Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hindsight is 20/13

A couple of months before the start of the Iraq war, I wrote an essay that discussed why it really wasn’t a very good idea to go over there and stir up even more trouble. Never mind the fact that we had been actively involved in Iraqi politics for a couple of decades and had been a strong military presence in that country all through the Clinton years. With the release of the Downing Street memo, and the subsequent lack of coverage it has gotten in the mainstream press, I would like to haul this essay out of retirement to make a point. It’s a little on the long side, so I won’t place any blame if some of you decide it would be more interesting to crack a beer and turn on the game, or just skip ahead to the second part of this post, but I feel like it raises a couple of issues that deserve some attention.

So, without further ado...


On the night of April 18, 1775, William Dawes and Paul Revere began spreading the word to the people of the colony of Massachusetts that the British soldiers in Boston were about to march on Lexington to arrest colonial leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock and seize the arms stockpiled in Concord. When the British began their march early the next day, they met with the colonial militia in what would be the first battles of the American Revolution.

Ever since this day, the American people have proudly stood up for what is right and just; this trait has become our heritage, and has made America the strongest nation in the world. Those first few fighters for independence were fighting for something which is taken for granted every day by most Americans – freedom. In this case, most prevalent among the freedoms at stake were the freedom to govern oneself, and have a government that represented the people it governed. Our war with England for our independence resulted in just such a government – the government of the United States is a government charged with serving the people and protecting those same people to the best of its ability.

Unfortunately, the protecting of the American people, and the protecting of the American ideals of Liberty, Freedom and Justice, sometimes results in the waging of war. Our justifications for every war in which we’ve fought have come down to either the direct protection of the people of America, or the protecting of the values those American people hold dear. There is even a certain argument which can be made that the two are one and the same, and that both are simply components of the freedom which is at the heart of what makes America great. Now, as we all can see, just such a war of protecting the American people, and even a large part of the western world, now looms on the horizon, as America grows impatient with Iraq.

In any war, however, things are never quite as simple and straightforward as merely the attacking of one country by another, or the violating of treaties. The catalyst for the American involvement in World War II, for instance, may have been the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the underlying causes leading to our decision to enter the war were much more complicated, as any American History textbook can verify. In the case of World War II, America, in the end, had no choice but to defend itself on both fronts, both from a physical and an idealistic threat.

Our current situation with Iraq, however, is a very different scenario. America is still recovering from the September 11 attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and we are still faced with the questions: why did these horrible events happen? How was it allowed to happen? The questions are many, and in large part unanswerable. What remains, however, is the feeling that America, for so long thought to be impregnable, is somehow, suddenly, extremely vulnerable.

This is the driving feeling that is prompting America to endorse a war on Iraq. It is not a question of oil or of unfinished business following Desert Storm. It is our fear for our own personal safety as a nation. It is why America is more in support of military action right now than any of the other countries in the NATO alliance. When one watches the nightly news and sees a statistic saying that non-Americans think George Bush is more of a threat to peace than Saddam Hussein, we almost unconsciously retort with the mental image of the towers collapsing, and people jumping to their deaths. It is easy for someone outside America to say that we are provoking war too hastily when it did not happen to them, right? We, as a nation right now, feel more threatened by another country than we have since we were entrenched in the Cold War. Our peaceful world has been shattered, and we now look to make sure that it will not be shattered again. Now, as the terrorist threat still looms over us, we, fearing for our safety as Americans, are looking to stop any future threat before it becomes more than a threat, as happened on September 11, and so have begun the process which will lead to war with Iraq.

