Monday, August 31, 2009

Shedding Light on the Heroes of the Far Right

Much of the reason America is in such trouble right now has nothing at all to do with what the right wing media says about our country "sliding into socialism." It has even less to do with the outrageous claims by the far right that we have a fascist, totalitarian dictator who completely disregards the Constitution. It hasn't anything to do with the right wing's accusations of progressives aiming to undermine American society and culture as we know it. Indeed, the foundations of our country are creaking and groaning, and a cultural collapse in the next ten years is likely. But funny enough, the agents of progress and reform in this country are finding themselves demonized at every step of the road to change.

The Legend of Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity
Much more so than any other media personality out there today, three men are dominating today's political dialogue; Glenn Beck of the FOX news channel, longtime talk radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, and Hannity and Colmes co-host Sean Hannity. I'm focusing on these three because of their tremendous impact on society. Rahm Emanuel, when asked by the late Tim Russert about whom he thought was leading the Republican Party today, responded with Rush Limbaugh. He remarked that the radio host was the "Voice, energy, and intellect of the GOP." Limbaugh always knows how to make headlines by spouting off incendiary statements of bigotry and insensitivity. This is genius, as his most devoted listeners identify with these viewpoints and the liberal press gives him all the coverage he could ever want.

Glenn Beck's 9/12 project was a brilliant propaganda move by FOX; it gave conservatives everywhere a message and a man to rally behind. Beck was soon dubbed the "Populist hero of the FOX news channel." His tying in of nine conservative values coupled with 12 conservative values was conveniently timed with the advent of Obama's inauguration and the birth of the Tea Party movement. He also dubbed the 9/12 project as such to appeal to emotion, evoking the pain and anguish we all felt on September 11th, 2001 and wielding it as his personal weapon in proliferating his agenda. And of course, we all remember Beck's contrived crocodile tears as he stood in front of a background illuminating the preamble to the Constitution. Almost overnight, Beck's popularity skyrocketed, and his talking points were soon parroted by Tea Partiers all over.

Sean Hannity appeals to the anti-intellectual religious zealots of the South with his raucous, unabashed antagonism of "the liberal establishment." He encourages his listeners to reject facts and reason as merely liberal talking points and stick to their ideology. Talkers Magazine named him #2 in their "Heavy Hundred" list of the nation's most influential broadcasters (Limbaugh was #1). He has a vast and constantly-growing fanbase of 13.25 million per week and counting, and his influence on the way the GOP constituency acts and thinks is not to be taken lightly.

These are the three men who work to demonize the current administration on every decision it makes as "Socialist," Marxist," "Communist," and the like. It should come as no surprise that 58% of Republicans now harbor suspicions that our president isn't a citizen of the United States. Coincidentally, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh both believe our president isn't a US citizen, and make sure to let their listeners know. Not only has this kind of rhetoric divided the country like never before, but this kind of nonsense is becoming even MORE popular. Logic, reason, and intellect are lost on the vast listening base of these legendary pundits.

These men doing the demonizing are paid handsomely by ad revenue from their networks; whether or not the shouting is factually accurate or not is not important. The constant assault on the senses by right wing media heroes like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh is made possible by the millions of people who tune in for their daily dose of hate-filled rage on national airwaves. The money they make is made possible through the devotion of their fanbases, not the validity of their message. The fact is, these three men are the current leaders of today's GOP. They speak for the millions of their uneducated and closed-minded fans, who enjoy hearing Rush and others rage on and on about socialism and the inevitable end of capitalism and western culture as we know it, despite having no previous knowledge or experience to back up what they say on national airwaves.

Drug Addicts, Derelicts, and Frauds
I'd like to be of the opinion, as would most other media consumers, that if a popular voice is allowed several hours on national airwaves each day, that he/she should have some knowledge and experience to rationalize why they are telling us all what to think about every issue. This may be the case with progressive media icons like Paul Krugman, Robert Baer and George Lakoff, but Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh have neither education nor experience on their side.

Neither of the three aforementioned right wing media heroes have completed a college degree. Rush Limbaugh dropped out after two semesters when he flunked every single class (including ballroom dance). Glenn Beck graduated high school in 1982, but has only taken one college class as a non-trad at Yale, which he later dropped. Sean Hannity dropped out of NYU and Adelphi.

Additionally, we're all now likely familiar with Rush's prescription drug addiction in 2003, his racially-charged sense of humor, and his hatred of women making progress in society. He also stated he openly hopes Obama fails as president. Rush seems to forget that if the president fails, our country is screwed. Since then, conservatives everywhere have adapted that viewpoint as one of their own, somehow reasoning that wielding a president's (and a country's) failure as a debate tool is more important than our president's policies succeeding and bringing our country out of recession.

Sean Hannity has stated he is too busy to read books despite having the time to write two books of his own. Being that he doesn't have a college education, doesn't read, but somehow feels qualified to get us to respect his opinions is laughable.

Monty, a friend of mine, says it plainly:

It's amazing that so many people put their faith in these who never even took it upon themselves to gain a higher knowledge and understanding of math, science, philosophy, the arts, and language than they already had. It's no wonder they have such closed-minded views of the world.

Why American Conservatives Identify with Their Media
Each of these heroes of radio and television, who are an inspiration to millions of neoconservatives nationwide, have no political, scientific, or even the educational credentials and experience to substantiate their claims. These dominant voices of American political discourse are college dropouts with backward, traditionalist views on society. Limbaugh is an anti-feminist, Hannity is anti-gay rights, and Beck is anti-Islam, for example. It should come as no surprise that their biggest fans are die-hard Republicans: conservative, church-attending, poorly-educated blue collar workers in red states who tend to think the same way, as seen in the famous 2004 election exit polls.

These men aren't experts in these fields, or even journalists. They are merely individuals with opinions based on flawed logic and an inability to use reason in an argument, who see the world through a flawed libertarian/neoconservative perspective. This perspective is flawed because the value systems of these men and their cabal are flawed.

