The Hightower Report

Media swallows 'Cowboy President' spin; and Big Brother keeping an eye on bookworms


COWBOY GEORGE

J. Frank Dobie, the great writer and chronicler of the Texas ranch country, would guffaw. Buck Ramsey, a real West Texas cowboy who later became a renowned singer of cowboy songs, would snicker.

What would give these true Texans a great hoot is the orchestrated claim by the White House media machine that George W. is "the cowboy president." We're always hearing about George being "back at the ranch," and whenever he goes to his spread, the media tags along with him like faithful cowdogs, dutifully televising the president in his cowboy hat doing rancherlike stuff.

But isn't it curious that the media tagalongs are so incurious that they never ask the basic question, "Is this really a ranch?" The answer is, "No." It's more of a ranchette. Yes, he has about 1,600 acres of scrub prairie, a big rancher-looking limestone house, and, until recently, some 200 head of cattle.

But, wait – those aren't Bush's cattle! They belong to the family that sold the place to George in 1999, when he was gearing up to run for president and needed a Texas-looking image. In fact, Bush does no ranching at all and reports no agricultural activity on his tax returns.

A few months ago, the previous owners sold off their cattle, so "Cowboy George" was left with no cows on the range. Bad image. But Bush's PR people insist that he still has a herd of his own. His "herd?" Five cows, including two pet longhorns he got as a gift! At least we can't say George is "All hat, no cattle." Instead, he's "All hat, five cattle." Worse, the guy can't even ride a horse! Holy John Wayne – what kind of cowboy president is this? At least Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan could saddle a pony and ride off into the sunset.

What we have here is just another Bush deceit. His cowboy image is nothing but that – a carefully crafted media image, no more genuine that a Hollywood movie set. George is no cowboy. Not much of a president, either.


INVADING YOUR LIBRARY RECORDS

You can trust your government, right? That's what the Bushites told us and Congress in 2001, when they rushed into law their USA PATRIOT Act, which included Section 215, a provision allowing the FBI to seize our personal library records without even getting a search warrant. "Trust us," they said. "We won't misuse this autocratic, un-American power of intrusion into people's privacy."

You could ask a library consortium in Connecticut about the value of this assurance. This group was stunned to receive an FBI demand to turn over its records on the reading habits and Internet use of some of its patrons. Under the expanded law, such executive subpoenas are issued without any judge's approval – basically, the FBI simply writes a letter to itself authorizing its agents to seize the material, without specifying any charges of wrongdoing by the library patrons.

While you could ask the Connecticut library about this invasion, it could not respond, for the law also permanently bars any library "from disclosing to any person that the FBI has sought or obtained access to information or records." This is the stuff of a police state – government agents can grab your records and gag your librarians!

The Connecticut case is especially important, for it is the first confirmed instance of the FBI using the PATRIOT Act to get library records. The Bushites had claimed earlier that they have never used Section 215, calling critics of the provision "hysterical." But librarians are hardly hysterics – they are no-nonsense people who dig out facts. In a survey of its members, the American Library Association found that government agents have asked for the records of library patrons more than 200 times since the law passed.

Diligence against abusive police power is not hysteria – it's patriotism. To fight the liberty-busting power of Section 215, call the American Library Association: 800/545-2433.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

J. Frank Dobie, Buck Ramsey, George W. Bush, ranchette, Crawford, cowboy president, John Wayne, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, USA Patriot Act, library records, FBI, American Library Association

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