Jim Hightower

Behind the Curtain

A TV ad making an emotional appeal for viewers to back Bush’s war in Iraq has run in 20 states. A veteran who lost both legs in the war closes with the powerful plea: “It’s no time for politics.” Strong stuff.

The ad loses its punch, though, when you learn it is not a message from a veteran’s group, but a blatant political pitch orchestrated and funded by a new front group run by old Bush political hacks. Masquerading as a grassroots outfit named “Freedom’s Watch,” this bunch of White House insiders is headed by Ari Fleischer, George W’s former spokesman and salesman-in-chief for pushing America into this disastrous war of occupation. Millions of dollars have been put into this promotional blitz by about a dozen Bush fundraisers, including shopping-mall magnate Mel Sembler, macaroni manufacturer Anthony Gioia, grocery baron Howard Leach, and Sands casino chief Sheldon Adelson.

The group is targeting Republican members of Congress whose support for Bush’s war is wavering. Using Karl Rovian, thuggish tactics, the group questions the patriotism of all who stand up to Bush. Such dissenters are accused of wanting “to cut and run.”

No matter what the wounded vet in the ad says, Freedom’s Watch is nothing but politics. Its ads urge viewers to “call your congressman” and provide a toll-free number. The number doesn’t connect you to Congress, but to Freedom’s Watch operators who ask if you support Bush’s war rationale. If you say no, the operator politely refers you to the group’s Web site and hangs up on you. Only calls from people who agree with Bush are connected to Congress.

Freedom’s Watch is not about freedom at all-it’s about Bush propaganda and political manipulation. Is that what our soldiers are fighting for in Iraq?

COAL MINER’S SLAUGHTER

Corporate America is rushing to get all the favors it can before Bush & Co. closes down in 2009, and the Bushites are delivering.

Though it received little media attention, the giant coal operators-reliable funders for George and the GOP-recently got a huge goodie: Bush is giving them Appalachia. His Office of Surface Mining quietly proposed a regulation allowing coal companies to ravage the ancient mountains, glorious forests, and pure streams of Central Appalachia at will.

The action was necessary, say the Bushites, to “clarify” existing laws governing a greedy, ruthless, and abhorrent mining process called mountaintop removal. This process decapitates mountains, exploding their tops and savagely shoving the trees, topsoil, wildlife, and other rubble down the mountainsides, burying valleys and streams below. This is corporate rape and environmental mutilation-but, hey, it produces quick profits for the industry, which had been pushing since George took office to have it legalized.

Their stumbling block had been a 1983 rule that prohibits mining activity within 100 feet of a stream. That’s hardly a harsh restriction, but mining barons want to bury streams, not fuss with buffer zones. So the gift-wrapped Bush rule explicitly states that the old prohibition does not apply to hundreds of miles of streams coveted by coal corporations. Instead, the companies would only have to respect the buffer zone “to the extent practicable”-which is to say, not at all.

PANDORA’S BOX

It’s sleek and sexy, packaged in a shiny black box with an elegant accent of teal or fuchsia, and it’s advertised in women’s magazines with the alluring slogan of “Light and luscious.” Is it lingerie … chocolate … perfume? No. It’s a box of cancer sticks.

These are Camels, cigarettes made by Reynolds American Inc. that have been rebranded for women under the evocative name “Camel No. 9.” You know, like “Love Potion No. 9,” only without the love.

The No. 1 killer of women isn’t breast cancer. It’s lung cancer, by a large margin. More than 400,000 Americans-almost half of them women-die each year from diseases caused by smoking.

Yet here comes Big Tobacco with another PR push to entice people to get hooked on nicotine. Like all of the industry’s advertising pushes, a pack of Camel No. 9 comes with a pack of corporate lies about how they are only being marketed to adult women who already smoke. “What we’re about,” says a Camel spokeswoman, “is giving adult smokers a choice.”

Horsehockey. The new brand is being hyped as chic and fashionable, appealing directly to impressionable teens and young women through ads in Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and other magazines that reach the youth market. Tobacco companies depend on constantly hooking youngsters to replace older smokers who die or quit.

In fact, 80 percent of new smokers are under age 18-and a third of them will die from smoking. Still, the corporate spokeswoman gushes that Camel No. 9 is part of Reynolds’ plans to “focus on products that are ‘wow,’ that add fun and excitement to the category.”

Nothing says “wow” like cancer.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit www.jimhightower.com.

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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