National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, co-editor of the monthly "Hightower Lowdown" and author of "Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time to Take It Back," Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be -- consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
The Plasticization of Planet Earth
What does your toothbrush, a fish dinner, and your running shoes have in common?
Plastic. We now live on Planet Plastic, billions of tons of waste from everyday products made of these chemical contaminants are strewn literally everywhere – on the highest mountaintops, into the deepest seabeds, in dense tropical jungles and all across barren deserts. It’s estimated, for example, that in less than 30 years, the gross volume of discarded plastic in our oceans will outnumber fish! From grocery carry-out bags to shower curtains to almost invisible bits of microplastics, the vast tonnage of this trash increases every minute, with an afterlife lasting centuries, wreaking havoc on ecosystems, destroying species, and infusing our water, air, soil, food… and us. Consider just two common products – your toothbrush and your sneakers.
Until the 1930s, toothbrushes were made of degradable, natural components. Since then, though, practically all have been throwaway plastic brushes. But there is no “away,” so nearly all of the trillions of brushes we’ve discarded in the past century are still out there somewhere on the land or in our water.
Moving from your teeth to your feet, consider that millions of sneakers are sold in the US each year, advertised as being athletic and “cool.” What’s uncool is that they’re made almost entirely of melded and molded plastics that are practically impossible to recycle. So, after a short time in our closets, sneakers spend an eternity as globs of toxic plastic trash.
We’re being choked by our own synthetic waste – from billions of plastic bottles and cigarette filters to tons of straws and synthetic rubber tires. As the wise old saying puts it, if you find that you’ve dug yourself into a hole, the first thing to do is to quit digging. To help stop the insanity, contact the group, Beyond Plastics.
The corporate mob behind Trump
You can’t poke into any issue in Congress without stumbling over sacks full of corporate campaign donations – and the recent eruption of pro-Trump mob violence inside the US Capitol exposed boodles of that special interest cash to public view.
Much to the embarrassment of major Wall Street banks, Silicon Valley tech giants, and CEOs of brand-name corporations, hundreds of thousands of their political dollars were traced to the mayhem in our Capitol. Specifically, their money was going into the coffers of 147 Republican lawmakers who backed the fraudulent Trumpster attempt to overthrow last fall’s presidential election. Acknowledging the damage these revelations did to their public image, the corporate interests responded forcefully. How? They issued press releases condemning violence. Wow… that’ll make things better!
Okay, in fairness, quite a few firms added a bit of bite to their bark by suggesting that maybe they wouldn’t be so cavalier about tossing out political contributions in the future. Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs announced they would “pause” donations to all candidates; Blue Cross Blue Shield, Marriott, and Dow said they were “suspending” donations to the 147 congress critters who voted to reject the people’s choice; and Delta, Fed Ex, and Walmart declared they were “monitoring” the situation.
Notice the profusion of wiggle words in these professions of corporate principle. The executives are really not biting the system, but merely gumming it for a while… then, once public attention has drifted, the corporate-congressional complex will be back to business as usual. After all, while they deplore Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, and overall immorality, they’ve gleefully taken it all to the bank, rationalizing, legitimizing – and profiting from – his corrupt presidency.
It’s not armed rioters from outside the system who are the main threat to our democracy, but the insiders who keep manipulating the system to take more money and power at our expense.
Who’s really behind the desecration of our Capitol?
The ransacking and terrorizing of Congress by violent Trumpeteers is an outrage, right? Even Republican congressional leaders have rushed to assail the mob invasion, calling it a desecration of America’s democratic ideals. For example, the GOP’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, denounced the invading outsiders as “thugs,” lecturing that self-government “requires a shared commitment to truth and shared respect for the ground rules of our system.”
But wait… what about the insider mob – the lawmakers who routinely run roughshod over our ideals of equality and justice? So many of the pious members who are now so prissily crying out for decorum and respect for the process openly solicit special interest cash to do favors for the donors, while ignoring the basic needs of workaday people they supposedly represent.
Excuse me, Mitch, but for the past four years weren’t you Trump’s most destructive Machiavellian monkey-wrencher in Congress? Yes, you were, relentlessly stomping on truth and rigging legislative ground rules to ram his plutocratic, autocratic agenda into law. You even stoked his depraved narcissism – for weeks after it was clear that Joe Biden had won the presidency, you cynically fed Trump’s fantasy that he had won, helping spread a furious disunity across America. The mob that you deplore for rampaging into your inner sanctum of power and privilege is of your own making – they’re your angry political chickens coming home to roost.
It’s a scream (and a disgrace) to see not only McConnell but also self-aggrandizing icks like Ted Cruz now posing as righteous statesmen. Cruz unctuously proclaimed: “We must come together and put this anger and division behind us.”
Yes, legal authorities should investigate and prosecute the orchestrators and perpetrators of the mob violence, but let’s also shine the light of justice on the mob of insider elites who so selfishly continue desecrating American democracy.
What America can learn from the Animal kingdom
Are we back to the jungle, an animalistic society with roaming packs of foam-at-the-mouth beasts howling for the enthronement of their king?
