Jim Hightower

This is NOT America

This is what I heard as I waited for a connecting plane at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport recently: “This Homeland Security stuff has just gotten insane, it’s B.S.,” the fellow said to me. He was no longhaired student, no ACLU professor, or any of the other stereotypes that the media and politicians draw of those of us who dare protest the usurpation of our liberties by the flag waving autocrats of Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft-Rumsfeld Incorporated. This fellow was an airline pilot—a fifty-something former military man who considers himself a conservative and, though I didn’t ask, quite likely is Republican. We had just gone through a “security incident” at the airport. I had been on an arriving plane, but my plane and dozens of others had not been allowed to taxi to our gates. It seems that someone inside the terminal had gone through a wrong door, stumbling into a secured area, setting off alarms, and triggering a knee-jerk security response that included making everyone evacuate three terminals. Was this some slogan-spouting bomb-toting, maniacal terrorist? No. Just a passenger who got confused. But under the insanity of our brave new BushWorld, the most innocent of people are treated as criminal and the most innocent of acts produces a Code-Red rush of police-state tactics. My new friend was right. This is not America. Our society is being militarized, our public budgets drained, our privacy stripped, and our fundamental right of dissent assaulted by a bloated and menacing security bureaucracy that does nothing to make us safer from Osama bin Laden (wherever he is). How repressive is our society becoming? The pilot said he can’t talk within his company; the higher ups have made it a firing offense to question what’s happening to our liberties.

VIVE LE JINGOISM!

After the Bushites and their right-wing political henchmen began to demonize french fries, french toast, and all things French in a stunningly stupid outburst of knuckle-dragging jingoism, French’s Mustard put out a nativist press release declaring: “The only thing French about French’s Mustard is the name!” The corporation’s press release spoke of founder Robert French’s “all-American dream,” and about the mustard’s iconic connection to hot dogs at baseball games, America’s national pastime. What the PR effort did not mention is that French’s Mustard is no longer American; it’s owned by the British conglomerate, Reckitt Benckiser PLC. And while French’s was furiously waving the American flag here, it also was concerned that it not actually offend the French. After all, Reckitt Benckiser does more business in Europe than in the United States, so the corporation only released its “All-American” boast here—taking care to keep it off the corporate web site, since the French might see it there. “We are not anti-French,” a flustered spokeswoman rushed out to say when word of French’s anti-French statement spread. She added that, “We issued the press release in response to some confusion that was going on.” Meanwhile, such “We’re America!” brand-names as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and McDonald’s are suddenly trying to cloak their Americanism. For example in India, with its large Muslim population, Coke is trying to fend off angry protests against Bush’s reach for empire by emphasizing its Indianness: “We are primarily Indian, employing Indians,” insisted a top executive of the corporation’s subsidiary there. It all reveals yet again that the true color of corporate America is not red, white, and blue—but the color of money.

MATTER OF PRIORITIES

Even in the midst of his invasion of Iraq, George W. took time to deal with a domestic matter dear to his heart: Creating more secrecy in the executive branch of government. On March 25, Bush issued a 10,000-word executive decree that: (One) gives the government more discretion to keep information secret indefinitely, as long as they say it’s for “national security;” (Two) for the first time, gives the vice-president power to classify government information as secret; (Three) treats all material sent to American officials by foreign governments—no matter how routine—as secret; (Four) expands the ability of the CIA to keep its records secret; and (Five) delays the release of old presidential records that would have been declassified automatically after 25 years. Of course, in issuing his order for more secrecy, Bush used his usual, deceptive tactic of declaring one thing while doing the opposite. George claimed that he was acting to make government more open, even as he was locking it down: “Our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information,” he declared, apparently hoping that such high-minded rhetoric at the top would deter anyone from reading deeper into this insidious document.

The Bushites don’t want anyone questioning their actions, so they routinely try to hide public records from the public—ranging from names of corporate executives that Dick Cheney met with in designing Bush’s energy policy to John Ashcroft’s directive to all agencies instructing them to fight freedom-of-information requests. To battle Bush’s anti-democratic lock-down, contact the Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists at www.fas.org.

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.

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