The Hightower Report

The Price of Autocratic Arrogance; and Guilt by Association

The Price of Autocratic Arrogance

To your list of reasons not to support a police state in America, add this one: It's expensive.

I'm not talking about the obvious costs of deploying police agents in high tech riot gear, the tab for prison cells, and whatnot. Rather, I'm talking about paying for lawyers, court costs, and the inevitable damage awards to the people whose rights get trampled. It happens again and again in our country that politicians get spooked when We the People dare to protest their policies, so they resort to the brute force of a police crackdown – essentially using an axe to peel a grape. What they forget in their rush to crush is that America – thank goodness – has a Bill of Rights.

The latest to learn this are New York City officials who unleashed the police state on war protesters in April 2003, right after George W. invaded Iraq. Mayor Mike Bloomberg sent the helmeted and booted NYPD to bust a gaggle of peaceful protesters in Midtown Manhattan. They encircled, arrested, and jailed 52 of these citizens, charging them with the heinous crime of "blocking pedestrians."

But, wait: There were videos of the protest! And – guess what – no pedestrians had been blocked, and the republic was not at all endangered by this exercise of First Amendment rights. Yet, city prosecutors pushed hard, spending more than a million dollars of taxpayer funds trying to imprison innocent Americans. Their case was so weak, however, that only two protesters were even brought to trial, and both were found innocent. The other 50 had their charges dropped, and now – five years later – the city has had to pay more than $2 million to settle the case.

Politicians like Bloomberg are wiping their feet on our Constitution by jailing legitimate protesters – then taxing you and me to cover up their mistakes.

'Guilt by Association'

Let's play Guilt by Association, the fun-filled, down-and-dirty political game that is so popular with right-wing politicos!

This year, the chief gamester is an outfit calling itself the American Issues Project.

The sole "project" of this group is to trash Sen. Barack Obama, and it has launched a multimillion-dollar television advertising campaign to do the dirty deed. With doomsday drama, the ads warn voters that Obama knows and has been supported by – gasp! – William Ayers.

Who? It seems that some 40 years ago when Ayers was a young political radical, he was indicted for bombing government buildings. Never mind that Obama was 8 years old at the time and has zero connections to Ayers' distant past, and never mind that Ayers was not convicted and is now a professor of education in Chicago – the American Issues Project wants you to think that, by association, Obama supports bombing public buildings.

The problem for these gamers is that their wild mudslinging makes others wonder about the group's own associations. Who, for example, funds this project? Why, it's Harold Simmons, the right-wing Texas billionaire who funded the Swift Boat Veterans front group that served as Republican attack dogs against John Kerry in 2004.

Of course, the beneficiary of this nastiness, GOP presidential candidate John McCain, insists that his campaign has no connection to the smear group. But wait – Simmons not only is funding the attack ads against Obama; he's also a major moneyman behind McCain's campaign. And – wait again – the founder of the American Issues Project is a fellow who was on the McCain campaign's payroll until he quit to take on this "outside" project.

McCain – who bills himself as "Mr. Straight Shooter" – needs to learn that the Guilt by Association game can backfire.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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