In Thieves in High Places, Jim Hightower takes on the Kleptocrats, Wobblycrats, and Bushites with hilarious results. Digging up behind-the-scenes dirt on stories the corporate news media overlooks (and don’t get him started on them!), Hightower reveals the real stories behind BushCo’s "Friday Night Massacres," what’s happened to our food, and the Bush plan for empire.
With grassroots solutions, drawing on Hightower’s national Rolling Thunder Down- Home Democracy Toura traveling festival of rebellion against every tentacle of the corporate-politico power grabHightower is tapping into the activist network that is thriving at kitchen tables all over America. This is the real America the rest of the world doesn’t get to see, delivered with Hightower’s own hilarious brand of wit and outrage.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.56(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and the bestselling author of If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates and There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.
Read an Excerpt
klep·to·crat na·tion (klep´te krat na´ shen), n. 1. a body of people ruled by thieves 2. a government characterized by the practice of transferring money and power from the many to the few 3. a ruling class of moneyed elites that usurps liberty, justice, sovereignty, and other democratic rights from the people 4. the USA in 2003
The Kleptocrats have taken over. Look at America’s leadership today—not just political, but corporate, too. Tell me you wouldn’t trade the whole mess of them for one good kindergarten teacher.
Forget George W for a moment (we’ll get to him soon enough) and sneak a peek at practically any big-deal CEO, congressional heavy, media baron, talk-show yakker, pompadoured TV preacher, and the other pushers of America’s new ethic of grab-it-and-go greed. Sheesh! In a crunch, would you want to be tied at the waist to any of these people? When I look at any one of them, I can’t help mumbling to myself: 100,000 sperm and you were the fastest?
Yet, they’re in charge! Here we are, living in the wealthiest country in history, a country of boundless possibilities, a country made up of a people deeply committed to democratic ideals, a country with the potential for spectacular human achievement—but we find ourselves ruled (politically, economically, culturally, and ethically) by a confederacy of Kleptocrats.
When did you first realize or at least begin to suspect that America was lost? Not physically, of course—we’re right here.
Lost its way, is what I mean, having wandered from the brave and true path first pointed out by Tom Paine, T.J., Jimmy Madison, and several other good thinkers back around 1776—a path toward a society focused not on empire, but on enlightenment and egalitarianism.
We’ve never reached that glorious place, of course, but the important thing is that in our two- century sojourn we’ve been steadily striving to get there...and making progress. If any one thing really characterizes this big boiling pot of diversity dubbed “America” it is that we’re a nation of strivers. Unfortunately, the cultural elites want to minimalize this powerful virtue by reducing it to nothing more than individuals striving for material gain—Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, How to Get Rich in the Next Half Hour!, You Might Already Be a Winner.
Then they wonder why there’s such a gaping hole in America, an emptiness that can’t be filled by nonstop shopping, prepaid elections, more bunting, and reality TV. When the Powers That Be started defining a person’s value by the value of his stock portfolio, they lost America, for that’s not who we are. These Powers are as clueless as the doomed husband in this divorce case:
attorney: What was the first thing your husband said to you when you woke up that morning?
witness: He said, “Where am I, Cathy?”
attorney: And why did that upset you?
witness: My name is Susan.
Don’t go calling us names like “Consumer” or “Stakeholder” when who we are is full-fledged, dyed-in-the-wool, unbridled, rambunctious citizens—indeed, we’re the ultimate sovereigns of this great land. We don’t strive merely for material gain, but also for the spiritual satisfaction of building community and reaping the deeper richness of the common good.
The idea of belonging to something larger than our own egos and bank accounts, the idea of caring, sharing, and participating as a public, is the BIG IDEA of America itself. As a boy growing up in Denison, Texas, I was taught this unifying, moral concept by hardworking, Depression-era parents who ran a small business in our small town. They knew from experience and from their hearts what America is all about: “Everybody does better when everybody does better” is how my old Daddy used to put it.
The unforgivable transgression of today’s leaders is that they’ve abandoned this common wisdom of the common good and quit striving for that world of enlightenment and egalitarianism that the founders envisioned and that so many throughout our history have struggled to build. Instead, whether from the top executive suites or from the White House, the people in charge today are aggressively pushing a soulless ethic that shouts: “Everyone on your own, grab all you can, and if you’ve got enough money, secure yourself in a gated compound.”
Whoa there, greedbreath. That’s not a society, it’s a cockfight! And it’s damned sure not the proud country that we thought we were living in—the land of Liberty and Justice for All. Not only are the Kleptocrats stealing our country from us, they’re stealing our democratic ideals—the very idea of America. And it’s time to take it back.
How far have the elites moved from us? So far that even the moderates have lost their way. Take Sherwood Boehlert. He’s a Republican congressman, but despite that, not a bad guy. Sherwood thinks of himself as “part of the enlightened middle.”
From central New York, he’s been in the House of Representatives for twenty-one years now. A long time. Maybe a tad too long. He says he loves the job, calling it the “ultimate aphrodisiac.” Hmmmm. OK, I understand that people who shovel muck for a living come to love the smell, so everyone to his own.
But Sherwood said something not long ago that made me think that maybe he’s been sniffing the perfumes of high office longer than is good for him:
“It’s the people’s house,” he gushed about his side of the Capitol, “the one institution in the whole wide world that’s the personification of this great democracy of ours.”
Uh-oh. Quick, someone dial 9-1-1. We need to rush an EMS Reality Crew over to Congress, grab Sherwood, strap him down, and jolt his head with defibrillator pads to shock the poor delusional fellow back to earth.
Think about it: Congress, democracy. Do these two words fit together in your mind? America is a nation of nurses, office workers, cabdrivers, schoolteachers, pharmacists, shopkeepers, middle managers, truck drivers, shift workers, librarians, cleaning people, electricians, fruit pickers, struggling artists—how many of our ilk are sitting next to Sherwood in “the people’s house”?
The great majority of Americans make less than $50,000 a year; half make under $32,000. How many members of Congress come from such modest backgrounds? Today’s Congress is made up of business executives, lawyers, and former political operatives (which Boehlert was). The Public Interest Research Group reports that nearly half of the people newly elected to Congress last year are millionaires. This is the personification of democracy?
It’s time to play “WHO WANTS TO BE A CONGRESS CRITTER?” There are 280 million Americans. To win today’s top prize, tell me how many of us are millionaires? BLHAAAAT. Time’s up. The answer: 2.1 million. We’ll do the math for you. That’s about 7/10 of 1 percent of the people.
