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America's #1 populist gives us Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush—a hard- hitting, fact-filled review of the real ...
America's #1 populist gives us Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush—a hard- hitting, fact-filled review of the real state of the union that you won't get from the establishment media. With his daily radio commentaries and award-winning monthly newsletter, no one has chronicled the madness of King George the W, the wimpiness of corporate Democrats, and the aggressive avarice of Wall Street with the thoroughness and tenacity of Hightower. Now he brings that investigative punch into this wild and woolly book of fiery essays.
With his satirical "Six Perfectly Good Reasons to Re-elect George W. Bush;" his mix of damning indictments and uplifting stories; and side bars, cartoons, games, and puzzles, Hightower has done the impossible: He has created a subversive read that makes politics fun again.
Whoa, Sam, you could lose a hand doing that! Yet here I am foolishly practicing Goldwyn's malapropism, reaching right into the maw of the Bush White House to try throwing this raging bull to the ground.
Why? Because the Bushites are—let me put this as politely as I can—NUTS! Bull-goose- loopy, ideological freaks, whose snorting rampages pose a threat to us all and to all we hold dear.
Oh, I can hear you thinking [Reader's Alert: It's true, I have uncanny ears]: Surely he doesn't mean loopy. While the Bushites might be unusually robust, aggressive even, in the pursuit of their agenda, they are still within the bounds of America's mainstream political thought . . . right? It's not like they're, you know, EXTREMISTS who would try to superimpose their own Orwellian, Strangelovian, AynRandian, JerryFallwellian ideology over America's good ol' egalitarian ideals . . . right? I mean, these are rational people who just happen to be a little to the right . . . right?
No. They're insane. They're zealots totally dedicated to implementing their plutocratic, autocratic, militaristic, and imperialistic vision of America—and it's time we stopped beating around the bush about it.
How crazy are they? Consider these symptoms: Rumsfeld—scowling, barking, and thrusting out his chest—sees weapons of mass destruction that are not there; George himself constantly hears voices in his head telling him to "cut rich people's taxes . . . again"; Ashcroft lunges from place to place, frenetically searching for more ways to "protect" our freedom by (follow the bouncing logic here)throttling our freedoms; and Cheney, with that fiendish grin always slashed across his face, insists that God created earth so oil companies would have something to plunder.
These people must be stopped and taken away to a very quiet, soothing place where they can no longer do harm. Think about it. In four short years, they have:
• heisted $1.3 trillion from our public treasury and doled it out to their richest campaign backers;
• defoliated our environmental protections;
• launched a class war not only against the poor but against the middle class as well;
• taken a Weedwacker to our Bill of Rights;
• sought to castrate labor unions;
• turned a $240 billion budget surplus into a $520 billion debt;
• attempted to privatize everything from the Park Service to Social Security;
• and hurled our nation into a maniacal, messianic, testosterone-driven global war to make the world safe for Halliburton.
Imagine what they'd be doing if they'd actually won the election!
Now imagine what they will be doing if they win this one . . . or if they Supreme-Court it again.
Unbelievable is a word usually reserved for breathtaking circus acts or the kind of astonishing oddities found in Ripley's Believe It or Not, but it has now become the defining term for the madness of King George the W. As I've crisscrossed America since the Bushites took power, person after person has come forward—mouth agape, head shaking, eyes wide—with yet another horror story of the mind-boggling arrogance and downright weirdness of this bunch. And every one of their stories is punctuated with "Unbelievable!"
Bush & Company have made the bizarre commonplace. So there's another White House announcement of some action they've either taken or proposed, people instinctively cringe: "Oh no, here it comes again." What "it" is doesn't matter, for people know it's going to be yet another awful step backward, another dollop of unfathomable ideological excess, and another wallop for the rest of us.
When I say "people" cringe, I don't merely mean yellow-dog Democrats, but also political switch-hitters, Libertarians, nonvoters, none-of-the-abovers, and—grab your stuffed elephant, George!—Republicans. Not only are lots of mainstream, moderate, Rockefeller Republicans appalled by Boy Bush's wacked-out right-wing policies, but so are many Barry Goldwater conservatives. They don't think of the USA Patriot Act, profligate federal spending, unlimited war on whomever, the relentless assault on local sovereignty, the proliferation of executive secrecy, unfettered corporate welfare, et cetera, et cetera, as being "conservative."
A middle-aged lady came up to me in a coffee shop this spring and said, "I don't want to bother you, but I want to say that I'm a lifelong Republican who thought I was a good conservative. But I didn't know what a lefty I must be until these people came into power. Who the hell are they?"
Nutballs, that's who. Way beyond the fringe.
However, I do realize that a number of people are die-hard Bushites, sincerely believing W to be just a regular, pretzel-eating, hail-fellow-well-met who happens to be totally convinced that his view of the world is the absolute right view—a guy (and commander-in-chief) willing to use the full force of the presidency of the United States to muscle that view into national policy, undeterred by common sense or even facts. Aggressive leadership, they call it, and bully for George!
Well, in the interest of spirited discourse, I feel honor-bound to recognize that enthusiasm. So I've called on a longtime personal buddy—a particularly proud Bushite, but one who wishes to remain anonymous in my book—to lead each chapter with his insights into why Glorious George is the best White House occupant since McKinley.
After all, George W certainly is a likable son-of-a-Bush—all the more so if he's putting money in your corporate pockets. Therefore, giving credit where credit is due, I've organized this book in a contrarian fashion, offering "Six Perfectly Good Reasons to Elect George W. Bush." Fair is fair.
Six Perfectly Good Reasons to Elect George W. Bush
Thanks to Bush's pollution policies, if you buy some cheap land in Appalachia today, by the time you're ready to retire, it'll be prime oceanfront property.
Think about it: If Bush is elected, you'll soon be able to surf in Asheville, go beachcombing in Austin, and have clambakes on the shores of Phoenix. What's not to like about that? Besides, I've been to Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Missoula, and other northern climes in the winter months, and let me tell you—you people could use some warming up!
Sure, global warming is melting the polar ice caps, but let me ask a basic question here: Do we really need all that ice? Hello! It's 2004—you have air-conditioning, and your fridge comes with an icemaker, for God's sake.
And stop it already with the constant whining about the so-called ozone hole at the north and south poles. Don't you listen to Rush Limbaugh? It's a hoax, folks! Ain't happening. Nothing but a ploy by enviro-wacko groups to scare people into sending them money. But even if it is happening—SO FRIGGING WHAT! You don't have to go to the Arctic, do you? It's a matter of taking personal responsibility.
Sure, sure, there are Eskimos and some wilderness weirdos who choose to live up there, but there's no need to get government involved and bring America's mighty economic machine to a grinding halt just because a few of them are worried about sunburn and a little skin cancer. Instead of seeing the ozone hole as an environmental problem, let's recognize it for what it is: an economic opportunity for the sunscreen industry. All the sunscreen boys need from Washington is a tax break, a marketing subsidy, and an exemption from any legal liability, then—whoa, Nellie—stand back and watch 'em go! They'll slather the Arctic in a sea of sunscreen, boost our economy, create jobs, extend democracy to every hamlet on earth, help prevent terrorism, and lift all boats. It's called "free enterprise," bubba.
And that right there is your difference between George W and the latte-sipping, socialist-hugging Democrat crowd. George trusts the free market to do what's best for us—while, deep in their hearts, that other crowd can't stand the thought that you might get some oceanfront property out of the deal if we just let Bush and the corporations work their magic.
GEORGE W DOES THE ENVIRONMENT
Sigh. I miss the good ol' days of environmental protection. Under Nixon, for example.
"Nixon!!? You been putting jimsonweed in your cereal again, Hightower?"
Well, ethically and politically, Tricky Dick definitely was a piece of sleaze, but he actually had a tidy streak in him when it came to cleaning up pollution. Whether or not his motives were pure or purely political, Nixon's the guy who signed the bills creating the EPA, OSHA, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. See, being a Republican president doesn't require you to whore for polluters and plunderers.
