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JIM HIGHTOWER Bush’s Bubble id you happen to see the dignity with which the Italian people honored their 19 soldiers who were killed in an attack in Iraq? All 19 coffins were draped in the Italian flag, Italy’s president was present for a moving ceremony, and there was a day of national mourning. Contrast this show of dignity to our White House’s cold avoidance of any public mourning for the more than 400 coffins that have come back to our country from George W.’s war in Iraq. Bush handlers say they don’t want him seen with the coffins of our dead soldiers, for that would be “off message.” Rather, the Bushites are pushing a cheery message, proclaiming that things are going according to plan in Iraq, with great progress being made in our glorious occupation. Not only do the Bushites stay on message, but their right-wing media apologists also try to put a smiley face on our losses there, as do George’s congressional parrots. For example, one of the blathering GOP Congress critters, George Nethercutt of Spokane, recently went to Iraq on the taxpayer’s dime for four days. He then returned and dutifully offered this brilliant insight: “The story of what we’ve done in Iraq is remarkable. It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day.” How would Nethercutt feel if one of those soldiers was his child or grandchild? And, if one of Bush’s daughters was a soldier coming home in a coffinwould he go “offmessage”? And if 400 children of his top campaign contributors had died over there, would we still be in Iraq? Indeed, if the children of the privileged had to go to war, would Bush, the Congress, the war contractors, the media barons, and the right-wing talk-show hosts have been so gung-ho to put our soldiers there in the first place? CORRUPT CORPORATE NORM I hate to dis tract you from the media’s saturation coverage of the latest Michael Jackson saga, but have you noticed that the corporate crime spree continues to roar like an out-of-control wildfire? It seems like only yesterday that Wall Street, Washington, and the media were insisting that the flaming collapses of Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, and those other high-profile “bad boys” were nothing but extraordinary exceptions to “the norm” of corporate America’s high ethical standards. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said of a dinner guest, “The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons?’ Today, the media barons bury the stories of corporate finagling, but hardly a week goes by without another major corporation or entire industry being caught in a widespread flare-up of corruption, self-dealing, fraud, or other thievery. Take a recent two-day period in which three wildfires of corruption burst out. Lord Conrad Black, a right-wing British press baron who controls the Chicago Sun -Times and other media holdings, was found to be illegally siphoning millions of corporate dollars into his own pockets. Coincidentally, Lord Black’s accounting firm, KPMG, also was squirming at this same time in front of a U.S. Senate committee, for it has been caught reaping millions in fees for sleazy tax shelters it designed to help its rich clients escape paying their taxes. Then, on the same day, an undercover FBI sting found that some of Wall Street’s biggest banks, including J.P. Morgan, have been rigging currency trades and pocketing kickbacks while bilking small investors. It’s time to admit that the corrupt “exceptions” have become the corporate norm, and that nothing will change without fundamental reforms in the entire corporate system. TRULY AMAZING! It’s time to venture again into the Far-out Frontiers of Free Enterprise. Spaceship Hightower takes you for another spin around the wondrous world of truth-in-advertising, with Consumer Reports magazine as our chief guide. First, let’s stop by the Galaxy of Incredibly Shrinking Packages, always a fun way for companies to jack up prices in the hope that consumers won’t notice. Got a new baby? Maybe you like to use Pampers “newborn swaddlers” diapers. What you won’t like is that Proctor & Gamble has quietly cut the number of swaddlers per package from 48 to 40, yet you pay the same price to get less producta sneaky 17 percent price hike. Likewise, Wegman’s supermarket downsized its yogurt cup from eight ounces to six, but instead of trying to hide the change, Wegmans’ label actually brags about the rip-off, declaring in happy red type: “Smaller size, bigger taste, same price!” Then there are some product promises that make you go, “Huh?” Proctor & Gamble, for example, has a new man’s “body wash” sold under its Old Spice label. It’s apparently meant for those sweaty times when men might feel that more than plain old soap is needed. Yet, the label makes a bold promise that most of us wouldn’t think necessary: “Won’t wash away testosterone!” Many come-ons require attention to the small printsuch as the ad for a chain of clubs called “24 Hour Fitness.” Then in tiny type you learn, “Not all clubs open 24 hours.” There’s also Marriott hotels, which puts a bottle of spring water in your room saying, “Please Enjoy.” But the small print says, “If consumed, $4.50 will be billed to your room.” The prize for the NoFooling Award, however, goes to a swimming pool supply company that offers this hot deal: “Buy 1st Item at Double Normal PriceGet 2nd Identical Item Absolutely FREE!” Jim Hightower is the best -selling author of Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back \( 12/19/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15