evangelicals reemerged as a political force. Perhaps Reunion belongs to that older, apolitical strain of evangelicalism, but there’s an awful lot on their website about “transforming society.” Often that is code for “take back your government for Christ.”

Frankly, without knowing for sure where Reunion stands on the political involvement of Christians or whether they have been among the thousands of angry bigots to descend upon the state house every time same-sex marriage is debated, it’s bad enough knowing that they teach homosexuality is sinful. That kind of teaching contributes to the marginalization of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender—in case you don’t know) people. And marginalization results in discrimination and violence. That’s not cool, no matter how cool Reunion’s worship is.

I think others will recognize that. For those committed evangelicals looking for a less-stuffy and more hip worship, Reunion is clearly the place for them, and they know exactly what they’re getting into (and won’t like what I’ve said). I’m concerned more with the vast numbers of young people who don’t really know what evangelical Christianity is all about (just like I was in college). Maybe a young person looking for friendship and a laid back approach to spirituality will be drawn to Reunion. And maybe Reunion’s laid back, hip and high tech worship will be enough to make their conservative worldview palatable. That will surely be the case for some, but not for others, who, once they see (if they didn’t already know it going in) how terribly narrow and not at all laid back Reunion’s theology is, will decide that Reunion’s not for them, in spite of the cool, laid back vibe.

Friday, April 13

Civil Unions are the (arm)pits

Something stinks in America’s armpit, and it’s the distinctive, rotten funk of inequality. Although New Jersey’s highest court ruled last October that the state’s constitution requires “that every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage must be made available to committed same-sex couples,” the ruling left it up to the state legislature to determine exactly how those rights and benefits would be made available. New Jersey rejected same-sex marriage in favor of what they deemed the less offensive alternative of civil unions for same-sex couples.

Civil unions, once hailed as a momentous step forward in Vermont, were just as quickly repudiated as inherently unequal by GLBT advocates in neighboring Massachusetts a few years later as part of their bitter struggle with conservatives who mounted a fierce campaign to challenge the 2003 Goodridge decision, which guaranteed marriage for same-sex couples.

It was perhaps because of the rancorous nature of the debate in Massachusetts that lawmakers in New Jersey chose what they felt was the safer route. As feared by many GLBT leaders, the resulting civil unions law has proven less than adequate, producing a whole host of problems ranging from confusion over inheritance and property rights to problems with health insurance coverage as it pertains to partners in a civil unions, who do not qualify as spouses under many policy guidelines. One woman was denied a mammogram by her HMO, who changed her designation to “male” after she added her female partner to her insurance. The company claimed the change in designation was necessary because their forms did not accommodate civil union spouses.

The New Jersey Lesbian & Gay Coalition has a special section on their website dedicated to this issue and while they encourage their constituency to send an email thank-you to Governor John Corzine, who signed the civil unions bill into law, they are very clear to remind lawmakers that their “priority is 100% marriage equality for all” and they “will not stop until full marriage equality is achieved.” As a result of complaints from same-sex couples who have found that their civil unions have not provided them with the equality promised them by the October ruling, GLBT advocates are considering a legal challenge to the civil unions law that would effectively petition the New Jersey Supreme Court to grant them same-sex marriage.

To learn more about the messy situation created by civil unions in New Jersey, click here.

To learn more about the New Hampshire’s civil unions bill, click here.

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Thursday, April 12

This is Progress?

Would someone please explain to me how the troop surge is supposed to secure Baghdad when we can’t even secure the Green Zone? Today’s blast wasn’t the first time the security around the heavily fortified Green Zone was breached. In spite of past attacks, it seems that security there has not improved.

In a separate incident, a truck bomb detonated during rush-hour brought down a huge section of the al-Sarafiyah bridge, killing 10 and sending cars plummeting into the Tigris River below.

At the risk of sounding defeatist, does it really matter how many troops we have there?

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Wednesday, April 11

What do Evangelicals and War Profiteers Have in Common?

Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve been incensed by Bush’s incessant whining and tough-talking as part of his ongoing battle with the U.S. Congress over funding for the war in Iraq and whether or not the new funding bill will contain necessary benchmarks and a timetable for the withdrawal of our troops.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I read an article yesterday about the prominent role in the Bush administration played by alumni (approximately 150 of them) of televangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University. For example, in 2001 Bush made Kay Coles James, the dean of Regent’s government school, director of the Office of Personnel Management, effectively opening the door to Regent alumni looking take back the government for Christ. More recently, Monica Goodling, a ’99 Regent Law School alumna and former top aide to Alberto Gonzalez, has found herself at the center of the controversy over the firing of U.S. attorneys.

These two stories have more in common than simply being two examples of the current administration’s screwy priorities. Sure, Bush wants to continue fighting the Iraq war in spite of the fact that even the Pentagon is beginning to refer to conflict as a civil war; and, yes, he wants as many evangelicals in the U.S. government as possible in spite of their blatant disregard for the separation between church and state. As disturbing as these things are, the real unifying theme here—and one of the central problems with the Bush administration—has to do with its unsettling ties to those who do not have our collective interests at heart, but rather are using their influence with the president to advance their own self-serving agenda.

In his standoff with Congress over the war funding bill, Bush’s principle tactic has been to accuse the Democrats of depriving the troops of supplies. To be sure, this will resonate with many Americans who, in spite of whether they are for the war or against it, don’t want to see the troops put in harm’s way. A classic example of the sleazy spin I’ve come to expect from the Bush administration, such an argument belies the fact that Bush, not Congress, will be depriving the troops of resources if he vetoes the bill that will arrive on his desk.

More importantly, the Bush administration lacks the necessary credibility and moral authority to chastise Democrats (or anyone else) for undermining the troops in light of what we now know about the no-bid war contracts that have allowed companies like Halliburton/KBR, CACI, and Blackwater to make billions off the war. I posted about this last October after seeing Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. The film documents not only exorbitant cost overruns, but how high prices are being charged for substandard and poor-quality services and supplies being given our troops. It also shows how inadequate oversight of private contractors and a lack of accountability have lead to a breakdown of law and order, as evinced by tragedies like Abu Ghraib.

Make no mistake: these companies are getting rich at the expense of the military and our soldiers. If Bush were truly concerned about the fate of our troops and making sure that they were adequately supplied, far more attention would be paid to how this war is being outsourced. Moreover, executives of companies like Halliburton and Blackwater have close ties to the Bush administration and they have used their influence not for the common good or the good of the troops, but for their own personal gain. I wonder how much of the $100 billion for which Bush is currently haranguing Congress will end up in the pockets of private contractors?

The cozy relationship between Regent College and Bush bears an eerie similarity to the above situation. Although Regent’s inroads into the U.S. government are admittedly less about money than power, that so many Regent alumni have found a home in the federal government demonstrates just how insidious and pervasive is the influence of the Religious Right over the current administration. The issue isn’t simply that Regent alumni are under qualified or incompetent (though this is clearly the case in many instances). It’s not simply that their behavior is unethical, as in the case of Monica Goodling (shown left) who was one of several Gonzalez aides who oversaw the firing of U.S. attorneys who didn’t tow the party line.

The real problem is that they are taking advantage of the current administration’s conservatism and openness to “faith-based” everything (i.e. Christian fundamentalism) to weasel their way in and dismantle those things—everything from sex education and stem cell research to environmentalism and the protections afforded GLBT people—that have no place within their narrow vision of a “Christian nation.” America is so much bigger and more diverse than Regent alumni are willing or able to admit. Similarly, the war in Iraq should be viewed as more than a marketplace opportunity for big companies trying to get rich(er).

Whether in the arena of who gets hired and who gets fired or in the theater of war, our government’s policies need to reflect what is good for the many, not the few. The irony is that conservatives are always the loudest to decry “special interests.” Until we go to the polls in November 2008, we must look to Congress and the courts to confront this tyranny of special interests that has hijacked our government.

And incidentally, for more information on what the war in Iraq is costing the American people—including a breakdown by city and state—please visit the National Priorities Project’s Cost of War counter.

