Jim Hightower

Telling Tall Tales About Star Wars

One would think that multibillion-dollar media giants would bring at least a smidgen of journalistic skepticism to the Pentagon’s incredible claims about its technological prowess. Yet you might recall that during the Gulf War a decade ago the media gullibly swallowed the military’s daily assertions that some 99 percent of our whiz-bang, computer-guided missiles were on target against Saddam Hussein’s forces. Months later it had to be admitted that about 90 percent of the missiles had missed their targets.

Recently the Pentagon put out another whopper, and once again the media barons swallowed it whole, then regurgitated it to us as truth. At issue was a widely ballyhooed test of the razzle-dazzle, video-arcade, anti-missile-defense scheme known as Star Wars. The Bush team is determined to dump about $160 billion of our tax dollars into this boondoggle, even though it’s so technologically flawed that military experts think it’s silly. So, the Bushites and their corporate partners scheduled a test in July in which a “bad guy” missile was fired at the United States and our “good guy” missile was launched to shoot it down in mid-air. Sure enough, the Pentagon claimed that this technological impossibility had worked. “Success,” shrieked the media in union with the Pentagon. Only now have we learned from watchdog groups that the July test was rigged–our “good guy” missile was programmed with information about the time and location of the “bad guy” launch, and the “bad guy” even had a beacon in it to guide the “good guy” to it.

Bush’s “Clean Coal” Boondoggle

Even George W. Bush acknowledges that he’s not the brightest porch light on the block, but he seems to turn especially dim when it comes to energy policy. W. says he wants to encourage a clean energy future for us. Does that mean solar, wind, conservation and other non-polluting sources of power? Are you kidding? He and sidekick Dick Cheney think all that stuff is a bunch of frou-frou. Instead, he’s thinking coal, which is about the filthiest fuel we have. But George is putting his money (actually our money) behind an oxymoron called “clean coal technology.”

Coal is to clean energy what a Twinkie is to health food. Yet for the past 15 years, industry lobbyists have squeezed billions of dollars out of U.S. taxpayers to subsidize utilities that build clean-coal power plants that are only slightly less filthy than conventional belchers. These so-called clean-coal plants spew out 10 times more smog-causing pollutants and twice as many global-warming chemicals as do utilities using natural gas. Bush’s energy plan, however, backs coal over natural gas–his bill triples the industry’s subsidy, providing $5.5 billion to encourage the use of coal to generate electricity. As a result, since George has been in the White House, gleeful utility executives have announced that they will build 24 new coal-fired plants across the country. The result for us will be dirtier air, more health problems, increased global warming, and more acid rain. Yet, George is the same guy who tells us that government should not promote the development and use of alternative energy because he trusts the “free-market” to decide which energy sources are best.

More Coke

In Mark Pendergast’s engaging book, For God, Country, and Coca Cola, he notes that this global purveyor of caffeinated sugar water once tried to pitch its drink to Cubans with a skywriting ad. But a wind gust distorted the Spanish word Tome to Teme, so instead of saying “Drink Coca Cola,” Cubans were implored to “Fear Coca Cola.” We might want to reflect on this revealing slip of a verb, for Coke is a corporation on a mission. According to an excellent article by Sonia Shah in The Progressive magazine, its mission is to replace drinking water with Coke as the world’s primary beverage. The company asserts that “right now, in the United States, people consume more soft drinks than any other liquid– including ordinary tap water.” A Coke executive has declared that soon, “we will see the same wave catching on in market after market, until, eventually, the number one beverage on Earth will be soft-drinks–our soft drinks.”

Shah reports that rather than simply pushing this ambition in terms of its own corporate profits, Coca Cola wants to be credited with a humanitarian motive: “We’re redefining how consumers get hydrated,” the corporation brags in its annual report. Rationalizing this push into Third World poverty regions, Coke’s former CEO noted that “fluid replenishment is a key to health,” then asserted: “Coca-Cola does a great service because it encourages people to take in more and more liquids.” Shah informs us that current CEO Doug Daft also envisions a Coke-on-tap system that will provide an endless stream of Coca Cola through the cold-water tap on your kitchen sink.

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]

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Published at 12:00 am CST