The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, August 1, 2008, News


The Bushites like to bill themselves as conservative, freedom-loving patriots. But what they're doing in Brownsville is the exact opposite.

The people of this city, located at the southernmost tip of Texas, right across from Mexico, are locked in one of several nightmarish battles that Bush's thuggish, autocratic Department of Homeland Security has forced on border communities. At issue is the multibillion-dollar, ineffectual, and offensive fence that DHS is erecting in the name of deterring terrorists. Operating as a tyrannical police bureaucracy, department officials are shoving their fence right through people's homes and public parks, as well as running over ordinary civility and common sense.

In Brownsville, for example, the fence would cut a jagged line through University of Texas-Brownsville, severing 180 acres of the school from the rest of campus. That's a fourth of its total landmass. This division would put various students on opposite sides of the barrier, even though all are on the U.S. side of the border.

It also cuts off the university's golf course. Not to worry, though, for the DHS geniuses designing this Alice in Wonderland structure say they'll leave an opening so students and others can freely pass through. Hmmm. Wouldn't "others" possibly include the terrorists this thing is supposed to keep out?

Then there's the fact that this university has a unique cross-border mission, serving people on both sides – people who will now be separated by armed agents. As the school's president notes, "To slice off the 'bi' part of binational violates the essence of this university."

But forget logic and good will. DHS' autocrats assert that they can build the fence wherever they want, with or without university consent, and they are proceeding with condemnation of the land. Tell me: What's conservative, freedom-loving, and patriotic about that?


Corporations commonly try to dodge their tax responsibilities, but it's unusual for one to dis its own product in order to avoid paying.

Yet that's what Procter & Gamble has done with Pringles, the salty spud snacks stacked in a tube. When Pringles were introduced, they were pitched as a sort of super potato chip, touted as superior because the tube prevented the terrible tragedy of chips crumbling. Personally, I've always liked chip crumbles. But so what? Pringles were a triumph of neatness over nature. And now they've triumphed over the tax man.

England's tax office claimed that Pringles were subject to a tax that's applied to products made from potatoes. P&G lawyers, however, scoffed at the idea that a Pringle merited potato status. It doesn't taste like a chip, they confessed. It gives no crunchy sensation, they demurred. It has a shape that "is not found in nature," they conceded. Plus, they revealed that while the thing contains some potato flour, it is not made from potato slices.

Still, the tax office argued that Pringles are a potato "crisp," the British word for chip. Not so, cried P&G's lawyers, even though the label on tubes of Pringles boldly declares the product to be "potato crisps." Forget what the label says, countered the lawyers – labels are designed as consumer come-ons, not as legal proclamations. Look at the ingredients, they said – the bulk is corn flour, wheat starch, rice flour, fat, emulsifiers, sugar, monosodium glutamate, and such – not potato. Therefore, concluded the defense, it's more of a biscuit.

The judge, perhaps taking a bite of the thing, agreed, ruling that Pringles were not "made from the potato" as defined by the tax code. Thus, P&G avoided a tax by maligning the product it advertises so heavily as potato crisps. One wonders: Will they now change the label? Nah – that would be too honest.

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.