As witnessed in the ugly collapse of Donald Trump’s presidency, his furious animalism was unleashed on America, revealing a soulless selfishness that he had written about years earlier in a book on corporate deal making. In a “great deal,” he explained, winning is not enough – “You crush the opponent.”
But wait, that’s not fair to animals! In the real animal kingdom, the species that are the most successful survivors are not the beastliest, but the ones that work together in a sharing society. From ants to elephants, animals in the wild organize to hunt together, build homes, nurture and teach their young, spread their available food throughout the community, mourn lost ones, etc.
They even vote! The real “king of the jungle” is the group, as has been found in communal societies as varied as meerkats, baboons, and bees. Whether primates or insects, such decisions as where to live and which direction to go forage are made by democratic consensus reached in a sort of caucus system. When several thousand honeybees, for example, split from a hive to form a new colony, they dispatch a few hundred scouts to find a new home. One by one, the scouts report back, doing unique waggle dances that describe what each found. Gradually, scouts decide what bee’s site is best and synchronize their waggles accordingly. Once the scouts are doing the same dance, the whole swarm flies off together and settles into their new hive.
America has more to learn from bees than from Trump and his lifelong enthusiasm for a social order based on corporate power plays. The great hope for our society is not domination by the strong, but cooperation by all.
Timeless truths for trying times
What’s wrong with people? Has the savagery, selfishness, and raw, animal hatred within the human species finally come out of the darkness to devour our society?!
Fanatics in MAGA caps rabidly cheering a tyrannical, lying, insane president.
Gangs of “Proud Boys” strutting around in militia costumes beating protesters whose politics they dislike.
Wackadoodle extremists who advocate violence by promoting the group hallucination that Nancy Pelosi is leading a fiendish Democratic cabal of child sex traffickers and cannibals.
But is that really who we are? Given the media and political focus on all thing awful about people, you would think so. But consider a couple of little discussed TRUTHS about humanity – two maxims might help all of us get a grip, step back from hopelessness, and push ahead in our political work with a fresh perspective on what is possible.
Warning: These truths are so contrary to present-day conventional thinking – and so at odds with our recent sojourn through the dark jungle of Trumplandia – that when some people are first exposed, their brains whiplash. So, brace yourself. Here goes:
#1 Truth Most people are fundamentally fair minded, kind, and generous.
#2 Truth The basic human instinct is not dog-eat-dog selfishness, but social cooperation and sharing.
You might holler in disbelief: How can such happy “truths” jibe with the litany of horrors we are experiencing? Well, although there are obvious exceptions to the rule, decades of behavioral studies, recurring surveys, in-depth conversations, cultural histories, real-life experiences, and every other kind of group observation have by and large produced the same finding: The great majority of people are guided in their daily actions and relations by deep values of fairness and sharing.
It turns out that humankind is, well, overwhelmingly kind. That’s the deep, promising virtue that we should highlight, making people’s innate desire for an equitable, cooperative society the basis for every one of our economic, political, and social policies.
Is more technology the answer to too much technology?
We humans have got to get a whole lot smarter, says Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla automobiles and CEO of SpaceX rockets.
Musk is not merely reacting to humanity’s recent tendency to elect lunatics to lead our countries. Rather, he’s trying to warn us about the rapid rise of a radical new technology: Artificial intelligence. In common parlance, he’s referring to robots, but these are not the clunky, somewhat cute machines performing rote tasks. AI essentially has evolved to become an electronic brain – a web of evermore-complex super-computers interacting as one cognitive unit that can program itself, make decisions, and act independently of the humans who’re creating them. These thinking machines are rapidly increasing in number and geometrically advancing their IQ, prompting Musk and others to view AI technologies in apocalyptic terms. As algorithms and systems inevitably grow more sophisticated, he says, “digital intelligence will exceed biological intelligence by a substantial margin.”
In graphic terms, Musk warns that profiteering humans are “summoning the devil” by creating a new superior species of beings that will end up dominating humanity, becoming “an immortal dictator from which we would never escape.” What’s weird is not his dystopian prognosis (other experts confirm that runaway bot intelligence is a real threat), but his solution. The way for us human beings to compete with AI says Musk, is to merge with it – not a corporate transaction, but a literal merger: Surgically implant AI devices in human brains with “a bunch of tiny wires” that would fuse people with super intelligence.
Uh-huh… and what could go wrong with that? It’s good to have technological geniuses alert us to looming dangers, but maybe the larger community of humanists ought to lead the search for answers.
“Musk: humans must merge with machines,” Washington Post, November 26, 2018.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Funny and informative!!!
My wife and I have been listening for years. We have also been newsletter subscribers for years. With Jim’s background in Texas politics he also brings credibility to his the show.
I have been following Hightower since 1988 when I heard him at the Dem convention (I believe).. he is sharp, quick and HYSTERICAL! I love listening. I just wish they were 30x longer!! Keep up the good work.
Short and Sweet
He breaks down issues regarding the problems in America, from economic to racial. A true progressive patriot!