Jim Hightower

We've Been Warned

Instead of recognizing the obvious—that global warming is fast reaching the tipping point where it becomes irreversible (and disastrous)—the Bushites continue to keep their heads up the tailpipes and smokestacks of the industries pumping out the greenhouse gases that cause the unnatural warming. So, we’re doomed, right?

Not necessarily. While Washington foolishly fiddles, officials at the state level have been springing into action. Unlike the White House, state leaders are up close and personal with the effects of global warming—ranging from declines in the production of some crops to having to plan for rising sea levels along their coastlines. So these officials have gotten serious about restricting the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases coming out of vehicle tailpipes, which is the second largest (and fastest growing) source of global warming gases. California has been in the lead and has now adopted a rule requiring that, 10 years from now, cars and trucks there must have technology in place reducing the emission of these gases by 30 percent. Oh, scream the auto makers—this will cause marketplace chaos, car sales will cease, the sky will fall!

The industry refuses to support any restriction on tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, instead rushing to court to stop the California rule and require that only the federal government can regulate these gases. Of course, that would maintain the status quo of do-nothingism. One environmental lawyer, noting that the whole world is moving to stop such emissions, says, “We are going to become the dumping ground for the dirtiest cars made in the world. China will have more stringent standards than the U.S. in 2010.”

Meanwhile, eight states—from Connecticut to Oregon—have also adopted the California rule. To get your state moving, call the Union of Concerned Scientists at 617-547-5552.

ONE SENATOR TAKESA STAND

Out in the desert, even in the starkest environment, you sometimes come across a flower—and what a joy it is to behold, all the more appreciated because it stands alone! That’s how I felt when I saw Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin proudly standing against George W. Bush’s secret, illegal, and unconstitutional program of spying on the American people. In the politically desolate environment of the U.S. Senate—where the members blend together in shades of lifeless brown and bend so easily to the autocratic winds of the BushCheney imperial presidency—it is a delight to see a flower of integrity and senatorial strength.

When he introduced his resolution to censure Bush, Feingold dared to speak the simple and honest truth, “The president has violated the law, and Congress must respond.” He noted that, “The founders anticipated abuses of executive power by creating a balance of powers in the Constitution… We must meet a serious transgression by the President with a serious response. The American people look to us to take action…. In our system of government, no one, not even the President, is above the law.” Feingold was standing for the rule of law. Yet only two other Democrats have stood with him; the rest ran for the bushes (so to speak). Republican Senators were worse, fulminating against Feingold for actually trying to be what senators are supposed to be: A check and balance. Republican leader Bill Frist was especially despicable, charging that Feingold was giving comfort to terrorists by suggesting “that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander-in-chief who is leading us with a bold vision.” Apparently Frist is so blinded by the glare of executive power that he doesn’t know more than two thirds of Americans—and 72 percent of the troops in Iraq—do not support Bush’s “bold vision.” Let’s show a little support for the flower of the senate. Say thanks to Russ Feingold by calling 202-224-5323.

FOR THE LOVE OF NATURE

When W. announced he was naming Gov. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho to be his new Secretary of the Interior, he assured us that, “Dirk has a long and abiding love for nature.” Apparently, Bush made his judgment based on the fact that he and Kempthorne bonded when they went mountain biking in Idaho. In his one term in the U.S. Senate, Kempthorne’s environmental record earned him a near-zero ranking from the League of Conservation Voters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave him a near-perfect score for voting with big corporate interests. He favored weakening the safe drinking water act, for example, and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil giants. As governor, he cut Idaho’s environmental budget three times. While the national image of Idaho is one of pristine mountain air and clear running rivers, Kempthorne’s tenure has tarnished that image. Idaho’s air has gotten dirtier, more rivers have been contaminated, and fewer polluters have been inspected. While other states are making progress against toxic emissions, Idaho’s going in the other direction. This small mountain state now emits more toxics than California, which has nearly 30 times the population! Last year, 63 percent of the “significant violators” of pollution laws were not even inspected, much less prosecuted. To learn more and to side with nature, call the Sierra Club at 202-547-1141 or go to www.sierraclub.org.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.

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