Take their positions on health care, for instance; none of them are poor, neither one is an economic guru, none of them live outside of the United States, and all of them have the money necessary to finance a complicated health procedure completely in cash. However, these men claim our economy will be ruined by the public option due to our desire to model our system after those in Canada and the UK, while claiming the poor will be disadvantaged even further. Because they have money, they value a system where the dollar is placed at a higher priority than the preservation of a human life. Because they can individually finance their medical expenses with no trouble, they don't consider the plight of those who have had to divorce their spouses or sell their homes to pay for hospital bills. In fact, 62 percent of today's foreclosures are a result of insufficient funds for medical expenses.

So, it all boils down to one question: Why do poor, disenfranchised Americans continue to support, listen to, and watch these programs?

It is a simple tactic best explained in George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant." To convince people to protest against their own economic self-interests, talking points have to be communicated effectively through frames. For example, does it work better to say "Democrats are hurting our health system because they want a public health insurance option," or "Washington limousine liberals are working to undermine the American Free Market with a socialized government take-over of the health industry?" I think you can figure out which phrase the pundits would rather use.

Ultimately, the success of such widespread deception and hatemongering is due to the appeal of what Lakoff refers to as the "cultural civil war." Its the Us vs. Them mentality held by warrior conservatives everywhere. According to guys like Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh, progressives and liberals are seeking to rend the Constitution meaningless and suppress civil liberties while promoting a Socialist agenda. If these guys are right, the very fabric of our nation is at stake, and conservatives have a direct responsibility to fight the "tyranny" of the left. Like Bush said after 9/11, you're either with us or against us.

It is this radical stance against progressive ideas and culture that is endangering American political discourse. This radical stance is championed by the trio of Beck/Hannity/Limbaugh-- the uneducated hacks, frauds, and drug-addled derelicts of the right wing media. Because of the extreme rhetoric of these media tyrants, moderate conservatives have either been shouted into submission or shouted out of the party altogether. It is hardly possible to have an in-person political discussion today, because people have been so misled by the uneducated, inexperienced pundits from whom they get their information.

These guys on the far right are nuts, but they should be regarded very carefully, because they have the ability to take the rest of the country down with them in a fireball of hatred, bull-headed ignorance, and intolerance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paid to Lie: Conservative Skullduggery Exposed

The Crime
So, according to recent reports, the FBI under George W. Bush's administration paid a right-wing white supremacist and blogger to stoke the flames of hatred. One blog post called for federal judges to be killed, and even went so far as to provide the personal information (addresses, photos, neighborhood maps) of a three-judge panel in Chicago's 7th Circuit of Appeals.

The man in question, Hal Turner, made the following remark on his blog-

“Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions."

That remark prompted this comment from an anonymous reader-

"im going to kill senator feingold on july 4th. may thomas paine smile upon me and alexander hamilton bless my cause. praise the lord and pass the ammunition."

So, one may be prompted to ask, what was the heinous offense committed by these federal judges to be targeted so harshly? Did they promote slavery? Did they accept bribes? Cheat on their wives? Work for Al-Qaeda? The answer is none of the above.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer were simply complicit in upholding a gun control law. The information above can be found in several private emails between Turner and an FBI agent, made public thanks to Anonymous, who most likely did it for the lulz. Turner's lawyer, Michael Orozco, has verified the emails to be legitimate.

Orozco's defense for his client relies heavily on the fact that he was paid "tens of thousands of dollars" by the FBI to disseminate hateful rhetoric on all hot-button issues for conservatives like immigration, gun control, and abortion. Orozco also noted Turner was also in frequent clandestine meetings with the Bureau, where he learned all about how to spew hate speech without crossing the line.

The story even reports how Orozco has rationalized his client's provocations of violence-

“It’s a protected political statement...He said they deserved to be killed. He did not say grab a gun and go out and do what is necessary.”

In fact, Turner is banking on his constitutional right to free speech as his primary defense.

The Implications
So, if Bush's cronies paid a right-wing hatemonger (with taxpayer money, most likely) to spew hatred and he gets off on free speech, then what does this say about hatemongers like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Lou Dobbs, and many others who capitalize on polluting the political discourse with unwarranted and factually insubstantial hate speech? Are they going to be further allowed to intentionally mislead and deceive their highly susceptible and intensely devoted audience?

Will Glenn Beck's ludicrous nonsense about "FEMA death camps" provoke more right wingers to bring an arsenal to a National Guard base, thinking it's what Beck described?

Will more "birthers" open fire and kill more people at the holocaust museum, incensed by the hate speech that their fellow white supremacists are freely allowed to propagate via the First Amendment?

Will more weak-willed people like Scott Roeder be propelled to shoot more abortion doctors at their churches, encouraged to take action by the radical right-wing groups of which they claim membership?

Will another anti-immigration teabagger like Shawna Forde be called to action and ruthlessly murder a family of illegal immigrants in cold blood, because people like Lou Dobbs stoked the fires that pushed them over the line?

While it's certainly clear now that the Bush administration paid a fortune to a right-wing hatemonger to spew his acidic rhetoric more effectively, and in turn pushing their agenda in a violent new fashion, I wonder how many more cases like this there are that we haven't found out about yet? Just how many white supremacists or otherwise influential and controversial right-wingers are being paid to proliferate hatred and deception?

Who's Signing the Checks
Many could look to Dick Armey's Freedomworks, who started the Recess Rallies that encouraged people to travel to town halls in groups, disperse amongst the crowd, and disrupt open dialogue on healthcare reform. Freedomworks was also behind the Tax Day Tea Party movement.

I've been researching on how the town hall mob campaign was also sponsored by private health insurance companies, hospital CEOs, Big Oil and Dirty Coal, and a bevy of wealthy conservative lobbyists who would like nothing more than to see their pockets get fatter while American families sink into poverty.

There are lots of fat checks going around right now, signed by the wealthy Wall Street interests of the right, going into the pockets of hatemongers and professional maligners and deceivers. It's up to us to read through the lines in the corporate media. More right-wing charlatans like Hal Turner need to be taken to task on the lies they purport, as do the people who finance them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Common Sense in 2009, by Larry Flynt

My friend Kenny shared this piece with me today. He highlights all the faults of this current administration in not standing up to the Corporatocracy that created the mess we're in right now, largely because they funded his campaign. He points out that things won't ever get any better as long as our only choices every two years are the corporate puppets on the left and the right.

When the media chooses who to follow and cover based on how much money each candidate raises, they too cater to the corporate interests on Wall Street who control our government. Unlike our elected officials, those who own the media and Wall Street cannot be held accountable by democracy, cannot be voted out of power, and have no term limits.

In this piece, Larry Flynt proposes the American people rise up and unite against the corporate elite by participating in a Buy Nothing Day, much like the one championed by the Adbusters magazine in the earlier parts of the decade. He proposes we do this again and again until sweeping reforms are made in campaign finance, and until lobbying interests are barred from influencing Washington with their money.

You can read the whole piece here.
Common Sense 2009
by Larry Flynt

The American government -- which we once called our government -- has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called "economic royalists," who choose our elected officials -- indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters. In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.

This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment's hesitation, they took our money -- yours and mine -- to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don't care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as "useless eaters."

But, you say, we have elected a candidate of change. To which I respond: Do these words of President Obama sound like change?

"A culture of irresponsibility took root, from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street."

There it is. Right there. We are Main Street. We must, according to our president, share the blame. He went on to say: "And a regulatory regime basically crafted in the wake of a 20th-century economic crisis -- the Great Depression -- was overwhelmed by the speed, scope and sophistication of a 21st-century global economy."

This is nonsense.

The reason Wall Street was able to game the system the way it did -- knowing that they would become rich at the expense of the American people (oh, yes, they most certainly knew that) -- was because the financial elite had bribed our legislators to roll back the protections enacted after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Congress gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial lending banks from investment banks, and passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed for self-regulation with no oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently revised its rules to allow for even less oversight -- and we've all seen how well that worked out. To date, no serious legislation has been offered by the Obama administration to correct these problems.

Instead, Obama wants to increase the oversight power of the Federal Reserve. Never mind that it already had significant oversight power before our most recent economic meltdown, yet failed to take action. Never mind that the Fed is not a government agency but a cartel of private bankers that cannot be held accountable by Washington. Whatever the Fed does with these supposed new oversight powers will be behind closed doors.

Obama's failure to act sends one message loud and clear: He cannot stand up to the powerful Wall Street interests that supplied the bulk of his campaign money for the 2008 election. Nor, for that matter, can Congress, for much the same reason.

Consider what multibillionaire banker David Rockefeller wrote in his 2002 memoirs:

"Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as 'internationalists' and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure -- one world, if you will. If that's the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it."

Read Rockefeller's words again. He actually admits to working against the "best interests of the United States."

Need more? Here's what Rockefeller said in 1994 at a U.N. dinner: "We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis, and the nations will accept the New World Order." They're gaming us. Our country has been stolen from us.

Journalist Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone, notes that esteemed economist John Kenneth Galbraith laid the 1929 crash at the feet of banking giant Goldman Sachs. Taibbi goes on to say that Goldman Sachs has been behind every other economic downturn as well, including the most recent one. As if that wasn't enough, Goldman Sachs even had a hand in pushing gas prices up to $4 a gallon.

The problem with bankers is longstanding. Here's what one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, had to say about them:

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation, and then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their father's conquered."

We all know that the first American Revolution officially began in 1776, with the Declaration of Independence. Less well known is that the single strongest motivating factor for revolution was the colonists' attempt to free themselves from the Bank of England. But how many of you know about the second revolution, referred to by historians as Shays' Rebellion? It took place in 1786-87, and once again the banks were the cause. This time they were putting the screws to America's farmers.

Daniel Shays was a farmer in western Massachusetts. Like many other farmers of the day, he was being driven into bankruptcy by the banks' predatory lending practices. (Sound familiar?) Rallying other farmers to his side, Shays led his rebels in an attack on the courts and the local armory. The rebellion itself failed, but a message had been sent: The bankers (and the politicians who supported them) ultimately backed off. As Thomas Jefferson famously quipped in regard to the insurrection: "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Perhaps it's time to consider that option once again.

I'm calling for a national strike, one designed to close the country down for a day. The intent? Real campaign-finance reform and strong restrictions on lobbying. Because nothing will change until we take corporate money out of politics. Nothing will improve until our politicians are once again answerable to their constituents, not the rich and powerful.

Let's set a date. No one goes to work. No one buys anything. And if that isn't effective -- if the politicians ignore us -- we do it again. And again. And again.

The real war is not between the left and the right. It is between the average American and the ruling class. If we come together on this single issue, everything else will resolve itself. It's time we took back our government from those who would make us their slaves.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The US Corporatocracy, part 2 (hypocrisy in Panama)

Foreword/Review (and alliterative ramblings)
If you've read the first installment of this series, you would have read all about the nasty, manipulative cards we've dealt the rest of the world. You've read about the tight alliance between the heads of the power elite; international banking cartels, private corporations, and elected officials. And you've read just a little bit on how we've managed to pull this off for fifty years. In this essay, I'll be delving deeper into the dirty details of the dastardly doings we've been doling to destitute democracies and dictatorships.

Sorry, that was a little too much alliteration. I digress.

