The Hightower Report

Sign of the Times; and Bush Okays Environmental Grotesquerie

Sign of the Times

Economists, myopically poring over reams of data, have finally noticed that our economy is in a recession. If only they'd looked around, they could have seen less abstract indicators showing that the economy has long been in a heap of hurt. For example: abandoned boats.

Along rivers, in coves, and on other waterfronts around the country, there are reports that thousands of vessels are being ditched by their owners. These are not junkers but everything from pleasure boats to commercial fishing rigs that have simply become too expensive for the hard-hit owners to maintain. With no one in the market for buying used craft, which also have very little in scrap value, the owners slip them into a marina or onto a beach, remove the ID numbers, and walk away.

Another sign of the times can be seen at the very top of America's financial pyramid, where the party seems to be over. At least it is for Marc Jacobs, the high-society designer in New York City, who throws an annual holiday bash for a few hundred of his closest friends. Last year, for example, some 800 swells came to Jacobs' gala dressed in Arabian Nights costumes. They were bedazzled by bare-chested women draped with golden necklaces, lavish food and drink, and, at a climactic moment in the evening, a shower of golden glitter falling over them.

Those were the days, huh? This year, however, instead of an invitation, guests received a terse e-mail saying: "Due to the financial climate, I had to make the decision to cancel the 2008 holiday party." The glitter is gone from the Gilded Age.

Folks at the bottom are used to hearing hard times knock on their doors, but when the gates of opulence also get a knock, you know that something different is taking place in this downturn. As one marketer of luxury goods recently observed: "We're just seeing the very beginning of this."

Bush Okays Environmental Grotesquerie

Let's say you are the CEO of a coal corporation, and you want to get at the black gold deep inside the beautiful, verdant mountains of Appalachia. You have a choice.

You could use industrial ingenuity and environmental finesse to extract the coal. But, hey, why not just demolish the entire top third of those mountains with explosives, bulldoze the resulting rubble down the mountainsides into the streams below, then simply scoop out the coal? Yes, it's brutish and nasty, but, wow, so much more profitable for your corporation! What's a CEO to do?

Of course, the coal barons have chosen what's euphemistically known as "mountaintop removal." This is why America has regulatory agencies – to restrain such greed-headed destruction. So ... where are the restrainers? Rushing to legalize the sledgehammering of Appalachia.

The Bush administration, at the behest of coal corporations that were generous financial backers of George W., has delivered a new rule to "clarify" a 25-year-old ban on dumping mountaintop rubble into valley streams. This clarification is a shameful semantic sham, declaring that the coal giants "must not" dump their spoil into Appalachia's pristine waters unless the corporations say they must – and even then the profiteers should try to minimize the destruction "to the extent practicable."

This regulatory cave-in was announced by the head of Bush's Council on Environmental Quality. Guess who he is? Bingo, if you said he's a former lobbyist for the coal barons! Why are we not surprised? The new rule will take effect only three weeks before Bush & Co. leave office – a priceless departing gift to brutish decapitators of Appalachia.

You have to see this environmental grotesquerie to comprehend it. To see photos – and to help overturn Bush's giveaway – go to Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition's website at

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.

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economy, mountantop removal, Marc Jacobs, George W. Bush, mountaintop removal, Appalachia, coal, Council on Environmental Quality, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

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