Not only do the members tend to descend into Congress from the economic heights, but they also spend practically all of their substantive and social time with others from the heights. Congress’s real constituency is no longer you and me, but the people who “matter.” These are your top-floor corporate executives and the moneyed elites who have full-time lobbyists and who make the $1,000-and-higher campaign donations (only 0.12 percent of Americans are in this class) that grease the wheels of congressional incumbency. They are the privileged few who know members by their first names, who get every one of their phone calls returned—and who get their agendas adopted.
Perhaps this gaping economic chasm between those on the inside and all the rest of us on the outside explains why our strumpets of state never get around to dealing with little matters like assuring health care for all families, passing living-wage legislation, and making sure everyone gets a decent retirement. Members of the congressional club feel no urgency because, hey, it’s not them—they have no personal anxiety about such matters, because (one) they’re well off and (two) they’re covered on all this by us taxpayers. Yes, even the multimillionaires in Congress get:
• Full platinum-level health coverage for them and their families, including choosing their own docs, seeing the specialists they need, dental care, and cosmetic surgery for their pets. (Just kidding about that last one—but don’t put it past them!)
• A rosy retirement, with pensions that can rise higher than the pay they got while in office. Just the starting pensions are sweet: Phil Gramm, who finally did something for the people of Texas by leaving the Senate last year, starts out drawing retirement pay of $78,534 a year. He’ll be paid more for doing nothing than 80-plus percent of us Americans are paid for working full-time.
• Regular cost-of-living pay raises. While Congress has not seen fit to increase the minimum wage (still $5.15 an hour) since 1996, the members did give themselves four $5,000 pay raises during the past five years. This $20,000 “adjustment” in each of their own annual pay packets is $8,000 more than the gross pay that a full-time minimum-wage worker would get if Congress ever gets around to the one-dollar wage hike they’ve been “talking” about for years.
• Excellent job security. Did you know that a member of Congress is four times more likely to die in office than to lose an election? This is not only because of the special-interest money they’re stuffed with, but also because the GOP and Democrats conspire to divide the turf in each state, gerrymandering districts to assure that 96 percent of them are “safe” for the incumbents. There’s not much democracy in a rigged system that now allows only about 20 of the 435 House seats to be competitive in each election cycle.
As a bunch (and, yes, there are important exceptions within the bunch), I think of today’s Congress as a colony of cicadas. These are interesting insects with powerful survivalist genes. After hatching from eggs laid in tree limbs, cicadas drop to the ground, immediately burrow deep, and attach themselves to tree roots, where they suck the sap for thirteen years. The major difference is that Congress Critters suck the sap much longer.
ONWARD TO RECLAIM AMERICA!
A couple of years ago, Japanese police discovered more than four hundred pieces of women’s underwear in the home of Sadao Ushimura, a fellow who was a prominent official in Japan’s finance ministry at the time. Mr. Ushimura proclaimed total innocence of any possible scandal or perversion, explaining: “I picked up all lingerie on the streets by pure chance.”
We still have our underwear in America, but we’ve been stripped of a garment far more delicate and precious: our democracy. On this sprawling continent with its cacophony of voices and unprecedented clash of cultures, we’ve been able to hold it all together through the years because of our people’s instinctive and tenacious belief in the sanctity of democratic principles.
But something has gone terribly wrong in our country. The essence of democracy—our power to control decisions that affect us—has steadily and quietly been pilfered by corporate Kleptocrats. They have collected up our democratic powers piece by piece, hoarding them in the privacy of their own fiefdoms. These elites (fully abetted by the governmental elites they have bought) now effectively control the decisions that affect We the People—everything from public- spending priorities to environmental degradation, from wages to war, from what’s on the “news” to who gets elected.
This has taken place not by “pure chance,” but through deliberate filching, and the filching now has reached the level of wholesale looting. We can no longer avoid the reality in front of us: The elites have pulled off a slow-motion coup, radically wrenching America’s power balance from a people’s democracy to Kleptocrat Nation.
This would be terribly depressing except for one thing, which is that one basic has definitely NOT changed in our land: The people (you rascals!) still have that instinctive and tenacious belief in our historic democratic principles. The antidote to kleptocracy is the age-old medicine of democratic struggle, agitation, and organization—and all across our country, the rebellion is on!
As happened in the rebellion of 1776, as happened in the populist revolt against the robber barons of the nineteenth century, and as is already happening in community after community today, America’s historic democratic yearnings will not be long suppressed. Despite our present leadership (with their autocratic, plutocratic, and imperialistic ambitions), this is a nation of irrepressible democrats, and their spirit will out.
I think of my country like a rosebush. Many people say roses are fundamentally flawed because they have thorns. But I see it differently—I think it’s wonderful that thorns have roses. America is a thorny bush, for sure, but the ordinary people are its roses, and they are the beautiful story of this book.
I. LOST AMERICA
(The Bad News)
Lily Tomlin says she worries that the man who invented Muzak might be thinking of inventing something else.
I’m with her on that, but it ranks only a single “!” on my personal worry chart. Here are some things I find more worrisome, in rising order of alarm:
!! It’ll be discovered that the cause of cancer is: Beer.
!!! What if the song is right? What if the Hokey Pokey really is “what it’s all about”?
!!!! One word: BushCheneyRumsfeldAshcroftRidge&Co.
Aaauuuughh!!!! These people are dangerous. They’re also nuts. Here’s a small starter package of their nuttiness, just to give you a taste of what’s to come:
• The Bushites heard that the economy is wringing out working families like an old worn-out dishrag, so they said: No problem, we’ll help you by eliminating taxes paid by rich people.
• They’ve invented perverse phrases of newspeak, such as “anticipatory self-defense,” which give them rhetorical cover to roam anywhere around the globe like Attila the Nuclear Hun to kill people they don’t like and take their oil—now, when reporters ask Bush if we’re going to war he has to ask: In which country?
• They have an environmental policy that’s so polluted they actually tried to designate a California waste dump as a National Historic Landmark—you know, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Walden Pond, the Frenso Municipal Sanitary Landfill.
• They’re so imperious that even when Dick Cheney finally was forced by a court to release some of the documents disclosing the rampant corporate cronyism in his secret energy policy task force, the White House blanked out most sentences in the eleven thousand pages released, including one paper that was entirely blanked out except for this concluding sentence: “I hope this information was helpful.”
Imagine what they’d be doing if they’d actually won the election!