For that matter, give me Reagan. Yes, I know Ronnie was clueless, dottily declaring at one point that "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles." And yes, I know that he put James "Chainsaw" Watt in charge of our nation's natural resources—a dangerous joker who approached his governmental stewardship with an airheaded mix of laissez-faire corporatism and religious extremism, leading him to utter such blinding insights as, "We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand." But I also know that, back then, we used to think: "It can't get any worse than this."
Welcome to the regime of George W. Twenty years later, we're looking back wistfully, realizing that the bumbling Reaganauts were practically Earth Firsters compared to the skilled Scorched Earthers now in charge. For someone named for a plant, Bush has shown an astonishing hostility to nature. Bush, Cheney & Company never met a polluter too filthy to hug, especially if the abrazo comes with a generous campaign check.
The breadth of their all-out assault on our air, water, and all things natural is breathtaking . . . literally! Take Bush's Clear Skies initiative. Despite its spiffy name, it twists Nixon's Clean Air Act inside out, allowing electric companies, chemical plants, oil refineries, and other inveterate spewers of toxics to goose up their profits by gleefully pumping an additional forty-two tonsof their industrial poisons into our air (and lungs) each year. This is a regulatory favor that the National Academy of Sciences calculates will, in turn, cause an extra thirty thousand American deaths each year.
[Bulletin: We break our narrative here to bring you this important background report on Bush's internal policy operations. It's never been revealed before, but reliable sources have informed this intrepid reporter that somewhere deep in the sub-sub-subbasement of the White House, possibly bunkered with Dick Cheney, is a thin, yellow-skinned, shifty-eyed former advertising executive for the tobacco industry who goes only by his code name, Flaco. Reportedly subsisting on nothing but Twinkies, instant coffee, and unfiltered cigarettes, Flaco is the operative accountable for the policy slogans that Karl Rove feeds to the media. In addition to "Clear Skies," Flaco's recent work includes "Healthy Forests," a convoluted Bush plan that allows the timber boys to grow their profits by cutting down perfectly healthy and extremely profitable old-growth trees from our national forests. Inside sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, tell us that Flaco cackles like an insane hen each time he comes up with another "Clear Skies" or "Healthy Forests" to slap onto a Bush policy that does the exact opposite of what the slogan advertises. We're also informed that whenever Flaco's cackle reverberates from the depths, the president's face lights up with childlike joy. Now back to the narrative in progress.]
Remember those Chinese snakehead fish that invaded some ponds in suburban Washington in 2002? The snakehead is an almost unnatural species, terrifying to behold. More than three feet long, this invasive and aggressive Asian native has a large mouth, big teeth, predatory instincts, and a voracious appetite. It can clear a pond of all other fish in a hurry. Then—get this—it's capable of living out of water for several days, slithering on its belly and fins across land to find another pond to devour. Along the way, the snakehead indiscriminately eats any small animals it encounters. With no natural predators, it literally can upset the balance of nature, and it will continue its onslaught unless someone kills it.
The Bush administration is the Chinese snakehead of environmental politics. It is aggressively devouring America's antipollution protections and upsetting the balance of power so its corporate backers can work their will.
There's never been a presidency like this, so totally, unabashedly, and aggressively corporate, despite not having won a majority of the people's vote, much less any kind of mandate to upend three decades of environmental progress.
In only three short years, the Bushites have launched an executive, judicial, legislative, and PR assault to undermine and kill more than two hundred of our country's most basic environmental safeguards. They have rolled back everything from rules that protect our children from lead poisoning to rules for the protection of that thin ozone layer, which is all that stands between us and the sun's rays that otherwise would fry us human types (including Republicans!) in our own juices and parch our little planet. Never has a president gone to such extremes to give away so much in such a short time.
It started on Day One of Bush II. As George W was being inaugurated, his new chief of staff, Andy Card (previously the chief Washington lobbyist for General Motors), quietly issued a White House moratorium on all enviro regulations recently enacted by the Clinton administration, asserting that these rules were "unfair" to the polluters. Thus was hung a big red banner on the White House, proclaiming that the presidency was under new management, now offering 24/7 drive- through service for oil, auto, timber, mining, agribusiness, nuclear, chemical, developer, and other polluter interests that had financed the Bush-Cheney ascension to power.
The corporate media, especially the television networks (owned by such conglomerate polluters as General Electric and Disney), have provided only sporadic coverage to this serial mugging of the environment. Each part of the thuggery is astonishing, but the whole adds up to what should be treated as a premeditated capital crime against our people and against nature itself. We shouldn't merely be campaigning against them, we should be hunting them down with dogs.
Bush Gets Hot
George W is a global kind of guy—he's a big promoter of corporate globalization, and, of course, he's launched his unlimited global war on terrorism. But mention "global warming" to him, and he turns into a flat-earth parochialist, flailing his arms, getting all red-faced, and sputtering and spewing that global warming is a trick, not really happening, and if it is happening it's not the fault of big industry, and if it is their fault there's nothing we're gonna do about it, so go fly a kite, you environmental weenies!
Never mind that the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is all too real of a threat, and that 72 percent of Americans think we need to take immediate steps to deal with this threat. That's a lot of weenies, George.
What counts for Bush, however, are not the millions of concerned Americans but the millions of campaign dollars put in his pockets by the corporate polluters causing the warming. In the 2000 election, he was the number one recipient of their campaign cash, and in turn, he has put dozens of energy executives, lobbyists, and consultants in key positions to oversee energy policy.
How embarrassing, then, that the scientists in George's own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report concluding that (1) global warming is happening, (2) it's mostly caused by fossil fuel pollution, and (3) it will have disastrous global consequences if we don't act promptly to stop it. But rather than act—or even act embarrassed—Bush dismissed the scientific report with a wave of his hand, saying scornfully, "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy."
But guess what? He never actually read it! His media flack later admitted that this is true, curtly informing the media that "Whenever presidents say they read it, you can read that to be he was briefed."
Oh, thank you for clearing up the fibbery. But in George's case, we know we can read that to mean he was bought—no briefing necessary.
This leaves us to ponder one of earth's most important environmental questions: How deeply can George W stick his head into the Arctic tundra before having to admit that, yes, global warming just might be a wee bit of a problem for us?
The thin layer of ozone that encapsulates our globe is kind of important, since without it, the sun...how shall I put this?...will burn us to a crisp, wiping out all life on earth. Unfortunately, pollution from such things as our oil-guzzling cars is eating away this natural and essential sunscreen, causing everything from more cancer to global warming.
This is "the basic" enviro issue facing everyone, since if we don't deal with it, we won't be around to worry about any of the others.
The Bushites, however, goaded by ozone-depleting fat cats, are pretending that this isn't happening, therefore there's no need to stop the pollution causing it. But nature has a way of rudely pricking political delusions with stark reality. Specifically, the frozen Arctic tundra itself is now thawing due to global warming.
This is a problem for Bush, not because it pokes an embarrassing hole in his It's-Not- Happening posture (after all, Bush has never let reality interfere with ideology). Rather, the thawing tundra is a political problem because it's interfering with the oil giants that are drilling in Alaska. Yes—oh, cruel irony—the very industry claiming that global warming doesn't exist is now stuck in it!
An Alaskan regulation allows heavy drilling equipment on the fragile tundra only when it is frozen solid a foot deep and covered by at least six inches of snow. Thirty years ago, these wintery conditions existed two hundred days a year, but global warming has now shrunk this window of opportunity by half—too short a period for profitable oil drilling.
But the Bushites are remaining consistently delusional. Rather than facing up to the cause of the thawing, they want to allow the industry to drill even when the tundra is not frozen, thus producing more oil to cause more global warming.
Making Government Listen
For a civics lesson on how government works in this modern age, look no further than the example of Southern Company.
Southern, a giant electric power corporation based in Atlanta, Georgia, had an idea that it wanted to convey to our national policy makers. Like any citizen wanting to have its voice heard, Southern began by introducing itself properly to those in charge. How? By becoming a major campaign contributor.
In 2000, the company gave over $500,000 to George W and other Republican candidates.
Thus, the doors of power swung open, and the utility's executives were allowed to enter, getting seven separate meetings in early 2001 with Dick Cheney's secret task force that was writing Bush's new energy policy. The particular idea that the civic-minded company brought to our governmental leaders is that utilities like it should not be punished for pumping vast amounts of carbon dioxide and other toxins into the public's air.
