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News & Columns

Hot Spots

By Holly Mullen
Posted // July 11,2007 -

It’s time to take to the streets, storm the Bastille, or at least get really, vocally angry. Do I count you in?

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No one could blame us for an utter and very public meltdown. We could pin it on the scorching temperature, which at this midmorning moment is already 90 degrees. Those vicious little bars on the television weather graphics keep showing temps climbing past 100'into the coming week and God only knows how far beyond.

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Forest fires are ravaging Utah’s juniper and sage-spotted sanctuaries. Our air smells like one big Texas community barbecue. And if that isn’t enough to get you surly, there is always:

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George W. Bush.

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Just when it seems life under this president can’t get any worse, when millions of Americans have resigned themselves to counting down his final months in office and gutting it out, his boys start telling us the troop surge in Iraq may have been a little less, uh, effective than promised.

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Blame those damned Iraqis, who simply haven’t fallen down and embraced us and who insist on treating U.S. forces like an occupying army. White House press secretary Tony Snow said this week that it would be “unfair” to expect that all political, economic and security benchmarks for the fledgling Iraqi government be met. The deployment of all those additional troops, after all, has barely been completed.

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We’re told to lower our expectations. Drop the bar. That way, Americans won’t be too enraged when a preliminary report on the surge’s success (or lack thereof) comes out on July 15. A comprehensive analysis from the field comes due Sept. 15.

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Meanwhile, the center isn’t holding on the domestic front so well, either. This week, Bush invoked executive privilege for the second time in his feud with Congress over the attorney general’s firing of nine federal prosecutors for what Democrats allege were purely political reasons. It wasn’t exactly a surprise that Bush took the advice of his lawyer and refused to comply with congressional subpoenas for testimony of former top aides Sara M. Taylor and Harriet Miers. Bush is becoming a master of obstructionist policies almost on the level of Richard Nixon, whose use of executive privilege during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s ended in a showdown at the Supreme Court.

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It’s been a while since we’ve had a good test of the constitutional separation of powers. Perhaps it’s time. Bush has yet to grasp the concept that Democrats took control in Washington this year. The uncontested reign he held for six years over the other co-equal branches of government is fizzling out.

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Depending on which poll you choose to believe, Bush’s popularity now hovers around 29 percent, beat only by President Harry Truman, who scraped bottom at 22 percent. With numbers that low, it’s a wonder Bush can still get a seat at his family’s Sunday dinner table.

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What other rage has the record-breaking heat brought on?

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How about a report from the front on further evidence of global warming?

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Salt Lake City resident Rick Reese just returned to town from his second home in Gardiner, Mont., which sits at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Reese, a longtime activist for open space, helped found the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Coalition in 1997. He is a former director of the Yellowstone Institute, an interpretive center promoting education about the park, and founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, an advocacy organization for the protection of the park’s ecosystem.

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Along with the rest of the West, Montana has been gripped by crippling summer heat. Unbelievable summer heat. Bozeman'a bustling college town where people once boasted no need for air conditioning'topped out at 106 degrees on July 7. The previous record was 103.

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Reese knows Yellowstone. He is arguably one of the foremost authorities on the park’s climate, topography and wildlife. Reese was shattered to learn last week that park administrators had asked visitors to voluntarily refrain from fishing in approximately 80 percent of the area’s fishable waters.

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What? No fishing? In Yellowstone?

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Fish were dying under the stress of unseasonable heat.

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“Hundreds of fish were found floating belly-up in the Firehole [River],” Reese tells me. At the world-renowned Firehole, a classic spot for fly-fishing fed by natural hot springs, water temperature this time of year normally runs in the mid-40-degree range. Last week the river measured 73 degrees.

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Who would have thought the Firehole would compete with Lake Powell for bathtub temperatures?

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No mandatory fishing bans were put in place at Yellowstone, but Reese says he won’t be surprised if it comes to that sometime. Climate change, global warming, whatever we deign to call it; the physical signs are all around. None of which can be good for the park and the towns around it that depend on tourism for their survival.

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Meantime, fires blanket the state and the days get even hotter. I’m telling you, it’s enough to make you want to storm the Bastille, isn’t it? Or at least to run wild in the streets.

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Liberty, equality, fraternity! Are you mad enough yet?

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More Mullen: Mullentown.com

 
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