Jim Hightower

Tom, Dick & Halliburton

The plutocratic autocracy that is the Bush White House has been imperiously dismissive of America’s constitutional systems of checks and balances, attempting to govern by executive fiat. Now, we’re beginning to see why Bush & Co. are so fearful of any congressional, media, or public probing into their autocratic governance: These guys are Bozos! Take Cheney’s slapstick effort to hide the names of the oil and utility executives who wrote the administration’s energy bill–his whole shtick is a take-off on Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine. Then there’s Bush’s hilarious underground government, reminiscent of the circus stunt in which a tiny car drives out to the center ring, stops, and amazingly, a couple dozen clowns come tumbling out–only George reverses the stunt by having about 150 top government officials disappear down into a hidden bunker where he has set up his very own secret government. But the funniest shuck-and-jive by the Bushites has been their tapdance to keep their new Homeland Security Czar, Tom Ridge, from reporting to Congress. While Bush has touted Ridge as a sort of super-cabinet officer overseeing a $37 billion domestic police effort, he refuses to let Ridge testify publicly, asserting that Ridge is a mere “advisor” whose work is exempt from congressional oversight. Maybe he’s hiding Ridge because we don’t seem to be getting much for our 37 billion bucks. So far, Ridge’s only contribution to our security has been his recent announcement that henceforth America will be protected by (drum roll, please): A color-coded terrorist warning system. Like kindergartners with a box of crayons, Ridge and crew will now color their warnings of terrorist threats, ranging from cool green to hot red. Czar Ridge says we’re now at yellow–though there’s no suggestion of whether this means we should go to the beach or run for the hills.

VEEP SPEAK

By Gollies, Dick Cheney is nothing if not tough on terrorists. In his speeches and regular appearances on the Sunday morning yakity-yak shows, the vice president, formerly of Halliburton, Inc. practically growls when he squints his eyes, curls his upper lip and spits out his contempt for terrorism’s “axis of evil,” reserving his fiercest scowl for Saddam Hussein of Iraq. But wait, is it possible that Dick is a Hussein hypocrite, that while he postures politically, he has previously profited from playing corporate footsie with the country that he now brands a terrorist state? Yes. In fact, did Cheney, the former oil equipment executive, help build Saddam’s economic machine that now stands accused of sponsoring terrorism? Yes. “No, no,” retorted Cheney during the 2000 election when ABC’s Sam Donaldson asked him if his Halliburton firm, through subsidiaries, was actually doing business with Hussein’s government. “I had a firm policy that I wouldn’t do anything in Iraq–even arrangements that were supposedly legal,” protested the v.p.-to-be. He lied. Indeed, just before election day, the Financial Times of London discovered that two Halliburton-owned subsidiaries sold more oil field technology and equipment to Saddam than any other U.S. corporation, pocketing some $24 million in sales. These deals helped Hussein restore his oil-production capabilities, which are used to finance the militaristic adventures that Cheney now labels “evil.” Technically, Cheney’s sales to Saddam were legal, even though they were against official U.S. policy. The trick was that he ran the deals through Halliburton’s foreign subsidiaries, thus appearing to be politically clean while raking in dirty money.

BASEBALL ON SPEED!

Major League Baseball has joined with an Internet service called Real Networks, Inc. to record and digitize a typical three-hour game then zap it onto your computer screen so you can watch it in less than 30 minutes. They don’t simply hit the fast-forward button to make the game zip along in herky-jerky fashion. Instead, they whack about two-and-a-half hours from each game, showing you only what they refer to as the “meaningful parts.” Baseball’s honcho for “interactive media” gushes that this condensed game-in-a-pill approach offers “geographically or time-displaced fans an alternate way to enjoy baseball.” Sheesh, how can a guy who speaks such gobbledygook be in charge of showing the game? I admit there is a lot of pausing, stalling, jockeying, and other maneuvering that takes place between plays–but, hey, baseball is slow. Get over it. That’s the way it’s supposed to be–an evolving drama with nuance, color, deliberate pacing, and bursts of action that take you away from the helter-skelter of our otherwise rush-rush worlds. It’s not called the national pastime for nothing. Let a little time pass, and enjoy the moment. With a 30-minute condensation on your PC, you’re not really getting the joy of the game, complete with its mood adjustment. Instead, you’re merely getting more electronic jolts of artificial brain stimuli that’ll further fry your day…and shorten your life. In a 30-minute slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am game review, you won’t even get through your bag of hot nuts, much less have gotten to your second beer. That’s no fun.

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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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