Sometimes, political hypocrisy is so blatant that it sends me dashing to the dictionary in search of words large enough to encompass it. Plain old “hypocrite” just doesn’t do the job when describing the audacity of George W. Bush, who has suddenly started painting himself as “Mr. Green, The Environmentalist.” What a hat full of horsefeathers; what a hoary hunk of chutzpah; what a grotesque, galloping glob of gall this guy is! Environmentalist? It’s like naming a chainsaw Johnny Appleseed.
But there he was, just after April Fools Day, saying we have “a duty to be good stewards,” opining to the TV cameras, “Prosperity will mean little if we leave future generations a world of polluted air.”
Hello? This is the same Bush who is telling everyone that to know what he will do as president, we should look at what he’s done in Texas? Okay, let’s look. He has allowed the worst air polluters in the state – polluters who gave half a million bucks to his 1998 re-election campaign – to comply with our clean air laws on a voluntary basis. Righto – don’t want to comply, don’t have to. Bush is “Mr. Green” all right – Money Green.
Then there’s his choice to head the Texas enviro-protection agency: a guy who spent his past thirty years as a Monsanto chemical executive and who was a top official for the Texas chemical industry’s lobbying group. So, with industry lapdogs like this in charge, it’s no surprise that on Bush’s watch, Houston has surpassed Los Angeles as the smoggiest city in the whole U.S. of A., and Texas now has more disease-causing smog alerts than any other state. But Bush’s environmental agency even killed a plan to issue smog health advisories to protect school children and other residents.
Bush’s environmental record is so ugly he couldn’t get it clean if we gave him a can of Comet and a wire brush – no matter what lies he tells us.
LOCK ‘EM UP!
We hear a lot from politicians and the media about crime in the streets. But what about crime in the suites?
In Pasadena, Texas, a chemical plant owned by Phillips Petroleum recently exploded, killing one employee and sending seventy-one others to the hospital. A chemical explosion is nothing less than horrendous violence, with a deafening blast that itself can rip a body apart, plus shrapnel firing through the air for hundreds of yards, as well as liquid and gaseous chemicals that spew out, capable of dissolving your body, blinding you, suffocating, and poisoning you. If you survive the explosion, the toxic exposure can get you later, and one never fully recovers from the sheer terror.
After the Pasadena blast, a Phillips spokesman said, “We’ve got some employees unaccounted for. I couldn’t feel worse about it.” Well, with all due respect, Phillips executives really could feel worse about it – they could feel so bad, for example, that they’d actually do what it takes to stop this from happening. No other industrialized nation tolerates the number of workplace killings that occur in our country. Most of these killings are preventable, yet the avaricious, bottom-line ethic of the faraway corporate executives dictates shortcuts on safety – and thousands of American factory workers pay the price with their lives. It’s gross manslaughter.
This is not the first “incident” at the Phillips plant in Pasadena. Ten years ago, an explosion there killed twenty-three workers. And only a year ago, another blast killed two people. Phillips was cited for thirteen safety violations. What was its punishment? A $200,000 fine – not even a slap on the wrist for a multibillion dollar company like Phillips.
And, of course, the C.E.O. and the big investors, who personally profit so richly from the business activities of Phillips, paid no personal price at all for their business’ murderous ways.
Wouldn’t a little jail time for C.E.O.s stop this crime in the suites?
Time for another visit to the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise. Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you into the carefully orchestrated, up-tight world of “corporate attire.” This was the land of the gray flannel suit in past years, and more recently it was the domain of dark-suits-with-red-power-ties. But these days, CorporateWorld has been turned on its head by the arrival of “Casual Fridays.”
The Associated Press reports that Casual Fridays have now spread to Casual Everyday, with more than 40 percent of corporations allowing employees to dress down throughout the year. But, being corporations, the autocrats who run these places can’t leave people on their own. They have stepped forward with a rigid set of rules as to what constitutes “casual.” They even felt compelled to offer a detailed list of sartorial do’s and don’ts, telling men that bathing suits and flip-flops are no-no’s on the job, and telling women that see-through clothing is an office taboo. As for what’s right, the rules state that casual means women might wear slacks and a blazer, while men should think in terms of chinos with a button-down shirt.
Of course, an entire industry has sprung up around the conundrum of corporate casual. A.P. reports that Esquire magazine and Ralph Lauren Polo have teamed up to offer a seminar on “business casual.” You’ll be glad to know that there’s already a book out, called Casual Power: How to Power Up Your Nonverbal Communication and Dress Down for Success. Also, a new category of consultants has sprung up to develop dress codes for companies and to enforce the codes in the workplace.
How pleasant – Casual Friday Dress Police. Who says corporations don’t have soul? Hey, get down – and shake your corporate bootie!
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 [email protected]