To amplify its voice, Southern followed the time-honored democratic process: It hired a well- connected Washington lobbyist—Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican Party. On May 17 of that year, Bush's energy plan was released, and lo, it contained Southern's idea. See, govenment does listen—and responds—when properly approached.
But to make modern government work most efficiently for you, appropriate follow-through is important—so, note that only five days after Southern got its idea endorsed, the company and Barbour gave $350,000 to the GOP.
This money helped with yet another idea Southern had. It wanted EPA prosecutors to ignore a series of its violations of our nation's clean-air laws. Again, Haley Barbour spoke on Southern's behalf, and government once again responded fully, with the White House forcing the prosecution to drop the charges.
Not everyone, however, appreciated such smooth efficiency. Eric Schaeffer, EPA's chief of enforcement, was so disgusted that he resigned after Southern's power play, saying: "With the Bush administration...if you've got a good lobbyist, you can just buy your way out of trouble."
If you've ever driven through the heart of West Virginia, you know how breathtakingly beautiful its mountains are.
Even more breathtaking, however, is the push by George W's environmental wranglers to rig both the Clean Water Act and our nation's mining laws. Why? So giant coal companies [Warning: Take a deep breath before you read this] literally can dynamite off the tops of these mountains. The coal giants delicately call this "mountaintop removal," and it's so dastardly, so grotesque, so exasperatingly stupid as to leave anyone who sees it whopper-jawed.
The story gets uglier. Having blasted off the top third or so of a mountain—along with its forests and animals—the coal companies then bulldoze the rubble (which used to be the mountaintop) into the valleys and streams below, burying them hundreds of feet deep with what the companies call "spoil."
Why this barbarous assault? Because "mountaintop massacre," as locals call it, is a dirt-cheap way for greedheaded coal barons to get at the coal down in the mountains. Luckily, we had developed regulations that restricted such avaricious sledgehammering, but that was B.B.— Before Bush. The industry had pumped a coal-train full of cash into Bush, and it even got its top lobbyist, Steven Griles, installed as George W's boss of mining rules.
So Griles and others promptly rewrote the Clean Water Act in 2002 to legalize the burying of streams, and now they're proposing a change that will effectively eliminate the only rule that still limits mountaintop removal. With a straight face, they assert that they're merely trying to "clarify" existing regulations and "reduce regulatory uncertainty."
Yeah, if they get their way, it'll be a certainty that 2,200 square miles of West Virginia's venerable mountains and forests will be destroyed, and it'll be clear that another 1,000 miles of mountain streams will be buried.
Bush's "Clean Coal" Boondoggle
Even George W. Bush acknowledges that he's not the brightest porch light on the block, but he seems to turn especially dim when it comes to energy policy.
W says he wants to encourage a clean energy future for us. Does that mean solar, wind, conservation, and other nonpolluting sources of power? Are you kidding? He and his sidekick Dick Cheney think all that stuff is a bunch of frou-frou, and his budget cuts back on these programs. Instead, he's thinking coal. Only a Texas oil guy could take a whiff of a lump of coal and think, ahhh . . . fresh air. Coal, of course, is about the filthiest fuel we have, but George is putting his money (actually our money) behind an oxymoron called "clean-coal technology."
Coal is to clean energy what a Twinkie is to health food. Yet for the past fifteen years, industry lobbyists have squeezed billions of dollars out of us taxpayers to subsidize utilities that build these clean-coal power plants that are only slightly less filthy than the old conventional belchers. This has been a boondoggle and a PR sham that pays utilities to build more dirty plants while claiming to be coming clean. These so-called clean-coal plants spew out ten times more smog- causing pollutants and twice as many global-warming chemicals as do utilities using natural gas.
Bush's energy plan, however, backs coal over natural gas—his bill triples the industry's subsidy, providing $5.5 billion to encourage the use of coal to generate electricity. As a result, since George has been in the White House, gleeful utility executives have announced that they will build twenty-four new coal-fired plants across the country. The result for us will be dirtier air, more health problems, increased global warming, and more acid rain.
Yet George is the same guy who tells us that government should not promote the development and use of alternative energy because he trusts the "free market" to decide which energy sources are best.
