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Tom Turner's blog

Have they no shame? (Hint: No.)

We speak of the current band of varlets and scoundrels just ending their eight-year reign of terror in our nation's capital. With both presidential candidates lambasting Mr. Bush and his henchmen daily, the lame ducks are hell-bent on wreaking as much havoc as they can in these last not-quite-three-months of their joyride.

So the fate of the Roadless Rule is now in the hands of three judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, at least its immediate fate, following a hearing this week in San Francisco.

The Forest Service, represented by the Justice Department, wants the three judges to overturn a Sept. 2006 decision that found the rule the Bush administration cooked up to replace the original rule illegal.

The late Dan Luten was sneakily brilliant, somewhat iconoclastic, and possibly a maverick had that word not been so debased lately. In his fifties, he left a job as a chemist with Shell Oil to teach geography at Cal and became deeply involved in conservation. He served on the board of Friends of the Earth, which is how I got to know him pretty well.

One bon mot he tossed off that stuck with me was, "The country does not exist to serve its economy."

Chevron has long been a leader in image advertising, spending an immense amount of money on print and television ads explaining to the public just how utterly wonderful the company is. Years ago, their tag line was "People Do," in answer to rhetorical questions like, "Do people really care what happens to our precious wetlands? People do." These tended to appear when the company was angling for permission to drill wells in sensitive marshes.

It's not all that often that front-rank political leaders call for civil disobedience, but that's just what Al Gore did in New York on September 24 at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. "I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration," the ex-veep and planetary crusader said, "to loud applause," according to Reuters.

Earthjustice has been accused of being many things, including preferring birds over people (which reminds me of a fine old quote. Charles Callison, a stalwart of the Audubon Society, was once asked whether he liked people or birds better. He said, "I like the people who like birds.").

I heard Al Gore on "NPR Science Friday" a few weeks back talking about what it would take to get us out of the climate catastrophe that's bearing down on us. The biggest single step, he said, would be to convert the entire U.S. vehicle fleet to electricity. He said that is possible within 10 years if we—industry and government in the main—mount an effort akin to what we did for World War II.

All well and good, but government and industry almost never move that fast.

Until now. The Wall Street-mortgage-Fannie-Freddie-Merrill-AIG-who's-next crisis has politicians, bureaucrats, and captains of industry moving faster than they ever have before, and we're about to see a $700 billion bailout that may not even work.

Just think if those same forces took the climate crisis seriously enough to do something similar on that score. We could turn the climate mess around in Al Gore's 10 years, easy. And everyone would be the better for it, including Wall Street.

Judge Clarence Brimmer of the federal district court in Wyoming must feel a bit under siege. He's doing battle with two other federal district court judges, one in San Francisco, the other in Washington, DC. Judges are encouraged to respect each other's opinions—it's called comity, otherwise known as courtesy or deference—and comity is taking a bit of a beating these days.

A few weeks ago we wrote of a former Earthjustic law clerk, Jamie Saul, who was blackballed out of a job at the Department of Justice because he favored vigorous enforcement of environmental laws. Maybe blackballed is the wrong word—he applied for a job and didn't get it for reasons that were certainly improper and possibly illegal.

The DoJ looked into such hiring practices in the wake over the scandal over the firing of several U.S. attorneys for what sure look like political reasons. Turns out politics infected decisions involving more than U.S. attorneys.

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