Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama Czar Nominee Elevates Animals to Human Stature

“Sen. Cornyn finds numerous aspects of [Obama nominee Cass] Sunstein’s record troubling, specifically the fact that he wants to establish legal ‘rights’ for livestock, wildlife and pets, which would enable animals to file lawsuits in American courts. Sunstein’s musings about instituting a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet are equally as troubling,” said Kevin McLaughlin, a spokesman for Cornyn.

-- From "Wait grows on OMB's regulatory review" by Kevin Bogardus, The Hill 7/23/09

The Obama administration is more than two months late in releasing a review of its regulatory process, leading critics to charge it is failing to meet its promise of transparency.

Many suspect the stalled nomination of Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor and friend of President Obama’s, for administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) may be the reason the report has yet to be released.

Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, a think tank for liberal academics and scientists, said she did not know what has happened to the review.

But she suspects that Sunstein’s confirmation is key to the review being released, a point echoed by other observers of OMB. If confirmed, the Harvard professor would head the regulatory affairs office, which reviews every federal regulation issued across the government. For any new executive order dealing with review of regulations, that office would be the primary agency.

“I am not optimistic for it to come out because Cass Sunstein has been very bad on regulatory issues,” Steinzor said. “He is expected to come up with something that is more demanding and harder on the other agencies.”

Steinzor, a University of Maryland law professor, believes the report ordered by Obama will strengthen a 1993 executive order that consolidated reviews of federal regulations. That order, she said, has been used by past administrations to weaken rules that promote safety and health. Sunstein has not been well-received by Steinzor and other liberal supporters of Obama.

“From a conservative perspective, he is about as good as you can hope from this administration,” said David Mason, a visiting senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Mason said Sunstein has earned praised from the right, including an endorsement by The Wall Street Journal editorial board, because the Harvard professor believes in review of regulations and a rigorous cost-benefit analysis during the rulemaking process.

For now, Sunstein’s nomination, which was sent to the Senate in late April, is stalled and is unlikely to come up before the August recess. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has placed a hold on the nominee.

Sunstein co-edited Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, a 2004 collection of essays that discuss whether law should ensure animal welfare. Cornyn will not release his hold on the nomination until he meets with Sunstein to discuss such views, McLaughlin said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Obama Regulatory Czar's Confirmation Held Up by Hunting Rights Proponent" by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, 7/22/09

One of Sunstein's top jobs would be to review and provide guidance for draft federal regulations at different federal agencies. It is a wide-ranging and largely unrestrained position in the executive branch.

That's a large part of the reason Sunstein's positions on animal rights have become worrisome to his critics. Despite his assurances to the contrary, Sunstein has spoken stridently in favor of allowing people the right to bring suit on behalf of animals in animal cruelty cases and to restrict what he calls the more horrific practices associated with industrial breeding and processing of animals for food.

In a 2007 speech at Harvard, Sunstein also advocated restricting animal testing for cosmetics, banning hunting and encouraging the general public to eat less meat.

The Center for Consumer Freedom's David Martosko, a Sunstein critic, said those positions make the agricultural industry -- major stakeholders in the states represented by both Chambliss and Cornyn -- nervous.

Martosko said there are plenty of ways to pursue a "stealth campaign" on any one of these fronts -- guns or animal rights -- by putting pressure on the regulatory heads of the different agencies.

"He is the gatekeeper between the president and the secretaries," he said, noting that "as a regulatory czar, he won't be a judge or a legislator, so he cannot make laws. ... What he can do is nudge the departments in the direction of his philosophy," which is very much in line with "hard core animal rights zealots."

Environmentalists also say Sunstein's nomination is a potential blow to their efforts to roll back what they call Bush-era deregulation. Frank O'Donnell, director of Clean Water Watch, wrote that "progressives would've screamed" if President Bush had nominated someone with similar views for the OIRA post." In fact, Bush did, O'Donnell noted, much to the chagrin of progressives.

Adding to animal rights and cost-benefit analysis is concern over Sunstein's positions on freedom of speech.

News of Sunstein's latest book, "On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done," lit up the blogosphere last week when The New York Post ran a column by a reviewer who received an advance copy.

Writer Kyle Smith suggested Sunstein threatens to tweak libel laws for the Internet and make online writers, particularly bloggers, legally responsible for falsehoods and rumors that get generated in cyberspace.

Sunstein, a prolific writer who has penned 35 books since 1990, has plowed the issue of rumors and how they are spread, and leaves much of the policy debate in the air.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.