The Hightower Lowdown

A lobbyist "volunteers" for Bush, the WTO plays peek-a-boo in Qatar, and China represses independent unions

Nick Calio's Big Sacrifice

Nick Calio, what a guy!

You don't know Nick, but he's had a big impact on your life, and now he's being hailed by the inside-Washington magazine, National Journal, for making a great personal sacrifice in order to have an even greater impact on your life.

Calio is a lobbyist, having been co-owner of the boutique lobbying shop of O'Brien Calio, located in Washington's infamous K-Street corridor of powerhouse influence peddlers. He's been pulling down about a million big ones a year carrying legislative water for the likes of AT&T, the biotechnology giants, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Business Roundtable, Goodyear, and Motorola.

If you've seen your job knocked down by corporations running away from America to get cheap labor in China, you can thank Nick, for he's spearheaded some of the biggest corporate pushes in Congress to pass their global, cheap-labor agenda. If you've been stiffed by an HMO, thank Nick again, for he's been a key lobbyist for knifing the Patient's Bill of Rights, which would have made his HMO clients responsible for the harm they do to us patients.

So, what's the big sacrifice for which Calio is being celebrated by the insider crowd? He's giving up his lobby shop. Not to do penance for his decade of being a legislative hit man for the corporate mafia -- but to become chief White House lobbyist for George W. Bush! His K-Street colleagues are all misty-eyed because, they say, Nick will be giving up his corporate clients and taking a pay-cut to make the move, pulling down "only" $130,000 a year.

Need a hankie? Some sacrifice. First, his corporate clients are thrilled, since he's bringing them right inside the White House. Second, he'll be their point man there for a couple of years, then he'll step out to form another lobby shop, and grateful corporations will flock to hire someone so connected to the Bushites, making him richer than ever.

Far from making a sacrifice, Calio is just another corporate guy taking us for a ride.

WTO Plays Peek-A-Boo in Qatar

The World Trade Organization is like a two-year-old who thinks if he shuts his eyes real tight, we can't see him.

That's cute in a two-year-old, but definitely not cute behavior for the antidemocratic, autocratic WTO, the global trade entity through which corporations are seeking to establish themselves as supreme sovereigns over workers, the environment, and our own elected governments. This secretive, Geneva-based autocracy, which already has overturned several U.S. laws, has been the focus of a world-wide rebellion against the corporate elite that is running roughshod over We the People and our democratic institutions.

At its 1999 Seattle meeting, the exclusive WTO club was stunned to find itself confronted with 50,000 uninvited guests who ran these elites out of town with their tails tucked between their legs. After that, the WTO began cranking out press releases to polish its image, claiming that it really wants to have "a dialogue" with us peasants, that it really wants to be more open to the world's majority that's been excluded from its decision-making meetings.

Really? Then why has it chosen the tiny, Persian Gulf nation of Qatar for the site of its next international meeting? Short of rocketing its self-selected delegates to the moon, the WTO couldn't have chosen a place less open to ordinary citizens. Qatar is an oil-rich, totalitarian monarchy that does not allow its own people such basic rights as freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of the press. The ruling elite of Qatar do not allow political demonstrations or allow political parties critical of the government. Workers are not allowed to organize, and any citizens group has to register with the government and let security forces monitor its activities.

The WTO can try to hide in Qatar, but we see them, and we see clearly now that they want no participation by the people in their global agenda.

Mr. Cao Pays the Price of 'Free' Trade

Last year, a majority of our Congress critters kowtowed to Motorola, Boeing, and other corporate giants that were demanding that our nation's China policy no longer include an annual congressional review of that thuggish, totalitarian regime's atrocious human rights record. No need to pressure China's dictatorial rulers, corporate lobbyists told Congress, because by engaging them as business partners, mere exposure to the Western morality of our corporate executives would influence their behavior in a more humane direction. I wonder how Cao Maobing feels about this new, gentle approach that Congress adopted?

Mr. Cao, 47, worked in a silk factory, which recently has been cutting the jobs of a lot of workers and refusing to pay the severances and pensions the workers had earned. The government-controlled union was not lifting a finger to help, so Cao became a leader of several hundred angry workers who tried to organize an independent union.

Even though Boeing, Motorola, and others have had lots of "engagement" with their new Chinese partners, not much humaneness seems to have rubbed off, for Cao was rather rudely arrested and hauled off to the No. 4 Psychiatric Hospital in Yancheng. It seems independent unions aren't allowed -- a little technical point that is a big reason our corporations wanted to move our manufacturing jobs over there in the first place.

The director of No. 4 Psychiatric Hospital told The New York Times: "We handled Mr. Cao's case with great care." He said that 17 experts examined the rebellious worker and -- guess what? -- all concluded that he suffers "paranoid psychosis." So he's a prisoner in the hospital. Since no U.S. corporate executive seems to have stepped forward to assert Western morality against this atrocity, Mr. Cao has had to do the best he can: In late January, he began a hunger strike. As a result, human rights groups report that our Chinese business partners have had him forcibly drugged and subjected to electroshock therapy.

Members of Congress, sitting in pampered comfort, blithely preach the ideology of "free trade." But, as Mr. Cao could tell them, there is no "free" trade -- someone always pays.

Jim Hightower's latest book, If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, is available in stores everywhere.
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


Nick Calio, lobbyist, HMO, George W. Bush, WTO, Qatar, China, free trade, unions, Cao Maobing

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

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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