The Hightower Lowdown
The media buys the Pentagon's lies, W can't keep his free-market ideology straight, and biotechnology brings us Frankenpigs.
What is it about the media powerhouses that make them such suckers for Pentagon fairy tales?
The Pentagon-Media Complex
One would think that multibillion-dollar media giants (from CBS to CNN, The New York Times to The Washington Post) would bring at least a smidgen of journalistic skepticism to the Pentagon's incredible claims about its technological prowess. Yet, you might recall that during the Gulf War a decade ago, the media gullibly swallowed the military's daily press assertions that some 99% of our whiz-bang, computer-guided missiles were on target against Saddam Hussein's forces. Months later it had to be admitted that these gushing reports were slightly misleading -- indeed, about 90% of the missiles had missed their targets.
Recently the Pentagon put out another whopper ... and once again the media barons swallowed it whole, then regurgitated it to us as truth. At issue was a widely ballyhooed test of the razzle-dazzle, video-arcade, anti-missile-defense scheme known as Star Wars. The Bush team is determined to dump about 160 billion of our tax dollars into this boondoggle, even though it's so technologically flawed that military experts think it's silly.
So, the Bushites and their corporate partners scheduled a test in July in which a "bad guy" missile was fired at the U.S. and our "good guy" missile was launched to shoot it down in mid-air. Sure enough, the Pentagon claimed that this technological impossibility had worked, asserting that our "good guy" blasted the "bad guy" out of the sky. "Success," shrieked the media in union with the Pentagon.
Only now have we learned from watchdog groups that the July test was rigged -- our "good guy" missile was programmed with information about the time and location of the "bad guy" launch, and the "bad guy" even had a beacon in it to guide the "good guy" to it.
It's hard to take the media establishment seriously about anything as long as it continues to act as a straight man for the jokesters of the military-industrial complex.
One thing you can say about George W. Bush is that he is unencumbered by any considerations of consistency.
His energy policy offers a telling example of how facile W is at making a statement based on an ideological absolute, then gaily skipping away to take an action that is wholly inconsistent with the ideology. Consider the recent gathering in Genoa of the "Group of Eight" industrial nations, where Bush stood alone against a proposal to help a billion people in impoverished lands get electrical power from clean, low-cost, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. Bush's opposition was about principle, the White House solemnly declared, asserting that George believes deeply that the market, rather than the government, should decide what kind of energy is used worldwide.
But look at W's energy plan: It gives massive government subsidies to the coal, nuclear, and oil & gas industries, giving them a huge competitive advantage over renewable fuels.
Nuclear power gets a $4.4 billion handout from George, coal gets $7 billion, and the oil & gas gang is on the Bush dole for a whopping $24 billion. The nuclear subsidy is an especially offensive dollop of corporate welfare, for this is an unsound, highly contaminating, costly, and notoriously dangerous source of energy that has never been able to make it in the marketplace. Yet George the Free Marketer wants to intrude with billions of our tax dollars to prop it up.
Of course, Bush really is nothing if not consistent, for he consistently does whatever is wanted by the energy giants that have put millions of dollars into his personal business and his campaign pockets.
The latest product of the mad science of biotechnology is a new critter that industry had dubbed: Enviropig. Though you might call it Frankenpig. Corporate hog producers working with Canadian scientists have financed development of a genetically altered porker that produces a more environmentally friendly manure. Manure is a big barrier to the expansion of massive hog factories, because swine excrete excessively, the excretion is especially stinky, and it contaminates rivers and our other water supplies, killing fish and causing health problems.
For years, the hog industrialists have sought a scientific fix, and now the biotech DNA manipulators have spliced the genes of mice and -- get this -- E. coli bacteria into pig genes. The result is a pig that they say can digest the polluting phosphorous that comes in its feed ration, rather than excreting the phosphorous, which normally would then run from these huge hog factories into area water supplies.
One of the lab guys who did the hocus pocus said, "We're hoping everyone will be pleased with this animal." The industry is so pleased that it rushed out to trademark the Enviropig name, hoping everyone will be fooled into thinking everything is now hunky dory. But hold your herd of Frankenpigs right there. Phosphorous is hardly the only contaminant in pig runoff. There's still the stench and health threat of airborne contaminants, and there's the little matter of the long-term human health and environmental consequences of adding mouse and E. coli genes to pigs.
The answer to pig pollution is not scientific quick fixes, but sustainable agriculture based on small family farmers, rather than massive concentrations of animals in confined factory operations.
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.