The Hightower Lowdown

Bush's 'Real, Live Americans'; Nike's 'Freedom to Choose'

Bush's 'Real, Live Americans'

George W. Bush is cute when he lies, isn't he? His latest whopper was in the form of a warm and fuzzy photo op that his handlers staged for him outside the White House. The purpose of this media event was to convince you that his $1.6 trillion tax cut is all about helping the regular Joes and Janes of America. And there they were, not one or two Joes and Janes, but 21 families trotted out for the TV cameras. George got all gushy, referring to his props as "real, live Americans," and saying with a straight face that these folks are the ones he wants to help with his tax giveaway.

But where were the dot-com gabillionaires, the corporate CEOs, and the Wall Street elite? Why not a photo op with the jet set, the wealthiest 1% of Americans who'll pocket nearly half of Bush's giveaway -- not getting a few hundred bucks, but a few hundred thousand bucks each? Wasn't Bush the guy who promised last year that he'd bring a new honesty to Washington?

Here's the honesty that he practices away from the cameras: After he had cheerfully posed outside the White House with his collection of "real, live Americans," George went inside to have lunch, not with the 21 families, but with 22 corporate executives and lobbyists. The honchos of Gap, General Mills, and the National Association of Manufacturers were among those getting a free lunch at the White House and a private tête-ô-tête with the president, urging that while Bush is cutting their personal taxes, he should whack corporate taxes too.

George W's idea of honesty is to put working families out front while he's in the back room giving away the national treasury to his wealthy pals.

Nike's 'Freedom to Choose'

Nike Inc. made an offer that Jonah Peretti couldn't refuse.

Actually, the offer was made to all Nike customers: Buy a pair of its pricey shoes and, for a fee, the company will personalize your shoes by stitching any name, word, or phrase you want under the Nike swoosh. It's called the "Nike ID" program, which the company Web site advertises as being "about freedom to choose and freedom to express who you are."

Peretti sent in his money and the word he wanted -- only to get back a form letter stating that his Personal ID was rejected for one or more of the following reasons: (1) it contains someone else's trademark, (2) it contains the name of an athlete whose name is not licensed to Nike, or (3) it contains profanity or inappropriate slang.

Peretti resubmitted his word choice to Nike. The word was "sweatshop." He politely pointed out the word is not a trademark, an athlete's name, or profanity. He wrote: "I chose the ID because I wanted to remember the toil of the children who made my shoes. Could you please ship them to me immediately? Thanks and Happy New Year."

Nike sent another rejection letter, this one asserting that "sweatshops" was inappropriate slang. Undaunted, Peretti wrote back, saying that in Webster's Dictionary, "I discovered that sweatshop is in fact part of standard English, and not slang. The word means, 'a shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages and under unhealthy conditions.'" That's the very definition of many Nike factories in China, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Peretti asked again for his personalized shoes.

Once again, Nike said no, claiming that small print on its Web site allows it to reject any "material we consider inappropriate or simply do not want to place on our products."

Nike gives its customers about as little real freedom as it gives its sweatshops workers.

Hiding the Frankenfoods

Does the American public want corporations to have to label their genetically manipulated food products? Since Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, and other global biotech giants have tampered with the very DNA structure of about a third of the food products in the supermarket, and since this altering of the genes of corn, potatoes, soybeans, tomatoes, and other edibles has been done without testing the long-term impacts it will have on human health, the environment, or our food supply itself -- the answer to the question is not "yes," but "Hell yes, you Frankenfood greedheads!"

It's just common sense. We Americans want to know what's in the food we feed our families -- how much saturated fat, what kind of chemicals, and -- yes -- whether some laboratory geeks have put mouse genes in the French fries. The Food and Drug Administration, however, is a stranger to common sense. It has allowed these altered, dangerous foods to go on the market without even telling the buying public. Because much of the public has learned about it and is rightly steamed, however, the FDA belatedly decided to ask the public the obvious question, commissioning a series of 12 focus groups and soliciting tens of thousands of consumer comments.

Big surprise; the 15-page, internal report concludes: "Virtually all participants said that bioengineered foods should be labeled as such." Furthermore, the FDA report notes that "most participants expressed great surprise that food biotechnology has become so pervasive in the US food supply ... [and] outrage that such a change in the food supply could happen without them knowing about it."

Well, duh! Now FDA knows the obvious -- yet it's doing nothing to require labeling. Congress can make FDA do it, though, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich is pushing a bill to make labeling mandatory. To help pass it, call his office: 202/225-5871.

Jim Hightower's latest book, If The Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, has just been released in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.
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.

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George W. Bush, tax cut, Nike, Jonathan Peretti, sweatshop, Frankenfood, genetic engineering, labeling, FDA, Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis

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