I can hear some of you saying, Hightower, how can you hear what we’re saying when you’re not in the room with us? No, no, I don’t hear you saying that, I hear you saying, So what’d you expect, Hightower? It’s a Republican administration, for cryin’ out loud! Republican presidents have favored big business since the day Abe got shot and they discovered robber barons. So what’s new? Besides, bubba, that bunch of Clinton Democrats plays the same footsie with the money bags. Didja forget the Lincoln Bedroom? NAFTA? All the other corporate favors?
Fair enough. The White House has been the Corporate Feed & Greed Store for some time. But this is much bigger. The Bushites are something else again, a whole other species of political schemers proceeding at an entirely new level of seriousness and sophistication, fully intending to implement an ideological laissez-faire agenda developed during the past thirty years or so in various corporate-funded think tanks and right-wing groups.
They’re not merely doing favors, giving payback, dancin’ with them that brung ’em, or any of the other colloquial expressions of Business As Usual—giving a subsidy here, a special tax break there, a regulatory twist back over here. This bunch is business-way-more-than-usual.
MEET YOUR GOVERNMENT
Are you old enough to remember when there was no EMS? It seems now as though these no- nonsense professional lifesavers have been around forever, rushing with lights flashing and sirens wailing to get to car wrecks, heart attack victims, and other emergencies. What a terrific job these men and women do. We all benefit by having them at the ready—including many a corpulent old hater of “Biggummint” who’s lived to thank his or her lucky stars that this chunk of public spending was available to haul their carcass to the hospital in time.
Until about thirty years ago, though, EMS didn’t exist. Instead, funeral homes ran the ambulances. Yes, the undertaker! Talk about a conflict of interest. Wreck on the highway? Call the boys over at the Kingdom of Eternal-Slow-Motion Funeral Home to head on over. (Owner: “OK, Joe Bill, we’ve got a blood splotch out on 390 West, but don’t you go running red lights and such, you hear?”) People died, not from the crash, but because the ambulance didn’t get there in time, or when it did, the driver didn’t know any lifesaving procedures, so...plunk...another body for the undertaker’s slab.
Not since those days have I seen such a big oozing conflict of interest as we now have in the White House. BushCheneyRumsfeld and the rest are not simply dutiful servants trying to please corporate interests, as previous administrations have been, THEY ARE THE CORPORATE INTERESTS.
I believe they should have to wear those peel-off greeting badges that conventioneers stick on their lapels: “HI! I’m Dick from Halliburton.” “I’m Rummie from Searle & Company and General Instrument.” “I’m Norm Mineta from Lockheed Martin.” “Ann Veneman from Calgene, Inc.” “Andy Card, here, from General Motors.” “Mitch Daniels from Eli Lilly.” “Donnie Evans of Brown, Inc.” “I’m Elaine Chao with Bank of America, Northwest Airlines, Dole Foods, Clorox, Columbia/HCA Healthcare, and—golly, they just don’t give you enough room on these badges, do they?”
Don’t forget George himself, who hails from the executive suites of Arbusto Energy, Spectrum 7, Harken Energy, and Texas Rangers, Inc.
From the start and by design, this was Bush Incorporated. Of course, Bush’s handlers ran it through their spin cycle so it wouldn’t seem like what it was, instead focusing on the cabinet’s physical diversity: “It’s America,” they cried as the cabinet was introduced. Looky there: four women (count ’em, four!), two African Americans, a Japanese American, a Lebanese American, a Chinese American, and—omigosh—even a Democrat American!
What strings all of this apparent diversity together, however, is the corporate connection. Practically every cabinet member has spent a lifetime advancing the interests of corporations over those of working families, consumers, small farmers, the poor, the environment, and ordinary taxpayers—the people’s interests. With one yank of the string, all that diversity snaps taut with corporate homogeneity. Looking at the cabinet’s four CEOs, two corporate lobbyists, and a flock of loyal corporate board members, one business newsletter hailed it as “an all-star boardroom.”
Swell. Except that this is supposed to be the cabinet of a democratic country, not of a corporation, and such a country dangerously restricts itself if it’s guided by people whose experiences and outlook do not go beyond the bottom line of self-serving, profit-seeking corporations. As we’ve learned the hard way from Enron, WorldCom, Bush’s own Harken Energy, and many more, the boardroom is not even good at governing a corporation, much less a bustling, sprawling, rambunctious, ornery, restless, fluid, truly diverse, and determinedly democratic nation like ours.
Tell me if I’m out of line here, but shouldn’t there be at least one cabinet member who actually needs the job? And how about choosing three or four from among those of us whose only corporate connection is that we get monthly bills. Two-thirds of us Americans get paid less than $50,000 a year. Where’s our seat? This is a job that pays $171,000 a year, yet virtually every cabinet appointee goes out of his way to say that taking “government pay” is a personal sacrifice for him, a step down, as though he’s a little embarrassed. I’d like to hear one appointee shout, “Zowee! Order that new dress, momma, we’re in the high cotton now.”
And what about these people?
• 33 million Americans now live in poverty—8 million more than twenty-five years ago.
• 41 million Americans have no health coverage—6 million more than a decade ago.
• 9.6 million Americans have no jobs—2 million more than when Bush came to office.
How about this: If they won’t give working families and poor folks a seat at the big table, maybe they could set up a small table on the side. My parents did that when I was just a little scamp. When company came over for supper, there wouldn’t be enough room for us kids at the dining table, so my folks would set up a card table. It was something, which is way more than we’re getting now.
The cabinet was only the beginning. Bush & Co. also have looped their corporate string throughout the government, posting corporate executives, consultants, and lobbyists to practically all of the key operational positions in every agency. You hear about the cabinet officials, but these are the faces that rarely surface, the people down in the inner works of our government who wield the monkey wrenches, grease cans, crowbars, drills, and power saws to jury-rig the system. There are scores of them, and their corporate bias thoroughly permeates and dominates the machinery of public affairs.
Are there no talented consumer, labor, environmental, and other public representatives to fill these posts? Well, yes, of course. But somehow or other, the Bushites haven’t gotten around to appointing any of them. Instead, it’s an all-corporate cast.
Here’s just a few of the corporations that now have their very own executive or trusted hireling wearing the hat of an undersecretary, general counsel, assistant secretary, director, or some other powerful government official:
Aerospace Corporation GTE/Verizon Communications
American Airlines Huntsman Corporation
British-American Tobacco IBM
Carnival Cruise Line Integrated Systems
Charles Schwab Interwest Mining
ConAgra Lockheed Martin
Edison Electric Monsanto
Energy Corporation of America Northrop Grumman
Energy West Mining Occidental Petroleum
Ernst & Young Sensis Corp.