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Putting the Fun in Fundy

I usually want to vomit when I read about insidious evangelical strategies to save the godless bastion of secular humanism otherwise known as Boston. But that wasn’t how I felt when I read “Emo for Jesus” in Boston’s Weekly Dig. They deserve kudos for producing a wry and insightful look at the newest breed of Christian missionaries to try their hand at saving our souls.

With subtlety and humor, they were able to capture the central irony of the pseudo-hipster holy-rollers at Boston’s Reunion Christian Church; namely, that being considered progressive within the narrow world of evangelical Christianity does not a progressive make.

It really doesn’t matter how cool they dress, how rockin’ their Sunday morning worship is, or that they can appreciate the humor of the “Buddy Christ” in Dogma. Under all the superficial veneer of urban coolness, Reunion represents the same dogmatic “We’re right and everyone else is wrong (and hellbound)” variety of fundamentalism that regards other religions and worldviews as dangerous, soul-destroying lies. On a more personal note, their belief in the inherent sinfulness of erotic love between two people of the same sex (among their laundry list of sins) makes them, as far as I’m concerned, the ultimate Anticool.

It saddens me that some curious (and lonely) 20-somethings will be lured in by Reunion’s high-tech and laid-back approach. I’m optimistic, though, that their numbers will remain small and that the vast majority of young Bostonians will see right through their deceptive outward appearance and recognize that underneath it all, the only things separating these guys from uptight dickwads like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and George W. Bush are their haircuts, eyebrow piercings, some laptops, and a couple of electric guitars.

Monday, April 9

Easter Treats

A few items from our Paschal table this past weekend. Joe and I didn’t host Easter this year like we did last year, so there was no lamb slowly turning on a spit in our yard. We did, however, dye our eggs and make traditional Greek κουλουράκια (koulourakia). As you can see, Joe hellenized his panettone as well.

Friday, April 6

Next Stop, Extinction

Sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind.

Wednesday, April 4

blood red

Tomorrow night I’ll introduce my son to the Greek Orthodox tradition of dying eggs red (using onion skins) as part of the Easter celebration. Old-school Greek homes don’t usually dye eggs pastel colors the way mainstream American families do. My mother did both when I was a kid because she wanted my sister and me to have the full Easter egg experience (even though we didn’t do an Easter egg hunt). That meant we had our teacups filled with Paas dye on the table while she had her vat of blood red dye simmering on the stove.

Greeks dye their eggs red to symbolize the blood of Christ. I learned this early on as a kid. However, there is another more apocryphal story that is told to Greek children about why eggs are dyed red, and it goes like this: On Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene was returning to Jerusalem after discovering the empty tomb and then the risen Christ. She was carrying a basket of eggs (I’m not sure why) when she encountered some of the disciples on the way to the tomb themselves. When she informed them that the tomb was empty and their beloved Jesus, alive and well, they reacted in disbelief. Not one to back down, she confidently declared that if the words she had spoken to them were true and Christ truly risen, the eggs in her basket would turn red. Naturally, they did.

When I saw the above picture of a stretch of Route I-495 in Littleton taken this morning after a truck spilled red dye all over the road, I immediately thought of the story my mother used to tell me as a child. While I’m not one to argue the cosmic primacy of Christianity over other religions, I couldn’t help but feel that a red road is appropriate during Holy Week when so many are caught up (myself included) in commemorating the Easter story. It struck me not as a symbol of any objective spiritual reality or historical event, but rather as evocative of the very potent religious myths that occupy such a central place in Western thought.

Verily I say unto you, if Christ is risen, this road shall turn red.

Καλή Ανάσταση, φίλοι μου.

Tea Anyone?

United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus today to discuss, among other things, Syria’s role in Iraq, its support of Palestinian militants, and the future of U.S.-Syrian relations in the post-9/11 world. President Bush is quite displeased because, well, it’s clear he doesn’t want a liberal (woman) talking to the Syrians. That’s a task better reserved for tough-talking cowboys, not a progressive, San Francisco grandmother.

Syria is one of six countries designated by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism. Washington has regularly accused Syria of doing nothing to stop the flow of insurgents and suicide bombers into neighboring Iraq. The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Damascus following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February 2005.

