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We guess we shouldn’t have been surprised to find the Bush administration cuddling up with the mining industry again this past week. But when the famous jewelry store Tiffany & Co. took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post to call for reform of the 1872 mining law, we hoped that the administration might respond thoughtfully.

The antiquated law contains no environmental provisions, meaning taxpayers are frequently left to clean up the messes that mining companies leave behind. As Tiffany Chairman Michael Kowalski said in his open letter to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, the law provides a “perverse incentive for mining in wilderness areas, near scenic watersheds, around important cold water fisheries, and in other fragile ecosystems—all of which are inappropriate for mineral development.”

As Exhibit A for what’s wrong with the law, Tiffany’s pointed to the government’s decision to allow a mining company to tunnel beneath northwest Montana’s pristine Cabinet Mountains wilderness to extract copper and silver.

The Bushies quickly sent Mark Rey,the undersecretary for natural resources and the environment for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to rebuke Tiffany’s and to carry the industry’s water.

Rey contended against the preponderance of evidence that the mine project is environmentally safe. And even if it isn’t, Rey asked Tiffany’s, won’t it be better than the alternative, which is to mine in undeveloped countries that lack any environmental protections?

We have a question of our own. Why does Rey sound like an industry flack? Maybe it’s because he has been one for nearly his entire public life.

Rey has dedicated his career to advancing the profit-making agenda of the timber industry. He lobbied from 1976 to 1994 for the National Forest Products Association, the American Forest Resource Alliance and the American Forest and Paper Association—all groups whose sole purpose is to promote the timber industry.

From 1995 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, Rey was a top aide for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, working closely with Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho and Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens of Alaska to promote logging interests above all others.

Rey’s performance of the past week shows he’s obviously chummy with the mining industry, too. We wonder how much he cares about the public interest.

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The temperature in the office of the Montana Human Rights Network recently approached Fahrenheit 451 when the network purchased over 4,000 hate books of dubious provenance from a disaffected former member of the World Church of the Creator for $300. Now, we here at the Indy aren’t rushing out to pick up a copy of The White Man’s Bible, however, as firm believers in the Bill of Rights and the marketplace of ideas, we do recognize the book’s right to exist. The typical response to such books is to write one of your own pointing out the absurdities of the white supremacy movement. The Human Rights Network, however, chose to give the books to Helena sculptor Tim Holmes, who has begun impaling them with spikes as a form of “art,” as reported in the Missoulian. We were sure we’d find an ally in defending even odious free speech at the Montana ACLU, but Executive Director Scott Crichton showed little concern.

“Chris[tine] Kaufman [of the Montana Human Rights Network] told me, ‘We thought about burning them, but figured you guys would object to that,’” Crichton says.

Hence, the “art” was born.

“How clever,” says Crichton of the HRN’s end-run around flat-out book burning. Regardless, the Montana ACLU, he says, is more concerned with federal government attacks on civil liberties than with hate literature.

Man, if the ACLU isn’t going to defend your right to print disgusting ideas, who’s left?

Oh yeah…us.

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