However, keeping in mind that we as a nation feel so threatened right now, we must stop and ask ourselves whether another war with Iraq is the solution to the problems with which we are now faced. Americans have always stood up for what is right and just. If war with Iraq, fighting door-to-door and building-to-building in Baghdad, with fifty percent casualty rates, is truly the solution to this very large problem, then it must unfortunately happen. But if it is not the solution, and we go to war anyway, what will we lose? Is it worth the sacrifice of the lives of perhaps tens of thousands of our friends and family? Is it worth the sacrifice of possibly one trillion dollars which is not in our county’s budget? Is it worth the sacrifice of the lives of thousands of Iraqi citizens who are not responsible for their country’s wrongdoing? Is it worth provoking the ire of other nations with similar weapons programs as the ones Iraq is supposed to have? Is it worth the possible terrorist attacks on American soil? And are we so sure that war is necessary that we are willing to take these enormous risks? In short, we must ask ourselves, as Americans, whether our nation’s government is truly representing us the way it has been charged to do.

Is our involvement in Iraq truly what our government has been saying it is? Or is it the knee-jerk reaction of a nation terrified of more attacks on its soil? It is understandable that we, as a nation, are frightened, but we must keep a cool head in the face of this possible threat. Before we commit ourselves to this very serious endeavor, we must first make sure that we have exhausted all other options – to rush headlong into a war such as this before thinking it through completely would be folly. The risks are too great, and the costs too high, for a war that could very well end up being nothing short of a fool’s errand.

There is just one more closing note to consider. In the Declaration of Independence, it is said that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Unspoken is the intimation that the American government, representing the people, does what is in the best interests of those people. Remember that we, as citizens of the United States, must give consent, as a body, for the government to act. The freedom which was won more than two hundred years ago is the freedom to have a say in what happens regarding our country. Remember also that our elected officials, in representing us, give the consent spoken of in the Declaration of Independence for us. Our congressmen and representatives hold the power, for they are, again, the voice of the people in this democracy. Make sure these people know what you think, for while a single voice cannot change things on such a national scale, many voices can. Pass it on.

Remember: nothing is definite until it finally happens.


OK, OK... The reason I bring up this essay now, after we have been at war for over two years, is for the simple reason that so much has come to light, most notably the Downing Street memo that is being ignored at a jaw-dropping level.

Now, I consider myself to be a relatively informed citizen; at least, I make every attempt to be one. When I wrote the above essay, I believed myself to be one. However, as anyone can see, reading this, and keeping in mind what we now know, I really didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. None of us did. Thank you, mainstream press.

I wrote that the proposed Iraq invasion was a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11. We now know that it was anything but. The Downing Street memo, which has not been refuted by the White House, clearly states that the administration manipulated the intelligence to build the case for war and had decided to invade Iraq a good eight months before we went in. Now, obviously, I don’t know how much digging it would have taken to bring this story to light before now, but now that it is out, shouldn’t we be hearing a lot about it? Not surprisingly, a search for “downing street” on billoreilly.com gave no results, and Rush only mentioned it for the first time yesterday, the 25th. Then again, I wouldn’t expect either of those jackasses to give it much attention. I don’t watch the nightly news (I get most of my information off the internet and from Air America), but from what I hear from people who do, it was given very cursory coverage before the focus was shifted over to the runaway bride, which is obviously a much more edifying story. This is why my essay from a couple of years ago seems so uninformed.

Since the start of the Iraq war, we have learned many things that should have been given an incredible amount of airtime. We have learned that the White House had prior knowledge of 9/11, which either makes them grossly negligent/asleep at the switch, or flat-out guilty for going out of their way to let it happen. We have learned that George Bush staunchly refused to sit down with Saddam Hussein and speak openly, even after an invitation on national television. We have learned that there were no weapons of mass destruction. We have learned that 8.8 billion dollars of taxpayer money is missing over there. The list goes on and on. Yet how often are these stories covered?

The right-wing pundits talk about the media’s left-wing bias. But, given that any one of the above stories should have been enough to bring this administration to its knees, wouldn’t at least one of them have been covered if the media were as liberal as they say it is? Woodward and Bernstein brought the Nixon administration tumbling down because of some secret tapes. For our current president, no Deep Throat is necessary. The voter fraud for both elections is right there in front of us. The presidency was handed over by the Supreme Court in 2000, for crying out loud!

And yet the press is silent.

