Jim Hightower

Following Daddy's Footsteps


Excuse me for noticing, but isn’t it dumber than dumb for Washington to keep arming thuggish regimes around the world that we later end up fighting? Like some rooster choking on a peach pit, George W. is now flailing about and squawking that Saddam Hussein has “weapons of mass destruction.” Whether Iraq still has such weaponry is uncertain, but he certainly had them 20 years ago, because George’s own Daddy was in on the brilliant decision to ship them to Saddam! Back then, Daddy Bush declared Hussein to be our buddy and sent tons of U.S. weapons to him–including chemical agents of mass destruction. Skipping along in Daddy’s footsteps, Boy Bush has just declared that the military thugs who rule Algeria are now our buddies, agreeing to ship U.S. weapons to them.

These dictators have been in power since 1992, when they overthrew an Islamic group that had won that year’s national election. The military not only seized power, but also banned the Islamic party and brutally cracked down on the people–at least 100,000 of whom have been killed in the civil war that has raged since then. But Algeria’s brutish military rulers became George’s “buddies” after September 11, because they quickly and gladly embraced Bush’s world war on terrorism. So, once again, you and I are financing military aid to anti-democratic goons so they can retain dictatorial power over the Islamic people of their country. A top Bush official overseeing our cloddish intervention against the people in Algeria’s civil war says blithely: “Washington has much to learn from Algeria on ways to fight terrorism.” What about learning to respect the democratic values that we’re supposedly battling terrorists to preserve?


Sometimes I roll my eyes at the antics of our corporate and governmental “leaders.” But then there are days when I’m just totally embarrassed. I draw the line at baby killing. Believe it or not, our so-called national leaders have crossed that line in the name of corporate profit. It happened just before Christmas, when George W. Bush’s top trade negotiator blocked an agreement by the WTO to provide life-saving drugs to poor countries presently being ravaged by baby-killing diseases, from HIV to Malaria. The agreement would have allowed generic versions of these drugs to be made and shipped into the impoverished nations. But the Bushites squealed that the deal was “an assault on the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies.” Tell that to Zanelle Mngadi, a 29-year old South African mom, whose infant son was born HIV positive. Explain that the lives of hundreds of thousands of children like hers are at stake, yet Bush & Company are rushing to protect the property rights of Pfizer, Merck, Schering Plough, and the other super-rich global greedheads that pushed to squelch the deal. Their claim is that the WTO agreement might allow the poor, disease-ridden countries to get more medicines than are “necessary,” and that some of these countries might even abuse the deal to get generic versions of drugs like Viagra. Babies are dying and these scurrilous scoundrels are wailing about the profits on Viagra sales! It’s baby-killing–being done in the good name of us Americans. To say no, not in our name, call Doctors without Borders at 212-679-6800.


Toys are very big business in America. Such giant corporations as Mattel and Hasbro, Wal-Mart, and Toys R Us, spend nearly a billion dollars a year on advertising to push us to spend some $30 billion a year on the dolls, action figures, and other playthings they sell. What they don’t want you to think about is who makes the toys. Can you say “sweatshops?” Toy barons like Wal-Mart, which sells one out of every five toys sold in the United States, is that someday soon youngsters might begin asking: Where are the factories? How old are the workers? What are they paid? Seventy-one percent of the toys we buy are made in China. Wal-Mart alone uses several thousand Chinese toy factories, but it refuses to release the name and address of even a single one of them, because it wants no independent observers poking into them and reporting on the fact that these places are hell holes. However, the National Labor Committee, a respected monitor of global working conditions, found some of the factories on its own and has issued a shocking report titled, “Toys of Misery.” For example, one of Hong Kong’s top producers employs some 20,000 workers, mostly young women and teenage girls. They work from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (and often ’til midnight), seven days a week, making toys that are shipped to Wal-Mart and other U.S. retailers. Even though the Chinese minimum wage of 31-cents-an-hour is not enough to meet basic human needs, they are paid 13-cents-an-hour. They live jammed together in company dormitories, 12 or more to a room. They literally are sick of work, thanks to the “paint dust” that constantly hangs in the air, as well as the toxic glues, thinners, plastics, and other solvents in which they’re immersed every day. To get this report and take action, call the NLC: 212-242-3002.

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.