Why do we find so much on the front pages of newspapers that ought to be in the back, and so much in the back that ought to be on the front page?
Take this little item buried way back in the August 29th New York Times: “WTO Rules Against U.S.” The item contained only four sentences, yet it cloaked a HUGE story that if fully reported, properly placed, and followed up would have informed and aroused the U.S. citizenry and forced a major national issue into the drone-a-thon of this year’s presidential campaign. The story is that the secretive, anti-democratic, corporate protectorate called the World Trade Organization had reached into our country once again and, by executive fiat, overturned a U.S. law. Americans have fought wars to establish and defend our rights as a free and sovereign people to write our own laws, yet here is an alien body rendering a judgment in Geneva that declares one of our laws null and void. Excuse me, who the hell elected these twerps?
The particular law is our Anti-Dumping Act, which says that foreign companies cannot unfairly compete by dumping their surplus goods here, selling them below what it costs to produce them. To give it teeth, the law provides fines and possible prison terms for violators. Uh-uh, says the corporate-protecting WTO — no fines and no prison allowed for such commercial criminals. Holy Thomas Jefferson! We can’t set our own standards for criminal behavior?
Far more important than the law itself is the principle of self-government that has so cavalierly been usurped by the WTO. Imagine if the United Nations had declared a U.S. law invalid, or if a foreign government had threatened to take away our sovereignty! Wall Street, Washington, and the media would blow a gasket. But this is corporate power stealing our rights, so the media sleeps, Gore and Bush stay mum … and Wall Street silently cheers its victory over the people.
JOHNNY CAN’T BREATHE
Children can be pests sometimes, but no one would advocate dousing them with pesticides. Yet, in communities all across the country, school officials are doing exactly that — not by dousing the children directly, but by blithely spreading and spraying toxic chemicals all around the school yard and everywhere else children spend their school days. Most of this dousing is done with nerve-agent pesticides meant to rid the schools of pesky critters, but children are critters, too, and their young bodies are especially vulnerable even to minute amounts of these poisons.
Pesticides don’t “disappear” once applied. They persist for weeks and even years after a single application, remaining in the soil, the indoor air, in carpets, on the children’s desks and other surfaces. Children breath the vapors or the dust every day, absorb residues through their skin, and can ingest pesticides just by putting their fingers in their mouths. This is not theory — school children are getting seriously sick, and even dying from the dousing they’re getting. Matthew Metelko and his classmates at Jurupa Hills Elementary in California can tell you about it. To eradicate flies, school administrators installed automatic pesticide dispensers throughout the school. Suddenly, previously healthy children were ill — Matthew got blisters on his skin that came in contact with classroom surfaces, and he developed a “smokers cough,” diarrhea, stomach pains, and shortness of breath. His is just one case out of hundreds reported each year of children literally being poisoned by pesticides at school. Administrators, merely wanting to get rid of the bugs, are mostly unaware of the danger and uninformed about safe, non-toxic alternatives, and parents simply don’t know about the dousings … until their children get sick.
To stop pesticide use in your school system, call the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides: 541-344-5044.
GOOD COP, BAD COP
When he named Sen. Joseph Lieberman to be his running mate, Al Gore portrayed the choice as a “bold” move, and it certainly is symbolically significant that he put the first Jewish American on a national ticket. Symbolism aside, though, Sen. Lieberman’s idea of boldness is occasionally to wear a plaid shirt — this guy is strictly cut from corporate cloth, and he’s not about to do anything to upset business as usual in Washington.
Indeed, when Gore recently had a momentary outbreak of mild populist rhetoric, pointing out that the pharmaceutical and insurance giants are greedy for opposing Medicare coverage of prescription drugs, Bold Joe jumped forth to assure Wall Street that it need not fear Al’s bark. “There is no rational reason why the markets should be in any way adversely affected by the positions and policies and programs of the Gore-Lieberman ticket,” he cooed to The Wall Street Journal. “Political rallies tend not to be places for extremely thoughtful argument,” he said with a wink, adding, “you have some rhetorical flourishes.” To soothe the hurt feelings of industry executives, Lieberman tossed them a couple of bon bons, praising drug makers for having “enabled all of us to lead better lives,” and pledging to put more federal money into pharmaceutical research. Nothing like taxpayer cash to make a political boo boo all better.
Speaking of cash, Lieberman has taken plenty of it from corporate favor-seekers. In addition to running for vice president, he’s also up for re-election to the Senate, and so far he’s taken $265,000 from pharmaceutical and insurance companies. “There’s a natural connection between the industries and me,” he says shamelessly. If corporate power had any further qualms about Gore-Lieberman getting out of line, Joe ended any doubt by declaring flatly that “this is a pro-growth, pro-business ticket.” So much for boldness on the part of these “Democrats.”
Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts nationwide daily from Austin. His new book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com, or write firstname.lastname@example.org.