I wrote that an invasion of Iraq would not be about oil. Yet what was the first thing we did after the initial “shock and awe” campaign? Secure the oil fields. Guess I was wrong there, too. And how about that pipeline being built through Afganistan? That should raise Peter Jennings’ eyebrows, right?

Looking back on what I wrote, I realize that I was coming from the viewpoint of what the Bush administration wanted us to think. We were told that the war in Iraq was about keeping America safe from future 9/11s. What we were told was, in retrospect, grossly inaccurate - North Korea is ten times the threat that Iraq ever was, and we all saw our fearless president holding hands with Prince Abdullah a couple of weeks ago.

The bottom line here is that we, the American public, have not been able to make informed decisions for the simple reason that we are uninformed. I feel like I am much better informed today than I was when I wrote my pre-war essay, but I am completely sure that there is still a lot I have not heard about chiefly because it hasn’t been covered by anyone. The mainstream press have decided that we only want sensationalism. I sincerely doubt that their ratings would really drop lower if they started talking about unsensational stories about wasted money and wasted lives. I propose that until they do start covering stories that matter, we make a concerted effort to make their ratings drop.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Cracked Earth


after the conversations we've been having about religion and the current division of the american people, i came across this image while searching through some negatives and thought i'd print it for the blog. perhaps the symbolism is a bit over the top, but at the very least i hope it visually enhances pepe's site... best, bullockphoto Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Regarding the Stained-Glass Curtain

I received an e-mail a few days ago from a woman who was very upset by a line from “Righteous Anger,” in which I talked about Republicans using Christianity as a means to an end, and thus pretty much defeating the purpose of Jesus’ message. The line to which this particular woman referred was, “Fuck the people over, but tell them you’re into God, and they’ll just roll over and take it with a smile on their face. He beats me because he loves me.” She told me that domestic abuse was not a thing to be flippant or glib about, and that to throw it into another context in such an offhand manner was essentially making a sick joke out of a very serious issue. I have been thinking over her e-mail for the past couple of days, trying to figure out the best way to respond (in case you were wondering why there hasn’t been a post in a while, that’s the reason). What I finally settled on was this: I agree with her completely.

However, I stand by my statement. Domestic abuse is, in my opinion, the worst thing that anyone can do to someone else, be it man to woman, parent to child, friend to friend. The reason a line like, “he beats me because he loves me” is so cliche is simply because it happens so often.

We can all attest to “the power of love.” I know that sounds corny, but things that sound corny are usually true, in my experience. Love is one of the only things in this world over which we have absolutely no control. It is the most powerful emotion anyone can feel, and when we are feeling it, nothing else really matters. That’s why we have centuries of poetry and music and visual art devoted to it. Chances are, four out of five songs you hear on the radio are going to be about it. We all want it, and if we don’t have it, we wither away, for it is what makes life worth living.

In a domestic abuse situation, the one doing the abusing is, in effect, using someone’s love against them. This is why it is the most vile of crimes - a person has no control over the love they feel, and to have it turned against them is, well... we’ve all had our heart broken at one time or another...

Now, the Greeks split love into three categories. Philos was brotherly love - the love one feels toward a friend, or a dog, or an ideal, such as wisdom or truth. We get the word “philosophy,” for instance, by putting philos together with sophia, wisdom. Therefore, philosophy means “love of wisdom.” Eros, obviously, was sexual love, hence “erotic.” And agape was love of the divine. This was the love one had for the gods, and in some texts, one’s parents.

The reason I brought this up is because I am going to go out on a limb and say that the common conception of domestic abuse, in any of its forms - physical abuse, verbal abuse, coercion, et cetera - really only relates to the forms of philos and eros. Yet that leaves the third and arguably most powerful form of love.

Religious love is desperate. There are few of us out there who Believe with absolute certainty; we’re only human, and the human mind, whether we want it to be or not, is ever inquisitive and uncertain. The love we have for each other is concrete - we can touch the person, talk to them, go to the movies with them. Unfortunately, a divine relationship is much more ethereal. Hence Faith. There is, of course, a bit of faith involved in each of our earthly relations. We can only assume that the other person feels toward us as we do toward them. But it is much easier to have faith in someone you can look in the face than it is to have faith in a divine entity with whom our relationship is, in general, a one-way conversation. I am not saying that we can’t feel His presence in our lives or be guided by Him. There are literally billions of us who can attest to the reality of this divine love, yet because it is not solid in the way a human relationship is solid, our faith in the divine is a singularly grasping one. We want to believe.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig states, “You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.” And therefore, it is ever-so-much easier to exploit them.

This is what the Republican party has done; they have taken the love that people have for their religion and their God and used it against them. The Bush administration has done nothing to help the people who elected them, and, in fact, has hurt those same people terribly. That is why I am not stepping down from my domestic abuse analogy - what the current administration has done to us is, in fact, no different than the drunken husband throwing his wife down the stairs. It sounds very harsh, I know, but, like the ever-loyal wife, Christian America has shown up for work the next day and made an excuse about her black eyes, thereby excusing the one who did it to her. If it makes you sick, it should.

I would like to apologize to anyone I offended with either this piece or “Righteous Anger.” It is not my goal to upset anyone, only to try to make people aware of what is really happening to us. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do feel the need to ask a few questions. I think that is what we all should be doing...

Friday, April 08, 2005

I couldn't have said it better myself...

I have decided to set aside my ego for a moment and post something on the main page that really should be discussed in this forum. This is a comment to "Flyer #2" posted by LEW and addresses one of the most serious, yet constantly overlooked issues facing us today. I have decided to post this comment verbatim; otherwise, I think it may have been overlooked amidst all the other comments on this site. Thank you, LEW, for bringing this up. Also, for a very disturbing look at what we eat, click on the Guerrilla News Network link in the right-hand margin and watch the video, "Contaminated." Take care... -P.H.

.........

Since it was my idea that we each talk more about the issues that we feel strongest about, I should probably follow my own suggestion and put in my $0.02 about a topic that hasn’t really been discussed yet. And I just got home from lobbying at our state house, so I’m all fired up to stand tall on my soapbox.

I’m going to play the good ol’ tree-hugger card right now and say that I care about the environment. When I say “environment,” I’m not referring to issues like clear-cutting, wildlife conservation, arctic drilling and other classic problems that the PIRGs will come to your door to canvas about. Although I care about those issues too, I am most passionate about environmental health – the ways that pollution, toxins, and a lack of environmental regulations affect human health and contribute to a plethora of illnesses that our society is suffering from in enormous numbers.


The northeast is the exhaust pipe of the country and Maine’s asthma rates are 10% higher than any other state in the nation. Over 80,000 chemicals are currently in use, and less than 1,000 of them have been tested for their effects on human health. Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are rampant because you can no longer call something “food” when it has a laundry list of ingredients that are 37-letters long. It’s difficult to find a child without ADHD these days, and not-so-coincidentally it’s estimated that 8.4 million children attend schools with poor indoor air quality. Yoplait yogurt donates a portion of their proceeds to breast cancer research, yet their plastic containers can’t be recycled and certain plastics mimic estrogen and cause breast cancer cells to rapidly multiply. “Round-up Ready” tomatoes…enough said.


The reason that I’m so passionate about this issue is because it speaks to a number of different problems that are plaguing our nation today. Everything in our society has to be bigger, better, and faster – and we’ll stop at nothing to make that happen, without ever considering the long-term consequences. The man who “discovered” DDT was given the Noble Prize and everyone thought that it was a miracle product. Thirty years later DDT was banned because it was killing birds and was found in women’s breast milk. Whoops.


Consumers believe and trust that there’s some agency out there protecting them; making sure that whatever’s on the shelves is safe for us to use. And what agency would that be exactly? The EPA? Oh, you mean the agency that, under the current administration, illegally weakened the classification of mercury, which reduced the emission regulations and allowed power plants to buy and sell “pollution bucks?” Doubtful.


Then there’s health care. The environment gets polluted, people get sick, the cost of health care skyrockets. And who’s happy? None other than the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Afterall, there’s no money in keeping people healthy.


