The Hightower Lowdown

The Firestone Tire / Ford conspiracy; genetically engineered corn and StarLink; WTO's complaints about citizens

Murder on the Highway

This is another story about murder. Not merely a single killing, but a story about: ... a serial killer.

What should we do with this S.O.B.? We're talking about more than 100 people already killed, plus some 400 who've been injured in attempted murder! What a fiendish, diabolical, sick character we're dealing with! This is Jeffrey Dahmer without the compassion. How do you punish someone who's killed so many? The hoosegow, the noose, the juice? Or -- maybe just a fine. Or, nothing.

In this case, the serial killer is the tag-team duo of Firestone Inc. and Ford Motor Company. Corporate criminals. Their weapon: tires. The Firestone tires that Ford put on its SUVs were fatally flawed, a little fact that apparently was known to top executives of both corporations. "There is no question the companies knew they had a problem," said former Highway Traffic Safety administrator Joan Claybrook. "But they kept it a secret."

In essence, Firestone and Ford stalked their victims. Claybrook, now the head of the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, notes that numerous internal documents show that Firestone executives have known since 1996 that their tires were failing on the road, yet they continued to tell the public, government officials, and Ford that everything was okay. But Ford also knew early on that the tires were failing -- the company even issued recalls in Mideast and South American countries in 1999, yet it did not inform U.S. regulators or customers.

We're dealing with a nasty piece of work here: First, Firestone and Ford callously hid the truth, not wanting to eat the cost of a massive tire recall; second, they continued to profit from new sales of the Firestone-equipped Fords; and third, they knew that innocent people were dying.

Why aren't the Ford and Firestone CEOs in jail on murder charges?

Shut Up and Eat Your Cornflakes

Would you like to have your morning corn flakes served with milk, fruit, and bug killer -- or would you just as soon pass on the bug killer?

Unfortunately, if Aventis Inc. gets its way, you might not have a choice. This biotech seed conglomerate, based in France, sells a genetically altered corn seed that it calls StarLink. The company's bioengineers have genetically inserted into these seeds a protein that acts as a pesticide, killing bugs that feed on corn plants. Such tampering with Mother Nature can have consequences, of course, and one of the human health problems posed by this pesticide-spiked corn is that it might prompt allergic reactions in our bodies -- reactions ranging from rashes to a fatal case of shock.

Because of this risk, the EPA has approved StarLink corn only for animal feed, not for human consumption. But -- whoops -- there was no labeling and tracking of the altered corn, which was planted by U.S. farmers on 350,000 acres this year. So, instead of going strictly to animal feed, StarLink corn has become mixed into our food supply. Aventis faces a $100 million loss if it has to recall all of this crop from grain elevators, food processors, and supermarkets.

But, wait -- Aventis has a better idea! It has asked the EPA simply to grant its pesticide-contaminated corn a special four-year approval for human consumption. This is perfect! The corporation won't have to eat a big loss, the industry won't have to fuss with a recall, and within four years the corn will have worked its way through the marketing system. The only downside is that the StarLink corn also will work its way through your system. But, hey, you're just a consumer, so shut up and eat your corn flakes.

If you don't want your family to be experimented on just for the convenience of biotech food manipulators, call the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods: 425/771-4049.

A WTO Sob Story

Get ready to cry. I've got a story for you today that's so heart-wrenching, you're likely to sob at the overwhelming sadness of it all.

It's about the WTO: the World Trade Organization, that seeks to enthrone itself, on behalf of its global corporate backers, as the sovereign ruler of the world's workers, farmers, environment, and even governments. Without consulting the citizens of the world, this secretive, autocratic, and arrogant trade kingdom has been established as the enforcer of Rambo corporatism in every corner of the globe, including in your neighborhood.

But -- and this is the sad part -- the WTO has the blues. It seems that We the People are not showing the proper respect, and even love, that the organization's hierarchy feels it merits. It was especially hurt by the effrontery of having 50,000 people show up uninvited to protest the WTO's anti-democratic policies at its 1999 meeting in Seattle. The New York Times reports that the leaders still feel the personal pain of that public comeuppance, and that morale is low inside the organization's opulent headquarters in Geneva. Even Mike Moore, director general of the WTO, is looking "tired" and complaining about "public abuse," says the Times.

Now, don't you feel terrible? You've made Mike feel bad! Here's a guy who's just doing his job of helping corporations that want to overturn national and state laws they don't like, to privatize the natural resources of entire nations, to shop the globe for even cheaper sweatshop labor, to shove indigenous farmers off their ancestral lands, etc. Yet, poor baby, Mike gets no appreciation from you people. This is especially hard on him now, because he's seeking a 20% increase in the WTO's budget for next year -- money that comes from the pockets of us taxpayers.

Instead of giving Mike more money, let's all just join in singing a round of "All You Need Is Love." Then let's withdraw from the WTO.

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

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Donald Show

Jim Hightower, July 10, 2015

The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The damning nuttiness of the GOP's "Hell No" faction

Jim Hightower, Aug. 15, 2014


Firestone, Ford, Genetic Engineering, StarLink, Aventis, WTO

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle