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American Democracy--Jim Hightower

Use It or Lose It


Theives in high places, Jim Hightower, Viking press, New York, 2003, p.240-242.

Maybe you're thinking: Well, Hightower, sure, if a dictatorship was im­posed here in the US of A, then, by golly, you can bet your boots that I'd stand up! Too late, manana patriot.


A military coup is not the only way to slip the plush rug of America's democracy from beneath your motionless feet. A few tugs here and a couple of hard yanks there . . . and it's gone. And they've been tugging and yanking furiously of late, taking scores of actions that would cause Paul Revere to mount up again, including: Ashcroft's ruling that the FBI can secretly infiltrate and spy on political and church meetings without a warrant (yes, your meetings, not just the meetings of Muslims or dark-skinned, foreign, "terrorist-looking" people); the federal judge's ruling that New Yorkers could be denied their constitutional right to march in protest of Bush's war plans, instead relegating them to a ten-thousand-person "rally pen" where they "could be adequately policed"; Ashcroft's PATRIOT Act II, which would provide advance immunity for federal agents who conduct illegal surveillance at the behest of top executive branch officials (a provision that would have protected Nixon's illegal wiretappers).


This undermining of our basic civil liberties and imposition of antidemocratic police power are in addition to other maneuvers that are steadily strangling our people's democracy:


The Supreme Court's 1976 ruling that campaign money is "speech" ef­fectively negates the value of your vote and electoral participation, while giving a handful of corporations and wealthy interests far more "speech" than the rest of us and also putting the possibility of holding public office beyond the reach of ordinary Americans. Nothing has been so destructive of our nation's promise of democratic representa­tion as has this totally un-American decree—which neither political party challenges.


The unheralded provisions of NAFTA, the WTO, the forthcoming FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), and other arcane trade schemes that allow global corporations to wield veto power over your local, state, and national laws, usurping our people's right to self-

government—a theft of power that has been pulled off without the people knowing it, much less agreeing to it.


With a massive infusion of campaign donations, a half-dozen con­glomerates have gotten Congress and the FCC to rush through a radi­cal rewriting of the rules so that they now control our public airwaves, making a mockery of our "Freedom of the Press" and restricting the mass-media debate to corporate-approved topics and viewpoints.


Don't expect these political, corporate, media, and other money powers to alert you to the fact that big chunks of your democracy, right here in the US of A, already have been seriously damaged or stolen— and they're certainly not going to rally us to the essential cause of re­pairing and retaking our democracy. That's up to us.


Of course, BushCo is hoping we're idiots, and to help keep our minds from wandering to what's going on with democracy here in The Home­land, they have us riveted on color-coded threats from afar, warning sternly that millions of the world's people hate us—indeed, as George so eloquently put it, "They hate our freedoms."

Bullfeathers! Start with this, George: The world's people are perfectly able to discern the difference between the American people on the one hand and America's corporate and military force on the other.


What they hate is that our government, corporations, and military storm around the world in betrayal of every democratic value that the American people hold dear. Bush poses grandly as the noble spearpoint for democ­racy, yet he (like his predecessors) is a will­ing accomplice of brutal dictators and global corporate powers that oppress the world's people, impoverish them, and plun­der their resources. Through his perpetual war agenda, his oil buddies, the World Bank, the arms dealers, his defiance of environ­mental and human rights treaties, and dozens of other actions, George W (and our Congress) is an enthusiastic supporter of global-scale theft and thuggery.


Perhaps he thinks (whoops, back up, that's too strong of a concept for him, so let's start over). Perhaps it doesn't cross his mind that the people who are being run over can clearly see America's economic, governmen­tal, and military might behind the thievery and thuggery. Aung San Suu Kyi damned sure saw it. When the generals threw out Burma's elected government and installed themselves in power, the U.S. did nothing in support of democracy. Worse, our government turned its back as Unocal, Texaco, and Halliburton cut deals with the new junta (which had given it­self the Orwellian moniker of SLORC, the State Law and Order Restoration Council) to develop gas fields there and build the billion-dollar Yadana pipeline across the country. The pipeline partnership stole land from farmers, displaced entire villages, uprooted sec­tions of rain forests, and con­scripted locals who were forced at gunpoint to help construct the pipeline. Unocal, based in California, is still in part­nership with these dictators, who daily hound and harass Suu Kyi.


Such upstanding American corporations as Disney, Eddie Bauer, Levi Strauss, Liz Clai-borne, Macy's, and PepsiCo also made business deals with the devils of Burma—though grassroots boycotts and political pressure back here in the U.S. and elsewhere fi­nally forced them to withdraw (


It is this investment by our oil giants and other corporations that has given the generals the wherewithal to build and maintain a police state that boasts 300,000 armed forces deployed to stifle democracy and keep the dictatorship in power. This is the face of America that much of the world sees—the faces of executives from Unocal, Halliburton, Disney, and others, standing side by side with the SLORCs of the world.


Yet Suu Kyi does not hate you and me. She knows the difference be­tween us and our corrupt leadership. She knows and shares our egalitarian values, and she is sacrificing her comfort, happiness, and quite possibly her life to try to extend to her country the very values that you and I cherish. She and oppressed people throughout the world love freedom, and they look to the American people as a beacon of the democracy that they seek.


The irony is that she is more aware of what we're at serious risk of losing here than most Americans are.






How corporate America views democracy:

When Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton was asked about human rights violations his company supported including the providing over $400 million to Burma’s totalitarian rulers and Halliburton’s use of forced labor, he replied:  “You have to operate in some very difficult places and oftentimes in countries that are governed in a manner that’s not consistent with our principles here in the United States.”   “Have to”; I can only wonder how is forcing the CEO to do such business?   




I have   spent   my   entire   life   defending   the   First Amendment. It is, of course, this very instrument, free­dom of speech, that has made our country great. Yet from time to time the government, both local and federal, has tried to abridge that right. Thankfully, those attempts have been unsuccessful, for the most part.

Recently, however, our right to free speech has come under attack once again, this time from an unlikely source—the press itself. Thanks to the growing consolidation of the news media into fewer and fewer hands, and the increasing integration of these news organizations into giant corporations such as Westinghouse, GE and Time/Warner, we have witnessed a rel­atively new phenomenon that some have labeled the Corporate Press. These news organizations, such as Time, Newsweek, NBC, CBS and ABC, must adhere to the agenda of their corporate owners, an agenda which, with globalization, has come increas­ingly in conflict with the needs and aspirations of the vast majority of American people. As a consequence, the entire debate in the press has been limited by those with the need and power to obscure the truth, at the expense of independent journalistic voices.

What voices, you ask? How about the news stories of Greg Palast (see, an American reporter forced to sell his work to newspapers such as the Guardian in London and TV stations such as the BBC (where he appears five nights a week)? Palast, whose most recent book is The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, has exposed exactly how George W. Bush, with the aid of his brother Jeb and Secretary of State Katherine Harris, stole the 2000 Florida election (and consequently the national election) from Al Gore. Yet none of this makes it into our public consciousness because the news media either does­n't report it or they put it in the same category as alien abduc­tions. (Note: As of this writing, it looks as if little has changed in Florida, since pretty much the same thing that happened two years ago has occurred again during September's Democratic primary.)


Because of the foregoing and other examples like it, I have decided to bring back my monthly editorial after years of absence. In future issues of HUSTLER you will find this space reserved for my take on current events, both foreign and domestic, as I look at the stories that make—or don't make— the news. It is time for me to once again speak out, because it's become apparent that if I don't, no one else will.


Larry Flynt, Publisher, Hustler, 2/03