Yeah the list goes on an on, and I could literally talk about this for hours. Instead of just ranting, I should probably also mention that I care about this issue because I honestly believe that it’s one that we can do something about on an individual level. As tree-huggy as this may sound, eat organic. Buy local. Use natural products. Recycle. Research products and services before you just assume that they’re safe. Get involved on a local and state level – if individual states clean up their act, the finger will have to be pointed at the real culprits.


I’m not advocating for protection of the environment for aesthetic reasons, like some might. I’m advocating for it because I want to have kids someday without worrying that they’ll have learning disabilities. I don’t want to develop cancer because we’ve forgotten that food was grown in this country long before pesticides were discovered. And most importantly, I don’t want to sit back and let our government and industry rob us of our basic right to good health.



Okay, I’ll step off of my soapbox now.

Monday, April 04, 2005

On Our Principality

There is a topic that has been bouncing around on this site for a little bit now that I think deserves some attention. Bullockphoto made mention in one of his comments that hot-button issues that divide us, such as abortion and gay marriage, are focused on in elections for the simple reason that they do divide us. What is so disturbing and disgusting about this is that it is really nothing more than a further bit of deception from the Republican party.

What is different about the Democratic and Republican parties, even though both are controlled to an alarming extent by corporate interests, is that the Democrats seem to focus more on real issues that would affect us all on a day-to-day basis (and, yes, I am painting this with a very large brush, as not all Democrats and Republicans fit nicely into the neat little molds I have made for them. Good old Zell certainly doesn't fit into my equation). Now, for a long time, I just kind of figured that I was saying this simply because I happened to agree with the majority of what was being said by Democrats, and disagreed with what was being said by the Republicans (and man, do I ever disagree with them). However, the more I think about it, the more I think I am right in that the Democrats are much more honest in what they are trying to accomplish for us.

Let’s take the pro-life/pro-choice debate as an example. On an issue such as abortion, the Republicans go to great lengths to make it known that they are pro-life, et al. That’s great. Whatever. The problem with saying this is that they do not give the whole truth. Remember, abortion is legal only because of a court decision made thirty years ago. Since 1980, Republicans have been in the White House for a combined seventeen years, and guess what? Abortion is still legal. The reason? The president and his administration have no power over this kind of issue.

Abortion is a judicial issue. The executive and congressional branches of government really have no say in whether or not it is legal. And yet the Republican party continues to make it an election-year issue, over and over again. We are electing people who are running on platforms that have nothing to do with their office. The only power that the Republicans have over these issues is in the appointing of federal judges, and even those nominations have to get through the Senate first.

The question I would like to pose is this: Is it at all rational to elect a candidate based on his “principles” when they have no bearing on what he is going to be able to accomplish while in office? Lew described her mother (and in so doing described, apparently, half of the voting public in America) as disagreeing with the majority of George Bush’s actions as president, yet voting for him anyhow because she agreed with a couple of his “principles.” Shouldn’t we elect someone based on what their track record is and what they plan to do with their power of office? George Bush’s principles do not have any bearing on what he is even physically able to do with his “political capital,” and he even promised at the RNC and during the debates to pretty much stay the course - more of the same for the next four years. Why, when our president has only hurt Middle America, does Middle America keep supporting him for his principles, when his principles have nothing to do with the presidency? I just don’t understand...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Flyer #2


Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Righteous Anger

The 2004 election, so say those more in the know than I, came down to the actions of (trumpets please) the "Moral Majority." George Bush and company were re-elected by down-to-earth heartland Christians who wanted a down-to-earth heartland Christian in the White House. It’s a shame that the down-to-earth heartland Christian they elected is a trust-fund baby from Connecticut with a very un-Christian track record and a substance-abuse problem.

It’s this subject of Christianity in the current administration that I want to talk about. Now, I have no problem whatsoever with Christianity. Your faith is your business, and my faith is my business. The thing with which I have a problem is the neo-conservative attitude of faith being big business, and I am, quite frankly, amazed that this has not been more of an issue. Probably because it’s boring, and rational discourse tends to cease whenever God comes up in conversation.

