By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
While Rooney the historian may have been perturbed, Rooney the connoisseur was not. In the way that aberrant weather once produced great wine grapes, Bush's environmental havoc resulted in such nasal distress that Earth mucus was already esteemed among the great vintages by the Nurg. It's nice to be special, I guess.
Rooney has all of human history digitized in his orb, but he likes the smell and feel of old newsprint, so I have spent the years hence sifting through old LA Times and other papers and mags. I look for patterns for Rooney. I also look for patterns that can make sense of it to me. I haven't seen one yet.
Try this: if there's one thing Americans agreed, on it was that we loved our children, but story after story appeared about how we were poisoning them.
By the early 2000s, cases of childhood asthma had doubled over two decades. The incidence of childhood allergies had doubled in one decade. Children were hitting puberty years earlier than previously. Attention Deficit Disorder was labeled an epidemic. The percentage of children with autism saw a fivefold jump from 1980 to 2004, possibly caused by the mercury preservative used in some vaccines. Mercury from pollution appeared in such concentrations in tuna and other fish that advisories were issued to drastically cut back on eating them. A San Francisco physician reported that nine out of 10 of her pregnant patients had mercury levels that exceeded Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. Another report showed that more than one-eighth of the 4 million babies born each year in the U.S. might have received harmful levels of mercury while in the womb, which could result in neurological damage, impaired brain function and learning disabilities.
That fit the Nurg plan, but how could human parents have looked at this and not been alarmed? Bush instead pursued policies that dumped still more mercury into the ecosystem—and ultimately into kids.
It just kept coming: an EPA study found that children were at 10 times greater risk from cancer-causing chemicals than adults, while another study found American children had higher concentrations than adults of 12 chemicals and pesticides believed to be harmful to a child's intelligence, memory, motor skills, behavior and immune systems.
A government study showed the arsenic-treated wood in children's playground sets put them at risk of lung and bladder cancer. In 2003, the Bush administration had issued a rule change allowing more arsenic in drinking water, only backing off after a public outcry. Once in their second term—sorry, blame electronic voting—they simply reclassified arsenic as a vegetable.
In 2002, EPA scientists reported that a DuPont chemical used in making Teflon—perfluorooctanoic acid—might cause developmental problems in children. Many U.S. children were nearing blood levels that caused those problems in lab rats. In 2004, EPA staffers accused DuPont of having intentionally withheld research since March 1981 showing birth defects and death in lab rats, as well as the fact that offspring of plant employees had rare birth defects. (DuPont had previously covered up the dangers of its lead-gasoline additive for five decades.) The Bush administration took no action, re-defining the term Teflon President.
In 2003, the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), common in food packaging, tooth sealants and other products, was linked to miscarriages, severe genetic defects, Down Syndrome and other problems, at levels humans were already exposed to. The chemical industry produced 2 billion pounds of BPA annually.
That year, the White House opposed controlling the use of flame retardants known as PDBEs and deca BDE—banned in Europe and elsewhere—even after studies found the toxins were concentrating in humans and animals with breathtaking speed. In lab rats, the chemicals were certainly retardants: disrupting brain development, learning ability, memory, hearing and behavior of offspring. One hundred million tons of the chemicals were used annually in computers, TVs and other common items, and American women and infants showed "extremely elevated" concentrations—U.S. breast milk had up to 70 times more PDBEs than European mothers had, near the levels damaging lab animals.
Jesus, it's slow sledding poring over all this science, especially since none of it amounted to squat. Most of the reporting was buried deep in the news and elicited little outcry, no follow-up and certainly no positive action from the White House.
Sometimes, Rooney would catch me crying, which tends to thin out the mucus more than they like.
"Don't take it so hard," he cooed. "You were bred and conditioned to believe some big all-father was looking out for you and your progeny. And your grand leader on Earth was assuring you everything was hunky-dory, A-okay, tip-top and getting better. Do cheer up and sift through this pile of clippings, would you?"
Dubya's dubious non-majority ascension to the White House prompted him to assure Americans he was a "uniter" who'd represent all of us.
What most of us wanted—81 percent of Americans, according to a 2001 Gallup poll—was stronger environmental controls on industry. Instead, our photo-op "environmental president" oversaw the rollback or reversal of more than 200 major environmental laws. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, had been the auto industry's top lobbyist. The deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior had been head lobbyist for the coal industry. Agriculture's Forest Service supervisor had been the chief lobbyist for the timber industry. Virtually every other appointment to environmental positions came from the polluting industries they were meant to police.