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The Gooberhead Sessions

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Time for another Gooberhead Award, presented periodically to those in the news who’ve got their tongues going 100 miles per hour, but forgot to put their brains in gear.

Today’s Goober is Pete Sessions, a run-of-the-mill Republican Congress critter from Dallas. Like many of his GOP colleagues, Pete has been on his ethical high horse this year, pointing a finger of shame at the new Democratic majority for letting special-interest earmarks slip into appropriations bills. On his Web site, Sessions piously posits that these backroom tax-dollar giveaways are “a symbol of a broken Washington.”

Pete should know, because he’s an earmarker himself. Last year, he quietly moved $1.6 million out of our public treasury into the hands of Jim Ferguson & Associates for research on—get this—dirigibles.

The Ferguson firm is a father-son duo that admits to having no background whatsoever in dirigibles, aviation, engineering, or government contracting. They’re just “business people,” they say. Is Congressman Pete involved because this is a Dallas project? No, the Fergusons are based in Chicago. Sessions did use a Dallas address for his earmark, but that turned out to be the home address of a Ferguson friend.

The connection to Sessions is that the younger Ferguson is a friend, and now a client, of a Washington lobbyist and former Sessions aide.

The real symbol of broken Washington is the cynical hypocrisy of Gooberheads like Sessions.

Chevron Soils Itself

Chevron Corp., one of the world’s largest and most profitable oil companies, has been running a carefully crafted PR campaign telling us what a gentle giant it is. A TV ad solemnly assures us that oil and the environment are not in conflict. “This is not a liberal or conservative issue,” an announcer intones. “It’s a human issue.”

Imagine the amazement this claim brings to poor people in the once-pristine Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. For a quarter of a century, Chevron’s Texaco subsidiary contaminated the land, water and people of the region with an oil extraction process so crude, careless and deadly that it still stands as one of the world’s grossest examples of corporate insensitivity. In 1990, having taken its profits, Texaco abandoned the region, removing its assets and leaving behind a ruinous toxic stew.

This led the Ecuadorians to file landmark lawsuits against Chevron and Texaco in New York City and Houston. Corporate lawyers convinced a U.S. judge that the case should not be heard here, but in Ecuador. The courts there used to be notoriously corrupt and corporate-friendly, so the oil giant happily went to trial in Ecuador. But political reform had swept the country, and Chevron now faces the likelihood of having to pay $27 billion in damages.

The gentle giant is reacting by roaring that it is being “bullied” by the people it harmed. It is attacking the reputation of Ecuadorian experts and judges, and has rushed back to the U.S. to beg that courts here take over the case.

It’s time for Chevron to come clean, own up, and pay up. For updates and more information, contact chevrontoxico.com.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work—and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown—visit www.jimhightower.com.