What upsets me so much is that the Bush administration seems to have found a winner in this whole Christianity thing. See, it’s absolutely genius: you do whatever the hell you want to do, and then every couple of months, you say something about God or you visit a poor southern Baptist church and awkwardly clap along, and your re-election is apparently assured. I mean, even I have to admit that this is one smart plan of action. Fuck the people over, but tell them you’re into God, and they’ll just roll over and take it with a smile on their face. He beats me because he loves me.

Why haven’t we picked up on this yet? This is not a rhetorical question - I actually have no idea why. Most Americans are good people, and want to do the right thing. They want their kids to be educated, they want them to be healthy, and they want to live good, honest lives in relative comfort. These assholes hanging out in the White House, however, haven’t done a single good thing, Christian or otherwise, for the folks they are supposed to be serving since they’ve been in there. Let’s see, we gutted the health care system, made it so public schools couldn’t teach anything because they spend all their time preparing for government tests, loosened up a bunch of environmental regulations so that we’re all starting to get sick, and, oh yeah, started two wars... These are moral issues, people. And yet the Republicans have convinced people that two dudes making out is making Jesus cry, and the American people bought into it.

Even the "Christian" things they have done for which people have cheered aren’t really that Christian. We stress abstinence instead of safe sex , and teenage pregnancy and STD outbreaks shoot through the roof. Yes, sir, pretty Christian. We give federal (taxpayer) money to faith-based groups so that they will support us in the next election... beautifully cynical and manipulative, and, oh yes, very Christian, too. And the list goes on. These people are evil, folks. Flat out. They don’t want what’s best for us. Even pulling this country together after September 11 doesn’t really mean anything... remember the fifty-two FAA warnings about Osama in the five months leading up to that terrible day ("Osama bin Laden determined to strike within US")? In the very best case scenario, they are incompetent. In the worst case scenario...

Even this administration claiming to be Christian is, in essence, extraordinarily un-Christian. In Matthew 6:1, Jesus, himself, says, "beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven." It cannot be put much more plainly than this. And Bush Inc. have done just this over and over again for political gain. Remember about the camel and the eye of the needle? In Luke 18:14, Jesus says, "all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." How much did the inaugural ball cost again?

Look, my point is not that these people are not as Christian as they pretend to be (although I will stand by that claim), but rather that we, as Americans, let ourselves be duped in this last election. Having no ground on which to stand, and having done nothing beneficial for America in the last four years, these corrupt Republicans (and, granted, there are some OK Republicans out there) made the only stand they could, on moral values and anti-terrorism, and did it well enough to get themselves into the White House again, for another four years of alienating the rest of the world and screwing over the American people. At some point, this has to stop.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Respondancy

I know this is a little circuitous, but I would like to respond to a comment left me by Sapsicle regarding "A Call to Arms," and I think it would be appropriate to do it here on the main page. Sapsicle raised many very good points in the critique, and I would like to say that I appreciate the time he or she took to respond. While I agree with many of the points raised, I feel I need to defend a few of my positions.

It is a well-known fact that most of us, like it or not, watch or listen to the news not to become more informed (although that is what we tell ourselves, and, granted, there is a certain amount of learning which takes place), but to have our own personal world-view reinforced. Hence the success of Fox News. When I listen to conservative talk, I listen with a very pessimistic ear, as I tend to see the world through a fairly liberal lens. When I listen to Democracy Now or Air America Radio, I find myself nodding along, as I want to believe what is being said. This is a very commonplace fault to have, as the choir enjoys being preached to.

Now, what I wrote in "A Call to Arms" was, to a certain extent, preaching to the choir. I do not deny this. But what I was trying to do with the piece was not so much reiterate liberal talking points, but rather take it a step further and incite people to some kind of action. We in the liberal left tend to get upset and bitch and moan about what is happening to us and then go and turn on the Red Sox game or make some falafel or go camping or whatever else it is that we do. I am just as guilty as most of the rest of us when it comes to that. What I was doing was trying to make at least a couple of people sit back and maybe think about doing something concrete to better our situation.

