The Hightower Report

Alito Strikes; and Corporatizing The Border


ALITO STRIKES

I hate to say, "I told you so," but let me just say one name to you: Sam Alito.

When he was nominated by Bush last year to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, practically the entire debate over this right-wing judge revolved around his stance on abortion. So, Alito and his backers worked hard to soften his record as a knee-jerk, anti-choice zealot. Enough Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans were convinced, and he was confirmed.

A few of us populists, however, tried to point out that the Supreme Court spends far more time on issues involving workers' rights, pollution, consumers, and such than on abortion. We warned that Alito had sided consistently with corporate and governmental elites over ordinary citizens on these issues throughout his legal career – and would do the same on the high court.

Sure enough, in his first opportunity to side with bosses over the First Amendment rights of workers, Alito jumped on it. In a May 30th decision involving a whistleblower, a bare 5-4 majority of the court ruled that public employees have no free-speech right to blow the whistle against wrongdoing by their superiors – and they have no constitutional protection against retaliation by their bosses.

The deciding vote came from Alito. Had Sandra Day O'Connor still been on the bench, it's likely that the court would have ruled the other way – for the rights of whistleblowers.

Unfortunately, we're now stuck with this guy for life! The lesson here – especially for Democrats – is that future nominees to all of our courts need to be vetted, not only on social issues, but also grilled equally hard on whose interest they'll serve on the economic, environmental, and civil liberties cases that come before them.

To learn more about this case, call the National Whistleblower Center: 202/342-1902.


CORPORATIZING THE BORDER

What a surprise. George W. wants to turn the illegal immigration issue into another multibillion-dollar boondoggle for giant corporations.

Such military contractors as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman are lined up at the federal trough yet again, drooling at what Bush calls the Secure Border Initiative. This scheme will give government contracts to corporations to build a high tech "virtual fence" along our nation's borders. "We are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history," bragged Bush.

Actually, that's not a very high hurdle, for our history of border security is littered with high-priced technological failures. Take the nearly-half-billion-dollar program of video cameras, electronic sensors, and other cutting-edge technologies that corporate contractors provided for the Mexican border just a few years ago. Half of the cameras didn't work or were never installed. The ground sensors did set off alarms – but in 92% of the cases they were triggered not by illegals but by a wild animal or a passing train.

Now, here they come again. Lockheed Martin, for example, is touting its Tethered Aerostat Radar as a border solution. This massive blimp, twice the size of Goodyear's, would be tethered to the ground by a long cable, monitoring all movement below. One little problem, though: It can't be used in high winds. Another piece of razzle-dazzle technology was a $6.8 million unmanned plane to patrol the border. It crashed in April after less than a year's use.

These military contractors have sorry records of cost overruns, fraud, and products that are defective or useless – we're to turn border security over to them? Bush's scheme is all about political posturing and fattening his corporate backers. The problem of illegal immigration requires an honest economic solution – not merely buying more hardware from high tech hucksters.

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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