- Called on his “jail ‘em” rants, RFK Jr. tries to walk things back. Not gonna work [Andrew Stuttaford, Steven Hayward, earlier]
- If you think plastic bags have a high energy cost, one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers has news for you [The Dish; related, Julian Morris/Albuquerque Journal]
- There she is! The one who favorited that tweet! Bring her to justice! [@gabrielmalor via @andrewmgrossman]
- Some online commenters insist there must be a link between Ebola and GMOs, and in a sense they’re right: GM techniques likely to prove vital in developing therapies against the disease [Abbie Smith]
- Ann Althouse annotates a long New York Times Magazine article promoting the Louisiana coastal-erosion lawsuit [earlier]
- Who’s more credible on Chevron/Ecuador, Steven Donziger or his many critics? [Joseph Nocera, New York Times] Appeals court opens doors to more revelations in case [Paul Barrett, Business Week] More: Oh, and about Mia Farrow… [Phelim McAleer, New York Post]
- “Newfoundland judge dismisses moose vehicle collision class action lawsuit” [Canadian Press, earlier]
News reporters, nature lovers, scientists and Western lawmakers are in an uproar over the Forest Service’s plans to finalize a ban on taking photographs in federally designated wilderness areas without permission of the service. A spokeswoman “said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.. … ‘We have to follow the statutory requirements.'” [Oregonian, Coyote and followup, ABA Journal]
Update: Service backs down, at least to the extent of acknowledging that it needs to clarify the scope of the ban.
Further reading on the federal regulations forcing destruction of ivory keys when old pianos are sold across state lines [Sally Phillips, Piano World, Piano Buyer (Sen. Alexander, Rep. Daines introduce relief bills), Doug Bandow, Cato, earlier here (violin bows), here, etc.] Miscellaneous on ivory and antiques: John Leydon/WSJ (“Grandma’s Cameo Becomes Yard Sale Contraband,” related here (raid on auction by “heavily-armed” California agents) and here.
Via p.r. agent Karen Hinton, William Langewiesche has now responded in our comments section (as well as elsewhere) to Glenn Garvin’s critical Miami Herald column (linked here) regarding Langewiesche’s 2007 Vanity Fair piece on the Chevron-Ecuador litigation. Garvin has in turn contributed a rejoinder.
Or so a California Court of Appeals “proudly announced …because it took only 20 years from a developer’s application to build a housing tract under existing zoning, to the court’s EIR [environmental impact review] approval.” [Gideon Kanner, citing Clover Valley Foundation v. City of Rocklin, 197 Cal. App.4th 200 (2011), as well as a September 2014 land use roundtable in California Lawyer]
Not clear that anything has been learned from the green-washer fiasco: “Spurred by President Obama’s climate action plan, the Department of Energy is pumping out new standards for refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, lamps and many more appliances…. critics argue the push to regulate household appliances is evidence of a nanny state.” [The Hill]
Disparate impact by way of location? “Four environmental groups announced a federal complaint Thursday alleging that North Carolina’s hog farms discriminate against ethnic minorities because the stench and pollution from the swine operations disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans who live nearby.” [Raleigh News & Observer]
I’ve expressed skepticism before about William Langewiesche’s 12,600-word 2007 article in Vanity Fair on the Chevron-Ecuador dispute, which took a line relentlessly sympathetic to the case of plaintiff’s lawyer Steven Donziger. (As readers of this site know, Donziger has spent the past few years fighting off allegations as to the means by which he obtained an $18 billion judgment against Chevron; one federal judge has found “clear and convincing evidence” that the judgment was “obtained by corrupt means.”) I’m also pretty familiar with the ways trial lawyers use journalists to go after the companies they’re suing, having written on that topic many times before.
Still, like many others, I was floored by Glenn Garvin’s new column in the Miami Herald based on emails introduced into evidence in the endless litigation. Even knowing how writers habitually butter up key sources, I wouldn’t have expected Langewiesche to assure Donziger that “You and I are now firmly on the same side” and that writing the article had been “particularly satisfying to the extent that it supports your efforts, and you personally.” Nor would I have expected Langewiesche to have sent Donziger a copy of his article weeks before it was published, or for Vanity Fair’s editors to have allowed him to do this on a highly contentious topic of public controversy, assuming they knew.
The emails go on and on, as Garvin summarizes them, depicting
Langewiesche as Donziger’s camp follower at the best of times, his sock-puppet at the worst.
The reporter asks Donziger to prepare lists of dozens of questions to be asked of Chevron. And he begs Donziger to help him prepare arguments about why there’s no need for him to do face-to-face interviews with Chevron officials, as they’ve requested, even though he spent days meeting with Donziger and his legal staff.
“I want to avoid a meeting, simply because I do NOT have the time. But I don’t want to go on record refusing a meeting,” writes Langewiesche. “Perhaps I could say that my travel schedule is intense . . . ” He not only submits his emails to Chevron for Donziger’s approval (“What say, Steve. I gotta send this tonight”) and even lets him rewrite them.
In short, Vanity Fair, which positions itself as the glossiest of high-toned journalistic outlets, got played like a cheap ukulele. And I didn’t know this either, which I’ll quote Garvin on, parentheses and all: “(Department of Extraordinary Coincidences: Donziger’s wife at the time worked in corporate communications at Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher.)”
By coincidence, I’m part way through an advance copy of the interesting new book by Paul Barrett of Business Week on the Chevron-Donziger-Ecuador mess, titled Law of the Jungle. Not to give away anything, but it fills in many areas of background that were new to me about this incredible (still-in-progress, attempted) legal heist (links to Barrett’s earlier coverage here). There’s also a new mini-book by Michael Goldhaber entitled Crude Awakening: Chevron in Ecuador, unseen by me.
P.S. Bonus Vanity Fair connection: journalist Kurt Eichenwald, whose trial-lawyer-assisted role in the Texaco Tapes affair left such a bad impression, has for some time been ensconced as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.
We’ve occasionally taken note that relators stepping forward under whistleblower laws are not always the public benefactors implied by the term whistleblower. Now here’s this from a suit that a former contractor filed, teaming up with well-connected environmental group Food and Water Watch [Bloomberg]:
“BP never misrepresented — much less knowingly distorted what it was doing,” U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes in Houston said today in a 10-page summary ruling, finding that the case was ultimately about “paperwork wrinkles” instead of engineering shortcuts.
Abbott and the environmentalists “have not blown a whistle,” he said. “They have blown their own horn.”