So, a quick review, if you haven't read the beastly long piece that precedes this one (this one will be longer). I'll first give credit to John Perkins and his book "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," which has provided me with much of the information I'm proliferating to my readers. As a consultant for the private consulting firm Chas T. Main (MAIN), Perkins was key to forwarding what he calls global imperial interests. His role was to provide inflated economic forecasts to justify gargantuan loans to small countries from international banking cartels like the IMF, World Bank, and USAID. Once these loans were shackled to their respective countries, engineers from MAIN would proceed to design and build large-scale infrastructure projects that were meant only to help the most fortunate 1% of the populace, while these projects took their toll on the land of the peasants and farmers. Forests would be leveled, streams would be filled, waters would be polluted, and homes would be destroyed for the power lines and roads that MAIN's engineers were commissioned to do.

Most people would say, "Wait a minute, now. Isn't infrastructure good for growth? Isn't an electric grid and phone line system beneficial and essential for economic progress and industrialization? Don't these projects create jobs for people?" (Don't worry, I did too when I first read Perkins' book.)

The answer is yes, of course. For any nation to industrialize, it needs massive infrastructure to do so, or else it will languish and fall ever behind the steady pace of progress. However, these projects didn't create local jobs, nor did they help the populace rise out of poverty, nor did they provoke progress. The deal MAIN (and countless other multinational corporations) usually has with world leaders is that they play by America's rules. Meaning American contractors do the design, American banks provide the money, and American workers are paid that money to do work in foreign countries, so America will benefit at the expense of the host country. These massive infrastructure projects usually don't provide practical use for a good 99% of the population in most of these countries, so it only really improves the lives of the corrupt leaders who agreed to such terms and the wealthy families who control the politics.

Gee, that sounds a lot like imperialism, don't it?

America was founded by people who had a better dream- one where all men were created equal, where it was believed wrong to exploit people for the benefit of others. America was founded as a sanctuary in the midst of an oppressive empire built on the feudal system. And, with the diabolical imperialistic machine that American banks, CEOs, and politicians now depend upon, that same system of feudalism is ever prevalent in society today. There are social and economic castes that certain people fall into. The king and his barons are at the top, controlling business and politics. The knights fall beneath them; the soldiers who benefit by doing the bidding of the kings and barons. And, of course, underneath the knights, there lie the serfs. The serfs are the majority of the poor who make their living by serving the rich. Making just enough to get by, the serfs of the feudal era performed tasks that can now be done easily by machines, and barely had enough to put food on the table, let alone afford a doctor or proper schooling for their families.

Doesn't this sound too familiar? It isn't obvious to see that the American Dream envisioned by our Founding Fathers has been corrupted into the imperialistic, feudalistic travesty that we see today. Instead of freedom and equality for all, the world, and indeed much of the American population, has been reduced to serf status, working only to live paycheck to paycheck, earning just enough by serving the elite. The media shamelessly hammers "The American Dream" into our skulls, teaching us to idolize those who take and consume without regard for others, and to venerate the selfishness required by these loathsome individuals that allowed them to prosper as they have. Our incentive for this dream is the image of a large, expansive mansion, complete with a five-car garage stocked with expensive vehicles, and a lifestyle of excessive consumption and consumerism. That American Dream, sadly, has come true. And it's up to us to dream a new dream and make that into reality. This new dream will be discussed in the fourth and final installment of this series.

Now, let's get down to business. I was talking about how we shamelessly exploit other countries for our own selfish gain, right? Panama will serve as a fine first example.

Panama and the Canal
During the spice trading days, the old empires of Europe sought the lands of Asia and the Indian peninsula, as it was rumored a man's yearly wages could be realized with a handful of Saffron or Cardamom. Columbus found the West Indes, and North and South America were also soon discovered. But Asia lay beyond the Americas, and one was required to suffer the ordeal of sailing all the way around South America, to the tip of Argentina, before going back around to the other side of the American continent. This was where Panama came in.

Panama is at the center of the Americas- it is the bridge between the Central American strip and South America. Finally, in 1914, after some failed excavation by the French, Teddy Roosevelt and the good ol' USA blasted away enough land to create the present Panama Canal, which finally connected the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Panama was still under control of Colombia, so Roosevelt encouraged Panamanians to revolt with US support.

After they claimed independence, Panama happily sold the Panama Canal Zone rights to the US government for $10 million. Oddly enough, this deal was struck between a Frenchman and the Americans, and not one Panamanian signed the treaty that did it.

So basically, under dubious means, the United States had secured legal control of the most valuable and prized piece of real estate in all of world history. Even today, the Canal remains a staple trade route for most of the world's shipping.

The canal remained under US control for decades- we had built a military base in the Canal Zone, which was, as Perkins described, a world within a world. While Panamanians lived in abject poverty under the oppressive Arias regime that we had supported for many years, American military families in the Canal Zone lived in pristine conditions and enjoyed unprecedented luxury. There were several 18-hole golf courses, movie theaters, lavish restaurants catering to gourmand customers, lush houses, neatly-paved roads, and plenty of electricity and running water. Several prominent Americans were born in the Canal Zone, including US senator and GOP presidential hopeful John McCain.

No Panama native had dared challenge the system, or ask for the wealth the canal provided to Americans be provided to Panamanians until General Omar Torrijos came along. And he would prove to be a very nasty problem for the American establishment.

President Jimmy Carter, General Torrijos, and the new Canal Treaty
At this point in history, world hegemony was divided between the Capitalist USA and the Communist USSR. Usually, if a nation wanted to challenge the American establishment, they allied themselves with the Soviets, as Salvador Allende did in Chile. However, Torrijos chose instead to simply declare Panama a sovereign nation, rather than an imperial subject. After overthrowing the Arias family in a bloodless coup, Torrijos demanded Americans pack up and leave Panama. He included the Canal as part of Panama, and cited recent history in his claim that Panamanians never had a say in the control of their own Canal in the first place. As a former member of the impoverished class in Panama, Torrijos was incredibly popular among his people. Being the leader of the country housing the world's most valuable piece of property, both Torrijos and the USA knew the world was watching; others could take Torrijos' example and rise against the imperial American establishment. America knew this, and planned to make an example of Omar Torrijos.