The Ever-Loopy Synfuels Loophole
Old loopholes never die—they just get loopier and loopier.
One such is a special tax break gouged into federal law back in 1980 by corporate lobbyists. In response to the energy crisis of the time, this loophole was ostensibly created to give companies an incentive to devise marketable alternatives to imported oil. But all it has really done is give companies an excuse to dodge paying the taxes they owe Uncle Sam.
The loophole is the "synfuels" tax credit for companies that reprocess coal to create new synthetic fuels. But the law's provisions are so vague that corporations have been able to claim the tax break even if their reprocessing doesn't work, doesn't reduce our dependence on oil, actually uses oil products in the so-called reprocessing, is never marketed...or is just plain silly.
How silly? So silly that the IRS has given the synfuels tax credit to companies that have done nothing but spray starch or diesel fuel or even Elmer's glue on coal.
Corporations, ranging from utilities to the Marriott hotel chain, have leapt through this loophole like wolves leaping for a lamb chop. The result is that they have dodged about $2 billion a year in taxes—a wad that the rest of us ordinary taxpayers have to make up, either in increased taxes or reduced services. This scam will soon grow to $10 billion a year, as more corporations have spied the lamb chop and are going for it.
Finally, the IRS decided to crack down by reviewing whether those companies' so-called synfuels actually worked. Yet even this long-overdue step was assailed by synfuel profiteers, their lobbyists, and their puppets in Congress, who went after the IRS, threatening the agency's enforcement budget and hauling the IRS commissioner to the woodshed. Unsurprisingly, the IRS recently succumbed to the corporate pressure.
A Dirty Dozen
Wheeze! Hack! Gasp! Gag! Bleeeeecch!
If America's air, water, global warming, and other enviro policies seem as if they're coming right out of a corporate smokestack, that's because they are.
Bush has not merely put our government in service to polluters and plunderers, he has put it directly into their hands. It's not just a matter of the corporate-hugging, cabinet-level sparklies at the top of Washington's environmental pyramid—Gale Norton (Interior), Mike Leavitt (EPA), Spencer Abraham (Energy), Ann Veneman (Ag). Rather, the daily dirty work is being done by dozens of industry no-names, trusted lobbyists, and ideological hacks whom Bush has installed in key positions deep inside the innards of the pyramid, where they are quietly but zealously reengineering the flow of national policy from pure public protection to poisonous private profits.
It's these subcabinet policy operatives that actually run government. Meet a Dirty Dozen of them:
1. JAMES CONNAUGHTON, chairman of the president's council on environmental quality. A former lobbyist for utilities, mining, chemical, and other industrial polluters, Connaughton represented the likes of General Electric and ARCO in their effort to escape responsibility for cleaning up toxic Superfund sites. Now he heads up pollution-policy development for the administration and coordinates its implementation. He has led the charge to weaken the standards of getting arsenic out of our drinking water, and he has steadily advised Bush to ignore, divert, stall, dismiss, and otherwise block out all calls for action against the industrial causes of global warming.
2. JOHN D. GRAHAM, administrator of regulatory affairs in the White House budget office. Graham is the de facto boss of all regulatory programs for the entire government—any change in enviro rules must pass through his strangling hands. An avowed enemy of pollution regulations, he previously headed a quasi-academic front group that consistently issued reports claiming that environmental protections are too costly for industry—not a surprising stance since he and his "risk assessment" center were financed by more than a hundred corporate entities, including the American Petroleum Institute, Dow, DuPont, Exxon, Monsanto, and 3M.
3. J. STEVEN GRILES, deputy secretary of the Interior Department. A disciple of the infamous James Watt, for whom he worked in the Reagan years, Griles went on to be a lobbyist for the National Mining Association (NMA), Edison Electric, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and other energy giants. Appointed the overseer of America's 500 million acres of public lands, Griles was hailed by the NMA as "an ally of the industry," and the mining association welcomed him as "a breath of fresh air"—for polluters, of course, not for us air breathers! Even though he is a public official now, he still draws $284,000 a year from his former lobbying firm, which represents corporations he supposedly regulates. Also, he has continued to meet behind closed doors with his former (and perhaps future) industry clients. The inspector general is investigating him for the blatant conflicts of interest posed by these meetings, which he had pledged to avoid in a "recusal agreement" he signed to get his government job.
