Stories That Frighten – Stories For Focus

John Schroeder

Sometimes there are stories that keep popping up that I largely ignored because they seemed to fantastical, but the more they pop up, the more I read, the more frightening they get.  There are a couple that I want to examine this morning in detail.

The first everyone sort of knows about:

The Court granted certiorari to hear an appeal of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Murthy v. Missouri (formerly Missouri v. Biden), which prohibited federal health and other officials from communicating with social media platforms about removing posts that the government identifies as false or misleading. The appellate court found evidence of “a coordinated campaign” of unprecedented “magnitude orchestrated by federal officials” to suppress disfavored, generally conservative, points of view on social media. It held that “the district court was correct in its assessment—‘unrelenting pressure’ from certain government officials likely ‘had the intended result of suppressing millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens.’”…

Two of the private plaintiffs, infectious-disease epidemiologists Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, were among the suit’s alleged victims. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff coauthored the Great Barrington Declaration, which expressed concern about the damaging physical- and mental-health impacts of Covid lockdowns and proposed the alternative approach of “focused protection” of vulnerable groups. [emphasis added]

I don’t think I had paid sufficient attention to this before to understand that other actual scientists were plaintiffs in all this.  That the public health agencies would attempt to control the “water cooler chatter” that social media amplifies, while misguided and wrong, also had a certain logic to it.  And that is what I thought was going on.  Social media is new, its uses and misuses are still being cataloged, and thinking through how best to use it and control it is something the nation has to go through.  (By the way, missteps, lawsuits and the ensuing policy formation is often how the administrative state “thinks a thing through.”)

But the suppression of legitimate scientific information and opinion is another thing altogether.  As the author of the piece linked points out, “In fact, many CDC communications were themselves misinformation. A report that I coauthored for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (where I am a senior fellow) and the Paragon Health Institute (where I direct the institute’s public health initiative) found that the CDC presented incomplete and inconclusive data as scientific fact.”  Now, I think the author is being a bit self-congratulatory there, but that does not change the fact that little was known about covid as it ramped up.  To decide a course of action on scarce and partial data, then suppress those who look at the same scarce and partial data, who also have the same level of expertise, and draw a different conclusion is not only not “science” in any generally understood fashion – it’s totalitarian and quite frightening.

There is already a lot of litigation that has occurred in the wake of the pandemic – the worst of the mandates (forbidding church services and arresting those that try!) have already been overturned by the courts.  That’s also the easy stuff.  Stories like this take much longer and the public tends to lose focus, as I did, because they are a bit too legally arcane, and the path to correction can be quite byzantine.  Someone needs to catalog all of it, write a book and shout to the heavens.

Administrative agencies have a way of forgetting arcane court decisions or encapsulating them in a fashion that prevents them from having the broad effect the courts intend.  So back to court people have to march, over and over while the agencies continue with much mischief, altered only slightly instead of simply ceased.

But even this, as frightening as it is, pales in comparison to this story:

According to The Washington Free Beacon, Grassley has been leading an oversight probe regarding the EPA’s spending on military-grade equipment, guns, and ammunition. The Iowa senator has described the EPA’s actions as “frightening.”

The congressional investigation into the EPA followed a report from a government watchdog organization that discovered non-law enforcement federal agencies had spent almost $4 billion since 2006 in taxpayer funding to purchase “military-style equipment,” guns, and ammunition.

“The very same EPA that proposed slapping red tape on nearly every farmer’s ditch in Iowa now appears to be armed to the teeth,” Grassley told The Washington Free Beacon. “The Biden EPA already has a reputation for overstepping its bounds, and that makes the agency’s militarization all the more frightening. We need to know what exactly EPA is doing with this equipment, and whether it serves the interests of the American people.”

I’ve dealt with the EPA enough to be very frightened by this.  But before I decry this, I want to be entirely clear.  The EPA is empowered to conduct inspections and investigations.  I know of cases where they have shown up to do what they have the legal right to do only to be met with threats and force.  I have no problem with an EPA field person carrying a sidearm for self-protection.  But that is about as far as I am willing to go.  If they need more firepower than that, they need to involve the FBI, the DEA, the ATF.

Environmental investigations can uncover quite illicit activity.  Drug manufacture and distribution, bomb making, even moonshining, when done without the proper care and consideration can result in an environmental mess.  It is not remarkable that the EPA might be the first to discover such activities.  And these activities are not conducted by nice people, I get that.  But such activities also have a recognizable profile environmentally.  It is a fairly easy matter for the EPA to make a determination that they have run across something that might just be out of their league.  But apparently, even the masters of red tape don’t like it much so instead of trying to work cooperatively with other agencies, they decide to build their own mini-army.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

BTW, in all these years I have never had a client ask me how to cheat – never.  Nobody wants to pollute or harm their employees.  These companies are not evildoers looking to exploit anything.  Sure, accidents happen, and problems arise, but nobody is in this to harm anybody.  That narrative is just an excuse to regulate more, and more, and more.

The vast, vast majority of situations the EPA will find itself in don’t even require the sidearm I previously agreed might be useful.  Even that reasonable bit of self-protection can create an animus between regulator and regulated that makes conducting business harder, not easier – for both parties.  The need for even a minimally armed EPA is marginal at best.

Grassley is right – there needs to be complete transparency here.  While there is a case to be made for the EPA to have this equipment, the need for judiciousness in its use is even greater.  The situation where they are likely to need anything more than a sidearm is mostly likely a situation where other than environmental crime is involved and they should work with other agencies, already heavily armed, in pursuit of those situations.  Those agencies have the policies, procedures and accountability to make sure the use of such weapons is entirely judicious.  The EPA does not.

John Schroeder General

2024-01-06 13:30:58 , The Hugh Hewitt Show

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