Jim Hightower

Let's Get Cynical


As Lily Tomlin would say, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s almost impossible to keep up.” The current Champion of Cynicism is the biotechnology industry. Its game is to fool with the very DNA of the world’s food supply–putting animal genes into tomatoes, pesticides into corn, etc. They’ve done this without testing for long-term impacts, then rushed their products to market without informing the public or even labeling these Frankenfoods. So naturally, consumers worldwide are in outraged rebellion, the stocks of these companies are collapsing, and such corporate manipulators as Monsanto are in disgrace.

How does the biotech industry plan to salvage its image? By launching a multimillion-dollar PR campaign that exploits the illnesses of impoverished, Third World children. Their PR weapon is a new product named “Golden Rice,” which has been doctored in the labs of European biotech giant Syngenta to produce extra beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. Noting that about 500,000 children go blind each year from Vitamin A deficiency, biotech firms saw a chance to hush their critics, seize the moral high ground… and sell their tampered foodstuffs as “medicine.”

So now we get TV ads with soft-focus shots of poor children and a heart-tugging message that says we must support bio-engineered foods or Third World kids will go blind. But, wait–scientists are now pointing out that Golden Rice’s humanitarian pitch is a cynical ruse. A four-year-old would have to eat at least 27 bowls of this rice every day to get the minimum daily allowance of Vitamin A! Far better, cheaper, and less dangerous, say the scientists, is simply to provide Vitamin A supplements.


George W–the guy who claims to be President Compassionate, the guy who concedes of himself that he “may or may not have committed” drug crimes of “youthful indiscretion” well into his thirties–now is pushing a drug policy of squinty-eyed intolerance, inflexibility, meanness… and proven stupidity. To put the hammer to the policy, President Nasty has chosen John P. Walters to be his Drug Czar. Walters is a hard-line, shoot-’em-down, throw-’em-in-jail-and-throw-away-the-key drug hawk who doesn’t want to hear any wimpy talk about constitutional rights or the need for drug treatment programs, which he has called “the latest manifestation of the liberal’s commitment to a ‘therapeutic state.'”

W’s new Czar is a right-wing ideologue who’s made a career as a professional drug-war hustler, talking tough at the expense of the sick and impoverished he so gleefully exploits for his own advancement. Walters is the Dr. Strangelove of our country’s absurd drug war. He dismisses anyone who says our nation’s prisons are too full; favors longer jail sentences for marijuana users; has declared that there’s too much “treatment capacity” in the United States; opposes efforts to address the racial discrepancies in drug enforcement; wants increased militarization of the drug war; would like the government to expand our drug war in Colombia; and opposes medical marijuana initiatives.

Walters was a deputy drug czar in Daddy Bush’s administration, in charge of reducing the supply of narcotics flowing into our country. Remember what a success that was?


How ’bout that Halliburton, huh? Halliburton, Inc. is the multibillion-dollar oilfield company that made our vice president such a rich man. Dick Cheney was head honcho of Halliburton until Little George Bush plucked him from CorporateWorld to come to Washington and run BushWorld, previously known as the U.S. government. Lately, Cheney’s been under fire for his tendency to stomp on anyone who gets in the way of the oil industry’s agenda. But stomping is simply the corporate way, and Cheney is only acting now as he did as CEO. For example, Halliburton is one of the few U.S. companies that still does business with the totalitarian rulers of Burma. Not only did Burma’s thugs overthrow democracy, but they maintain their power through human rights violations so severe that they give brutality a bad name. Corporations like Halliburton have long done deals with these thugs, providing the foreign capital for them to buy the weapons they need to keep repressing Burma’s people. But in the 1990s, the repression got so repulsive that dozens of corporations pulled out. Not Halliburton, though.

With Cheney at the helm, Halliburton defied human rights advocates and the Burmese democracy movement by continuing to do business there. One of its joint projects with the thugs was building the Yadana pipeline. To build it, farmers and others were conscripted by the dictators and forced at gunpoint to work on the pipeline. In turn, the thugs will pocket hundreds of millions of dollars from Halliburton and other foreign partners. Asked about this, Cheney said dismissively, “you have to operate in some very difficult places and oftentimes in countries that are governed in a manner that’s not consistent with our principles here in the United States.” Moral people don’t have to abandon our nation’s fundamental principles just to make a buck.

Jim Hightower’s latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com or write [email protected].