ExxonMobil Tesoro Petroleum
General Electric Union Pacific
What say we meet a couple of these corporately connected public servants?
John D. Graham
Here’s a fellow who might already have touched you personally, though he wouldn’t have left any fingerprints. John heads a nerdy operation called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Let’s see, the acronym of that’d be OIRAWHOMB, which can be rearranged as an anagram to spell BIG KIBOSH. That’s what Graham is—the guy in charge of putting the kibosh on regulations designed to protect our health from things like asbestos poisoning, toxic emissions, and whatnot.
Gosh, why would he do that? Because he wakes up every morning and takes a couple of lids of LSD, which has turned him into a dangerous, hallucinogenic freak. (Just kidding! Call off the lawyers! I was only seeing if you were paying attention!) Actually, the LSD explanation is not one dot weirder than the reality, which is that Graham is besotted with an antigovernment, antipublic ideology and has found a way to convert his political extremism into a profitable career fronting for corporations that sicken and kill us with their products and carefree sloppiness.
What hole did Graham crawl out of? A place called the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which he directed, doing reports on the health risk of everything from secondhand smoke to the dioxins that spew from chemical plants. Well, that sounds pretty academicky, like he’s a legitimate independent research scientist. He’s not a scientist at all, just another doctrinaire policy geek. As for his independence, Graham’s center is funded by more than one hundred corporations, including these specimens: Aetna, Alcoa, Amoco, ARCO, Bethlehem Steel, Boise Cascade, BP, Chevron, Ciba-Geigy, CITGO, Coca-Cola, Dow, DuPont, Eastman Kodak, Exxon, Ford, GE, GM, Georgia-Pacific, Goodyear, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Merck, Mobil, Monsanto, Nippon, Novartis, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Pharmacia Upjohn, Procter & Gamble, Schering-Plough, Shell, Texaco, 3M, Union Carbide, and Westinghouse.
The companies contribute generously because Graham delivers reports that almost always support them, usually without bothering to mention that they funded his “research.” For example, when the EPA finally reported that dioxin is an extraordinarily potent chemical that can cause everything from cancer to birth defects, Graham rushed out as an “expert” to criticize the EPA and pooh-pooh the risk, declaring to the media: “It’s a shame when a mother worries about toxic chemicals, and yet her kids are running around unvaccinated and without bicycle helmets.”
No mention to the media that his center is funded by forty-eight different corporations that pollute our environment with dioxin.
This is Bush’s choice to be the czar who oversees the entire regulatory process of the government’s executive departments. No important health, safety, environmental, or other rule to protect you and me from corporate excess can be issued by the EPA or other executive agency without getting stamped by John’s signet ring. Yet, his appointment to head OIRA caused little media stir, and you probably know nothing about it. But the corporate executives and lobbyists knew about it, and their beaming smiles would have lit up the sky on the darkest night of an Arctic winter.
Among those beaming the brightest would have been the honchos of W.R. Grace & Co., the chemical and asbestos giant. They had a problem. Millions of American homes, schools, and businesses—perhaps yours—are insulated with a product named Zonolite, made from a substance containing an extremely lethal asbestos fiber that came from W.R. Grace’s mine in Libby, Montana. Hundreds of the Libby miners and their families have died from asbestosis, hundreds more are diagnosed with it, and thousands are sickened by it.
This is nasty stuff—breathing even a little can cause major health problems. The Zonolite insulation poses no problem if it’s not disturbed. That’s the good news. Bad news is that it takes very little to disturb it. Bumping the walls as you sweep your floor or doing work in the attic can shake loose a mess of fibers. It’s such a problem that Bush’s EPA administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, who’s not exactly a tiger on corporate wrongdoing, was so alarmed that she was prepared in April of ’02 to issue a national health warning about Zonolite.
Do you recall getting any warning? You didn’t, because just days before Whitman was to go to the media, John Graham and his OIRAWHOMB put the kibosh on her warning. It seems that Graham’s obligation is not to us pollutees, who might want to know about Zonolite’s danger to our families, but to the bottom line of the polluter, W.R. Grace.
Under what authority had Graham single-handedly quashed such an important effort by a cabinet officer to protect the public health? No response from OIRAWHOMB. Had he been contacted by Grace officials? Silence. An agency spokeswoman told an inquiring reporter: “We don’t discuss predecisional deliberations.”
There you have it—your tax dollars at work, Bush style.
What a good name! Sounds like a comic book heroine. But, no, she’s for real, and whether you think she’s a heroine or not depends on which end of the cell phone you’re on. If you’re on the consumer end, not. But if you’re an executive or lobbyist for Cingular Wireless, SBC Communications, Verizon, or one of the other big sellers of cell phone plans, definitely yes.
Nancy is based these days at the Commerce Department, where she heads an outfit you’re not likely to have heard of: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Sounds awfully boring. But as administrator of NTIA, Nancy packs some punch, for it makes her the Bushites’ point person on telecommunications policy. There’s lots of dough riding on the policy decisions she’s making—dough that’s ultimately going to come out of the pockets of Mr. and Ms. Youknowwho.
Now I know this will surprise you: Guess who Nancy worked for before joining Bush Incorporated? The cell phone makers and marketers! Isn’t this fun? Her former law firm, Wiley Rein & Fielding, is one of the biggest in Washington, specializing in communications regulation and representing such clients as Verizon and SBC. Her husband still is a partner there, which puts a nice family touch to the story.
After Bush appointed Ms. Victory, she was feted at a private reception by her old corporate pals. The party was hosted and paid for by the top lobbyists for Cingular, SBC, and Motorola. Asked how much they spent and whether the money came from corporate funds, both the Cingular and Motorola lobbyists said, and I quote them here, “I don’t remember.”
Ah, but Nancy remembered them. Only ten days after her gala reception, she woke up in a gay and generous mood, ate a big bowl of Special K, went to the office, and zipped off a formal NTIA letter to the FCC demanding the immediate repeal of a regulation that had long bothered her friends at Cingular, SBC, and so forth. In essence, what this repeal would do is to let these big players divide the territory and eliminate pesky competitors. Two weeks after her letter was sent, the FCC did just as Nancy had asked.
Amazing. Who says government is slow and unresponsive?
Confronted by the curious chronology at play here, Nancy indignantly says that any suggestion that there was a connection is “ridiculous.” She also declined to identify industry guests who attended her reception, simply saying, “They’re my friends.”
Exactly. And that’s what’s wrong—Nancy and her friends are running our government as though it’s their private party.
