HASTERT KILLS PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS
In a courtroom, an attorney asked the witness, "Sir, What's your IQ?" The fellow responded, "Well, I can see pretty well, I think."
You won't need much IQ, nor 20-20 vision, to see what's going on in Congress with the Patient's Bill of Rights. This is a piece of badly needed legislation that would give us patients a fighting chance against the raw abuses we're suffering at the hands of HMOs. The Republican leaders in Congress, however, are determined to protect not the abusees . . . but the abusers.
Leading the charge for the avaricious HMO giants is Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. "Dennis the Menace" has long been in the pocket of HMO lobbyists, and now he is unashamedly using his power as speaker to rig the system to kill the Patients Bill of Rights. The vote on the House floor, for example, was set up so that false reforms that looked good but delivered nothing were voted on before the real Bill of Rights. These false reforms would let members appear to be voting for us patients, yet really side with the HMOs. If any of these shams passed, the real deal would not even come to a vote.
In case there was any doubt, Hastert showed his favoritism the day before the vote. He sat down for breakfast with lobbyists for Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross, and other HMO giants-each of which gave him a thousand dollars for his political action committee! Sort of a gratuity for services provided.
Despite his parliamentary perversions, however, Hastert and his HMO pals lost. The House voted overwhelmingly for the Patients Bill of Rights. This hasn't stopped Dennis from playing games, though. In appointing the conference committee to negotiate with the Senate on the final version of the bill, he named 12 Republican lawmakers-11 of which had opposed it, thus killing the bill of Rights, while also thumbing his nose at the House majority . . . and at the American people.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . The health-care system is not the only thing that's being messed up by corporate greed.
HOW TO PLAY "THE WASHINGTON GAME"
Who says you can't play [game show music] "The Washington Game"? Samuel Heyman is playing to the tune of billions of dollars . . . and he's winning!
Heyman owns the GAF Corporation, which used to make asbestos, a substance that has poisoned hundreds of thousands of Americans and led to many to painful deaths. Mr. Heyman, however, doesn't want to shoulder financial responsibility for these poisonings, so he's trying to limit the ability of ill families to pursue their legal rights. As other firms have learned the best way to avoid responsibility for corporate abuse is to play "The Washington Game." Here's how to play:
First, grease the skids with campaign contributions to key lawmakers. The New York Times reports that Heyman has funneled nearly $300,000 into both Democrats and Republicans in the past couple of years. This money has helped open the eyes of senators like Charles Schumer, who had been opposed to Heyman's bill, but now he's coming around, having received $77,000 from him.
Second, push the lobbying button, hard. GAF Corporation has spent more than $4 million to hire not one, but five lobbying firms. One of these is especially well-connected to Senator Orrin Hatch who chairs the committee that oversees Heyman's bill. The firm includes Hatch's former chief of staff Tom Perry, former Senator Dennis DeConcini, who served on Hatch's committee, and even Hatch's son, Scott!
Third, hire some academic experts. Heyman got a Harvard Law professor to write his bill, paying him through the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution-a front group largely financed by GAF. He also got the dean of the Cordoz Law School to testify for his bill-a favor that might have been influenced by Heyman's donation of $1 million to the school.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . As a result, Heyman's special bill is rocketing through congress-proof that you can win in Washington . . . if you know how to play the game.
COKE'S "INTELLIGENT VENDING" MACHINE
They say if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.
But what if you build a consumer trap?
Coca-Cola has come up with just such a diabolical contraption-a vending machine that will automatically raise the price on a can of coke as the weather gets hotter. Douglas Ivestor, the chief Coke-head at Coca-Cola, says that the summer heat can increase one's desire for a cold drink, so, he says, "it is fair that it should be more expensive."
Fair? Remember the Biblical story of Jesus telling his followers, "I was thirsty and ye gave me drink"? No such ethic of generosity for Ivestor and Coca Cola. Instead it's, "I was thirsty and ye raised the price on me."
The company says it's doing this because it can, thanks to new computer-chip technology that links your input of quarters to a temperature sensor, which in turn is connected to the release mechanism that dispenses the thirst-quenching can of liquid to you. Who's name can we put on this invention that allows Mr. Ivestor to stick it to us on hot days for a soothing sip of his cola? No one comes forward to claim credit, and to be properly heralded for implementing Ivestor's odd concept of "fairness."
According to the New York Times, not everyone in the industry is thrilled with this "intelligent vending." One beverage executive asked: "What's next? A machine that x-rays people's pockets to find out how much change they have and raise the price accordingly?"
Shhhh. Don't be giving Ivestor and company ideas! As Lily Tomlin has said, "I worry that the person who invented Muzak might be thinking of inventing something else." And she didn't even know about this money-grubbing Coke machine when she said that.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . Surely there's a mighty hot place in hell reserved for Mr. Ivestor . . . and if there's any justice he'll be a quarter short when he stumbles upon one of his "intelligent" vending machines.
THE ALIBI AGENCY
Let's travel again [far out space music] into the Far, Far, Far-out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.
Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you around to the far side of marital bliss . . . into the steamy realm of marital infidelity. Proving that just about anything can be an opportunity to make a buck, three English entrepreneurs have launched the Alibi Agency, providing a service for those men and women who are having extra-marital affairs and need legitimate-sounding excuses to get away from home.
Cox bureau reporter Shelley Emling writes that the Alibi Agency "will provide credible cover stories for almost every adulterous moment for a fee of $25 to $75, depending on the tailor-made fib." For example, the agency will send a bogus invitation for you to attend a weekend conference in another city. You can even leave a phone number with your spouse. It will actually ring at the Alibi Agency, where a trained employee will answer as though it's the conference hotel. Want to buy a special gift for your lover? Let the agency make the purchase for you, so no tell-tale receipts show up later at your home.
Some British church leaders are aghast at this entrepreneurially-assisted cheating on the institution of marriage. But the Alibi Agency operates on the assumption that Hanky-Panky Happens, and that by helping keep an affair secret, they're actually keeping the marriage together: "There are so many people these days who have a short-term fling or dalliance," explains one of the agency's founders, "and there's no sense in breaking up a long-term relationship over it."
Morality aside, the market seems to be booming! More than 10,000 customers have responded to the lie-for-hire service-a third of them women. Already, the agency is planning to open franchises in the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Denmark, and Mexico.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . In the new one-world economy, even lying to your spouse is being turned into a global business.
CORPORATE INSIDERS AT THE WTO
If the founding fathers were to gather today at Philadelphia's Independence Hall for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the atmosphere of the meeting would be quite different than in 1776.
This is because no powerhouse governmental gathering occurs these days without an overbearing corporate presence, with logos and CEOs outnumbering the official delegates. In Philadelphia, there would have been a Corporate Host Committee to sponsor the meeting. Sponsors would be entitled to attend special receptions to shmooze with the founders, get daily briefings on the drafting of the document, and be allowed to have private consultations with Jefferson, Franklin, and all the rest. The meeting itself would be in the "Microsoft Independence Hall," and Budweiser would buy the rights to call itself the "Official Adult Beverage of the Founders."
If you doubt that this would happen, check out the gathering in Seattle of the World Trade Organization, where ministers from 134 nations, along with Bill Clinton and other heads of state are meeting. The public itself is not allowed inside. But the "WTO Seattle Host Organization" is side-by-side with the official delegates. This corporate host group, co-chaired by Bill Gates of Microsoft and Phil Condit of Boeing, has kicked-in some $9 million to defray costs of the WTO confab, and it proudly proclaims that it has worked with "WTO officials every step of the way . . . to maximize interaction between the officials and the private sector."
For sponsorships of up to $250,000 each, such giants as IBM,AT&T, GM, and Bank of America have bought their way inside. They get to attend an exclusive dinner with the WTO ministers, receive briefings and updates on the drafting of new WTO rules, and grab private conferences with the ministers.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . If you wonder why the WTO is such a servant of global corporate power, it's because the corporations are inside the WTO . . . and you're not.