On a lighter note, check out that lovely tea table. It’s fab, no? My friend Kate has been looking for one of these forever, but the problem is the good ones tend to be pretty pricey, especially when they’ve got all that beautiful mother of pearl inlay. Syria may be on America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, but you must admit, they do have a keen eye for interior design.

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Monday, April 2

Simple Pleasures

On Friday, the Joes and I spent the day exploring Martha’s Vineyard. Readers of this blog will surely know that Joe and I go there often; it’s one of our favorite spots. What might be less obvious was that it was our son’s first time on the island. He loved it. The next day he told our friend Kate that it’s like no place he’s ever been.

We began the day by exploring the collection of 19th-century Gothic cottages that make up the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association. I explained to Little Joe that the cottages and large tabernacle replaced the tents erected by revivalists during the early camp meetings. Most of the cottages were constructed around the same time as the house we live in, which helped give him a better sense of chronology.

From there we drove to Aquinnah, where we had a wonderful picnic lunch. There were lots of potential annoyances for Little Joe to complain about: the long walk from the parking lot down the Moshup trail to the beach, the chill in the air, the fact that the beach was almost entirely covered in stones, which made walking difficult. He never complained once. He was immediately enchanted by the beauty of the place, how serene it is, and how majestic the cliffs are.

After lunch we dozed a bit and then went for a walk. We picked up some shells and rocks and talked about the clay, how the cliffs were formed, and why they are sacred to the Wampanoag people. Joe already knows why they are sacred to us. He knows that when his social worker asked us to write a letter introducing ourselves to Joe last fall right after we were matched with him, we wrote that letter in the shadow of Moshup’s cliffs. With the letter we enclosed a few bits of wampum that we found on the beach, and explained that the Wampanoag people often gave wampum when entering into covenants with one another and that we were giving wampum to him because of the covenant that we were entering together.

After a brief stop at Chilmark Chocolates, we drove to Edgartown, which is much more enjoyable in the off-season. We strolled along the waterfront to the Chappaquidick ferry crossing, where we explained to Joe that the tiny span of sea before him had once cost a man the presidency. I also explained that there had once been a bridge, but that the locals believed it cursed and replaced it with a ferry.

As we drove back to Vineyard Haven to catch the ferry back to Woods Hole, we stopped at the East Chop light house for a few quick photos. We told Little Joe that we’d be back several times before the end of the year. He seemed delighted. Grant it, until we get a sidecar for the motorcycle, we we’ll have to retire that means of transportaion; and without the motorcycle, it’s a longer trip and we’ll need to rely on the island’s bus system. We’ve done it without the motorcycle before, however. We might revive our old pattern of camping in Falmouth in order to avoid the long ride back to Boston after a day at the beach. Whatever we decide, we’ll be back there soon enough.

The top picture shows Aquinnah’s clay cliffs; the middle picture, the steeple of Edgartown’s Federated Church (1828); and the bottom picture, the East Chop light house.

Small Step

In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate auto emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Naturally, all four of the Court’s conservative justices (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) all offered dissenting opinions.

I posted about this last November after oral arguments were made before the Court by attorneys representing Massachusetts and 11 states who sued the EPA for its 2003 decision that carbon dioxide emissions are not subject to regulation by the Clean Air Act.

In this specific case, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions on the grounds that they (auto emissions, for example) constitute “air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Also at issue is whether or not Massachusetts and the 11 other states have legal justification to challenge the EPA in court.

The Supreme Court held that the 12 states do have the right to sue the EPA. Based on the conclusion that auto emissions (and other greenhouse gases) are rightly considered “air pollutants,” the Court also held that the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to regulate auto emissions; the more subtle question was whether or not the Clean Act compels the EPA to do so. In response to the question of whether or not the EPA has the discretion not to regulate those emissions, the Court ordered the agency to reconsider its current laissez faire position.

While this is an important symbolic victory, I doubt that there will be any substantial policy changes for the duration of the current administration. However, a new and improved EPA as part of whatever Democratic administration wins in 2008 will be able to fall back on today’s decision to defend itself against criticism by industry leaders that the agency is overstepping its bounds by regulating greenhouse gases.

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