- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2010

DISHING THE DIRT

Earth Day has gone from a modest but well-intentioned day of tree-hugging into a multibillion-dollar extravaganza, with the White House setting the pace and the agenda. It’s all about green jobs, large-scale building retrofits and stimulus funds rather than neighborhood cleanups or family gardens. Nine Cabinet secretaries will host Earth Day events over the next five days around the nation - including the Mall, where the official Earth Day Climate Rally erupts on Sunday.

Organized by the Earth Day Network, the rally is partnered with the State Department and sponsored by NASA. It counts Al Gore, Barbra Streisand and Leonardo DiCaprio among its “advisers” and is pushing a petition to present to Congress that calls for a comprehensive energy/climate bill. The Rev. Jesse Jackson,“Avatar” director James Cameron and AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka are among the speakers.

But how big is the Obama version of Earth Day? Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. himself has revealed which 25 communities get a cut of $452 million in Recovery Act funding. Forty million dollars, for example, goes to the New York State Partnership for Innovative Financing of Energy Efficiency Retrofits “to create large-scale, sustainable approaches to financing energy retrofits.” Another $25 million goes to the Chicago Region Retrofit Ramp-up program to “establish a set of comprehensive initiatives that will facilitate the transition to an efficient building retrofit market in both the residential and commercial sectors.”

Wait, what?

The White House says these multiple projects “are expected” ultimately to save $100 million in utility costs a year and create 30,000 jobs. But inquiring minds want to know: Are the retrofitting building materials for these projects made in the U.S.? Does it matter that Philips, which manufactures compact fluorescent bulbs, is an Earth Day rally sponsor? And who gets those “green” jobs?

“It used to be when the construction trades and the building trades would support us, when we’d say, ‘green’ that meant, oh, God, the snail darter. We’re not going to have a building, we’re not going to build a dam,” Mr. Biden says. “People are beginning to understand green means a cleaner economy, and green means jobs, ‘green’. Green means economic advancement across the board.”

REALITY CHECK

Not to be overlooked: It was Richard Nixon who was in office during the first Earth Day celebration; he facilitated the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts and the conversion of more than 80,000 acres of government property into national parks during his term of office.

Three former Nixon administration heavyweights offer proof of it all Thursday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. One-time urban and environmental policy adviser Chris DeMuth; the first EPA administrator, William D. Ruckelshaus; and former Undersecretary of the Interior John C. Whitaker will discuss “the original goals of the first Earth Day celebration” and “President Nixon’s ambitious environmental agenda.”

The event can be seen live online at www.nixonfoundation.org from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. - and that’s Pacific time, so plan accordingly.

REALITY CHECK 2

“Want to live more sustainably? Just don’t buy stuff,” advises the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, which polled students and faculty to find that “reducing consumption” topped their list of must-do behaviors for the eco-conscious. It trumped suggestions to eat less meat and more local produce or to bike and walk rather than drive.

“In plain English, just don’t buy stuff when you shop. Just look,” says Chad Dawson, professor of wilderness and forest recreation management.

BLESSED TEA PARTY?

Longtime conservative maven Richard Viguerie recently suggested thatthe “tea party” may have a little help from the proverbial big man upstairs, noting, “God may have given America one last chance to restore the vision of our Founding Fathers and empower citizens over their government.”

Sen. Jim DeMint agrees that there is spiritual dynamic at work among the grass-roots folks who pine for fewer taxes, smaller government and a return to traditional values.

“A lot of the motivation behind the tea-party crowds has a spiritual component,” Mr. DeMint told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Wednesday, noting that the fervor of faith and Judeo-Christian values definitely were driving the American Revolution back in the day.

“I’ve waded into a lot of the tea-party crowds. I don’t hear a lot about fiscal issues. I hear them say, “I’m praying for you. Thanks for fighting,” he continued, adding, “We’re going to see a parallel spiritual revival that goes along with this.”

JUST SO YOU KNOW

Congressional pay has grown 15 times faster than Social Security checks, says the Senior Citizens League, noting, “Seniors who retired in 1990 with the average Social Security benefit have seen their annual payments increase by just $4,967 over the past 20 years. During the same time period, members of Congress have awarded themselves pay raises totaling $77,400 per year - a whopping 1,458 percent more than seniors.”

“This is a perfect example of the two types of rules we’ve gotten too used to seeing - those that politicians make for themselves, and those they make for the rest of us,” says Daniel O’Connell, chairman of the nonpartisan group.

POLL DU JOUR

19 percent of Americans say President Obama should nominate a “very conservative” candidate for Supreme Court justice.

• 19 percent hope that person will be “somewhat conservative.”

• 37 percent hope for a “moderate.”

• 17 percent want someone who is “somewhat liberal.”

• 8 percent hope for someone “very liberal.”

• 61 percent say Mr. Obama will nominate a liberal, 16 percent say he will opt for a conservative.

Source: A CNN/Opinion Research poll of 1,006 adults conducted April 9-11.

c Lofty oratory and blustery statements to jharper@ washington times.com

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