Frankenstein: Alive & Well
Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel, "Frankenstein", was forever woven into American culture as a tale of horror when Hollywood cast British actor Boris Karloff as the creature in 1931.
In Shelly’s story,Dr Victor Frankenstein’s out of control monster caused havoc and instilled disgust and fear in the hearts of the surrounding townspeople. The creature assumed the name Frankenstein and became a stain on the name of its creator.
Today the creature is alive and well, growing in size,boldness,and power. Farmer, rancher, miner,or any manufacturer in the private sector fears and mistrusts it. The monster is lurking in the shadows ready to strike on a bureaucratic whim or an executive order given by its new master who resides in the White House. This new Frankenstein monster is the Environmental Protection Agency(the EPA).
Who was the father of today’s monster? It had to be some well intentioned liberal,right?
Nada! It was none other than Richard Milhous Nixon. In 1968 Nixon had successfully run on a platform of law and order promising to be tough on crime. As the 1972 presidential campaign season approached he wanted to reach left of center for voters so he portrayed himself as a president concerned with the environment. In December of 1970 he signed an executive order giving life to the monster. Although the EPA to this day does not have cabinet department status, its administrator is normally given cabinet rank.
It wasn’t till the late 70’s that I became directly involved with the EPA. The engineering consulting firm where I worked, had been awarded a contract by EPA to conduct field research and establish limits for pollutants from mine discharge water throughout the country. The orientation meeting for the project was held in the Washington administrative office of EPA. The meeting started with a statement by the political appointee in charge of agency policy. This political hack strongly suggested that, as project manager, I shade research finding to give EPA a bargaining cushion in anticipated negotiations with the National Coal Association. Tact and diplomacy have never been my strong suit so I was about to tell him where he could shove his fudge factors when the president of our company, Bud Loy, kicked me in the shin under the conference table. That was code for, " Keep your mouth shut Lefty, I’ll handle this toad". With the skill of a diplomat Bud assured the administrator we would conduct our research in a manner that would be a credit to the EPA and the taxpayer. As we left the building after the meeting Bud shared his wisdom in dealing with the Washington gang. " Picking a fight with a skunk early in the game will only sidetrack field research and recommendations. Once honest research has been published, bureaucrats usually crawl back in their holes since they don’t have the knowledge or stomach to challenge published data, Their only weapon is intimidation and that dog won’t hunt on this project."
Bud’s advice, given in the mid 70’s served me well during the next thirty years when I began my own consulting practice. Just for the record, I usually find an equal number of intelligent, dedicated employees in these government agencies but they don’t have the ear of politicians who want to use government research for political agendas.
The EPA has run far amuck of their original mission and ethical conduct. Last week EPA employees made national news during a House Oversight Committee hearing. Numerous ethical failures were described by investigators at the EPA’s Office of Inspector General(IG), an independent watchdog group. The hearing was spurred by the case of John Beale, a senior EPA official who tricked his colleagues and superiors into believing he was a CIA spy. Beale had pleaded guilty to time card and travel fraud that spanned two decades and amounted to nearly a million taxpayer dollars. He had spent two and a half years absent from work claiming he was away on CIA business.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa( R,Cal)reported, " Beale’s behavior did not happen in a vacuum. It is just the tip of EPA’s fraudulent iceberg." Other pathetic examples of EPA misconduct included an employee who was paid while living in a retirement home. When the IG investigations began, the EPA placed her on sick leave. Other outrageous examples included an EPA employee who was paid over a half million dollars to work from home, despite producing no work. She retired when IG investigations started. One final example from the long list of misconduct reported by the IG was the career employee who was caught watching porn on his workplace computer an average of four hours a day. This employee had received performance bonuses as well as his $120,000 annual salary while viewing over 7,000 porn files. However, he is still employed by EPA.
To add insult to injury, Beale and the other federal employees who retire after being caught with their hands in the taxpayer cookie jar, are still entitled to a full federal pension. Nice work if you can get it and can stand the stench of the environment you create in your own workplace while monitoring behavior of others in the private sector.
EPA officials continue to stonewall the IG investigations. Today the monster is totally out of control and would even scare Mary Shelly.
Retired Consulting Engineer and Farmer