COMMENTARY I BY JIM HIGHTOWER Ignorance is Power At the behest of the chemical boys, oil giants, and other polluters, George W.’s corporate-serving monkeywrenchers have gone after the Environmental Protection Agency’s network of regional research libraries. Good grieflibrarians? Why would the polluter powers bother with these simple keepers of knowledge? Precisely because knowledge is power. As many scientists, citizen activists, journalists, local officials, and others know, the EPA libraries are treasure troves of organized, detailed information about specific polluterswhat they are doing, where they’re doing it, and to whom. Corporations don’t like it when We the People have knowledge that can be used to halt their polluting waysso their Bushite buddies are obligingly shutting the doors to such knowledge. Already, they’ve closed libraries in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, and Washington, as well as EPA’s principal library for evaluating new chemicals. In the agency’s five remaining libraries, hours have been severely shortened, and public access has been curtailed. More cuts are coming next year. “This is a slow-motion lobotomy of the agency,” says the director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Oh, tut-tut, says the EPA brass. We’re merely saving taxpayer money, plus we’ll increase access by putting this pollution data online. Tut-tut right back at you, say critics, noting that the supposed “savings” are only $2 million out of EPA’s total budget of $7.6 billion. They also point out that the agency has nowhere near the funds needed to put so much information online, much less to make it easily accessible to scientists and the public. This is a crude, political attempt to suppress public information about the corporate contamination of our water and air. LORD CHENEY Let’s hear it for Steven Howards, who is refusing to be bullied by the imperious Bush-Cheney regime. Howards, 54, lives in Golden, Colorado. Last July, he serendipitously came upon none other than Dick Cheney walking across a public mall. His Vice Highness was walking to an event and had not yet been cordoned off from mere citizens. So Howards stepped forward, greeted the Veep and calmly said, “I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible:’ He then turned and went on his way, and that was that. Only it wasn’t. About 10 minutes later, as Howards was walking back through the area, a Secret Service agent accosted him, slapped handcuffs on him, and charged him with “assaulting” Lord Cheney. A Secret Service spokesman told local media that Howards “wasn’t acting like other folks in the area.” Cheney’s agents then tried to claim that Howards had become “argumentative and combative.” Only he hadn’t. “This is not about anything I did,” he says. “This is about what I said.” Indeed, three weeks after Howards had been jailed and booked, the local district attorney dropped the charges, saying that instead of threatening His Royal Cheneyness, “it looked to be that [Howards] had just spoken to him.” But under King George the W., such impetuous use of one’s free speech rights gets you hauled to jail. Howards says he was simply one American daring to speak his mind to authorityan admirable American trait. But he’s not about to back off meekly in the face of official intimidation. Howards has now filed suit against the Secret Service for violating his constitutional rightsand he plans to call Cheney as a witness. NICO-TERRORISM If terrorists and drug pushers had lobbyists and made campaign contributions, Washington probably would coddle them. Look no further than Reynolds American Inc., Philip Morris USA Inc., and other members of the global tobacco cartel. For decades, these greedheads have intentionally addicted millions of people for profit, targeting our kids with their murderous products and killing some 438,000 American every year. Yet they’re allowed to keep hooking kids and keep killing. The tobacco giants are beyond redemption. Even after being publicly exposed and fined billions of dollars, they persist in attacking us. A new study finds that they have secretly been escalating the addictive firepower of their little weapons of mass destruction. Since 1998, they’ve increased the amount of nicotine delivered through their cigarettes by an average of 10 percent. Of 116 brands tested, 92 had jackedup levels of nicotine. Most damning, some of the biggest increases came in brands that are pitched to young people. Marlboro, for examplethe choice of two-thirds of high school smokershad a 12 percent jump in nicotine. In a deceptive twist, 73 brands labeled “light” or “ultra-light” ranked among the highest in nicotine content. This is a conscious corporate choice. As a federal judge found in a recent landmark case, tobacco companies do extensive research on how to hook people, and “have designed their cigarettes to precisely control nicotine delivery levels and provide doses of nicotine sufficient to create and sustain addiction.” If they were drug kingpins or terrorists, tobacco executives would be in deep, dark jail cells. But thanks to their lobbyists and political money, these killer corporations get away without even having their products regulated 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 DECEMBER 15, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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