The Hightower Lowdown

by Jim Hightower

Bush's Green Pose

Did you see that picture of Little George Bush when he went to Minnesota to tout his new energy plan? Here's a guy who's known to be dumber than a wood chip, and his handlers put him in front of a whole pile of them! What were they thinking?

Maybe they thought they could fool We the People about what's in George's energy plan, which was written for him by Uncle Dick Cheney and his oil-industry pals. Cheney had been doing a lot of mouthing off about how his energy plan, by God, was gonna be about crude, coal, gas, and nukes -- the stuff of Real Men, not that sissified conservation stuff or those gentrified alternative fuels. We're gonna plunder the tundra, he bellowed on national TV, so get out of my way or I'll run over you with my SUV!

This did not go over well with the viewing public. Even Republicans are not that keen on fossil-fuel dependency, oil-spills, acid rain, or having a nuke plant near their home. So the White House operatives stashed Uncle Dick up in the attic for a while and put the much more congenial George on the road to sell the plan.

They sought to soften the image with a series of photo ops, picturing George at the wood-fueled power plant in Minnesota and at other alternative-fuel sites, while having him mouth the words "conservation," "alternatives," and "balanced energy policy."

The big newspaper and television networks dutifully parroted the White House press releases with headlines like "Bush Balances Drilling With Conservation."

Don't read Bush's lips, read his budget! There the truth is told -- the budgets for alternative fuels and conservation programs are slashed, while nukes and fossil fuels get billions more.

The FTAA Power Grab

First there was GATT, then NAFTA, then WTO -- and, now, a new acronym of globaloney we have to learn about: FTAA.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas embodies the same old globalized greed as the other acronyms. FTAA would give corporations even more supremacy over workers, farmers, our environment, and our democracy than they now have under NAFTA, then extend that power throughout the hemisphere, encompassing 35 nations.

Until April, when thousands of protesters ripped the lid off the FTAA at a meeting of top government officials in Quebec, few even knew this power grab was being planned. Neither Bush nor Gore whispered a word about it in last year's election. The corporate media did nothing to inform the people about the FTAA, even though it has been in the works since 1994.

Government trade officials negotiated this deal in secret. More than 500 global corporations had seats on various "trade advisory committees" that met regularly with the officials, allowing corporations to review and rewrite drafts of the agreement, shaping it to suit their needs. In Argentina, where the final drafting session was held, a corporate group called American Business Forum summoned all the trade officials to come report to them -- and the officials did, dutifully trekking over to get the corporate executives' approval!

No one else was at the negotiating table -- not citizens groups, unions, enviros, human rights advocates, farmers, consumers -- not even members of Congress were allowed to see the drafts, much less alter them.

This anti-democratic collusion is why the protesters in Quebec were putting their bodies on the line. It's not about trade, but the corporate usurpation of our right to self-government.

Biotech Cynicism

The current Champion of Cynicism is the infamous biotechnology industry. Its game is to fool with the DNA of the world's food supply -- putting animal genes into tomatoes, pesticides into corn, etc. They've done this without testing for its long-term impacts on our health and environment, then rushed their products to market without informing the public or even labeling these Frankenfoods. Consumers worldwide are in outraged rebellion, the stocks of these companies are collapsing, and such corporate manipulators as Monsanto are in disgrace. How does the biotech industry plan to salvage its image? By launching a multimillion-dollar PR campaign that exploits the illnesses of impoverished, Third World children.

Their PR weapon is a new product named "Golden Rice," doctored in the labs of European biotech giant Syngenta to produce extra beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. Noting that about 500,000 children go blind each year from Vitamin A deficiency, suddenly the biotech firms saw a killer opportunity to seize the moral high ground and sell their tampered foodstuffs as "medicine." So now we get TV ads with soft-focused shots of poor children and a heart-tugging message that says we must support bio-engineered foods or Third World kids will go blind.

But, wait -- scientists are now pointing out that Golden Rice's humanitarian pitch is a cynical corporate ruse. It turns out that a four-year-old would have to eat at least 27 bowls of this rice every day to get their minimum daily allowance of Vitamin A! Far better, cheaper, and less dangerous, say the scientists, is simply to provide Vitamin A supplements to these children.

Golden Rice is only golden for biotech profiteers -- not for the poor children its purveyors are exploiting.

Jim Hightower's latest book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, is available 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, Dick Cheney, FTAA, globalization, NAFTA, American Business Forum, biotechnology, Monsanto, Syngenta, Golden Rice, Vitamin A

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