4. JEFFREY HOLMSTEAD, assistant EPA administrator for air quality. Previously a lobbyist with the firm of Latham & Watkins, Holmstead represented electric utilities trying to fight air pollution restrictions, and he represented the Farm Bureau conglomerate in its fights against pesticide controls. Now inside, he's a key player pushing Bush's Clear Skies initiative, which will allow a 520 percent increase in toxic mercury pollution, a 225 percent jump in carbon dioxide pollution (a global warming contaminant), and a delay in the enforcement of smog and soot pollution until 2016. In charge of writing a new rule to limit mercury poisoning of children by electric power plants, Holmstead embraced a watered-down rule that essentially was written by his old lobbying firm of Latham & Watkins.
5. WILLIAM HORN, chairman of the fish and wildlife commission. In charge of charting policies governing America's priceless National Wildlife Refuge System, Horn's background is not that of a wildlife protector, but that of a corporate lobbyist representing interests wanting to exploit our public refuges for their profit. He has lobbied for Florida Power & Light, Yukon Pacific Corporation (which wants to build a gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to the port of Valdez, then export the gas to Asia), and the Nuclear Energy Institute. For a hint about his attitude toward preserving pristine wildlife areas, note that he has been the lead attorney for such outfits as the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, New Jersey Beach Buggy Association, and Sun Valley HeliSki company.
6. WILLIAM G. MYERS III, solicitor of the Interior Department. The government's top lawyer for cases involving exploitation of our public lands by mining and agribusiness corporations, Myers previously was a lawyer and lobbyist representing mining and agribusiness corporations. At Interior, he has pushed for new rules to allow more cattle grazing, to limit endangered species protections, to require fewer environmental impact statements for the lands under his stewardship, and to open public lands in five western states to oil drilling. Myers is under investigation by ethics officials for meeting with his former corporate clients despite having signed a conflict-of-interest agreement to avoid such contacts. Meanwhile, George W has nominated this possible law violator to be a federal appeals judge.
7. BENNETT RALEY, assistant interior secretary for water. A longtime extremist "corporate rights" advocate who previously lobbied to kill our nation's Clean Water Act, Raley now is the top official in charge of water issues at the Interior Department. In 2002, he teamed up with Karl Rove in a flagrant political maneuver to provide extra water for agribusiness from a federal water project in eastern Washington, even though agency scientists warned that this would be disastrous for wild salmon under federal protections in the Klamath River. Career agency professionals were forced to bow to White House political pressure, and thousands of fish died. When responsible officials tried to divert some of the Klamath basin water back to the endangered salmon populations, Raley again waved in Rove to apply top-heavy political pressure and back them off.
8. MARK REY, Agriculture Department undersecretary for natural resources. Rey, who now is caretaker of America's 156 national forests, has spent his entire career as a timber industry lobbyist and congressional staffer hell-bent on fattening industry profits by letting corporations clear-cut the public's trees. He headed the American Forest and Paper Association, the leading proponent of logging our national forests, prior to becoming a Senate staffer and authoring an infamous 1995 act that suspended all environmental laws to give the green light to corporations to clear-cut old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. He also wrote a bill that would have eliminated local citizen committees that oversee timber harvests. As forest chief, Rey has been the key force behind Bush's Healthy Forests scam that would allow nearly unlimited clear- cutting in pristine national forests.
9. THOMAS SANSONETTI, assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources. Now the public's lead lawyer for defending our environmental protection programs in court, Sansonetti is a Republican Party political operative and a lobbyist from Wyoming who represented coal companies and other energy corporations in their efforts to undermine these same environmental protections. He previously was chief lawyer for the Republican National Committee. As a lobbyist, he pushed in Washington to let each coal company increase its mining on federal lands by one third. Another of the far-right corporatists that Bush has put in charge of the machinery of government, Sansonetti is a proud member of the government-hating laissez- faire Federalist Society, which is amply funded by ultraconservative corporate foundations.