CORPORATIONS “R” US
What we have here is a government that’s as thoroughly corporatized as your typical shopping mall. Most malls today have the same collection of stores, dominated by Starbucks, The Gap, McDonald’s, Barnes & Noble, Toys “R” Us, CompUSA, Target, Wal-Mart, and other nationally branded names that use their deep-pocket financing, predatory marketing, and raw political muscle to overpower local businesses and communities.
Now, this same assertion of corporate power, this same uniformity, is malling our entire government, branding it as corporate America’s own. Such uniformity is bad enough in the marketplace, but it’s intolerable in a government that’s supposed to represent all of the people.
Some say—in fact, Bush and Cheney did say when they were campaigning—that government ought to operate like a business. Oh, which one? Enron? WorldCom? But it’s not just a matter of the disgraced corporations. No corporation is a model for how government should operate. Corporations are rigid, top-down, autocratic hierarchies in which executive actions are delivered as fiats to be implemented unquestioningly. Checks and balances are a joke—the board of directors, for example, is a brother-in-law job, handpicked by the CEO. Openness? Corporations are towers of secrecy, in which all information is considered a proprietary asset to be doled out only in approved snippets vetted through the PR department, keeping as much as possible from employees, investors, customers, auditors, regulators, lawmakers, the media, and We the People.
If this way of operating sounds familiar, it’s because this has been the mode of the Bushites from day one. We really shouldn’t be surprised that they’re so determinedly secretive, so bald in their grab for power, so disdainful of Congress and anyone who tries to question them, so astonishingly audacious in their assertion of an agenda that benefits very few people and that few support. Having spent their professional lives within the tightly controlled executive-suite culture, they come to government with the narrowest of outlooks, the most privileged of experiences, and the bottom-line arrogance of executives who want to do what they want—and everyone else should just get the hell out of their way.
Last December, George gave America a Christmas present: A brand new economic team! I really was hoping for a new bike, but instead you and I and all of us were presented with John Snow, Steve Friedman, and Bill Donaldson. It was like getting socks, belts, and underwear, but George looked into the TV cameras and said firmly that we should be grateful, for these three gifts were going to “fix” the economy.
Yes, but for whom? As a hotel worker once said to me, “I live on a fixed income—and I’m looking for the ones who fixed it.” She might check out these three fixers and think about what they’ll deliver for her:
Donaldson, chosen to head the SEC, which is supposed to be our watchdog against fraud by Wall Street firms. He was CEO of one of the biggest of the Wall Street firms, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette—which presently happens to be under SEC investigation for fraud.
Friedman, chosen to be Bush’s top economic advisor. He was cochairman of the huge investment house of Goldman Sachs, where he was a leader in the merge- and-purge boom of the ’80s and ’90s, which cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs, lessened competition, raised prices for consumers, and hurt shareholders.
Snow, chosen to be our country’s top economic official as treasury secretary. He was CEO of the nation’s largest railroad company, CSX Corporation, where he presided over a 53 percent dive in the company’s stock price while raising his own pay by 69 percent, at the same time he was slashing the health care and life insurance benefits for CSX retirees.
This trio is now making the governmental decisions over all aspects of our economic lives, setting the rules and rewriting the laws concerning our wages, pensions, taxes, credit cards, mortgages, small-business loans, bankruptcies, and so forth. Sheesh—two Wall Streeters and a railroader. Thanks, George! I wonder why he didn’t just shove an ice pick up our noses.
I ask you: Whose side do you figure Snow, Friedman, and Donaldson will be on when it comes to the big decisions affecting you, like whether Congress should cut the taxes on the super rich by another half a trillion dollars or put those public funds into something more productive that you could use, like a cut in your payroll taxes or an affordable health care plan for all? But we already know the answer to that one—all three were early and eager endorsers of George W’s voodoo, hoodoo, woowoo trickle-down tax plan for the wealthy, which—SURPRISE!—includes them.
It’s not that they’re mean men. I have no doubt that each one loves puppies, adores his grandchildren, and tears up at Frank Capra movies. They’re probably devout churchgoers, too, and give to the fund for orphans. But being softhearted or hard has nothing to do with their views on policy. That’s about business, and, well, they don’t see the world from the same perspective as you and I do. We look out at life from the street level. They’re always looking down from on high. It’s different.
Now I’m hearing you again. I’m hearing you say, Whaddaya mean they’re different from us, Hightower? Give us an example we can sink our teeth into. Okey-dokey. Take a squint at Mr. Railroad Man.
him: John Snow wrote a clause into his CSX contract that would pay him $15 million if he left the corporation to take a position in “public service.” Prescient, no? And tacky. It was so stinky that when Bush called him to serve, the threat of media exposure compelled him to reject the 15 mil, magnanimously saying that he certainly didn’t want to appear to be getting a corporate subsidy to do government work. Oh? So why’d he write it into his contract?
you: It wouldn’t occur to you to expect such a payment, and even if you did, you’d be laughed out of the building and pelted with cabbages.
him: In 1996, CSX loaned $25 million to Snow so he could buy a big chunk of the company’s stock, which he hoped to ride to glory. Unfortunately for Snow, under his guidance of the company, CSX stock began to plummet. So he took the hit, right? Get serious. He’s the CEO, so he’s bulletproof. In 2000, the board took back its now devalued shares, forgave the $25 million owed by Snow, and gave back his down payment! After Snow’s cabinet appointment, a White House spokeswoman was asked about the ethics of this deal. She said curtly that it was “legal.”
you: You’re not an insider, so you don’t get it—you neither get a loan nor do you “get” the game they’re playing.
him: Although he cut back on the pensions of CSX retirees, he got the board to give him pension credit for forty-four years on the job—even though he was there only twenty- five years.
you: Rank-and-file workers get only one year of pension credit for one year worked and not a minute extra, you slacker.
him: Snow’s retirement pay will be based not on his salary alone, but also on his bonuses and on the value of 250,000 shares of CSX stock that the board gave to him.
you: Are you crazy? You think we’re gonna give stock to you? You think this is some charity, you slug? Your pension pay is based on your wages, period.
him: Eternal wealth is John’s future, for his pension adds up to $2.5 million. A year. Every year. Until he dies. Guaranteed.
you: Eternal harassment is your future, for we’re not ever gonna stop whacking at your monthly retirement stipend, unless we just decide to loot the entire fund before you croak.
him: Snow gets promoted by Bush to be in charge of America’s economic policy.
you: Good luck, chump.
