Jim Hightower

Shredding Ashcroft

Let’s hear it for America’s librarians! Who is it that rushes to the barricades of our nation’s democracy, daring to confront John “Mad Dog” Ashcroft as he rips into our Bill of Rights and tries to strip We the People of our hard-won personal liberties? Not the Congress—it’s meekly going along, providing the authority and funding for Ashcroft’s maniacal assault. Not the puffheads of the media—they’re too busy shouting “patriotism” and cheering the Bushites to see, hear, or speak any evil by the emperor.

Instead, our gutsy defenders of liberty are librarians in cities and towns throughout the country. They are distributing information and joining public discussion groups to tell us about the freedom-busting legislation that Ashcroft cynically titled the “USA Patriot Act.” This thing is a Little Shop of Totalitarian Horrors, including provisions that compel librarians to turn over to the FBI the reading, research, and Internet records of any and all library users, prohibiting librarians from even telling you that your records have been seized by government agents. This is no theoretical threat; librarians report that Ashcroft’s agents are making hundreds of these demands. To battle back, they are doing everything from issuing public warnings to refusing to cooperate. Many have also added a new piece of essential machinery to cope with Ashcroft’s Brave New America: The paper shredder. Rather than hold your records, librarians are now routinely destroying as many as possible, so they don’t have to be complicit in Ashcroft’s destruction of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy. To learn what you and your librarian can do, call the American Library Association: 1-800-545-2433.

I’M GREEDY. FLY ME.

“United We Stand,” shout the red, white, and blue CEOs of America’s airlines as they rush to Washington to explain that their industry needs $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies to keep flying in these perilous economic times. Meanwhile, back at headquarters, they’re shouting quite a different message at their employees. Instead of “United We Stand,” it’s “You’re On Your Own,” as the top dogs are firing thousands and demanding cuts of one-third to one-half in the paychecks of the employees that remain, plus making huge cuts in worker pensions. “Well,” hrrump the CEOs, “we’re accepting cuts in our pay, too!” Look at Glenn Tilton, honcho at United Airlines. Poor Glenn took an 11-percent salary whack last year and is taking another 14 percent this year, they point out, tears welling in their eyes at the thought of Tilton’s sacrifice in the common cause.

Yeah, “poor Glenn” is down to only $712,000 in salary this year. But he’s also getting $1.5 million in stock payments this year, a $3 million “signing bonus,” and a special $4.5 million pension payment. His total haul is nearly $10 million. Likewise, ol’ Leo Mullins at Delta Airlines, says he’s cutting his salary to barely $600,000 this year, as well as giving up some $6 million in bonuses and stock payments. Before giving him the Golden Heart Award, however, let’s note that he quietly is pocketing millions in corporate cash for a special pension fund he set up for himself this year, including extra payments to cover the taxes that he will owe on the special pension. Now that’s putting the gold in the “golden years,” isn’t it? Senator John McCain believes we should not bail out airlines until the CEO ripoffs end. To back McCain’s effort, call his office: 202-224-2235.

THEY’RE BACK!

Remember the Taliban—the repressive and murderous regime that ruled Afghanistan and shielded Osama bin Laden? George W. promised only a couple of years ago that he was going to bomb the Taliban to smithereens, “smoke out” Osama, and “liberate” the people of Afghanistan—using U.S. military might to usher in a bright new day of democracy for this forlorn land. But only 18 months after being ousted by Bush’s bombs and our troops—heeeeeerrre comes the Taliban right back in, having revived its command structure and begun to reassert its brutish power over the people. Prior to going to war with them, the Bushites had loudly proclaimed that they were not just going in with bombs, but would deliver on a plan for reconstruction of the nation’s infrastructure—the same thing they’ve now promised the Iraqis. One of the top leaders of the new government that the Bushites set up now says: “What was promised to the Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing.” Instead of a flowering democracy in Afghanistan, thieving warlords and a rise of Taliban vigilantism is the rule of the day. The Bushites had promised millions of dollars to create a local police authority to stabilize the country, but these police went unpaid for months and have drifted away. Interestingly, the Taliban launched its comeback from safe havens in neighboring Pakistan. You might recall that Pakistan, itself ruled by a brutal military dictator, is warmly welcomed by the Bushites as an “ally” in their perpetual global crusade against “evildoers.” Bombs alone can’t bring democracy—whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or whatever other country is next on Bush’s list.

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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