The Hightower Report
Simmering Water War; and Vote and Run
Simmering Water War
Here in Texas, we're suffering from withdrawal pains.
This is caused by our addiction not to alcohol or drugs – but to plain water. And to make our pain worse, it's not the people of Texas who are hooked on a destructive water habit – it's the boneheaded executives and greed-headed investors in coal-fired and nuclear-powered plants that generate electricity.
And don't laugh at Texas, for the same corporate addiction is draining the freshwater supplies in other parts of the country as well. Question: Which uses more water – your washing machine chugging out one load of laundry, or the power plant that provides the few kilowatts of electricity needed to heat the water for that one load? No contest. The power plant uses as much as 10 times more water to make the electricity that you use to fill your machine.
It doesn't have to be this way. Solar and wind alternatives use almost no water to produce electricity – an advantage that today's "clean coal" hucksters and nuclear speculators don't want you or your Congress critters to realize. Indeed, their lobbyists are pushing hard at both national and state levels to get regulatory breaks and taxpayer subsidies to let these voracious giants keep mainlining our nation's water.
Private interests now want to build four new water-sucking power plants in our state – even though Texas already produces far more electricity than it needs. Where would they get the billions of gallons of water they would use each year? From the Colorado River, draining it and the region's Highland Lakes of the essential and scarce H2O that supplies millions of people in the Austin area and downstream.
Wherever you live, it's time for a citizens' intervention to break this costly habit. For information and action tips, contact Public Citizen Texas at www.texasvox.org.
Vote and Run
Given the media's preoccupation with tea party politicking and with the full force of raw corporate power suffocating our democracy, you probably haven't heard that many beacons of progressive hope are shining brightly from America's grassroots.
These efforts show that well-organized alley cats can defeat the big money of the fat cats. Check out New Jersey, where the state AFL-CIO is getting its rank-and-file members not merely to support good candidates but to become candidates.
For the past dozen years, Jersey's federation of working families has been recruiting, training, supporting – and electing – its own members to state and local offices. In a state where campaigns routinely cost millions of dollars, the AFL-CIO spends a modest $250,000 a year to run a political boot camp that schools ordinary folks to be successful candidates. More than 160 of New Jersey's current officeholders – including the state Senate president – are union members elected through this grassroots program. Boot-camp attendees learn the how-tos of speaking, media outreach, fundraising, and other basic democratic skills, all focused not just on winning but on enacting public policies to advance the middle class.
"We started with zoning boards, school boards, councils, then mayor, freeholder, and then senators and assemblyman," says the AFL-CIO president. "[We] take our members and apprentice them in the field of politics, just as we apprentice them in their own crafts." As a result, labor is no longer is a hapless outside group trying to persuade corporate-backed officeholders to do the right thing for workaday people but is now an inside player with real power to help set the state's policy agenda.