Thinking about Snow, I thought of the British House of Lords. I’m an aficionado of the pomp, queerness (yes, it’s OK to use this word in this context—lighten up!), and general atmosphere of buffoonery in the House of Lords. Assorted officials there wear what look to be pieces of crinoline petticoats thrusting from their throats, they have various medals and fobs hanging from their sixteenth-century garb, and they are given such marvelous official titles as the “Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.” Yep, he does walk around toting a black rod that’s about four feet long. I think it would be splendid if the royal lords of our society had such titles. Instead of treasury secretary, for example, Lord Snow could be the Gentleman Usher of the Golden Shaft, and be required to carry it with him wherever he goes.
The Bushites’ domination and transformation of the governing apparatus is so antithetical to our democratic values, yet so thorough, that we no longer have The Government of the People of the United States of America.
But, what the hell, I say we go all the way with it. I mean, what kind of name is “The Government of the People of the United States of America” anyway? That’s so yesterday. We could use some marketing savvy here, some twenty-first-century identity branding that can connect to the wired, hip, commercial culture that is “today.”
Let’s get with the times, people! You don’t see phone companies, for example, sticking with stodgy old names like Bell Atlantic Telephone Corporation, do you? No—they become “Verizon.” Now that’s got some zip to it! (Alright, it’s not really a word and no one can figure out what it is or what it’s selling, and the company’s stock price is down by half in the three years since the name change, but let’s not fall into the trap of negativity here.)
So let’s rebrand. Forget The Government of the People of YadaYadaYada. Let’s call it something consumers can remember, something that’ll look good on Washington’s marble walls, something punchy and true to the spirit of the Bush government. Let’s call it: BUSHCO!
NICK GOES HOME
How can you not feel sorry for Nick Calio? He’s a guy with T-bone tastes, but for the first years of the Bush Administration, he was having to settle for Spam—relatively speaking.
He was W’s top White House lobbyist, paid a scant $145,000 a year (plus a chauffeured limo, a wining and dining expense account, full health plan, platinum pension, etc., but let’s not get picky). Just before last Christmas, however, Nick left government service. Too little money, he said.
Well, you’ve got to understand where he’s coming from. Before joining Bush, he was pulling down about a million a year as partner in a boutique lobbying firm, carrying water for the likes of Arthur Andersen and ARCO. He wears monogrammed, tailor-made, French-cuffed shirts that cost more than your monthly rent. He’s got a $1.5 million Washington home, with a private wine cellar that he likes to keep stocked with the good stuff.
Nick lives large, and, well, you just can’t make those ends meet on $145K. So, he went back home, back to his beloved K Street, the avenue of the big-time corporate lobbyists. He’s now the “senior vice president for global government affairs” for Citigroup, the financial conglomerate that finds itself under congressional and SEC investigation for its hanky-panky with Enron, as well as for other pecadillos.
Citigroup needs a friend who has friends in high places, and Nick’s just the man. As White House lobbyist, for example, not only did he rub elbows with the prez and all the top agency heads, but he also was in charge of parsing out coveted favors to key members of Congress—things like invitations to state dinners, trips with George aboard Air Force One,, and use of the presidential box at the Kennedy Center. He won’t say how much Citigroup is paying for his “experience and advice,” but he’ll have no worries about stocking that wine cellar.
Asked if he thought it was ethical for a corporate lobbyist to swoosh through the revolving door into government service, then swoosh right back out to private lobbying, profiting from his government connections, Nick got huffy: “I think that’s a silly criticism. What do you want? People going into government who know nothing about it? You need people going in who know the issues.” And the game.
THE DISARMING POWER OF GEORGE
Why have the media been so laid-back, so unconcerned or even unaware that a corporate coup is happening in plain sight? An obvious reason is that the owners controlling today’s conglomerated, centralized media are part of the coup, profiting enormously from it. Another is that the media and much of the public have had their eyes diverted from the coup by the sound and fury of Bush’s war drums. September 11 and Saddam Hussein have provided ample cover and rationalization for the Bushites’ relentless concentration of governmental authority.
But another is the “Power of George.” It’s stupid to call him stupid. True, he doesn’t have the brain muscle for any heavy lifting, but that’s not why he’s there. He knows who he is, knows his role, and he’s playing it like a Shakespearean star.
The corporate takeover of the U.S. government is ugly. If, say, Dick Cheney were the face of such an un-American power grab, everyone would see it...and shriek! Cheney’s got a smile like a landlord who’s just evicted another widow.
But George is, well, George. So affable, so “What, me worry?” He comes across not as the pouty, petulant, spoiled frat boy that close associates and family know him to be—the inner child who used to stuff frogs with firecrackers and blow them up for laughs*—but as regular ol’ George. If you just casually watch him, you think: He might not have it all together, but he surely means no harm, does he?
Remember his pretzel attack? Just into the second year of his presidency, he was home alone in the White House one day, stretched out on the couch with his dogs, Spot and Barney, taking in a football game on the telly, when—gckkhkxxx—he got a pretzel stuck in his throat, choked, fainted, fell to the floor, and got a bright red rug burn on his cheek. Next day, he sent a big bag of pretzels to the press with a note saying, “Chew slowly.” You’ve got to like that.
This is who he’s always been. The oilmen who gave him a sweetheart deal at Harken Energy, and the corporate heavies who essentially gave him a partnership in the Texas Rangers, were not bringing him on board for his brain or management acumen. They were buying a front man with a bankable name and a likable personality. Same in politics. He has the persona to soften the blow and distract from the theft. That’s why the CEOs and lobbyists were so wildly enthusiastic about a do-nothing Texas governor that they put up $113 million for his campaign.
*No, I’m not making this up. “We were terrible to animals,” boyhood friend Terry Throckmorton laughingly said in a New York Times profile on George W. Terry noted that a low spot behind Bush’s house would fill with water after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out. “We’d put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.” Ah, the joys of childhood.
Table of Contents
|Introduction: Kleptocrat Nation||xiii|
|I.||Lost America (The Bad News)|
|2.||Never Have So Few Done So Much for So Few||20|
|4.||The Super-Duper Empire of King George the W||73|
|II.||America The Possible (The Good News)|
|6.||Even the Smallest Dog Can Lift Its Leg on the Tallest Building||111|
|III.||America The Beautiful (The Best News of All)|
|8.||A Progressive Optimist in the Age of Bushwa||147|
|10.||Wal-Mart: How to Play Beat the Devil||166|
|11.||Taking Charge of Dinner||194|
|13.||The Road to Privacy||224|
|14.||Don't Be an Idiot||237|
|15.||Bob Runs for President (A Drama in One Act)||251|
An Interview with Jim Hightower
Barnes & Noble.com: Your book, Thieves in High Places, is subtitled, "They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back." Who's done the thieving?
