The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, September 17, 2004, News


Isn't it good to know that the humongous Department of Homeland Security is so wisely spending our tax dollars to defend us from terrorists?

Take, for example, the slick mass mailing recently put out by DHS urging America's homeowners to buy flood insurance. Yes, flood insurance. In the midst of various color-coded warnings about imminent terrorist attacks on America, our homeland security authorities are spending their time and our money to hawk flood policies on behalf of giant insurance corporations!

In a breathless and alarmist letter mailed to thousands of people, including my friend Susan, Mr. Michael Brown, purporting to be the Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, warns in bold type that "Floods can happen anywhere." In a scary, red-tag warning on the envelope, Under Secretary Brown direly informs us that "Homeowners insurance doesn't cover you for America's #1 natural disaster." So, in his letter, this homeland czarist shrieks in blood-red type: "Don't Delay! Get Flood Insurance Today." Ever so helpfully, he even provides the name and number of "selected agents" in your area who sell these insurance policies, urging you to "Call your agent."

Of course, the vast majority of homeowners don't live in a flood plain and have no need whatsoever to waste their hard-earned money on such insurance. Indeed, my friend Susan lives on an upslope that has never, ever come close to being flooded. Also, Susan is not even a homeowner! Yet, in the enclosed brochure, the homeland authorities declare that "Flood insurance is for everyone."

Why is our government shilling for insurance giants, fraudulently peddling policies to people who don't need them and will never collect on them? If the homeland security department doesn't have anything better to do than run insurance scams, Congress should yank its $40-billion-a-year budget.


See if this sounds familiar. A sour and rabidly partisan Vietnam vet named John O'Neill is plucked from obscurity by the Republican White House to be used as an attack dog against John Kerry. O'Neill creates a hokey "citizens" group as a political front for no other purpose than to pound Kerry about his war service.

But the assault I'm describing is not this year's effort by O'Neill to ambush Kerry with a dummy operation he has labeled "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Rather I'm talking about O'Neill's first tour of duty in service to a Republican president's campaign – none other than Richard Nixon's!

Yes, Tricky Dick, the guy who invented our detestable modern-day politics of personal destruction, was the one who first unleashed O'Neill on Kerry, way back in 1971. Kerry then was the just-returned war hero who was so eloquently speaking out and helping turn public opinion against Nixon's expanding war. So Tricky Dick decided to try killing the messenger through a nasty personal attack on Kerry.

Of course, a president can't be seen doing such dirty work himself, so Nixon's top political hatchetman, the infamous Chuck Colson, recruited O'Neill specifically to make the hit on Kerry. Back then, O'Neill called his front group "Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace," but it was the exact same kind of negative scam he's fronting today.

It's unclear whether George W has personally met with O'Neill to urge him on, as Nixon did in 1971, but it's clear that the Bush political operation and funding network is behind O'Neill's smear campaign. Not only is the truth of this coming out, but so is the hilarious, knee-slapping irony of watching George trying to shuck and jive around the smear. Since Bush can't even produce proof that he showed up for his National Guard duty in Mississippi (a secure 8,000 miles from action in Vietnam) – he should not be trying to spit on the five medals that Kerry earned in combat.

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