John Perkins worked for MAIN at this point, and exploiting Panama by forecasting inflated figures was his next assignment. Perkins had been absorbing Panamanian culture and milling about with the natives in Panama City, learning about why Panamanians had hated his home country. He began to see the error in the reasoning of his superiors at this point, and was reluctant to exploit a people so ruthlessly for the sake of capital gain.

When Perkins sat down with Torrijos, the general agreed to allow the loans for the infrastructure projects go through, but only if they actually helped his people. Torrijos had integrity, and refused to be corrupted with promises of fortune. Perkins was smitten by the general's honesty and candor, and agreed to forecast honest figures, and see that the projects built reached into the slums and ghettos of Panama, providing people with adequate electricity and clean water. Torrijos was pleased, and while his supervisors at MAIN grumbled about the low forecasts, Perkins' conscience was somewhat assuaged.

In the meantime, Jimmy Carter had agreed with Torrijos' wishes to give the Canal back to Panama, and the highly controversial Panama Canal Treaty was finally ratified by congress by just one vote. Panama finally had the rights to her own canal. As Perkins attested, conservatives swore revenge.

Day of the Jackal: The Reagan Administration and the CIA's Brand of Justice
This all changed in January of 1981, when Ronald Reagan, the champion of the right, was sworn in as POTUS. Capitalizing on Jimmy Carter's failed handling of the Iranian Mullah Revolution, the resulting hostage situation, and the failed rescue attempt, Reagan ran on a campaign that swore to re-assert US dominance, bring democracy to Iran, and get the Panama Canal back under US ownership. Ronald Reagan sought to re-negotiate the Canal Treaty with Omar Torrijos as quickly as he had removed Jimmy Carter's solar panels from the White House. Torrijos adamantly refused to surrender any control of the Canal to US interests, and instead sought to expand the canal in a massive construction project with Japanese contractors. I'll explain why this was such an outrage to Reagan and his crew.

Perkins aptly noted in "Confessions" that he found it fitting Reagan was a former actor in Hollywood; someone used to cowering to the wishes of directors, agents, financial backers, and studio moguls to get the finished product just right. Reagan would serve as an excellent puppet to the Corporatocracy. This was made more obvious with the appointments of Caspar Weinberger as Secretary of Defense and former CIA director George H. Bush as Vice President.

Caspar Weinberger was the former director of the Bechtel corporation (the biggest American multinational contractor) in San Francisco before joining the Reagan administration. Bechtel was usually awarded the contracts for projects designed by MAIN's engineers. It would very much hurt Bechtel's wealth and dominance of the contracting market if the new canal construction went to Japanese companies.

John Perkins mentioned how the "jackals" (CIA agents) were always waiting in the shadows of exploited countries if Economic Hit Men failed. When EHMs fell short of their duties, world leaders tended to die in fiery plane crashes or violent collisions. I mentioned in part 1 of this series how we had propped up violent, authoritarian regimes with the help of the School of the Americas and CIA-orchestrated coups, such as the ones in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile. When Torrijos refused to cower to the new American powers, the American powers struck back.

In July of 1981, just six months after Reagan's inauguration, Omar Torrijos' plane exploded in midair. This was just shortly after Ecuadorian populist Jaime Roldos, who also challenged American imperialism, suffered the exact same fate. It has been widely speculated that the CIA used Manuel Noriega, Torrijos' eventual replacement, in equipping the general's plane with a bomb planted inside a tape recorder.

With Torrijos out of the picture, Noriega now ruled Panama. While at first keeping the legacy of his predecessor alive, Noriega quickly began acting as a double agent working for the CIA. We turned a blind eye to his drug trafficking as he worked to advance the Corporatocracy's interests in Panama. The jackals, as Perkins stated, were working in Panama all along. The evidence was overwhelming.

George H. Bush's Election, the "Wimp" Factor, and the Invasion of Panama
After 8 years of Ronald Reagan, Americans once again elected a member of the Corporatocracy as their leader. The former CIA director and Vice President took control of the White House in 1989, and immediately was branded a "wimp" by the media. This was largely attributed to his kindly old man image, the existence of the USSR still as a world hegemon, and his inability to stand up to President Reagan during the controversial Iran-Contra affair (to be discussed later).

Although his drug trafficking was always known to us, the United States didn't act against Manuel Noriega until we discovered he was backing the Sandinista freedom fighters in Nicaragua, as they fought the oppressive right wing Somoza dynasty backed by the CIA (and Jimmy Carter's adminstration). Ironically, under the Orwellian-esque title "Operation Just Cause," touting our ideals of freedom, democracy, liberty, and equality, we bombed Panama City with force not seen since World War II. We did this to topple a regime that had been funding a progressive cause that championed populist ideals of freedom and democracy. Operation Just Cause killed thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and destroyed the homes of thousands and thousands of others. Panama in 1989, much like Iraq in 2003, was a country that had done nothing at all to threaten our freedom, our ideals, or our way of life. The operation was meant solely to capture one man, Manuel Noriega, who had been a puppet of the CIA for years.

(Modern-day comparisons can also be made to Saddam Hussein and Iraq- Hussein had been working for the CIA in the 1960s, and we had even helped him gain leadership of the country after his first two failed attempts at a coup.)

Operation Just Cause had sparked global outrage. It was unequivocally seen as a blatant violation of international law. And, not more than a year after the Panama debacle, George Bush had the audacity to accuse Saddam Hussein of unjustly invading Kuwait and violating international laws. Irony, it seems, is lost on the Bush family. And as recent years have shown us, those who have failed to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Needless to say, after we had bombed Panama's capital and brought it's leader to our soil as a prisoner of war, the influential and corrupt Arias family gained power once more. Whatever the Canal Treaty had influenced while Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos were in power, it was all rendered irrelevant by the Bush administration. Panama was once again reigned by a puppet government acting in our interests. The Corporatocracy had silenced their opponents in several bold, violent moves. We had indeed made an example of Omar Torrijos and those who dared defy our imperial wishes.

