The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, August 9, 2002, News

Bush's Push for Secret Government

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft are the Four Horsemen of Autocracy, passionate practitioners of secretive, executive government.

No surprise, since this is the way things are done in the corporate world, which all four spent their careers serving. This is a world of closed doors, where CEOs wield autocratic power and withhold as much information as they can from the public, the media, regulators, investors, workers, auditors, and even their own boards of directors. The self-serving, clandestine machinations within Enron, WorldCom, and the rest are not anomalies -- such is the prevailing ethos of today's executive suite.

Secrecy also is now the prevailing ethos of the White House: there's the secret government that Bush established; the constant refusal to release public records, including the administration's contacts with Enron and Halliburton; Bush's attempts to hide his father's presidential records and his own gubernatorial papers from public view; the secret war on terrorism, complete with secret arrests and closed military tribunals; the decision to hide the results of the Pentagon's Star Wars missile tests; and the refusal to make public the SEC investigative files on Bush's slippery stock deal with Harken Energy Inc.

And now there's Bush's plan for a massive Homeland Security Department, creating a new domestic police agency with sweeping powers. This bureaucracy will have more armed federal agents with arrest power than any other branch of government. Yet George W.'s plan would shroud the Homeland agency's actions in secrecy -- he wants to exempt it from both the Freedom of Information Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act. Also, instead of an independent inspector general, Bush's proposal gives the new Homeland Czar veto power over any audits or investigations by the inspector general.

It's time to stop the Four Horsemen of Autocracy. To help shine the light of day into this dangerous new police authority, connect to the ACLU's Freedom Network at

Segwaying You Off the Sidewalk

It's generally considered bad form to drive on the sidewalk. The occasional drunk, the addled, and some yahoos have been known to jump the curb and plaster a few pedestrians, but the law is fairly specific on keeping motorized vehicles in the street.

This separation of motor vehicles from pedestrians was a problem, however, for Dean Kamen and his mega-rich investors. Kamen invented the much ballyhooed Segway Human Transporter -- a futuristic, two-wheeled, scooter-type mobile that he claims will revolutionize the way people live, work, and get around. Powered by batteries and balanced by gyroscopes and computers, the 69-pound Segway scoots along at about 12 miles per hour. The driver stands upright on a platform between the two wheels, steering with handlebars.

Putting this thing in city traffic with cars, however, would result in a lot of squashed Segway riders, so Kamen and his cronies want to have people drive them on our sidewalks. Yes, where we walk. Hold your child's hand, look out for granny, and keep looking over your shoulder as you walk along because -- bzzzzzzzzt -- here comes another Segway buzzing you!

If you think that surely, this won't be allowed, it might surprise you to know that Segway's hired lobbyists have quietly and very quickly hit state legislatures and already won changes in 30 states to allow these machines on our sidewalks, on hike and bike paths, and elsewhere. Worse, most state laws require no instruction, no license, and no insurance to step aboard a Segway and go zipping down the sidewalks.

Once a few pedestrians get bumped off, you can bet the lobbyists will be back with demands to keep pedestrians off the sidewalk. And when Segway owners start getting in crashes with each other, you can count on the makers to come out with a 4-wheel SUV Segway -- a big honker that lets the owner rule the whole sidewalk.

It's another case of money and technology going on a rampage ... and literally running over us.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, call toll free 866/271-4900. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit

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