Jim Hightower

Feeling Safer Yet?


Just when we thought things couldn’t be worse after the international terrorist attacks of September 11th, along comes a parade of homegrown clowns, zealots, political opportunists, and corporate technology hucksters claiming that they want to “save us.” These wild-eyed security enthusiasts are promoting what the New York Times describes as “a new kind of country.” In this “new country,” get used to domestic spying, carrying an electronic ID card, being profiled and searched, infiltrated and interrogated, and having your movements constantly monitored. In the frenzy of the moment, in the compulsion to “do something,” our so-called national leaders are lunging toward a massive new program of electronic surveillance of We the People. “Computer technology will be harnessed to make the country safer,” asserts the Times. Hmmm … this doesn’t make me feel one bit safer. Take the national ID card: A corporate security consultant says enthusiastically that “Each American could be given a ‘smart card,’ so as they go anywhere, we know exactly who they are.” Your card, imbedded with computer chips, would contain detailed personal and financial information about you and would be read by computers, coordinated with your fingerprints and facial characteristics so you could be tracked wherever you go. This is an actual proposal being considered in Washington. A former federal law enforcement official told the Times that, “Over a period of time, these technologies will slowly be becoming part of our life. You will no longer be able to just come and go.” Hundreds of thousands of freedom lovers who went before us fought, bled, and died–from our country’s revolutionary war forward–to establish and preserve the very personal liberties that these bonzos now propose to surrender.


Suppose you had your own personal power source that could generate all the electricity you need for your home or office, plus this power would be price-competitive, and instead of toxic pollutants, the only emissions put out by your power source would be water and heat–both of which you could use by circulating them through your building. This is not some hallucinogenic dream, but the here-and-now reality of a technology called fuel cells. These devices mix hydrogen with oxygen, causing a chemical reaction that generates electrical power. Fuel cells already power everything from NASA’s space shuttle to the mainframe computer at the First National Bank in Omaha. The bank needed a power source that didn’t cause the electrical spikes and dips that were causing multimillion-dollar shutdowns of its credit card and check cashing business. Fuel cells were the answer, not only providing a reliable flow of electricity, but also saving the bank $200,000 a year in heating costs by pumping heat from the cells through the building in the winter months.

A home-size fuel cell will provide full power for a 2,500-square-foot house. Fueled by natural gas or propane, it’s just a bit bigger than a washing machine, is quiet, has few moving parts to break down, doesn’t generate toxic emissions, and costs about $6,000. Smaller versions are being developed by General Motors, Ford, and other auto companies to fit into a car. Also, miniature fuel-cell cartridges soon will be available to replace batteries for cell phones, power tools, etc., lasting 20 times longer than batteries. One pioneer terms the fuel cells “revolutionary,” telling the Chicago Tribune: “They’re going to change the way we power everything.”


Are you sick of corporatized health care that doesn’t care, sick of long waits to see a doctor who then spends only seven minutes with you, sick of paying more and getting less? Well, I’ve got a doctor who’ll spend real time with you, and even make house calls! This personalized service, called “concierge care,” is the largest trend in American medicine. The only catch is: You have to be rich. Rich enough to fork over $20,000 a year just for your primary care specialists; lab work and medicines are extra. More and more general practitioners are abandoning the general public to cater to the wealthy. The Associated Press reports that two Seattle doctors have shifted to practicing millionaire medicine, calling their venture MD2. Dr. Howard Maron says he got the idea when he noticed that “the wealthy and powerful have to sit in ER waiting rooms as if they are nobody.” Apparently, the doctor’s heart went out to these wretches, so he kissed off his non-rich patients and began kissing up to the hoity-toity. Now, instead of meeting the health needs of 4,000 people, as he did in his previous practice, his new pricey practice cares for fewer than 100. He notes happily that exclusively serving the wealthy also is making him wealthy. Dr. Maron insists that such health care exclusivity is no different than operating an exclusive golf club. The general public is shut out, but so what? Send them to HMOs and the ER with all those other nobodies and everybodies. Doc, get a clue! Health care is not a golf game, it’s a human necessity.

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]