Jim Hightower

Orwellian Obfuscation

To paraphrase Shakespeare, “How do I fire thee? Let me count the ways.” Once again, firing workers is the rage in corporate America, as tens of thousands of bodies are punted out the door. But Newhouse News Service reports that those in charge are having a difficult time with the firings-not doing them, but saying what they’re doing. CEOs of downsizing companies get all jittery about how stock market analysts will take the firings, fearful that Wall Street will see mass layoffs as a sign of a sick company, thus knocking down the company’s stock price, which in turn would whack the CEOs paycheck. Corporate lawyers and PR flacks are spending countless hours crafting press releases that avoid saying the obvious: “Global Bloodsucker Incorporated today fired skillions of its employees in order to prop up its profits and cover for management blunders.”

Instead, they try to put yellow smiley-face stickers on bad news. Proctor & Gamble didn’t fire 9,600 folks-it announced an “Overall Plan to Restore Competitiveness and Growth.” Never mind that 9,600 employees will not be part of that “growth.” Likewise, when KeyCorp offed 3,000 workers, its press release was headlined: “KeyCorp, Preparing for New Opportunities, Announces Efficiency Initiatives.” How antiseptic. Those are not 3,000 fired human beings, they’re “Efficiency Initiatives.”

First prize for Orwellian Obfuscation, however, goes to Internet giant Cisco, which recently whacked 3,000 jobs, but rather than refer to them as firings, chirped that these people were part of the company’s “involuntary normal attrition.”

RICH AND CRANKY

The rich really are different from you and me-they don’t seem to have wrinkles as they ebb over the 30-year mark. This is because wealthy folks spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on such cosmetic work as surgery, liposuction, laser treatments, spa visits, and cow stuff. Yes, cow stuff-or, more precisely, bovine collagen. Collagen is a gelatinous protein contained in the connective tissues of cows, and there are big bucks to be made from injecting this stuff directly into rich lips and faces, smoothing out dreaded eye lines and poofing up lips for that much desired pouty look. But here comes the cranky part. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reports that there’s some panic among the socialites using cow collagen because of: Mad Cow Disease. What if the collagen was from a diseased bovine-can your pouty lips kill you? It’s enough of a worry that some doctors are assuring patients that their collagen comes from a “closed herd”-a sort of elite cow club that doesn’t mix with the cow masses. Dowd reports that one skeptical lady told her doctor that she “wanted to visit the herd.” Not to worry, though, for alternatives are available. For example, a rooster’s comb contains a hyaluronic acid that can be injected into your face to smooth those wrinkles. If you worry that this could cause you to crow every morning at dawn, you’ll be relieved to know that a bioengineered human collagen derived from the foreskin of an infant boy can also do the job. Dowd tells us that one foreskin is enough, for its collagen can then be replicated endlessly in the lab “and provide lips, etc. for women all over the world, ad infinitum.”

LISTEN UP

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? That’s an old question, but here’s an updated version directed at aloof corporate power: If consumers are shouting a message, but Monsanto has genetically modified corn stuffed in its ears, do the consumers make a sound? Monsanto doesn’t want to hear it, but the marketplace is saying, “We don’t want your genetically altered Frankenfoods with pesticides spliced into grain, fish genes bioengineered into tomatoes, bacteria added to potatoes, and other manic lab experiments that you’re trying to foist on us without even testing your mutant lab creations for their long-term impact on our health and the environment.”

Polls consistently show that a good 80 percent of Americans don’t want their families used as guinea pigs for Monsanto’s science projects. Europe, Japan and other major buyers of U.S. grain and other foodstuffs have flat-out banned genetically altered crops from their markets; such food giants as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Gerbers have rejected Monsanto-altered potatoes, corn, and soybeans. Good grief-even cigarette makers are saying no to genetically altered tobacco!

The latest group trying to get through to Monsanto are farmers. Plantings of Monsanto’s bioengineered seeds continue to fall, and farmers are joining consumers and environmentalists in about half the states to push legislation that bans, imposes a moratorium, or requires a label on genetically manipulated crops. “We don’t want to lose the ability to sell our wheat abroad,” explained a North Dakota farmer who strongly supports a two-year moratorium on planting Monsanto’s altered wheat. America’s farmers are simply listening to their customers, while Monsanto turns a deaf ear, preferring to hire PR firms and lobbyists to try forcing consumers to eat their Frankenfoods.

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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