The Hightower Lowdown
Hardcore Corporate Action; Hardwired Fashion
So, you're walking on the seedier edge of downtown, along where the strip joints and peep shows are, when you hear a guy go "Psst ... hey buddy, step over here ... wanna see some dirty pictures?"
Hardcore Corporate Action
To your amazement, however, this purveyor of pornography is not some sleazy wretch in a rumpled raincoat, but C. Michael Armstrong, the very polished CEO of AT&T, offering you hot stuff from inside his $3,000 Amalfi suit. And just down the filth-strewn street from him is John Smith of General Motors, Gerald Levin of Time Warner, and even the pious J.W. Marriott of the hotel chain -- all of them prim and proper Republican types ... peddling porn.
It's the sex-video business gone corporate, with some of the biggest blue-chip brand names getting their well-manicured hands all over this $10 billion-a-year action. The New York Times reveals that General Motors now makes $200 million annually from pay-per-view sex films aired through its DirectTV subsidiary -- more money than Hustler magazine's Larry Flynt makes on graphic sex movies.
Likewise, AT&T outsells Playboy in the sex biz, offering a hardcore sex channel called Hot Network that reaches 16 million homes on cable TV, plus selling pay-per-view sex in a million hotel rooms.
The reason that sex sales have moved from the back streets to Wall Street is, of course, because of the one thing corporations truly lust after: profits! "Revenue-wise," says an official with AT&T's cable channel, "it's one of our biggest moneymakers." The corporate purveyors say they're only responding to a market, and that they're not guys with gold chains, but guys with MBAs. Besides, one told the times, we only show "widely accepted sexual activity" on our videos -- no forced bondage or sex with children.
In the new fashion world, sheer style is out and function is in. We're talking about clothing that can talk to you, play music for you, tell you what time it is, and otherwise interact with you. Call me a Luddite, but I'm not sure I want to interact with my clothing. Nonetheless, "wearable electronics" is said to be the next big thing.
For example, The Wall Street Journal reports that Philips, the electronics giant, has teamed up with Levi Strauss to create a windbreaker-style jacket called "ICD+." It comes equipped with a built-in cellular phone, an MP3 player, a headset, and remote controls. The jacket is wired with what Philips and Levi call a PAN -- a "personal area network," which is an electronic circuit with nearly four feet of wires woven directly into the jacket. Various electronic devices can be clipped onto your PAN -- though I personally would not advise wearing the thing in a lightning storm.
You can operate the ICD+ cell phone by simply speaking commands into the collar of the jacket. For example, the jacket phone also receives voice-mail messages, so you can say to your collar: "Read messages." And it will. An exuberant Levi Strauss spokesman says that the ICD+ jacket "becomes like a car with the stereo playing and the car phone ringing."
Ahhh ... progress. This totally wired jacket is yours for only $900. The jacket is only a start -- there are plans for an electronic sports bra that, among other things, would monitor your heart rate. Can an electronic jock strap be far behind?
Ashley Mulroy doesn't have a Ph.D., is not attached to a prestigious research university, and doesn't have a government or corporate grant to finance her work. Ashley is a high school student in Wheeling, W.Va. What she lacks in academic degrees and formal pedigrees, however, she makes up for in the intellectual curiosity that led her to make a remarkable discovery that's likely to have a profound effect on your health and mine.
USA Today reports that Ashley Mulroy has documented that America's water supply has become contaminated with antibiotics. These are the drugs -- like penicillin and tetracycline -- that we count on to fight bacterial infections. If these bacteria-killing drugs are widely dispersed in places like our drinking water, the bacteria will quickly adapt to the drugs, creating species of "superbugs" that are immune to the antibiotics. This means that if you get infected by the "superbugs," the antibiotics won't work -- and you'll die.
Ashley Mulroy read an article about European water supplies being "drugged" with antibiotics. Hmmmm, she wondered, is our water drugged, too? With the help of her mother, she launched a 10-week science project taking water samples along several miles of the Ohio River near her hometown. Sure enough, she found antibiotics in the water, with the highest concentrations near dairy and livestock farms, which use the antibiotics to help fatten their animals.
Ashley went further, testing tap water in Wheeling and nearby towns. Again, antibiotics were coming out of the taps, including her school's drinking fountain. Forty percent of the antibiotics used in America go not to humans, but simply to fatten livestock and fatten the profits of industrialized agribusiness.
Jim Hightower's latest book, If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, is available in stores everywhere.