The Hightower Lowdown

Dubya will save us from pollution -- with gas masks; polluters get "greenwashing" awards; the Cardinals pitch St. Louis a screwball.


Choking on Compassion

As Bush & Company dismantle America's health, safety, and environmental protections at the behest of such mass polluters as the oil, chemical, coal, nuclear, and auto industries, some critics have rudely accused them of selling out the public's health and safety just to satisfy Bush's campaign contributors. I disagree. George himself has told us that he's a compassionate conservative, and while his conservative side says industry must be free to contaminate us, I believe his compassionate side also has a plan, which is to issue gas masks to everyone.

Indeed, this is what his Federal Emergency Management Agency is doing in Anniston, Ala. During the next nine years or so, the Army will incinerate some 660,000 of the chemical weapons stored at its Anniston Depot -- deadly stuff like sarin, mustard gas, and an extra-lethal chemical called VX agent. Understandably, the good people of Anniston are less than thrilled, since their homes, schools, hospitals, day-care centers, and whatnot are in an area that the Army delicately labels "the pink zone."

Not to worry though, for the local citizenry is about to be the first American community to receive government-issued gas masks from the Bush administration. Seven million dollars are being allocated by FEMA to provide protective gas hoods and suits for 35,000 people.

I wonder -- do you keep this gear in your home? In your car? Your briefcase? Do kids carry it to school in their backpacks? A killer gas plume can cover the whole area in eight minutes. What if you're in the shower or have the radio on when the alarm goes off announcing an accident? "Even a small accident could be catastrophic," says the county emergency director. Then there's the fact that while the Feds will issue 35,000 masks, 75,000 people live within nine miles of the incinerator. I guess compassion can only stretch so far.


Faux Green

"Greenwashing" is what low-down, dirty polluters do when they run ads or put out other materials designed to make the public think they're a bunch of tree-hugging, Bambi-loving, green-to-the-core corporations. In other words, greenwashing is the raw sewage of propaganda. That's why "Don't Be Fooled" is such a useful report. Issued annually by two environmental groups -- Earthday Resources for Living Green and Ecopledge.com -- this report names the top 10 misleading environmental claims of the year.

Among this year's proud entrants into the greenwashing hall of shame is General Motors, which has been running magazine ads featuring their gas-guzzling, toxic-spewing vehicles as the very embodiment of mother nature. One ad hypes the Cadillac CTS as "what a breath of fresh air looks like." Unless, of course, you're looking at the Cadillac's tailpipe! Another GM ad shows its Hummer truck out in the wide open spaces, urging us to venture out and "get fresh air." Aside from the fact that the Hummer pollutes fresh air, you'd need lots of gas stations to reach those wide open spaces, for a Hummer only gets 13 miles to a gallon.

Another greenwashing awardee is the Audubon Nature Institute -- which has nothing to do with the venerable Audubon Society ... and very little to do with nature. ANI is an enthusiastic promoter of cloning and is even developing a "frozen zoo" for replacing species that are being squeezed out of existence by pollution and development. Don't bother saving critters -- clone a new batch of them!

Get this report and help fight greenwashing. Call 877/EARTH-46.


Ballpark Socialism

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team is one of the most storied in the game, with such great players as Dizzy Dean, Stan "the Man" Musial, Ozzie Smith, and Mark McGwire having worn the red-and-white uniform. And Cardinal fans are some of the most loyal anywhere, regularly filling the stadium and putting a steady flow of profits into the pockets of the team owners.

But in 1995, new ownership took over, led by William DeWitt, an Ohio financier who is a former business partner and big-time political funder of George W. Bush. In 1989, DeWitt had brought George into a partnership that bought the Texas Rangers baseball team. Two years later, the DeWitt-Bush team got the taxpayers to build a new, $150 million stadium for them, which greatly inflated the team's value and let both of them walk away with millions when they later sold the Rangers.

Like a crafty old pitcher, DeWitt is now throwing his corporate screwball at the people of St. Louis, demanding that Missouri taxpayers pony up $390 million to build a new sports palace for him there. Ray Hartman of The Riverfront Times writes that "the loyal public is aghast," with two-thirds of St. Louisians opposed to this rip-off. Hartman notes that DeWitt and his partners "collectively have $4 billion in assets" and "could very easily finance a new stadium privately."

But while the fans oppose this raw deal, top politicians are dutifully backing the Big Money Boys. Sadly, so is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which used to criticize such silly subsidies. But now it's editorializing in favor of the deal -- perhaps because the newspaper's ownership group recently joined DeWitt as an owner of the Cardinals.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To book Jim, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, send $15, your name, and address to: Lowdown, PO Box 20596, New York, NY 10011

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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