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radio show \(it’s back on the air now in synparent company. But Disney’s reach is much longer than that. Unchecked and mad for power, Big Mouse has squelched adverse reporting, from profiles of Disney business partner Otis Chandler to an ABC critique of Clinton’s new Telecommunications Act, a Gilded Age throwback which legitimizes mega-takeovers favorable to Disney, and which was passed with a $40million lobbying greasejob in Congress. Dead Armadillos is filled with informationbut unfortunately, no source indexto make you hotter than a Dallas Morning News editorial, and maybe resolved to do something about it. If the latter is your bent, Hightower asserts as another of his ongoing themes that there’s a bigger group of pissed-off people in Texas than the politicians or the media like to admit. Progressives \(the book provides valuable reshouldn’t overlook them either, he says, and should even be willing to reach out into places like the churches for, activist friends. How far does this reach extend? “One example of egregious gauge-tampering is telling us that the American people are `conservative,'” Hightower asserts. Using his Daddy as an example, Hightower suggests that while many people would say they are “conservative,'” on issues like religion, abortion, or perhaps the death penalty, they are actually “radical” about having their lives controlled by Big Government and Big Corporations. This is old populist territory, and even the militias, tax-revolters, jury nullifiers, and assorted rightof-center groups share the ride at least as far as anti-government is concerned. These groups rarely make the economic connection because latent McCarthyist taboos prevent them from doing so. In a way, Hightower stops short, too. His idea of class warfare hinges on the “middle class,” to which he refers constantly. “America’ s true political spectrum does not run right-to-left, but top-to-bottom,” he says. But the middle class is not a “class,” it’s an income group. The classes are two: working and owning. Focusing on a “middle class” not only hides the very line Hightower needs to draw for his “class war,” but it cuts off the poor and working poor, a disproportionate number of whom are minorities. Unless he includes them by defining the “middle class” as everyone but the upper 10 percentin which case the term has no real meaning anyway. This opportunistic terminology, and the foreswearance of the kind of class analysis used practically everywhere in the world but America, holds Hightower much closer to the conventional system than he might like to stand. Championing the “middle class” is what Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich do. Hightower, still a closet Democrat, has to finally leave that company behind, even if he thinks “middle class” is a term more palatable to his audience. But that’s not the problem with Dead Armadillos. By whatever name, Hightower addresses the enemy smartly and hard. The flaw is not in what Hightower writes about so much as in what he doesn’t. What he doesn’t write about, except in a handful of references, is race. No problem so distresses the nation today, from schools to law enforcement to immigration, and yet race as a deliberately considered subject is all but excluded, cover to cover. “Pollution is a class issue,” Hightower writes, but in the same paragraph adds, “Minorities are especially hard hit-60 percent of African-American and Hispanic-American families live in communities with at least one toxic waste site.” Good god! 60 percent? Doesn’t that call for, at the minimum, parallel phrasing? Why not say, “Pollution is a race issue?” Why is there no section, even a full chapter, devoted to the way racism divides and poisons our lives and politics? I kept waiting for this in the book, and it was never delivered. Why? Hightower developed extensive contacts in black and brown communities while running for office. Aren’t the problems that stem from race a natural part of the populist agenda? Since race has been the Achilles’ heel of the movement, especially in its “nativist” manifestations, shouldn’t Hightower go out of his way to compensate? If all those good old boys and godfearing Christian activists in Denison and elsewhere who are really “radical” rather than “conservative” can’t make close alliance with blacks and browns part of the deal, then populism, or progressive populism, is doomed and ought to be. At a recent anniversary celebration of the Observer, the absence of people of color, especially blacks, was so noteworthy that a black reporter from the Dallas Morning News, of all places, was moved to stand up and say that at the next anniversary she hoped to see more nonwhite faces. I think the message took, and is reflected in more black and brown writers and issues in these pages. Hightower has to get it, too. Cowboy hats and the “Chat & Chew” Caf might be workable metaphors for white folks, but they bypass the urban strongholds where blacks and browns are becoming the most progressive forces in American life today. That said, the arrival of this book is more than welcome; it is a stump speech of the first order, a tent re vival for the politically apostate, an industrial strength wake-up call to just how merciless a pounding we’re taking. No one who reads will be able to comfortably retreat into stupor. And if you’re old enough to have forgotten how little you can trust the government or corporations or the media or the rich, this book will remind you. Fresh fuel then will arrive daily. On the afternoon I finished reading Dead Armadillos, NBC reported, without so much as a hint of skepticism, a new “study” from the insurance industry which showed why a hike in auto rates would be “necessary.” As I’m thinking, gee, when was the last time an industry “study” showed why rates should be lowered, I glanced through the paper and read that two U.S. professors had been awarded the Nobel Prize. Their research, the story said, helped “devise a way to value derivatives, the risky investments that can make fortunes but are notorious for helping ruin Britain’s oldest bank and California’s Orange County.” In other words, the Nobel Prize, which also once went to the great peacemaker Henry Kissinger, was being given to two economists who figured out a way for the super-rich, who trade $70 trillion in these securities \(which are global in nature but also are used in part to refinance even more money with less attention to messy social side-effects. Get a rope. Rod Davis is a former editor of the Observer. His article, “The Fate of the Texas Writer,” published last year in the Observer, won the 1997 PEN/Texas Award for best essay. NOVEMBER 7, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25