The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, December 17, 2004, News


"Support Our Troops," shout the magnetic yellow ribbons that you see on cars and trucks anywhere in America – and it's certainly a sentiment that I embrace wholeheartedly.

Our volunteer soldiers, as well as the conscripted Reserves and National Guard, are putting their lives on the line every day for George W.'s ill-conceived and ill-prepared Iraq war – and every day some more of those soldiers are killed. I believe that every one of the solders sent over there by Washington politicians deserves the fullest support available from those of us sitting safely and comfortably back here at home ... but they are not getting it.

"Support Our Troops" has to be more tangible than putting a yellow magnet on your car. That's rhetoric, not support. How many of us know, for example, that BushCheneyRumsfeld & Gang rushed our troops into that war without the protective armor required to save their lives from bullets and blasts – an unforgivable, scandalous failure of leadership that continues to this day?

And how many of the yellow-magnet people are aware of how our government "supports" those troops who die in Iraq? While it's been widely reported that the families of civilians killed in the horrible 9/11 terrorist attacks have received an average of about $3 million each in overall compensation, do you know what the compensation is for the families of soldiers who are killed in Iraq? It's $12,000.

A spouse is gone forever. A child loses a father or mother. A lifetime breadwinner is taken from the family. Yet the White House, Congress, and Pentagon deem that life to be worthy of a mere $12,000 – even as the same public officials attend rah-rah rallies urging us to "support our troops" ... and, oh, by the way, vote for us.

If you think the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice deserve more than empty rah-rah and $12,000 – call Operation Truth at 212/982-9699.


One of the greatest music joints in Austin – or anywhere else – was Liberty Lunch, which regularly featured up-and-coming local musicians, as well as such national talents as Taj Mahal. This bar, cafe, and music yard was inexpensive, adventuresome, laid-back, unique, and ... well, it was Austin.

I say "was" because it's gone. A few years ago, our mayor gave taxpayer subsidies to lure something called CSC Corporation to town, giving it the spot of city-owned land that Liberty Lunch had rented for years. So now we have a cold, six-story building housing a high tech military contractor that has no roots in Austin, is not in character with our city, and offers nothing to our way of life. [Ed. note: And they're still doing it – see "Austin@Large," p.20.] What we do not have are the good eats, good sounds, and good spirit that emanated every night from that spot, drawing thousands of enthusiastic customers and helping define Austin for people everywhere.

Austin is hardly alone in suffering a steady erosion of homegrown businesses to impersonal corporate giants, big-box stores, and cookie-cutter chains. It's probably happening where you live, too. No one voted for this, but these giants get public subsidies, wield massive advertising budgets, and have deep-pocket financing and the political clout to bully their way in, remaking our communities in their own bland, self-serving image.

But you and I don't have to support them. Let's assert our own grassroots buying power to proclaim a new economic independence. A group called AMIBA – American Independent Business Alliance – has organized the "Indie Challenge," urging We the People to rediscover the local businesses that make our towns special – from coffee shops to restaurants, bookstores to hardware stores, pharmacies to farmers' markets.

We have the power! Ask your friends and families, clubs and churches, unions and local governments to join you in using their dollars for community self-determination. For help, call AMIBA: 406/582-1255.

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