The Hightower Report

Our "Made in China" Christmas; and Left-Wing Penguins and Devilish Tofu


LEFT-WING PENGUINS AND DEVILISH TOFU

Maybe it was the election, or maybe it's the decline of their boy George, or maybe it's the onset of a cold, dark winter – I don't know why, but the ultraright culture warriors seem to be getting loopier than ever.

Take the recent barrage of right-wing attacks on the little movie Happy Feet, an animated feature about dancing penguins trying to cope with natural predators and ecological degradation. These penguins are driving several right-wing pundits crazy – which actually is a pretty short trip for many of them. For example, reactionary Hollywood scold Michael Medved fell into a bad case of hysterics over the film, snottily labeling it "Crappy Feet." He claims it contains "a bizarre anti-religious bias," an "endorsement of gay identity," and a "propagandist theme" that condemns the human race, celebrates environmentalism, and (gasp!) exalts the United Nations.

But for weirdness on steroids, try Jim Rutz, a right-wing preacher and writer who says he found the devil in soybeans. "There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture," he warns in a December column titled "Soy Is Making Kids 'Gay.'"

I kid you not.

Listen to this guy's own words: "When you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogen. … Soy is feminizing and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion, and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products." Rutz adds, parenthetically, "Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!"

With all of the serious problems our culture faces, it's good to know that the right wing is protecting us from penguin movies, soy milk, and tofu.


OUR 'MADE IN CHINA' CHRISTMAS

From Wal-Mart on up, America's big retail chains are once again tallying up disappointing Christmas profits, for the season's buying spree was not nearly as gleeful as they had hoped. If they wonder why, one clue can be found in the millions of Christmas lights, sparkling ornaments, artificial trees, and other glittering decorations that adorned their stores and our homes. Practically none of these were made in America.

We don't make much in America anymore – not even Christmas – and as our middle-class manufacturing jobs have been moved offshore, the workaday majority has seen its income knocked down, leaving folks less able to spend during the holiday season. Indeed, the very retailers now bemoaning the lack of consumer spending are the very ones who no longer "Buy American," instead running to low-wage hell holes to get the merchandise that fills their stores.

Seventy percent of the world's Christmas decorations, for example, now come from one country: China. In fact, more than two-thirds of the world's artificial Christmas trees are made in just one Chinese city, Shenzhen. Even George Bush has been a customer – in 2003, seven of the Christmas trees adorning the White House bore the "Made in China" label.

American retailers can get a 6-foot-high artificial tree from a Chinese factory for less than $4 – then sell it to you for $140. Workers there who make the trees are paid only about $83 a month, and Christmas joy is not a part of their laborious lives. As a marketing executive with a Chinese exporter of Christmas paraphernalia put it, "Our workers are mostly middle-aged women who don't need to know anything about Christmas."

Chinese factories are so buoyed by their Christmas success that they're branching out to dominate the market for Halloween, Easter, and our other holidays, too. Meanwhile, the wages of American workers no longer even keep up with inflation – and retailers wonder why no one's buying their stuff.

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

retail chains, Christmas, made in China, globalization, culture warriors, Happy Feet, Michael Medved, Jim Rutz, soy

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