Panama is just one example of how corporate skullduggery, corrupt politics, and ruthless greed have secured a global empire for the United States. In the next essay of this series, I'll focus on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Latin America, and how such a big part of the world was subjugated under the thumb of US interests.

Bestselling Author John Perkins LIVE on my radio show!

It's been an exciting week or so, because I just recently scheduled an interview with one of the most prominent and interesting guests in the entirety of my journalism career. John Perkins, writer of the book, "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," will be joining me live on the Faux Radio Show on Thursday, September 17, at 4 PM EDT. The book is the main inspiration for my Corporatocracy series, and John will be personally discussing his story with me and my listeners that evening. The link to the show can be found here.

If you read my last piece (I'm working on the next installment right now) then you likely have lots of questions and speculation about what I wrote, and the seemingly unstoppable evil that we have been unleashing on third world countries around the globe. You may have questions for him about the alliance between international banking cartels, private corporations, and elected officials. Maybe you want to ask him what can be done about all this, or why he chose to perpetuate such evil for such a long time. As such, I'll be opening up the phone lines during the last half-hour of the show for guests to ask him questions. The call-in number will be 347-838-8941.

If this sounds interesting to you, spread the word to all your friends to tune in to the Faux Radio Show on Thursday, September 17th at 4 PM Eastern time! All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and a set of ears! Even if you miss it, you can catch the show anytime on the Faux Radio Show archive just by going to the website.

Hope all of you listen in!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The US Corporatocracy, part 1 (Why the world hates us)

I've discovered the primary catalyst of global poverty, terrorism, drug wars, and governmental oppression. And why the rest of the world hates us. Moreover, I've discovered the first few steps to change that. It's not that hard; once we sit down and think about world events logically, the answer is elementary, and can be summed up in one word.


This Summer, at one point I became somewhat baffled at what I could possibly teach in one month that would stick in the kids' minds. One can't possibly hope to make teenagers with short attention spans fluent in Spanish in such a short period of time. No matter how good of an educator I thought myself to be or how much those kids enjoyed my class (and they did), no amount of conjugated verbs or sample sentences scribbled on an overhead transparency would be any different than the stuff the state teaches them throughout their secondary school years.

So I thought to myself, how about I teach them something interesting for a change? How about instead of just the Spanish language, these kids learn the history and culture of Central and South America? More importantly, how do I make that interesting as an educator, and make sure that new knowledge sticks with them?

Thus, I began my classes on one particular day by closing the door, and commanding their attention with one simple sentence--

"I can guarantee you that what I'm going to teach you today will shock and offend you."

The kids would immediately grow quiet and sit up straight. I now had their attention. Before I started, I'd add on this next sentence--

"I can also guarantee that you'll never hear any of this in any of your other high school Spanish classes, because the state won't allow any teacher who wants to keep their job to teach you the things you'll be learning in the next hour."

By now the kids were at the edges of their seats, eyes wide open, minds cleared, ready to absorb like a sponge the shady history of post World War II US foreign policy in Latin America and elsewhere in the world. And in the final I assigned all five of my classes, the only section where nearly each student consistently excelled was the History section.

That was a couple of month ago, back when I thought I knew what few others did. That was before having my mind blown by a book I had bought on a whim. That book was "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," by John Perkins. I realized after finishing the book that I had barely glossed the surface of the evil we had unleashed on Central and South America--this evil was perpetuated by the unholy trinity of US-funded financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, USAID), private contractors (Enron, Halliburton, Bechtel, Stone and Webster, etc.) and American elected officials. These elected officials spanned across both party lines, and their corruption knew no bounds; From Eisenhower to George W. Bush.

And looking back, I wish I had conjugated less verbs and focused more on giving these kids the truth about 20th century American history. Coincidentally, this was the only century conveniently left out of the curriculum public schools taught me in the early part of this decade, and I'm sure the case was similar in public schools across the state. Perhaps across the nation.

So I'll say to you, the readers, what I said to my disbelieving kids last July: The events I'm about to describe will undoubtedly shock and offend you. Your initial reaction will be highly skeptical. This is good; I want you to be skeptical, and research these events on your own after you finish this essay.

The information used to write this piece is all mostly recent knowledge gained by reading "Confessions." As in other recent pieces, I'll cite and paraphrase from the book frequently, as the author says it much better than I could.

Slavery 2.0
We finally ended state-sponsored slavery in the United States in the 1860s, but we continued to perpetuate it elsewhere to better suit our economic self-interests. We still have slave traders today. They no longer have to go into the jungles of Africa or the Amazon to find natives to put on auction blocks. These modern-day slave traders simply have to employ desperate people to build sweat shops and factories that manufacture the jackets, jeans, shoes, computer parts, auto parts, and thousands of other goods we find necessary to live our lives here. They can even find a local willing to run the facility so the dirty work will be out of their hands.

As in the slave trading days, these men and women are considered upright citizens by both themselves and the rest of us, through the media that they own and the school boards over which they were elected to preside. They come back with photographs of ancient ruins and quaint villages, and attend seminars and free trade summits. They pat each other on the back and exchange pleasantries about the cultures of the far-off lands they exploit. Their companies have lawyers that tell them what they do is good for the country and the economy. They have therapists that assuage their guilty consciences, who convince them that what they're doing is for the best.

Slave traders convinced themselves that they were helping to Christianize their not entirely human slaves, and to indoctrinate them with civilized Western culture. He understood that slaves were essential to modern society, and the foundation of the economy. They tell themselves that a dollar a day is better than no dollars a day. They understand the work that they do provides the foundation for modern society. Moreover, they never stop to consider the consequences their actions have across the globe, and on the world their children will inherit.

As you can see, the similarities between plantation owners of yesteryear and the corporate executives, international bankers, and elected officials of today are both numerous and striking. In this piece, I'll outline the meaning of corporatocracy, its implications on us and the rest of the world, and what we can do to stop it.