10. PATRICIA LYNN SCARLETT, assistant interior secretary for policy. This overseer of overall policy affecting our nation's public resources is no fan of the public even holding resources, and doesn't like regulation of private efforts to exploit the public's resources. She has written that "environmentalism is a coherent philosophy that rivals Marxism." Most of Scarlett's career has been spent with the Reason Foundation, a think tank that vigorously opposes government regulations and is funded by such corporations as Chevron, Dow, Enron, ExxonMobil, Philip Morris, and Shell Oil, as well as by the American Petroleum Institute, American Plastics Council, and American Chemistry Council.
11. CARMEN TOOHEY, special interior assistant for Alaska. Cam, as she is known, is Gale Norton's handpicked aide to oversee environmental policies affecting the vast federal landholdings in our nation's largest state. For the Bushites, policy priority number one in Alaska is, of course, to turn loose their oil buddies to build roads, move in drilling rigs, and extend pipelines across the majestic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Cam is well versed on this priority and completely in tune with it, for she comes to her government job from having led Arctic Power, a lobbying group supporting corporate interests that want to open our public refuge to their private profit schemes.
12. REBECCA WATSON, assistant interior secretary for land and minerals. Directing the Bureau of Land Management, Watson is responsible for the rules and fees for gold-mining companies, drillers, and other corporations wanting to profit on the wealth of minerals and other public resources within our federal lands. Her qualifications for the job are not as a public defender, but as a Montana lawyer representing mining and logging corporations that either wanted unfettered access to these public treasures or didn't want to pay for the environmental damage done by their exploitative procedures. Watson has represented Golden Sunlight Mines, Fidelity Exploration, Plum Creek Timber, and other companies regulated by the agency she now heads. She also worked on the litigation committee of the right-wing Mountain States Legal Foundation, a litigious, corporate-funded group of legal activists that tries to run over any environmental protection that pinches even a dime's worth of ill-gotten corporate profits.
Inside the "Pink Zone"
I have seen the future, and it is this: gas masks.
As Bush & Company dismantle America's health, safety, and environmental protections at the behest of such mass polluters as the oil, chemical, coal, nuclear, and auto industries, some critics have rudely accused them of selling out the public's health and safety just to satisfy Bush's campaign contributors. I disagree. George himself has told us that he's a compassionate conservative, and while his conservative side says industry must be free to contaminate us, I believe his compassionate side also has a plan, which is to issue gas masks to everyone.
Indeed, this is what his Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is doing in Anniston, Alabama. During the next several years, the army will incinerate some 660,000 of the chemical weapons stored at its Anniston Depot—deadly stuff like sarin, mustard gas, and an extra-lethal chemical called "VX agent." Understandably, the good people of Anniston are less than thrilled, since their homes, schools, hospitals, day-care centers, and whatnot are in an area that the army delicately labels the "pink zone."
Not to worry, though, for the local citizenry is the first community in America to receive government-issued gas masks from the Bush administration. Seven million dollars have been allocated by FEMA to provide protective gas hoods and suits for 35,000 people. Poking through the kit she was given, Brenda Lindell said: "You think that's going to keep me safe? I don't think so!"
I wonder: Do you keep this gear in your home? In your car? Your briefcase? Do kids carry it to school in their backpacks? A killer gas plume can cover the whole area in eight minutes. What if you're in the shower or have the radio on when the alarm goes off announcing an accident? "Even a small accident could be catastrophic," says the county emergency director. Then there's the fact that while the feds will issue 35,000 masks, 75,000 people live within nine miles of the incinerator. I guess compassion can only stretch so far.
Local resident Rufus Kinney spoke for me when he said: "This is absolute madness." He added that "The irony is that our government is looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and at the same time, they're not protecting us from our own weapons of mass destruction."
|1||Global warming! : George W does the environment||1|
|2||Cheap underwear, Bub : George W does the economy||39|
|3||One word, Bucko : yum-yum-yum! : George W does food||77|
|4||You'll never have to feel alone again, my friend : George W does liberty||115|
|5||Rugged individualism, compadre : George W. does the common good||155|
|6||You name it! : what George W means to me||215|