Jim Hightower

Tongue Twisters, Pork Futures & Enemy in Our Midst

I’m talking about accents in America. The more discerning among you might hear in my own voice the slight trace of an accent — of the twangy Texas variety. But I love the varied accents of all the American people — Boston brogues, Cajun patois, the Scandinavian tones of Minnesotans, the unique sounds of Appalachia, the Bronx, Virginia, and elsewhere, all a part of the richness of our great country.

It seems that the hierarchy of corporate America, however, is not charmed by all this cultural richness and prefers to have its up-and-comers speak plain-vanilla, accentless English. If you want to be promoted up through management ranks, and in some cases if you want to keep your job, better lose that sassy tone of the Big Apple or that sweet Southern drawl. The Dallas Morning News reports that there’s been a surge in corporate employees going to speech pathologists and paying some $85 an hour to get “accent reduction therapy.” Nor is it only the accents that the companies want to eliminate from the office — they also want us to drop our regionalisms like “howdy,” replacing it with the uniform “hello.” The word is spreading in CorporateWorld that employees who don’t fit the company mold won’t move up — and might be moved out.

What we have here is another giant leap toward the total McDonaldization of our culture. Our food, our political parties, our television shows, our shopping centers, our housing developments all are taking on a bland uniformity that washes the personality, the uniqueness, the soul right out of us.

People of America, rebel! Don’t give corporations your tongue, too.

GENERAL PORKERS

“Off they go, into the wild blue yonder, flying high, into the sky….”

These high-flyers, though, are not America’s proud fighter pilots, but the big-butted Pentagon brass. In the multibillionous-dollar Pentagon budget approved by the Congress, $17 billion more was appropriated than was requested. But the bulk of the increase doesn’t go to soldiers — it goes to the contractors who make weapons the Pentagon doesn’t even want, and to pamper the brass.

A billion dollars was stuffed into the “Defense” budget to provide luxury-class travel for the nine top-ranking military commanders. These planes are not to take the generals to the front — God forbid — but to scoot them back and forth to meetings here in the states and, who knows, maybe even to top policy golf outings. The Pentagon will lease six Gulfstream V executive jets so the big shots can fly high. It costs us $50 million a year to lease these six planes. Plus, Congress bought a 737 jetliner just for the Marine Corps commander. It cost $63 million to buy it, though flying the thing is extra.

Meanwhile, the Republican Senate Leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi, demanded and got $375 million put into the budget to develop an aircraft carrier that the military doesn’t want. Could Lott’s insistence on this project have anything to do with the fact that it would be built at the Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi, a corporation that is a contributor to Senator Lott?

Referring to Majority Leader Lott’s demand that these tax dollars go to this unwanted project, a ranking member of the appropriations committee said: “We try to take care of leadership wherever we can.” Since when is pork-barrel politics “leadership,” and when will they ever try to “take care” of us rank and file taxpayers?

MEET THE ENEMY

No need to worry about our liberties being taken from us by a foreign military invasion — our own military can invade us and do the job without having a shot being fired against them!

This might sound like some thriller movie like Enemy of the State, where secret forces are deployed to eliminate citizens who are politically inconvenient, but this time it’s not fiction. Secretary of Defense William Cohen is establishing a new military command that will direct troops for domestic law enforcement. Never mind that this is in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which bars the deployment of military forces against our own people on our own soil. Cohen brusquely brushes aside any such niceties, saying: “The American people should not be concerned about it. They should welcome it.”

Holy Paul Revere! Welcome it? Not only is this illegal — it’s stupid. First, the military is not trained to be police; soldiers are trained to shoot what moves and ask questions later. Ask Zeke Hernandez. But you can’t — this eighteen-year-old U.S. citizen living on the Texas-Mexico border was gunned down in 1997 by three Marines deployed to help the border patrol stop Mexican drug traffickers. Zeke was a goat herder, not a drug dealer. Second, soldiers are trained to fight “enemies,” so putting them on domestic patrol makes us citizens the enemy. Plus, it pits them against their own people, which has got to be ethically confusing and a morale bummer for the troops. Third, if there is a need for a massive force beyond the abilities of local, state, and national police — we already have the National Guard, which can be called out by state governors.

This is all being done to “fight terrorism,” but who are the terrorists? Putting a permanent military force in our back yards makes us the suspects. Our liberties are less endangered by foreign madmen than by some of our own authorities.

Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts nationwide daily from Austin. Find him at www.jimhightower.com, or e-mail: [email protected]

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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