The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, May 23, 2008, News


At Exxon headquarters in Houston, management refers to the executive suite as "the god pod." But while the honchos of the world's biggest and richest oil corporation might think of themselves as holy omnipotents, most Americans have more demonic thoughts about them – and they definitely consider today's gas prices ungodly.

So I was not totally surprised to learn recently that a group of church folks have been holding a series of "pray-ins" at gas stations across the country. They gather in front of the pumps, clasp hands, and reverently beseech God to deliver us from these high prices. "God is the only one we can turn to at this point," says pray-in organizer Rocky Twyman. "Our leaders don't seem to be able to do anything about it," he says. "The prices keep soaring and soaring."

A public interest group called Consumer Watchdog says it sympathizes with the prayerful. "Given the complete inertia and silence of this White House on a crisis that has people feeling just hopeless, prayer is probably as good as anything," one member of the group says.

Actually, Twyman and other pray-in participants are not simply hoping for a miracle. They believe that God helps those who help themselves, so they're calling for people to do more walking, biking, carpooling, and other actions to cut back on gasoline use. They also hope that praying at the pumps will finally cause politicians of all stripes to take notice of the public's desperation, perhaps even prompting them to do something about the rip-off prices that are squeezing so many working families.

To learn about some concrete steps that Washington could be taking on both price-gouging and oil dependency, contact Consumer Watchdog at 310/392-0522 x305 or


Is it 1984 already?

Even George Orwell would not have imagined George W., who keeps pushing a post-Orwellian, autocratic America in which a supreme executive can operate in secrecy, beyond the reach of law. We've had illegal domestic spying, falsified intelligence, presidential annulment of laws, torture, unconstitutional defiance of congressional authority ... and more. Now comes news of another twist from the Bush-Cheney bag of tricks: secret law.

This disclosure came at a Senate hearing on the use of clandestine legal opinions by the Justice Department to justify water-boarding and other torture methods employed by the CIA. At the April 30 hearing, an administration spokesman magnanimously agreed to share certain parts of selected secret opinions with some members of Congress. It wasn't much of a concession to Congress' constitutional oversight responsibility, but during the hearing, the spokesman suddenly asserted that Bush has the inherent power to ignore or alter existing executive orders issued either by him or previous presidents. Here's the kicker: The Bushites claim they can do this without telling anyone!

Executive orders have the full force of law, and unilaterally altering them behind the White House curtain means the published law is not what it says it is. An astonished Sen. Russ Feingold pointed out that "it is a basic tenet of democracy that the people have a right to know the law." Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was more scathing, saying that such a claim of executive power turns our national law books "into a screen of falsehoods behind whose phony regulations lawless programs can operate in secret."

It's time for Congress to hold these outlaws accountable for their Orwellian, un-American power grabs. Congress should not merely express outrage but should bring the perpetrators to trial.

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