As regards to "stirring up the enemy forces," I do not pretend to be well-spoken or persuasive enough to convert those among us who differ in their opinions to side with my own personal beliefs. I would love to be able to do this; there is something very romantic about the idea of becoming a revolutionary leader, and I do not think any of us would deny that. Obviously, I still try, on a one-to-one basis, to get people to question their right-wing biases, but the fact is that we, as people, do not like to have our fundamental tenets challenged. It is much easier to be apathetic and complacent and continue to live out a happy life of self-absorption. As long as things are going OK in our own small circle, we look upon attempts to rock the boat with mild disgust. I would love to stir up things on the other side, but, unfortunately, I lack to influence and persuasiveness to do this on a large scale.

This brings me to the next point made by Sapsicle, in that communities just would not understand and would actually be annoyed with those who would try and mix things up. Why would people become irritated? The simple reason would be that it would intrude upon their complacent lives. Don't get me wrong here - I am not blaming people for being complacent; we all have enough to worry about when it comes to feeding ourselves and our families, fighting to keep our health insurance, paying off the interest on our credit cards, and so on and so forth. This cannot be helped. Those of us free to do so have, in my opinion, a civic obligation to try to change things for the betterment of the community. Just because the community does not know that things have to change does not excuse the rest of us for sitting on our asses and doing nothing. In the Declaration of Independence, the very document upon which this country was founded, it is stated, "...that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness." I am not calling for the dissolution of the United States government, but I am calling for the alteration of that government. We live in a country that is, regrettably, controlled by these enormous corporations, and I see no other way to bring us back to our foundations. It will rub a lot of people the wrong way, yes, but so did our original revolution. Do you think that there weren’t a lot of people in the 1770's who were against that particular war? Of course there were. These were people for whom the institution of a new government would not have been beneficial to their personal interests. I do not think there are many American folks out there today, however, who would still enjoy being a British protectorate.

Sapsicle brought up an interesting point toward the end of his or her argument: all this "might bring media attention that will ultimately become forgotten." I say to this: if the media does deign to cover such a story, even if it is forgotten five months or a year from now, it will not change the fact that some small difference will have been made. Yes, it is true that shoplifting a Walkman or even ruining two million dollars worth of inventory at a mega-chain department store is hardly a blip on their corporate radar, but if it continues, it will first be negligible, then an annoyance, then a small problem, then a large problem, and so on. If the media cannot ignore it, at the very least, it might open the eyes of a few people who might otherwise have been content to go about their daily lives.

So, again, thank you, Sapsicle, for taking the time to post a response to my piece, and I look forward to hearing anything anybody else has to say regarding my humble words.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Corporate Punishment

I have to tell you, I am a huge talk-radio junkie. It probably stems from the time I spent as a truck driver - in and around cities, there were plenty of FM stations to listen to, but AM is king once you get out into the country. And since I find books-on-tape insufferable, I spent most of my time hanging out with Hannity and Savage and O’Reilly and El Rushmo. Once in a while, I could pick up an Air America affiliate, but those times were few and far between. So it was conservative talk that kept me going (what better way to stay awake than to become as angry as humanly possible?).

Now, I’ve got a lot of problems with these guys. First and foremost, the vast majority are really pretty stupid. What is dangerous about them is that they are incredibly persuasive. I’m sure you know the type - the utterly likable and eminently believable idiot on the football team who completely snows you because he’s got the panache you only wish you had. So when the altogether laughablastic Rush, who has become little more than the yes-man for the Bush administration, come out with one of his infantile little comments, you find yourself persuaded in spite of yourself.

That being said, I would like to talk for a moment about a topic that has been at the forefront of a lot of these shows lately, and kind of set the matter straight. The only reason I am singling out this particular example is that it happens to be at the root of the majority of our nation’s current problems.

