While George W. wails about Saddam Hussein’s supposed ties to terrorist cells, he’s refusing to lift a finger to deal with cells here at home that not only are causing terror for American families, but are killing 14 innocent, unsuspecting Americans every day and hospitalizing nearly 900 more. These cells bear names like Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella–food-borne bacteria that have become epidemic because of the unclean practices of such industrialized meat companies as ConAgra, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Tyson. In their corporate slaughterhouses, processing lines are speeded up for quick profits and, as a result, the ground beef, poultry, hot dogs, and such get contaminated with animal manure. Deadly bacteria in this manure festers, then is swallowed by consumers … and kills 5,000 of us each year, with children being especially vulnerable. The death is horrible. One father tells of his two-year old “screaming nonstop for three days, and there was nothing I could do.”
There is, however, something Bush could do. He could listen to the thousands of families whose children and other loved ones have died from industry’s tainted meat. These families have formed a grassroots group called STOP–Safe Tables Our Priority. They know that these deaths are totally preventable–if the meat giants are simply made to clean up their act. So STOP is pushing for tough rules against fecal contamination in meat plants, calling for vigorous inspections, strong penalties, and authority to shut down persistent violators. But Bush is siding with the meat-packing corporations. He has set aside a Bill Clinton regulation for better Listeria inspections, and, instead of closing factories that fail Salmonella inspections, simply sends them a letter of reprimand … or actually stops the testing in those factories! To help stop Bush’s corporate weaseling, call STOP: 800-350-STOP.
WANTED: 120 MILLION VOTERS
Who was the big winner in last month’s national elections? George W., right? After all, his autocratic, plutocratic, anti-democratic regime grabbed a 51-47 majority in the U.S. Senate. That’s a powerhouse number, but it’s not actually the real majority, nor is it the most significant statistic to come out of the election. The big number was 61. That’s the percentage of American voters who chose not to vote–about 120 million voters. Basically, this American majority declared that the whole money-soaked, issue-avoiding, corporate-driven campaign run by both Republicans and Democrats was a load of horsehockey. Indeed, the campaigns were somewhere between dismal and disgusting. There are issues galore–the lack of good jobs, the corporate looting of our pensions, health care for all, energy independence, etc.–but these were mostly ignored.
Elections these days are not about people, but money. There’s not even any real campaigning; instead of getting out with the folks in the neighborhood, the candidates do staged photo ops, pretending to be with people, but avoiding actual voter contact, except with those who can write campaign checks of $1,000 and up. Political parties, which used to work the grass roots, now are nothing more than aloof banks. They collect money and throw it at television sets. Tons of money. This year was the first billion-dollar TV campaign. Since the candidates didn’t stand up for the people, the people mostly didn’t stand up for the candidates. There’s a minefield of disaffection all across the land. When nearly two-thirds of the people feel shut out of the system, democracy itself is endangered. Yet, this same dangerous exclusion offers an enormous opportunity for a progressive political movement with the gumption and savvy to organize a democratic home for the disaffected.
That’s the question of the day, which I’m directing toward the PR huckster who inflicted the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” advertising campaign upon the world. These incessant, mustachioed milk ads were cute when they started running a decade ago, but they’ve grown as tiresome as a telemarketer’s recorded phone calls. But this hasn’t stopped the sponsors of the ad, the California Milk Processor’s Board, from pushing them to the limit … and beyond. Just to show how garish, intrusive, and self-involved advertisers can be, these corporate milk giants are actually trying to promote their promotion. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of their ad campaign, they’ve come up with an advertising stunt so tacky it’d make P.T. Barnum puke. Jeff Manning, the milk board’s chief huckster, sent a letter to the top officials of two dozen small towns in California, immodestly asking them to change the name of their town to “Got Milk?, California.” Every small town is cash-strapped these days, so to entice one to switch names, the hucksters waved the one thing they’ve got: money. They cynically promised free computers for the schools, new playgrounds, and construction of a Got Milk? museum in the lucky burg that’s goofy enough to sell its pride.
Even in America, advertising is supposed to have limits.
Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.