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Compassion

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Some in Conservative ranks have recently been denounced for lack of compassion due to their support of Tennessee firemen who refused to douse a burning house because the owner had failed to pay the annual 75 dollar fire protection fee.

No humans perished in the blaze as the authorities stood idly by, but the firemen's mercilessness took on an added dimension when it was learned that the family's three dogs and cat died in the inferno. That was enough to elicit a ringing condemnation from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The HSUS also would have a problem with the stance of conservative elements in the Missouri Tea Party. They are opposing an initiative on the November state ballot that would require strict humanitarian treatment in dog breeding facilities, all too many of which are scandalously operated puppy mills.

As you can see, things can get pretty dicey for conservatives when the issues of money and regulation come into play. Being pro-free market and anti-big government, they tend to value money too much and regulation not enough, a blend that usually culminates in a hard-hearted brew. They fall prey to Oscar Wilde's proverbial indictment of "knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing." This is apparent in conservative opposition to making anti-pollution standards extra stringent to protect the most vulnerable in our society -- the very old, the very young, and the very sick. Cost-benefit analysis persuades the right wingers that the country will get the most "bang for the buck" by setting standards at levels geared to the average healthy adult.

Indeed, if many conservatives had their druthers, they would strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its authority altogether to promulgate major rules to safeguard public health and the environment. Instead, approval to implement these rules would have to come from Capitol Hill. Under conservatives' scheme, what few rules trickled out of a deeply divided Congress burdened with a host of domestic and foreign concerns would be bound to be too little too late -- just the way right wing ideologues like it. Corporate America would have virtually free rein to engage in the dubious proposition of policing itself, which would also fit perfectly into many conservatives' ideological template where profit trumps health.

Nor is conservatives' merciless treatment confined to human beings and their pets. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin promoted hunting of wolves from helicopters, even though aerial slaughter is essentially a glorified shooting gallery and is banned just about everywhere in the nation.

Proposed regulation to create wilderness and protect wildlife habitat has been resisted by many conservatives. They consider developers' bottom line far more important than the preservation of habitat for a myriad of wild animals and plants.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, distinguished director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City, put his finger on the mood spread by right wing behavior across the country. "Almost everybody complains, almost everybody aggressively defends their own narrow short term interests, and almost everybody abandons any pretense of looking ahead or addressing the needs of others."

Yes, there are a lot of people in the conservative ranks who have compassion all right. It's just that it's for the princes of the marketplace, not the average Joe and the ecosystem's many lesser species that populate the planet.

Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. His fourth book Green Morality, is now available.

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