The Subtle Climb to Global Empire
Yes, I'm aware "global empire" causes one to stop and say, "wait a minute, now." But consider the meaning of the phrase. While empires used to be built with military might and wars, new technology and well thought-out corporate skullduggery have enabled the most powerful to exploit the world in ways never thought possible, with unprecedented quiet subtlety. John Perkins, as a former economist for the private consulting firm Chas T. Main (MAIN) lays it out quite aptly in "Confessions." Here is how empires are now built-

First, third-world countries must have leaders capable of corruption. If a leader proves incorruptible, he is overthrown by what Perkins calls "jackals," or CIA-orchestrated coups. If the jackals fail, then we finally send in our sons and daughters to fight and die in military campaigns (Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1990 and 2003). Once a corrupt puppet government is installed, private consulting firms like MAIN send in teams of economists and engineers to places like Columbia, Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Panama (just to name a few) to lay down the foundations.

As an economist, Perkins' job was to make forecasts of the Gross National Product (GNP) growth if large-scale infrastructure projects were laid out in those countries. Perkins reminds his readers that GNP growth is the measure governments usually take in judging the wealth of a country. We are taught to assume that if a country's GNP is high, then its people are better off.

Perkins points out that this is faulty reasoning. It is wrong to believe the idea that all economic growth benefits all of humankind, and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. We are taught to believe that those who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation. Just because a corporation can turn out large profits doesn't make the populace wealthy, just the wealthy few who benefit from those infrastructure projects and GNP growth. For example, if transmission lines were built to carry electricity throughout a nation, the only beneficiary would be the owner of that electric company. While GNP would grow, millions would lose their homes and livelihoods as forests were leveled, streams were filled with refuse, rivers were dammed, and land was polluted.

In his forecasting, Perkins says he was under tremendous pressure to inflate his forecasts with growth rates at much higher percentages per annum than were actually true. He recalls a colleague named Howard Parker who was fired as chief economist because he refused to swallow the company line and inflate his forecasts with untrue numbers. John Perkins received Howard Parker's job and his subsequent promotions by doing what the company wanted him to do, not tell the truth. It was understood that if he didn't make the predictions MAIN wanted him to make, then he, too, would be replaced.

Perkins' forecasts were key, as these studies were taken to local elected officials and heads of state in order to justify huge loans from international bank cartels like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the US Bank of International Development (USAID). Once these loans of billions and billions of dollars were accepted, engineers went to work on designing everything from electricity grids to telephone lines. However, the people wouldn't benefit from these contracts, as American engineers and contractors would get all the jobs associated with these projects, and that these projects were designed only to help the wealthiest families. Essentially, the money used for these projects never really leaves the United States, it just gets transferred from an international banking office in Washington to an American contracting company in San Francisco. It was required that these loans be paid back in full, principal plus interest.

Mind you, international financiers knew these debts could never be repaid. Eventually, countries would eventually have to default on these loans. Once this happens, they are essentially indebted forever to US-owned institutions. And like every Mafioso, the United States comes to extract its pound of flesh once immeasurable debt was shackled to the nation. This can mean everything from oil drilling contracts to the building of military bases, UN votes, or control of the Panama Canal, for example. And when a country must always answer to another country either politically or financially (in most cases, both) then that is the very definition of empire.

However, this spread of empire is conveniently much more subtle, and much less violent. It makes it to the corporate press as acts of philanthropy; the World Bank lends a country money for infrastructure. These stories never take into account the damage done to the environments, cultures, and the livelihoods of indigenous people.

Meanwhile, we are taught in public schools and through the corporately-owned media (Rupert Murdoch and FOX news, General Electric's ownership of NBC, AOL-Time Warner's ownership of CNN, Disney's ownership of ABC, Viacom owning CBS) that economic growth equals individual prosperity, and to venerate wolfish capitalism, insatiable greed, and "The American Dream." The American Dream has come true, and it is the secret ingredient to global imperialism.

Our global culture, as described by Perkins (who initially helped perpetuate it) is a monstrous machine that requires exponentially-increasing amounts of fuel and maintenance; so much so that in the end, it will have consumed everything in sight and will have nothing else to do but devour itself in its own greed.

Perkins observes that when men and women are rewarded for greed as he was, then greed becomes a motivating factor. When we equate the wanton, gluttonous consumption of the Earth's resources with a status approaching sainthood, when we teach our children to emulate those who lead trite and unbalanced lives, and when we define huge sections of the world population as subservient to an elite minority, we ask for trouble. And trouble we get; just look at what happened on 9/11.

The US's First Empire-Builder
As Eisenhower sought to further quench our neverending thirst for oil in 1953, he looked to Iran. Their people had just elected Mohammed Mossadegh as Prime Minister. While we wanted our hands on Iran's oil and influence, we knew military solutions were no longer an option. Korea (along with Vietnam and Iraq) was an experiment to see if non-nuclear warfare could still advance the interests of global empire, and had failed miserably. We also knew that our Communist enemies in Russia had nuclear capability, and that they sponsored other enemy regimes. War was just too costly and risky. We needed another way.

Thus, Eisenhower deployed CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt (Teddy's grandson) to Iran, and he forever paved the way for what John Perkins refers to as Economic Hit Men, or EHMs. Roosevelt helped incite false protests and public revolts to make it look like Mossadegh was inept and corrupt, and not in control of his people. (For contemporary examples, look to Otto J. Reich's work as US ambassador in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez. One could also look to Dick Armey's work in organizing the teabagger effort that dominates the mainstream media and blogosphere.)

Before long, the premier was overthrown in a coup with the help of the CIA and his own son, who became the Shah of Iran. Despite the Shah's brutal authoritarian tactics and tyranny (secret police, torture chambers, death squads) he was cooperative with the US in giving us the oil its people demanded to drive their cars and build their suburbs. Iran was now a puppet government of the US, and that lasted until the Mullah revolution in 1979.

