The Hightower Lowdown

Hypocritical corporate "patriotism"; Congress declares war on civil liberties; Congressmen spend for our country.

Corporate Patriotism?

Corporate America has been running a blizzard of patriotic ads since September 11, wrapping their corporate corpus with our flag, shouting "God Bless America," and declaring "United We Stand!" But are they really with us?

Some of today's most ostentatious corporate flag-wavers are the very global giants that just weeks ago were insisting that they owe allegiance to no nation, but instead are "borderless" entities that rise above America's national interests, with loyalty only to their multinational investors. For example, in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist Bill Greider tells us that Colgate-Palmolive, which grew to enormous prosperity in our country, now says: "The United States does not have an automatic call on our resources. There is no mindset that puts this country first."

Where do you suggest that Colgate-Palmolive take its mindset?

For the past two decades, the corporations now energetically draping themselves in bunting have been abandoning America's workers and communities, hanging such self-serving, job-destroying, sovereignty-busting albatrosses as NAFTA, WTO, and the new Free Trade Area of the Americas around our necks. General Motors, GE, Boeing, Motorola, and Dell are among the brand-name, global hot shots that have shucked the red-white-and-blue and moved their capital, jobs, and loyalty offshore. Some, like GE and Boeing, have not only offed America but have demanded that their suppliers also abandon our country.

These corporate empires have moved millions of jobs out of our country, but now, America is hurting. We've lost some 700,000 more jobs since September 11. Our economy is tanking. Now is the time for these giants to put their muscle behind their patriotic rhetoric.

Come home, Corporate America! In this time of crisis and hurt, don't just fly the flag, bring jobs back to America ... and give us a reason to be proud of you.

Another Assault on America

Foreign terrorists are not the only ones assaulting Americans. Try our own Congress.

In a furious haste, trying to posture politically and look like they were "doing something" about stopping terrorism, our Washington lawmakers have just rammed a liberty-crushing, privacy-invading, democracy-busting, bureaucracy-fattening mish-mash of new police powers down our throats. They cynically titled it the "USA Patriot Act," but real patriots like Sam Adams, George Washington, Thomas Paine, old Ben Franklin, Jimmy Madison, and Tom Jefferson would gag and upchuck at the mere sight of this package of anti-democratic nastiness.

You've likely heard that this law gives police sweeping new authority to search our homes and computers, new ways to listen in on our phone conversations and e-mails, and new power to arrest us without any charges. But you might not have heard that obscure provisions in this act shifts the FBI's primary mission from solving crimes to domestic surveillance -- it's now to be an internal spy agency. Worse, The Washington Post reports that the law also empowers the CIA, for the first time, to snoop on citizens in this country, even allowing the agency to use the secret, nearly unlimited, star-chamber powers of federal grand juries.

What they've created here is a massive spying apparatus of unprecedented scope that essentially is authorized to violate civil liberties wholesale, going far beyond the narrow focus on terrorists who operate here. Forget legal finesse, this thing is a sledgehammer, and it's our Constitution that they're pounding. One of Attorney General John Ashcroft's hit men for gutting our civil liberties with this law blithely told the Post: "We are going to have to get used to a new way of thinking," he said.

No thank you. The freedoms that the founders put in place are not trifles to be tossed whenever autocrats find them inconvenient.

Two Consumer Commandos

War is hell. But John Peterson and Mark Kennedy have shown that they're made of the right stuff, willing to step forward when their country calls and make whatever hard sacrifice it takes to get the job done. When the going gets tough, John and Mark ... go shopping.

These two are members of Congress, and while neither of them did anything rash, like volunteering to go to the front in Afghanistan, both did arm themselves with fully loaded gold Visa cards and position themselves on the front lines of a shopping mall in suburban Washington, D.C. They didn't undertake this search-and-buy mission alone, but in the company of corporate lobbyists, congressional aides, and a battalion of media types. It was a two-hour, in-and-out incursion via a bus chartered by the lobbyists.

Peterson and Kennedy are Republicans enlisted by the Mass Retail Association, a lobbying group that includes such giants as Wal-Mart and Target. They made this highly publicized foray as part of the association's PR offensive to "urge Americans to continue shopping," despite the economic crash, the terrorist attacks, the anthrax mess, and whatnot.

Kennedy told The Washington Post: "It's not trite at all to say you're helping in the war effort when you go out and participate in the economy." And Peterson had to choke back tears when he said, "I had a gentleman tell me the other day, 'I bought an SUV to help the economy.'"

Yet, the major purchases by these Congress critters were not made-in-the-USA products, and buying another gas-guzzling SUV will just put more money into the pockets of the wealthy Saudi rulers who have financed Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

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 www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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