Jim Hightower

Uncle Sam's Got Your Number!


Uncle Sam’s Got Your Number!

ot sure what you want to do in life? Why not get paid and see an exotic part of the world? You could summer in sunny Iraq—and be a part of our exciting occupation forces there. If you are 16 to 25 years old, chances are you’ll soon be receiving a sales pitch from the Army. How will they find you? Thanks to a new database secretly built by the Pentagon, they know where you live. They also know your phone number. And your social security number, your e-mail address, your height and weight, your grades in school, your ethnicity. The Pentagon’s “Joint Advertising Market Research Studies Division” brags that this dandy database is “arguably the largest repository of 16-to-25-year-old youth data in the country, containing roughly 30 million records.” It includes personal info on 3.1 million graduating high school seniors and 4.7 million college students to be used to target, reach, and recruit young folks for George W.’s war in Iraq. There are, however, two little glitches. First, the database was illegally compiled. Officials began building it three years ago without giving public notice and allowing public comment—a flagrant violation of the Federal Privacy Act. Second, (and more alarming to mothers and fathers) the private data allows military recruiters to intrude surreptitiously into people’s homes and put a sales job on their children. As one appalled mom says, “It’s a direct shot to someone’s child without consent from a parent.” To help shut down this illegal database, call the Electronic Privacy Information Center: 202-483-1140. THE PRICE OF EXCESS I recently told you about ExxonMobil, which is making so much money from high gasoline prices that CEO Lee Raymond says he doesn’t know what to do with it. So, I asked you for suggestions of what Lee might do with this windfall, which, after all, is coming right out of our pockets. A few responses were a tad angry: “Tell Exxon to stick the cash up their [bleep]. They are criminals,” said one e-mail. Another offered to assist with this task: “Jim, I know where he can put all that money, and I’ve got a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork and I’m willing to help put it there, for free.” Several of you urged that the oil giant fund ads to inform folks about the true costs of our nation’s gas-guzzling dependency, while also making patriotic appeals for every American to cut the amount of gasoline they use each day. Taking this notion a step further, many e-mailers called for channeling Exxon’s excess into the development of renewable fuels, replacing petroleum products. As one wrote, “Even one tiny, teeny little billion dollars could make a pretty significant difference” in advancing green energy. Many had blunt advice for Mr. Raymond, such as, “Pay your DEBT,” referring to the billions that the courts have ordered Exxon to pay to Alaskan fishermen and others for the damage done by the Valdez oil spill—a court order that Exxon has defied for 16 years. Another blunt respondent asked: “How about you pay for the war?” Others argued for putting the bonanza into bettering our schools and libraries, shoring up the Social Security Trust Fund, initiating universal health care—or simply, “Give it to the peons.” But one fellow said that Raymond should bank the money, because he’s “going to need every penny when he gets sued for his part in causing global warming.” EDIBLE EDUCATION Emma Goldman said she wanted no part of any revolution unless it included dancing. That’s good, but better yet is Alice Waters’ idea that a revolution should be “delicious.” Waters—who is both a fabulous chef and a pioneer leader of America’s sustainable food movement—believes deeply in the transformative power of having our local communities grow, cook, and share good meals. So she has launched what literally will be a delicious revolution, focusing it squarely on those who are America’s future: Schoolchildren. Ten years ago, she led an effort to establish “The Edible Schoolyard” at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California, where she has her home and restaurant. Rather than a burger-and-soda lunch, MLK’s 900 or so students now draw meals, lessons, and values from a one-acre schoolyard garden that they pitch in to till, plant, maintain, and harvest. They also help prepare and serve the food in the school cafeteria, enjoying the bounty of their efforts. Not only do they get meals that truly are good and good for them, but they also absorb more from the garden and kitchen about biology, health, the environment, science, history, geography, stewardship, cooperation, and community than they can from textbooks. This Edible Schoolyard has been such a success that Waters and the schoolboard are expanding it to all of the city’s 16 public schools. But their revolution involves more than a garden in every schoolyard. They are integrating the entire food experience into lesson plans from K through 12, thus providing rich nourishment not only for children’s bodies, but for their minds and souls as well. Edible Education, they call it. To learn how you can bring this revolutionary model to your schools, call the Chez Panisse Foundation: 510-843-3811. 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.