The Hightower Lowdown

The Bushes suddenly discover women's rights in Afghanistan, tear up the Bill of Rights, and let pesticide companies test their poisons on human beings.

The Relativity of Loutism

In the White House's relentless, multimillion-dollar PR campaign to sell us "homelanders" on the righteousness of George W.'s high tech, saturation bombing of that pile of rocks, dust, and impoverished people known as Afghanistan, the Bushites have recently pointed in televised outrage at the horrible way Afghan women are treated by that despicable bunch of louts in the Taliban.

Even the demure and gentle Laura Bush was put out front on this one, declaring in a radio address that "All of us have an obligation to speak out" for "the rights and dignity" of the women treated so miserably by the Taliban.

True enough. But like most presidential snow jobs, the purity of Bush's message covers up a mountain of inconvenient ugliness. Ugly Example No. 1: The Bush family, including Daddy Bush when he was president, has long been delighted to deal with the louts of the Taliban. Only a decade ago, Bush the father and Bush the son were cheering these same Taliban louts as "freedom fighters"; the Bush family also approved when billions of dollars worth of U.S. weapons were delivered to the louts during the Eighties and Nineties. The Bushes winked and nodded as Unocal only recently was negotiating an oil pipeline deal with the louts; and, just this spring, George W. himself celebrated the louts as good partners in our nation's infamous Drug War, gratefully sending 53 million of our tax dollars to them. Through all of these dealings, neither Bush the Elder, George W., nor Laura felt any "obligation to speak out" about "the rights and dignity" of Afghan women.

Ugly Example No. 2: The only group of warlords worse than the Taliban is our darling new ally in Afghanistan -- the Northern Alliance. What about their brutish and rapacious treatment of women? Oh, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer: "We're talking about different regions of the world where people have their own cultures and histories."

Maybe he missed Laura's radio address.

Butchering the Bill of Rights

I know what I want for Christmas. It's the same wish I have for Chanukah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, and New Year's. I want my Bill of Rights back.

I want it back from Bush, Ashcroft, Ridge, and their whole gaggle of small-minded autocrats who have pulled off a sudden, sweeping usurpation of power, establishing an imperial presidency. They have done it by cowing congress, orchestrating the media, and diverting the public's attention with loud shrieks of "Terrorism! Terrorism!" As they shrieked and pointed at Arabs and Afghans, they dragged the constitutional genius of Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and other founders into the back rooms and hacked it to bits.

They now assert that anyone they "suspect" of being a criminal or being connected in anyway to anyone suspected of being a criminal can be detained by federal authority without charging them or revealing who is being held. They say they now have the authority to enter your home, business, or computer without telling you about it, and they can arrest you if you tell anyone they were there. They can also monitor conversations between you and your lawyer.

Oh, you say, this only applies to terrorists, doesn't it? Hello. These new executive powers apply to criminal investigations, not just terrorism. More frightening, they don't define "terrorist," except to use catch-all phrases that can ensnare anyone the authorities have "reason to believe" might be involved in any action that might have "adverse effects on the U.S., its citizens, its national security, foreign policy, or economy." Picketers, protesters, demonstrators -- this means you.

Spreading the Poisons

This week's Gooberhead Award is a double award, with the first one going to top officials in George W. Bush's EPA. Bush's new gang in our Environmental Protection Agency seem determined to switch the word "Protection" to "Poisoning," being more concerned with the health of polluter profits than with the health of people. Their latest twist is to reject the findings of a scientific panel (and common sense) that pesticide makers ought not use human beings as guinea pigs for testing the danger levels of a company's toxic chemicals.

Yes, instead of just testing their toxins on rats, the companies want to test them on us. And, believe it or not, at the behest of lobbyists for chemical corporations, EPA officials are actually considering the use of human subjects to test how much of a given pesticide we can absorb without croaking. Like drug companies that hire people (usually low-income and students) to test a new nasal spray or cough syrup, people would be paid a few bucks by Monsanto, DuPont, etc., to swallow dosages of their new bug killers.

In addition to these EPA Gooberheads, however, a second Goober has to be awarded to Ray McAllister, who works for the chemical makers' lobby shop in Washington. He's been pushing the EPA to authorize human experiments with these known poisons, claiming that it's very important for a pesticide company's bottom line to see how much of these new toxins the body can tolerate. Besides, says Ray, the risk to the human guinea pigs "is minuscule."

Right, Ray, so why don't you and the big investors who profit from these poisons be the ones we use for testing? Better yet, let's shift to organic and sustainable products, so no one has to be poisoned.

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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