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Who's Got the Power? | Collateral Damage | Dubya's Dictionary | "Wise Use" in the
White House
| Bush's 7 Deadly Sins | USA Tomorrow | Our Next President | more Sierra
See Dubya's Dictionary come to life.

  Sierra Magazine
  September/October 2004
Table of Contents
  ELECTION 2004:
Who's Got the Power?
Collateral Damage
Dubya's Dictionary
"Wise Use" in the White House
Bush's Seven Deadly Sins
USA Tomorrow
Our Next President
Forty Wild Years
Interview: Michael Pollan
Ways & Means
One Small Step
Let's Talk
Hearth & Home
Lay of the Land
Good Going
Sierra Club Outings
Sierra Club Bulletin
Mixed Media
Sierra Archives
About Sierra
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dubya's dictionary Dubya's Dictionary
by Reed McManus

Never misunderestimate George W. Bush. While the president's malapropisms are the stuff of comedy, many of the novel phrases the White House employs are not accidental.

Instead, they're crafted to soften an underlying harshness or to deflect attention from a policy's true beneficiaries. Formulations like "the death tax" (which implied that deceased millionaires subject to the federal estate tax were aggrieved victims) are famous bits of contemporary doublespeak. But environmental protection has provided some of the most fertile ground for White House obfuscation.

balanced: weighted in industry's favor
The Bush administration portrays itself as best able to find a middle ground between environmental and economic demands. In practice, that frequently means ignoring environmental issues altogether. "I support a comprehensive and balanced national energy policy," Bush wrote in a 2001 letter to fellow Republicans. His plan, however, largely ignores energy-efficient solutions in favor of oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power, and slashes funds for renewable energy.

clear skies: free and convenient toxic-waste disposal space
Bush's so-called Clear Skies Act would actually weaken sulfur and mercury standards. While the Clean Air Act calls for a 70 percent reduction in power-plant mercury emissions by 2008, Clear Skies would delay that reduction until 2018. And the proposal does nothing to address global warming.

common sense: the conventional wisdom of campaign contributors
"We need to make our forests healthy by using some common sense," Bush told Oregonians in 2002 when pushing his policy to open more forestland to timber companies. That who-can-argue phrase is the centerpiece of Dubya's environmental policy; his campaign says that "the president favors commonsense approaches to improving the environment while protecting the quality of American life." But his approaches actually just improve his contributors' bottom lines.

FreedomCAR: a free ride for automakers
The Department of Energy's FreedomCAR initiative claims it will put hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered cars and light trucks on the road in a decade. But it mainly gives carmakers the freedom to ignore auto-efficiency goals in the near future. And the FreedomCAR's Hydrogen Fuel Program will draw out our reliance on petrochemicals as long as possible: It provides a sweetheart subsidy of nearly $1.9 billion to the oil industry to research extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels.

healthy forests: woodlands where no tree's left behind
Bush signed the "Healthy Forests Restoration Act" in late 2003, hot on the heels of a deadly wildfire season in the West. The initiative is based on the fallacy that landscape-wide logging will decrease forest fires. U.S. Forest Service scientists have warned that logging can increase fire risk.

public-private partnerships: government rubber-stamping pollution
Cooperation between industry and government is not necessarily bad, but under the Bush administration it more often translates to voluntary or weak regulatory enforcement. The administration's voluntary "Climate Leaders" program, which politely asked companies to reduce global-warming emissions by 10 percent, had enlisted only 56 companies as of May. And only 14 of them had established actual goals.

service-level adjustments: a national park disservice
How do you avoid admitting that national parks are being shortchanged just as summer vacation season gets under way? Call it "service-level adjustments." In March, an internal National Park Service memo told park superintendents they would likely have to make major service cuts, and suggested the euphemism could help them avoid drawing attention. A May survey found that 6 of 12 parks interviewed had reduced or planned to reduce visitor-center hours.

sound science: science that sounds good to industry
On issues ranging from drilling in the Arctic to the storage of nuclear waste in Nevada, the Bush administration rarely misses an opportunity to claim it has "sound science" on its side. (Its opponents, in contrast, are driven by "junk science.") In a sound rebuke to Bush's "sound science," this February more than 60 scientific luminaries, including 20 Nobel laureates, charged that the administration has "systematically" undermined scientific research.

Illustration by Tim Carroll

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