The Hightower Report

Forest Service Serves Mining Company; and Flaunting the Law While Flying the Flag


What a special joy it is to visit the Grand Canyon. It's awe-inspiring to view the majestic gorge, the powerful river, the gorgeous sunsets – and, of course, the uranium mines.

Say what? Well, they're not there yet, but our Bushified United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has ever-so-quietly issued a permit allowing a British mining company to explore for uranium adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park. Vane Minerals will be allowed to drill seven exploratory shafts in the Kaibab National Forest, which abuts the canyon.

This whole dirty deal was a sneak attack on local residents, environmental groups, tribal officials, and park supporters – all of whom oppose the effort to dot the public lands with uranium mines. In addition to the sheer inappropriateness of this commercialization, locals recall the cancers suffered by those who worked in previous uranium mines on area reservations. They also have concerns about uranium trucks high-balling through the area and about contamination of the region's scarce water supplies.

The Forest Service, however, ignored these realities and gave the corporation a green light without conducting an environmental review and, worse yet, without even holding a public hearing. The agency arbitrarily ruled that Vane could be "categorically excluded" from the normal review process because its exploratory drilling would take less than a year. Never mind that mining companies can do some serious damage in a year.

Meanwhile, Congress has been dilly-dallying with an overdue reform of the 1872 mining law that lets corporations run roughshod over our public land, putting their profiteering interests above the public interest. To learn more about this reform and to see a report on the impacts of uranium mining in this unique region, connect with the Environmental Working Group at


Should a top federal official who flagrantly violates the law of the land be allowed to wrap himself in the flag?

That's what a guy named Ronald Meisburg is doing. Appointed by George W. in 2005 to be general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board, this former corporate lawyer has been an unabashed basher of unionization. After the labor board's own employees voted to be represented by a union called NLRBU, Meisburg simply refused to bargain with the union – a weird position for someone responsible for promoting good labor relations.

It gets weirder. The union took Meisburg before an administrative law judge, who ruled his refusal to bargain was a violation of America's labor law. Still, the lawyer for the labor agency has refused to comply, thumbing his nose at the judge and at one of the core laws he is sworn to uphold.

Now, going from weird to warped, Meisburg has decreed the agency's employees must carry an American flag to every gathering where they oversee unionization elections. He asserts that the presence of the flag will impress the workers who vote in these elections with the solemnity of the law. Uh-huh. Excuse me, Ron, but would that be the same law that you're so solemnly stiffing?

Meanwhile, this legal sharpie who doesn't seem to like laws has laid down the law on the most picayune details of choosing, transporting, and displaying the flag. He specifies the size of the flag to be used, requires regional offices to purchase three-wheeled luggage carriers for them, mandates agency employees undergo training on handling the flag, and provides a rigid 10-point instruction sheet on precisely how the flag, flagpole, and flag stand are to be assembled.

Meisburg can wrap himself in the flag, but he can't hide his disrespect for the rule of law and spirit of electoral freedom that the flag represents.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More federal government
Obamacare: Deadline Looms for Immigration Status
Obamacare: Deadline Looms for Immigration Status
Health insurance consumers must send in paperwork or risk losing their coverage

Amy Kamp, Aug. 22, 2014

The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The damning nuttiness of the GOP's "Hell No" faction

Jim Hightower, Aug. 15, 2014

More The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Donald Show

Jim Hightower, July 10, 2015


federal government, Ronald Meisburg, National Labor Relations Board, National Forest Service, Grand Canyon National Park, Vane Minerals Corporation, Environmental Working Group

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle