Getting Away From It All
In the roiling sea of communications technology that threatens to engulf us--phone calls, email, voice mail, faxes, the internet, laptops, etc.--it's good to seek refuge every now and again in the tranquility of nature, where the chirping you hear is not an electronic device, but birds.
AP writer Michael Hill reports on a getaway he enjoyed at the aptly named Lake Placid, high in the Adirondack peaks of upstate New York, far away from high-tech. A state forester told him about a moment of supreme calm he had recently experienced on the summit of Mount Marcy: "It was cold and windy. Beautiful. You could hear the wind whistling and everything, then this . . . [cell phone beeps] Some guy was talking on a cell phone to his stockbroker!"
Come on people-get a grip! Get a life! Bad enough that self-involved boors and self-important bores feel it necessary to clutter up restaurants, airplanes, theaters, and every other urban space with their mindless noise pollution--but the great outdoors? I know, I know, cell phones can possibly be a lifesaver in the wilderness if someone breaks a leg or gets lost. Fine, take one with you, but turn the damn thing off unless there's actually like, you know . . . an emergency. And, as reporter Hill observes, shouting into the phone to say something like, "Honey, you won't believe it, but I'm standing right in front of a big moose right now!" is not an emergency. It's a nuisance, an abomination, an act of such raw rudeness that nature lovers could be excused for lynching you right on the spot!
Phone contamination is growing so rapidly that cell-phone freaks are demanding that cell-phone towers be put in our parks. Apparently there are some pockets of wilderness where cell phones won't work--and we can't have that . . . can we?
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . When in the wilds, don't communicate with your stockbroker, commune with nature. "
Making Hi Tech Low Wage
"Hey," said the customer to the coffee shop waitress, "it says here that Bill Clinton claims he's created 23 million new jobs since he's been in office." "I know," said the waitress, "I've got three of them."
Not to worry, say the Powers That Be to the job seekers of the future, all you've got to do is to wire your future into the information age, get high-tech skills, cross that bridge to the 21st Century, and there'll be jobs aplenty begging for you to take them. Al Gore, George W. Bush, Bill Bradley--among other presidential candidates--flatly assert that to get a job in the "new economy" of the next decade will require you to have advanced technological skills.
Problem is, it ain't so, Joe. In fact, the hordes of people they're herding into engineering and computer classes will have no where to go when they come out. Education analyst Richard Rothstein, writing in The New York Times, reports that in the next decade, "employers will hire more than three times as many cashiers as engineers. They will need more than twice as many food-counter workers, waiters, and waitresses than all the systems analysts, computer engineers, mathematicians, and database administrators combined."
Already, America has millions of people who are overeducated for the jobs they have--chances are, for example, that waitress who has three of Bill Clinton's new jobs also has a college degree. The Labor Department projects an increase of less than one percent in jobs requiring a college degree, yet the high-tech industry and their politicians are pushing more and more people into college. As Rothstein writes, "we already enroll enough college students to fill foreseeable vacancies in professional fields"-so what they are doing is deliberately flooding the market with too many people chasing too few jobs, which will bust the pay level for everyone.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . It's a cynical ploy by the Powers That Be to turn the middle-class's high-tech future into low-wage work.
Corporatism is not Conservatism
If hypocrisy was a gas, Republican Governor John Engler of Michigan would be the Goodyear Blimp, because he's full of it.
Engler is one of the self-proclaimed "conservative" governors in various states who are always on their high horse about bringing power from Washington back to the local level, so the people have greater control. That's a good principle, but for Engler and his ilk, "local level" means the state government, where corporate lobbyists keep a firm grip on things. They don't want power going to the real grassroots level of cities and towns, where unruly citizens often take things into their own hands.
Indeed, Engler is trying to usurp local self-government in Michigan. The issue that prompted his raid of local control was passage in Detroit and Ypsilanti of "Living Wage" initiatives that require corporations getting city contracts or subsidies to pay workers a wage that is above the poverty level-in Detroit, the wage is $8.23 an hour, plus health-care insurance. Detroit voters approved this initiative last year by a whopping 4-to-1 margin!
Oh, how the corporations howled, running to Engler's office and demanding that he overrule this outbreak of local democracy and allow them to continue getting taxpayer's money while paying poverty wages to workers. Sure enough, Governor Goodyear, fully inflated with gaseous hypocrisy, is backing state legislation that would prevent local governments from setting wage standards. And, just for good measure, the legislation also would prohibit municipalities from regulating billboards more strictly than the state does, from passing no-smoking ordinances, and from enacting strong consumer, environmental, job-safety and other laws that the people want-but that the corporate powers oppose.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . Governors like Engler masquerade as "conservatives," but they're really nothing but corporatists, always willing to stomp on conservative principles to serve their corporate backers.
Robert Rubin's Merry Go Round
Once again [Calliope/Merry-go-round music] Washington's phantasmagoric merry-go-round is spinning its magic, and you never know who's going to turn up where.
Today, our focus is on Robert Rubin who, when he first spun into public view in 1992, was sitting atop the Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs and was serving as candidate Bill Clinton's guide to backing up Wall Street campaign funds. The next time around was 1993, and there was Rubin sitting pretty as a top White House aide, directing Clinton's economic policies. In this position, he helped kill a minimum-wage increase for low-income workers, at the same time he pushed to pass NAFTA, which has taken more than half-a-million good-paying jobs out of our country.
Then the merry-go-round made another turn and-Voila!-there came Robert Rubin all dressed up as Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury. In addition to pushing for more globalization schemes, Secretary Rubin used his cabinet position to back a boondoggle financial reorganization bill that allows big banks, insurance giants, and brokerage firms to merge together. The chief outfit lobbying for this conglomeration of power over consumers was Citigroup-a behemoth that includes Citibank, Travelers Insurance, and the Wall Street brokerage firm of Solomon Smith Barney.
Now, the merry-go-round has gone around the curve again and this time, Robert Rubin has stepped down as Treasury Secretary. Guess where he's turning up next? Heeere he comes-riding high as the new co-chairman of Citigroup! Yes, the very same financial conglomerate that was the primary beneficiary of the bill that Rubin worked so hard to pass.
Rubin and Citigroup's executives insist that the fact that they worked so cozily to pass this multibillion-dollar boondoggle of a bill had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Rubin is now cashing in on the deal.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . I was born at night, but it wasn't last night, how about you?