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Jim Hightower

Same Song, Third Verse
by Published on

Ford Motor Co. executives say they are going to make environmentally sustainable, fuel-efficient cars. Again.

Not “again” in the sense that they’ve actually been making green cars. They’re just saying again that they intend to. Ford honchos once pledged to improve the fuel economy of their SUVs by 25 percent. Didn’t happen. Three years ago, Ford excitedly announced that it would start selling a quarter-million hybrid-electric vehicles annually. Less than a year later, Ford reneged.

Still, give new Ford CEO Alan Mulally credit for enthusiasm and optimism. The day after Earth Day, he promised a companywide campaign to create a greener Ford. “It’s about sustainability,” he chirped. “It’s about mobility. It’s about safety. It’s about [being] stewards of our environment.”

Many of us would add: It’s about time!

Whether he comes through or not, at least Mulally broke the auto industry’s code of silence on climate change. “I clearly believe the vast majority of data indicates that the [globe's] temperature has increased,” he said. “I believe the correlation and analysis that it’s mainly because of greenhouse gases.” Welcome to the long parade of people and groups that have been trying for years to get Detroit’s attention about global warming and emissions, Alan.

Not everyone is sanguine about Mulally’s first step. To oversee the new green Ford program, he appointed an in-house executive who has testified in Congress against limiting auto emissions. Asked about Ford’s previous failures to follow through on environmental promises, Mulally cheerfully said, “You can’t take away our intent.”

Isn’t the road to hell paved with … oh, never mind. Let’s give the guy a chance-and thank him for at least speaking out.

CLOSED DOOR POLICY

George W keeps talking about America’s moral responsibility to help the people of Iraq. Why is he slamming America’s door in their faces?

The Bushites’ incompetence and arrogance have made life a succession of miseries for Iraq’s people. There are the daily killings and maimings, of course-a gruesome reality that, since the start of Bush’s highly touted surge, has spread throughout the country.

Let’s look at the undead. Unemployment is rampant. Electricity is at best an occasional luxury, even in the capital city of Baghdad. Two out of three Iraqis have no regular access to clean water. Children are malnourished, with many dying from preventable diseases. The country’s health care system is near collapse. Two-thirds of Iraqi children are not in school.

In a nation of 28 million people, 4 million have been forced to flee their homes by this raging civil war. Half of these are homeless in their own land; the other half have left Iraq.

How many of these displaced civilians would you guess the Bushites have allowed to seek refuge here? About 500. That’s it.

Surely the compassionate conservatives in the White House have made other arrangements for Iraq’s growing number of war refugees? Uh-uh. Bush sat on his hands while two of his wealthiest war allies in the region-Kuwait and Saudi Arabia-shut their doors to their Iraqi neighbors. Rather than providing financial support for the refugees, Saudi Arabia is spending $7 billion building a border fence to keep Iraqis out.

TEEN HIJINKS

Chicken Little is loose again in the White House, Congress, and corporate America.

The Chicken Littles are crying that if all new NAFTA-style trade deals require protections for labor in all the countries involved-well, goodness gracious, the sky will fall!

What has them so panicky is a proposal by congressional Democrats to rein in the labor abuses that have come with these corporate-written trade deals. Are the Democrats suggesting radical protections that would put an impossible burden on global business? Judge for yourself:

One provision would ban the use of child labor. Another bans slave labor. A third says that workers would have the right to form unions.

Aren’t these good things? Not to the global corporate powers and their political protectors in Washington. They warn darkly that such protections would boomerang. Other nations would sue in international trade courts to overturn our state laws allowing such practices as lower-wage summer jobs for teenagers.

Excuse me, but an all-out foreign assault on American teenagers working a few weeks at the shore or in the hay fields doesn’t seem terribly likely. Nonetheless, the battle cry of the powerful National Association of Manufacturers is: Defend the Teenagers! Indeed, NAM’s top lobbyist, John Engler, is the Chicken Littlest of them all, wailing that subjecting state laws “to a foreign nation’s challenge would be unacceptable.”

Maybe John is ignorant of the fact that NAFTA, CAFTA, and other existing trade deals already subject our state laws to foreign challenges on behalf of global corporations-and that the NAM backed those provisions. Or maybe John’s just using American teenagers as a political screen to keep his corporate members from having to treat their global workers with minimal fairness.

Yeah, that last one.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit www.jimhightower.com.