Jim Hightower: Well, it starts at the top with our president and his corporate powerhouse that now rules our government. I like to call it BushCo. But the "Thieves" are not only members of BushCo, they're also the gutless Wobblycrats, and the corporate Kleptocrats who have essentially usurped our people's democracy for their own personal profit.
B&N.com: As a Texan, you've had plenty of practice living under George W. Bush. Are you experiencing déjà vu at the moment?
JH: Well, George W. Bush is, in Washington, D.C., exactly what he was here in Texas: an absolute corporate wet dream. Any fantasy that a CEO has can come true just by putting a donation into Bush's personal pocket or into his campaign funds. In Texas, we sat here for five years watching wealthy contributors or business partners get insider deals. We watched Bush develop a secret energy policy written by energy corporations. We watched him try to stifle dissent and to operate in secrecy. We watched him give a fat tax break to oil producers. We watched him bust the state budget and try to gut our clean air laws. Education, health care, the environment, the economy -- you name it, they were all worse off here in Texas after he left for Washington. So what we're seeing him do now on a national scale is what he practiced on us.
B&N.com: So this is pretty much the same bag of tricks Bush employed in Texas?
JH: Bush is not the one with the tricks; it's Karl Rove. To call Rove Machiavellian is like calling Michael Jackson a little odd. This guy is unprincipled, vicious. He doesn't want to win a political competition; he wants to destroy the opposition. He and Tom DeLay have a whole lot in common in this respect. Rove was a protégé of Lee Atwater, the Reagan operative out of South Carolina, and he took Atwater's take-no-prisoners approach to new political lows.
Rove is the operative behind Bush's photo-op presidency, using all the propaganda tools to soften the raw ugliness of BushCo's military, tax, privatization, and other policies. George W in a Top Gun suit on that aircraft carrier declaring victory in his Iraqi adventure -- that's Rove. Bush with a handful of blue-collar workers serving as props at a factory as he touts his tax cuts for millionaires -- all Rove. Bush sitting in a tiny chair at some elementary school with children of all the Benetton colors surrounding him -- every time George's polls slip, Rove puts him with some third-graders. Staging the '04 Republican nominating convention in New York City just before September 11th -- another Rove exploitation.
B&N.com: What can people who are upset over the Bush domestic policies do to fight back?
JH: First off, as I say in the book, "Gut it up! Don't whine, get connected, and get organized." Democracy needs us now more than ever before. We're in one of those "When in the course of human events" moments that Jefferson wrote about, and we have, periodically in our history, been in exactly this position; when the powers that be have overreached and the majority of people felt powerless. Yet people fought back, they fought back through the abolitionists, the suffragists, the Populists, the Wobblies, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and more.
In my book, I cite examples of these people and movements, and I point out that they had it far rougher than we do today. Yeah, you risk getting your name on Ashcroft's bad-boy list, but your chances of dying are not as great today as they were, for example, when black people in the rural south in the '40s and '50s dared to agitate for civil rights. So first of all, we've got to have some guts and a sense of our democratic history, and a realization that hard times and dangerous times require the very best of us and the very best in us, and they require us to step forward. If you don't speak out when it matters, when would it ever matter for you to speak out?
B&N.com: How did George Bush and Dick Cheney -- both former CEOs who seem to have some skeletons in their corporate closets -- manage to skate on the issue of big business malfeasance during the summer of 2002?
JH: The main reason they were able to skate was because the Democrats will not make an issue of the corporate giveaway and corporate domination of our political system. And that's because Democrats are taking money from the exact same corporate interests that the Republicans are. I believe it was 78 percent of the members of Congress who took money from Enron. That's why, in last year's congressional election, there was no loud outcry by the Democrats about the corporate system being Enron-ized. And the reason Democrats don't go after all these other economic issues -- health care for all, the job-busting global trade scams, an end to sweatshops, monopolization of local economies by the Wal-Marts, a living wage for every worker -- is that they count so much on that corporate money that they are unable to push an agenda that the corporate interests would find offensive.
B&N.com: I'm guessing Thieves in High Places won't be stacked up at Wal-Mart, based on what you say about the huge chain in the book. What's your beef with them?
JH: Wal-Mart is now the world's biggest corporation, having passed ExxonMobil for the top slot. That's not evil in itself, but it's a question of how they got so big and what they do with their muscle. Wal-Mart's what one union leader has rightly called "this devouring beast" of a corporation. It ruthlessly stomps on workers, neighborhoods, competitors, and suppliers. The corporate ethos out of Bentonville is to extract every last penny possible from human toil and squeeze the last dime from every supplier.
B&N.com: Is this a good time to be a "populist"? Do you feel energized by the list of issues that seem to need addressing, or just exhausted?
JH: The thing we all have to realize is that, despite all these challenges, people do count. And that's the thing I'm happiest about with this book I've written. The preponderance of Thieves is about people fighting back, agitating, organizing, and more often than not, winning battles at a grassroots level. The book tries to highlight the small dogs who are taking on the mighty.
If I were just sitting in Washington and watching what's going on or just getting information out of The New York Times or the major television networks, then I would be depressed, feeling alone and hopeless. But I've been lucky in that I get to travel the country. In the last several years, I've been just about every place that's got a ZIP code, and in all of those places, I find somebody or little groups of somebodies who are lighting little prairie fires of rebellion against this political and economic exclusion by the Thieves in High Places.
I come to you as that rarest of species: A progressive optimist in this age of bushwa. Again, because I see what's happening at the grassroots level (and I tell many of those stories in my book), I see that American egalitarianism and love of democracy is alive and well, and ultimately it's not going to be stifled. In fact, the Bushites and the kleptocrats have overreached so much that they're fueling their own demise.
B&N.com: Many feel that George W. Bush and Karl Rove have been exploiting 9/11 to achieve long-standing policy goals. Do you agree?
JH: That is part of what has them in trouble. The American people resent any partisan and self-serving grab for the flag. Bush and his corporate cohorts are using our flag and 9/11 to loot we the people, and folks see it. Woodrow Wilson said, "Never bother killing a man who is committing suicide." So while the Republicans and the Fox Network take the position that anyone who dares to dissent against "King George the W" is, by definition, a treasonous piece of scum in our society, quite the opposite is the truth. Those who stand up for the values of this country, the values of fairness, justice, and dissent that are embodied in that flag, are the ones who are the true patriots and the ones that our country is most in need of today.
