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The Hightower Report

George W.'s corporate scolding reeks of hypocrisy; the Pentagon buys into Hollywood.

By Jim Hightower, Fri., July 19, 2002


Just Another Corporate Greedhead

Here's yet another story of those at the top of the corporate pyramid getting insider information, then selling off their own holdings of the company's stock -- just before the stock price crashes. As usual, this big shot walked away with a slick profit and a wink, while small investors and company employees took a bath.

Such stories are commonplace in corporate America these days, but what makes this one so extraordinary is the name of the big shot. It's not Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers ... or even Martha Stewart. This slick operator is none other than the guy who has lately been so loudly scolding CEOs for being greedheads: George W. Bush!

In 1986, George was a twice-failed businessman, having gone bust in two oil ventures. But a group of New York investors bailed him out of his financial mess by buying his failed company and putting him on the board of their company, Harken Oil and Gas. They liked having the son of the then-vice president, Bush the Elder, on their board as star power. They gave Little George a batch of Harken stock and paid him $120,000 a year to be a board member.

Four years later, on June 22, 1990, Bush suddenly sold all of his Harken stock for $835,000 in personal profit. Only eight days later, the audit committee of Harken's board disclosed that the company had suffered huge losses, and the price of Harken's stock promptly plummeted. When asked later if he had used insider information to enrich himself while common investors were unaware that they were about to get whacked, George W. said he "had no idea" that the audit report was going to be awash in red ink.

George's denial might have been more credible except for one thing: He sat on the board's audit committee.

While Harken was small compared to Enron, WorldCom and the others, George W. Bush's personal, self-serving ethical failure was just as big as theirs was.


Operation Hollywood

It was an all-out assault on the enemy, with the full apparatus of America's military machine deployed from the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy, as well as the CIA. B-52 bombers were in on the action, as were F-16 fighter jets, Marine and Army helicopters, ground troops, and even the USS Stennis, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a crew of 5,000. The target: you and me.

This massive military deployment was not for an assault on Afghanistan or Iraq, but for the Pentagon's propaganda assault on the American public. In this case, our tax-paid troops and hardware were made available to Paramount Pictures for its new movie, The Sum of All Fears -- a rah-rah, super-patriotic bit of fictional fluff based on a Tom Clancy thriller. Paramount was charged less than a million bucks for this multimillion-dollar giveaway of government equipment and personnel.

Why the bargain-basement deal and the use of our military for something as trivial as a profit-making venture by a Hollywood producer? Because Paramount agreed to polish the Pentagon's image, producing a script to the liking of the government's propaganda officials. There's no open and equal access to these public resources by moviemakers -- only those whose scripts are deemed sufficiently pro-Pentagon by the military censors get the goodies.

Even the right-wing CATO Institute, normally a gung-ho military cheerleader, is appalled, saying that the administration is "doling out subsidies to people who toe the government line." Indeed, the CIA now maintains a "Hollywood liaison" at its Langley headquarters, and there is a "special assistant for entertainment media" at the Pentagon. Using our money, their job is to turn the entertainment industry into a medium for selling Bush & Company's war agenda.

Government has no business funding Hollywood to propagandize the public! To help defund this, call the Priorities Project: 413/584-9556.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, call toll free 866/271-4900. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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