Page 11


JIM HIGHTOWER Put a Cork in NAFTA Have you had the pleasure yet of tasting NAFTA wine? Just when you thought there was nothing pleasing to come from the North American Free Trade Agreement, along comes a group of Arizona entrepreneurs with a special bottling of a sprightly “NAFTA chardonnay” and a robust “NAFTA cabernet sauvignon.” In keeping with the spirit of the three-nation trade accord, the NAFTA wines feature grapes from the U.S., wine labels from Mexico and corks from Canada. Plus, I’m told that when you pull the cork on these wines, you can hear a giant sucking sound. “A lot of people are questioning whether it was a good idea to do NAFTA,” says one of the partners who put the NAFTA wines on the market in 20 states in January. “But regardless of how you feel,” he says, “you can still enjoy a glass of wine with people who oppose you philosophically.” Yes, indeed! I personally would like to enjoy a glass with every member of Congress who voted for NAFTA and promised us at the time it would be a boon for the U.S. economy. I hear the cabernet is a perfect accompaniment for eating crow. How timely that these celebratory wines come on the market just as all those “free marketers” who pushed NAFTA down on us a year ago have come begging for a $40 billion bailout from us taxpayers. You see, after NAFTA passed, Wall Street speculatorsplus wealthy investors in Mexico, Japan, Germany and elsewhereinvested billions in Mexican bonds that were paying big returns. But when the Mexican peso crashed recently, suddenly their bonds dropped 40 percent in valueand they dashed to Washington wanting you and me to cover their losses. Instead of giving them $40 billion, why don’t we let them drown their sorrows in a bottle of NAFTA wine? Nukes, Nevada & You Senator J. Bennett Johnston is hardly a household nameexcept in Nevada. Johnston actually is a U.S. Senator from Louisiana, but families in Nevada have pictures of him on their Nyallsusing his photo as a dart board. Jim Hightower, a former Observer editor and Texas agriculture commissioner, does daily radio commentary and a weekend call-in talk show on the ABC Radio Network What makes Senator Johnston “so popular” in the casino state is his crusade to ship all of our country’s high-level nuclear waste thousands of miles across the country to Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, and stash it there for eons. Never mind that 80 percent of Nevadans don’t want the nation’s entire load of nuclear garbage 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, why should you care? First, the trip to Yucca Mountain goes through your city or town: 70,000 tons of hot, highly radioactive nuclear waste, wending its way to Nevada along highways and rails crisscrossing 43 statesnuclear accidents begging to happen. Second, this stuff stays radioactive for 10,000 years, yet the canisters in which they are to bury the waste are good for only 100 years. Plus, Yucca Mountain is noted for earthquakes, any one of which could explode the waste sky high, causing it to drift back across the countryand roost on you. Why is this crazy scheme being pushed? Because the nuclear industry, eager to build more nuke-power plants, knows it can’t do so without a waste dump. And they figure that Nevada is so isolated that you and I won’t care if they dump on these people. So Senator Johnston, who’s grown fatter than a butcher’s dog from nuclear-industry PAC contributions, is ramrodding a bill to require Nevada to take the waste. If you want to fight against the ignorance and arrogance of the industry and Senator Johnston, contact the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project: 702-687-3744. Red Dog/Bad Dog They say it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Whoever said that never met’Red Dog. Red Dog is the name of a new beer that’s being marketed all over the country. But its colorful name and no-nonsense red-andblack labelfeaturing the head of a big, red bulldog-with-an-attitudeare designed to make this brew seem like it’s from one of the upstart microbreweries that are popping up all across the country. These defiant local beers and ales are gaining quite a following among us serious suds connoisseurs who like a bit of diversity, and a heartier flavor than the pasteurized paleness of the giant brands. I mean, why have a lite when there’s Abita’s Turbo Dog from Louisiana, Goat’s Breath Bock from Missouri, Moose Juice Stout from Wyoming and my favorite label: What-the Gent-onthe-Floor-Is-Having Ale from Florida? These locals are tiny; combined they take only 1 percent of the national beer market. But the Big Four breweries, which already have 99 percent of the market, resent the 1 percent held by the microbews, and that’s where Red Dog comes in. The label on a bottle of Red Dog says it’s made by the Plank Road Brewery. How colonial! But don’t believe it. There is no such brewery, and Red Dog is no microbrewit’s made by Miller, the country’s second largest beermaker, which in turn is owned by the even larger conglomerate, Philip MOrris. The giants, you see, are inventing their own phony microlabels, then using their multibillion-dollar marketing clout to knock the real local brands off the shelf. “Bad Dog, bad Dog!” It’s not nice to play tricks on America’s beer drinkers. Big Thieves/Little Justice There’s an old adage in the underworld of crime: “Little thieves do time; big thieves do fine.” Meet Mr. John M. McNamarabig thief. A year ago, this successful GM car dealer and real estate baron out on the tony end of Long Island, New York, admitted to federal prosecutors that he had bilked General Motors of nearly half a billion dollars–one of the largest frauds in American corporate history. Yet, a year later, McNamara hasn’t spent so much as a day in jail. He continues to live comfortably on his estate, in a ram. bling white house with an indoor pool. He holds nearly $2 million in personal assets, and even flies back and forth freely to Florida, where he recently started an auto parts business, using a chunk of a half-million-dollar trust fund he had established earlier for his teenage daughter. Hey, what’s the deal here? It’s a mighty sweet deal that Mr. Big Thief cut with federal prosecutors. In exchange for his testimony in a small-time bribery case involving two local officialswho were acquitted in January, despite McNamara’s testimonythey are letting him keep a small fortune, and he might not do any prison time at all for his multibillion-dollar fraud. Well, the feds say, McNamara did have to give up some land holdings, plus he had to surrender his private plane. If someone was convicted of stealing a new car off McNamara’s lot, chances are that someone would be doing six to eight years in prison. But McNamara can steal half a billion dollars worth of carsand all he’s doing are laps in his indoor pool. It’s hard to teach the little thieves to respect the law, when the big thieves don’t have’to. 4 FEBRUARY 24, 1995