If you listen to a Rush or a Hannity or other such numbnut, you know that the liberals are out to punish people for doing well for themselves. You know, Wal-Mart is one of the great American success stories, so why would we want to punish them by raising their taxes or actually enforcing the environmental laws that they are breaking or imposing trade restrictions on them? Well, in a nutshell, that’s not the issue. Wal-Mart or Disney or, hmm, Halliburton should not be punished for doing well for themselves. Rather, they should be punished for screwing over everyone else.

The long and the short of it is that these giant corporations do nothing but cause misery for everyone but a few folks sitting at the top of the company hierarchy. Why on earth wouldn’t the American public have them give something back - something more than just a Little-League park or an adopt-a-highway sign? These corporations should be taxed to the gills as reparations for jobs lost and the destruction of a uniquely American way of life. Not to mention the fact that these big guys have weaseled their way into government, and now pretty much run things, making sure the little guys stay as little as possible, affording the already enormous the opportunity to get even bigger. I mean, give me a break.

Just so we know there’s a difference between punishing someone for doing well and punishing someone for sipping white wine while standing on the broken back of the American people. For shit's sake, how about we frigging stand up for ourselves?!

A Call to Arms

Dear America,

This is an open-ended request for your help.

I do not know what I can say that would get you angry enough to fight back. I suppose if you are reading this, you are reading it for the very reason that you are already angry, having searched for "corporate terrorism" or "anti-Bush" or something like that.

What I am doing is calling for the end of corporate rule in America. What I’m talking about is a guerrilla force made up of one- and two- and three-person armies from across the United States to bring down the corporations that are actively destroying everything that we as Americans should hold dear. I am asking you to cut power lines, padlock gates, create and disseminate computer viruses , re-calibrate satellite signals, turn off your TV, jam phone lines, make flyers that tell the truth - I mean, hell, set off the sprinkler system in Wal-Mart. I am sure a good old-fashioned bomb threat would work wonderfully well in this post-9/11 society. Anything. I am sure you can use your imagination and come up with hundreds of other ways to bring about this desperately necessary revolution. I mean, hey, how about calling in some false stock information to Wall Street? When all else fails, simply shoplifting from a corporation whose code of ethics allows it to deliberately undercut honest men and women can work wonders. What I’m asking for is a few thousand monkey wrenches to be thrown into the murderously well-oiled gears of Corporate America.

This is the problem the way I see it: even though there are many voices out there vilifying this corporate stranglehold over we Americans, nobody is doing anything physical to stop it. Lou Dobbs and Jon Stewart can talk all they want to about how fucked up the system is, but all it really amounts to is, well, talk. And as long as all people are doing is talking, Clearchannel and Fox News and Nike will continue to roll merrily along, completely unchecked, leaving behind them the bloody remains of the world’s population. Think I am being a bit over-dramatic? How’s this: since GE owns NBC and MSNBC, and also makes jet engines for the US military, chances are you are not going to see too much in the way of anti-war stories on the nightly news. And, just for the record, I would like to get it out there that by "anti-war" I do not mean the propagation of left-wing ideology, but merely the presentation of battlefield facts that do not need any liberal help to be "anti-war." So you see, because GE has a vested interest in the continuation of the war effort, they are directly responsible for the continued loss of life in the Middle East. Do a little research of your own, and you will see just how deep this corruption goes.

I used to think the networks were just too scared to report on what was actually happening in the world, and that Dan Rather’s "memogate" would only serve to perpetuate that fear. However, the more research I do, the more I realize that it really is not fear at all that is retarding journalistic integrity. It merely goes back to this managing of the news by the corporations that serve to profit from the misinformation they divulge. And until these corporation are brought to their knees, we will never be able to rightly say that we live in a free society. For as long as the news is managed, and those charged with governing us are interested not in the people but in the money international politics can bring, we are living in nothing more than a farce, where the people have no control over what their country does. Something tells me Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his grave right now, for we have perverted the noble ideas on which this nation was founded.

Please get out there and help give our country back to us by destroying the power these mega-corporations have over us.

Sincerely,

Pepe Hlessi