The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, December 28, 2007, News


At last, George W. can claim a breakthrough in his six-year war in Afghanistan.

Things have not been going well there. Bush has spent $127 billion and lost 469 American lives in this war, but Osama bin Laden is still loose, Bush's hand-picked Afghan president is so weak he can barely venture outside his capital city, and the provincial Taliban leaders our troops once drove out of power are now back.

Still, the Bushites have made strides in one area: agriculture. Afghanistan is a very poor country, so to make ends meet, farmers there have had to rely on an illegal crop: opium poppies. Indeed, Afghan farmers account for 93% of the world's opium production. This is not good, and it's something Bush & Company have been trying to change. Now a United Nations survey reports some significant progress: A northern Afghan province has been officially declared poppy-free this year! The U.N. report hails the province as a model, "where leadership, incentives, and security have led farmers to turn their backs on opium."

That's terrific, but to what did these farmers turn? Watermelons, maybe, or sweet potatoes? No, there's no profitable market for these. Instead, the province is flourishing with 10-foot-tall cannabis plants – the source of the hashish and marijuana trade. In fact, more than half of Afghanistan's provinces now cultivate cannabis, producing a 40% increase in the crop this year alone.

Drug dealers from the Taliban-controlled southern provinces buy the farmers' illegal abundance and take it to market in neighboring Pakistan, another supposed U.S. ally. From there it is sold in the international market – with a portion of the profits going to al Qaeda and other forces fighting our troops.

Still, this is what counts as success in the wacky world of George W.'s absurdist war policies.


Wait till you hear about the gifts I gave to some of America's power elites for Christmas.

To each of our Congress critters, I sent my fondest wish that from now on they receive the exact same income, health care, and pensions that we average citizens get. If they receive only the American average, it might make them a bit more humble – and less willing to ignore the needs of regular folks.

For America's CEOs, my gift is a beautifully boxed, brand-new set of corporate ethics. It's called the golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Going to pollute someone's neighborhood? Then you have to live there, too. Going to slash wages and benefits? Then slash yours, as well. Going to move your manufacturing to sweatshops in China? Then put your office right inside the worst sweatshop. Executive life won't be as luxurious, but CEOs would enjoy a new purity of spirit.

For George W. and his cohort Buckshot Cheney, I sent some tonics they can take to help them come clean when congressional investigators and grand juries get into their White House files. Confession, after all, can be good for the soul.

For Democratic leaders in Congress and the Democratic presidential aspirants, I sent jumbo glue guns so they can stiffen their spines. With regular injections, the party might finally stand up to Bush's imperial presidency and to corporate kleptocracy in Washington.

I didn't forget Republican presidential candidates, either. For Mitt, Rudy, Fred, Huck, and the boys, I sent memberships in the Reality-of-the-Month Club, which will deliver a new bottle of real-world experience each month. By either drinking these elixirs or rubbing them into their scalps, they can reduce their ideological fantasies and gradually ease their way toward sanity.

If the power elites accept these gifts, we'll all have a happier new year!

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