The Hightower Report
Awash in Money; Fighting FrankenFish
Awash in Money
If you ever doubted that the rich are different than you and me ... check your shower curtain.
Chances are that when you think of buying a shower curtain, you're thinking of it as a utilitarian product. It's basically about keeping the water inside the tub. All you want is a liner that doesn't get too moldy, and maybe a nice piece of cloth to pretty up the bathroom a bit. But my guess is that you would not want to shell out $6,000 for that shower curtain. Even if you won the lottery and could afford Six Large for such a purchase, I'll bet that your mind simply would not go there, that it could not get around the concept of a $6,000 shower curtain.
Therein lies the difference between us and the rich. Dennis Kozlowski, for example, didn't bat an eye when he put a $6,000 shower curtain in his $17 million Fifth Avenue apartment. Dennis is the former CEO of Tyco International, now disgraced by revelations of his finagling mismanagement and imperial lifestyle. This is a guy who gives excess a bad name.
Yet, what Kozlowski's recent comeuppance reveals is that excess is in the eye of the beholder, for neither he nor other richies have trouble with the concept of laying out 60 one-hundred-dollar bills for a shower curtain. A New York decorator of luxury apartments explains that, after all, when you're dealing with $200-a-yard fabric, imported trim at $200 a foot, swags and tassels, custom-made linings, and whatnot -- well, my dear, there's your $6,000 curtain.
For Kozlowski and company, it's about making a power statement, about CEOs and others of the "peacock rich" fanning out their tail feathers. They're demonstrating a conspicuous contempt for money by declaring "Hey, I'm so rich (and therefore so worthy) that my shower curtain cost six grand -- what did yours cost, peasant?"
The rich are different -- their values can be expressed by something so sadly stupid as a $6,000 shower curtain.
There it goes again. If you listen closely, you can hear that big wet smoooooching sound that always occurs when corporate interests get in the back rooms with government officials.
This time it's the FDA -- the Food and Drug Administration -- that is in the back room, accompanied by corporate fish marketers. The FDA is conducting a secret review of a proposal to allow firms to put genetically altered FrankenFish on our dinner plates. These are fish that have had their DNA artificially manipulated by lab technicians who splice in genes from other species. Is this genetic manipulation done to make the fish tastier or more nutritious? No -- it's done strictly to make the fish grow larger and faster in order to produce quick profits for the big marketers.
The first transgenic species being considered for FDA approval is salmon. The transgenic salmon, farmed in ocean pens, grow twice as fast as normal salmon, thus fattening the profits of the marketers. Fine for them, but, as we've learned from experience, when corporate interests mess with Mother Nature, we tend to get a mess.
Aside from health threats to those who eat the FrankenFish, the big mess in this case comes when the biotech salmon escape from their pens, as inevitably happens. These escaped super-salmon are able to muscle aside the wild species in the search for food and mates. Even a small number of the biotech salmon can have a devastating effect on the already endangered wild population, eventually leading to its extinction.
While the FDA is having its secret smooch session in the back rooms of government, a growing group of us "outsiders" is rallying against making this unnatural mess. Some 200 chefs, grocers, and other seafood purveyors have launched a boycott, pledging not to buy or serve transgenic fish. "We'd like to keep our food un-laboratorized," says one top chef. To join the effort, contact the Center for Food Safety's Campaign of GE Fish at 800/600-6664.
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 www.jimhightower.com.