The Hightower Report

Jim's holiday gift list; and Sears gets a present from ABC.


'Tis the season for giving, so here are gifts I've sent to some of the people in power!

To each of our Congress critters, I sent my fondest wish that from now on they receive the exact same income, pay increases, health care, and pensions that we average citizens get. If they get only the American average, my guess is that this will enrich their lives by making them a bit more humble -- and a whole lot more eager to serve the public's needs.

For America's CEOs, my gift is a beautifully boxed, brand-new set of corporate ethics. It's an elegant, yet simple set, called the golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Going to pollute someone's neighborhood? Then you have to live there, too. Going to slash wages and benefits? Then slash yours as well. Going to move your manufacturing to sweatshops in China? Then put your office right inside the worst of those sweatshops. Executive life won't be as luxurious, but you'll enjoy a new purity of spirit.

There are a few special people on my list, too. For George W. Bush, who likes to pose for the TV cameras as a brush-clearing ranch hand on his ranchette in Crawford, Texas, I send my deepest hope that, after next November, he'll be free to clear brush full-time! Imagine the fun he'll have, and he won't be bothered by those TV crews watching him do it.

For Democratic leaders in Congress, I've sent jumbo glue guns filled with super glue in the hope that they'll inject each other's vertebrae to stiffen their spines, so they can start standing up to Bush and the moneyed elites.

Finally, I got a doll for Tom DeLay, the power-mad GOP majority leader. Only, he doesn't get the doll -- I keep it. It's a voodoo doll of Tom himself, and I'll stick pins into it every time this vindictive, vituperative, right-wing political extremist starts getting nasty again. I jab a pin in the doll's head, and Tom's hair catches on fire. It'll make him a better person.

Happy Holidays, everyone!


At last, the Golden Age of television is upon us again! But, alas, this is not the golden age of TV quality -- but literally the age of TV gold, when advertisers have become the programming.

Leading the way is Disney's ABC television network, which has now opened its expanse of our public airwaves to complete domination by sponsors. I don't mean just the ads that sponsors run on its shows, or even the not-so-subtle placement of sponsors' products in the shows -- but rather sponsors that become the featured character of the show.

Sears has stepped out as the first of ABC's new advertising stars, putting itself forward as the centerpiece of the network's latest reality show called Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Not that Sears has any actual dramatic talent -- but it does have more than a million dollars that it has paid to ABC to write the corporation into the script of this six-part series portraying stories of home renovation.

The actual actors will be using Sears tools in their work, adding Sears appliances to the renovated homes, and decorating with Sears furniture. If that's too subtle for viewers, there'll also be Sears trucks delivering merchandise, branded workers from Sears home improvement centers will occasionally arrive on the scene, and the show's cast will make trips to Sears for supplies.

The commercially crass rationale for this all-Sears show is that advertisers need a way to outfox you TV viewers who are using your clickers to zap past those annoying commercial breaks. So forget the ads -- the sponsors will be the show.

To fabricate this great leap forward in TV entertainment, ABC even has a "senior vice-president for integrated marketing and promotion." He assures us that while "Sears plays a role in the personality of the show," ABC would "never take it to the point where it would seem like a bunch of logos slapped in a show."

See, there still are a few artistic standards in television.

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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Government, holiday gifts, Congress, CEOs, George W. Bush, Democrats, Tom DeLay, Disney, ABC, Sears, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

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