We are a nation that was based on and developed by rebels -- we are a boisterous, brawling people who do not surrender easily. And the good news is that the people are not meekly saluting and marching in lockstep toward Bush's plutocratic, autocratic empire. The grassroots people are revolting (in the very best sense of that term)!
B&N.com: You refer to the opposition party as "Wobblycrats." Why hasn't the Democratic Party done more to stand up to Bush?
JH: The Democratic Party has been profoundly weakened because of the influence of the DLC, which has the party positioned as a corporatist party, in favor of NAFTA, against increases to a living wage level, against health care for everybody, avoiding the lunch-bucket issues that a populist majority believes in.
What's worse, the DLC's notion of the center is defined by the Republican right wing, so that their center is what we used to call the right wing. Now that right wing has moved so far right that there's no room for the workaday majority of this country to find themselves in our political system. And as I point out in the Wobblycrat section, after the 2002 congressional elections, Bush claimed a mandate based on the fact that they had this sweeping victory and controlled both houses of the Congress, when in fact they were very narrow majorities in both of those houses. But more importantly, only one-third of the people voted in those elections. So Bush's so-called mandate is 17 percent of eligible voters of America, not exactly a political juggernaut. This, essentially, is the Republican base. This is the same percentage that Republicans got in the Reagan off-year election in '82. It is their core. They're not going to get much more than that because their program is horse-hockey and is opposed, point-by-point, by large majorities.
So if the Democrats could present a program that actually appeals to real Democrats as well as to the disenfranchised, these folks can say, "Now you're talking to me!" That's 67 percent of the American people who now feel politically homeless based on last year's congressional election. And let's say you got 10 percent of them. You don't have to get all of them. That's 12 million people, and Democrats then begin to win every single election.
B&N.com: You've titled a chapter "The Super-Duper Empire of King George the W." How do you think "empire-building" is going in Iraq so far?
JH: What we're seeing now in Iraq -- U.S. troops mired in a guerilla war; Iraq turning into a hotbed of Al Quaeda recruiting fueled by anti-American zeal throughout the Arab world -- is exactly what anyone with common sense thought would happen. So it's not a surprise.
The larger picture is what I find more disturbing. The Bushites' Iraq attack was only the ante in a much larger global game that they're deliberately not telling us about: a scheme so grandiose, so un-American, so destructive to what we the people want our country to be that they dare not come right out and declare it.
Instead, under the vague rhetoric of eliminating the threat of terrorism (and always with our flag snapping smartly in the war wind), the stated mission keeps shifting, from Osama to Saddam to Assad…and on to Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia…and the establishment of an American Empire in the entire Middle East…and then on to other regions that the Bushites believe are in urgent need of regime change to make the world safe for Halliburton. The truth is, it's world war that Bush's hyper-hawks have in mind for us, stretching over many, many years.
B&N.com: You've been elected twice to statewide office in Texas. Would you ever consider running for national office?
JH: No, I've taken the cure, and I'm much happier running my mouth than running for office. I also think I'm more effective, being free to write books, do radio, publish my newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown), travel the country, and generally serve as a sort of Johnny Appleseed of a new American populism. I'm a messenger, and my message is that we the people can, indeed, take our country back.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Typical Hightower: homespun, acerbic with a touch of southern hospitality, and relentlessly optimistic about the rest of the country (outside Washington), convinced that they by and large agree with him on most things.
I would like to say that the words 'tripe' and 'unabashed' come first to mind. I think the only worth to be had by reading this is to see what now seems to pass for critical writing. Unapologizingly socialist. Not so much creative as it is exactly what I expected. It is interesting to note how deeply some commentators cloud reason with emotion. If emotion appeals to you rather than critical thought, you may find some value here. If not, read some decently presented socialist manifestos, as there are plenty to choose from that rise far above this.
Hightower is not only a funny texan but optimistic about the future. He explains how the 'we the people' has turned into 'we the rich and powerful that will take all your money.' Every red-white-and-blue blooded American should read this book and take action. This country was made for the people, by the people and it is time to make this statement true again. Hightower provides many examples of corporate excess that will make any American puke. The shady deals that go on in closed rooms in Washington are examples of how power is being abused. And for all those who do not believe that our government lies to us, here is a quote from a very good liar : 'The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it' - Adolf Hitler, the biggest liar in the world.
This book is just another of the hate series. People need to form their own opinions instead of reading others' opinions and following like sheep. This book distorts the truth like no other.
Wow, what a great book! Mr. Hightower pulls no punches while exposing the fact that the Emperor has no clothes. The 'Emperor' in this case is not just 'King George the W', but ALL of his cronies from Ken Lay to Dick Cheney. Morally naked to the core, these folks are raping our country, culture, and souls. The public (in general) refuses to see this, and are more concerned with getting their next Super-sized Value Meal. One of my favorite parts of the book was the Epilogue. The folks at the Chat & Chew got a great deal of inspiration from a man named 'Bob' - I only wish I was there! Bob has my vote for President!
THIS IS GREAT!! Right-wingers, Autocrats, and other bottom-dwellers, look out! Hightower is definitely my favorite progressive author, and he's back just in time to comment on the current mess this country is in. This book, like Hightower's other books, kept me alternately howling with laughter, steaming with anger, and shaking my head in disbelief. If you want to know who's doing what to whom, why, and (most importantly) how We the People are fighting back, this is a must read. Once again, he comes out swinging. Hightower has crammed all kinds of facts into this one, and while the sidebars can get a little distracting, they are juicy. Topics range from Bush (one of his favorite targets) to WalMart, to the so-called war on terror and it's resultant negative effects on our civil liberties, to fat cat CEO's, to the anti-sweatshop wars, to many smaller citizen rebellions all across America. This guy can write circles around anyone, make a fencepost laugh, and while the right-wingers and corporate honchos come in for the worst barbs, not even the Democrats escape unscathed. Hightower is an unabashed ally of ordinary folks, and a definite enemy of corporate power. His one-liners are priceless (example: When referring to the 'pushers of America's new ethic of grab-it-and-go greed' he says, 'When I look at any one of them, I can't help mumbling to myself, '100,000 sperm and you were the fastest?'') Great stuff, must reading. This will get you p.o.'ed, energized, and wanting to do something positive to take our country back from the unethical, right-wing, corporate loving, anti-democratic Powers that Be. He includes several pages of contact info for groups that are in the fight for democracy and decency. Overall, very fun, very valuable, and idealistic but practical.