However, this was a risky step for the US government. Had Roosevelt been caught, the US's imperialistic ambitions would be exposed to the international community. The accountability factor had to be shifted to the private sector. Thus, the US Departments of Commerce and Treasury can cooperate with private firms like MAIN in deploying economic hit men to countries like Iran in order to further its cause of global empire. US interests would be served first and foremost, but it would now be done by private contractors paid salaries by the private sector. Government projects no longer needed congressional approval.

The School of the Americas
John Perkins mentioned leaders needed to be corruptible in order for imperial interests to be advanced. Thus, if leaders were incapable of being corrupted, they were overthrown in a coup like the one in Iran, and a puppet regime was instated. We repeated the Iran example by ousting many heads of state in third world countries across Latin America and the Middle East. This is where the School of the Americas comes in, otherwise known now under the euphemistic title, "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," or WHISC. The school's main campus is at Fort Benning right here at home, in Georgia.

The School of the Americas also was located in Panama's Canal Zone where right wing death squads and paramilitaries were directly trained and supplied. Training was readily given by US Army personnel. Some of the school's more notorious graduates include brutal right wing dictators Augosto Pinochet (Chile), Roberto D'Aubisson (El Salvador) and Guillermo Rodriguez (Ecuador), just to name a few. Here is what the SoA's training accomplished in just these countries alone-

In Chile, Augosto Pinochet, with help from the CIA, ousted democratically-elected populist president Salvador Allende. Allende was the first Marxist to be elected president, and posed threats to US global empire by nationalizing Copper reserves. He was also known for nationalizing the nation's health care system and dividing up large land ownerships by private companies to peasant farmers. The CIA and Pinochet removed Allende from office in 1973, and the new regime lasted all the way to 1990. Pinochet ruled with an iron fist, killing over 3,200 political dissidents, jailing 80,000 without trial, and subjected 30,000 of those prisoners to torture. He is also known to have exiled close to 200,000 political refugees to Argentina and Peru.

In El Salvador, right wing dictator Roberto D'Aubisson was known as "Blowtorch Bob," as per his favorite torture device. He commanded death squads between 1978 and 1992, before and during the civil war in that country. He regularly condemned his political opponents on the right wing state-owned television channels, who were summarily executed after the broadcasts. The Washington Post quoted him in saying that he wanted to kill 200,000 to 300,000 people in order to restore peace to El Salvador. In 1984, a closed-door dinner held by 120 conservative lobbyists presented a plaque to D'Aubisson for "continuing efforts for freedom in the face of Communist aggression, which is an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere." The dinner's attendees included representatives from Free Congress Foundation, the Conservative Caucus, the Conservative Alliance, Viguerie Co., Gun Owners of America, Western Goals Endowment Fund, Washington Legal Foundation, United States Defense Committee, American Foreign Policy Council, Public Service Research Council, The Moral Majority, The Washington Times, National Right-to-Work Committee, National Pro-Life Political Action Committee, Intercessors for America, the Young America's Foundation, and Young Americans for Freedom.

Ecuador's SoA-trained dictator Guillermo Rodriguez served as an excellent puppet for US oil interests, as he opened up sections of the country's treasured Amazon rainforests for oil drilling. Perkins, as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador for 3 years, claims these forests were home to hundreds of species of rare and endangered birds, plants, and insects, many of which could possibly contain cures for disease. Trees there helped produce the country's fresh water reserves.

The indigenous Quechua, Achuar, Zaparo and Shuar tribes had lived in the Ecuadorian rainforests for years, using the land and its resources to sustain their culture. Perkins recalls meeting with members of these indigenous tribes in the military base/oil drilling town of Shell (named after the oil company), who had angrily claimed they were going to war with the oil companies. They had vowed to fight until the last man. When asked why, the tribes told Perkins that soldiers from Shell's base had shot and killed rare birds for sport and food, that they had raided family gardens, manioc fields and banana groves, destroying sparse topsoil. They told Perkins soldiers had used explosives in the rivers for fishing, ate family pets, built improper latrines, polluted waters with waste and refuse, sexually molested women, and left garbage everywhere, which attracted mice and vermin.

The School of the Americas has trained dictators in 17 Latin American countries, from Haiti all the way to Argentina. Congressman Joseph Kennedy himself said the US-funded school trained more right wing dictators than any other country in the history of the world.

The Lasting Effects of Global Imperialism
Perkins aptly states that a country which perpetuates such a ruthless and oppressive system, that props up and supports brutal authoritarian dictators, that subjects others in foreign countries to corporate slavery, goes against everything the Founding Fathers had stood for. He compares our contemporary American empire to the British Empire of the colonial days. Back in the 18th century, the British government had convinced the colonists in New England that its form of government and commerce was the most righteous and fair in all the world, and that colonists should be so lucky to be a subject of the king. While the colonists were exploited daily, they were convinced that they still should support the king. When the revolution started, our Founding Fathers had a dream of a land where everyone lived freely to escape a vastly corrupt global empire.

Here are some statistics that readily show the harmful effects of modern-day Colonialism-

24,000 people die every day from hunger. The pharmaceutical industry denies live-saving cures to African countries, where people die every day from preventable diseases (the same industry which funds lobbyists to fill the media with lies and deception about universal healthcare). According to Perkins, the income ratio of one-fifth of the world's population in the richest countries to one-fifth in the poorest went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995. I imagine the figure is even more starkly contrasted today. For less than half of the $87 billion we used to initially go to war in Iraq (our spending has since greatly surpassed that mark) the UN estimates we could use to feed, water, clothe, educate, and provide basic health services to every person on the planet.

In Ecuador, for example, during the period known as the "Oil Boom" (since 1970), poverty there grew from 50 percent to 70 percent. Unemployment skyrocketed from 15 percent to 70 percent, and public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion. The share of natural resources designated to help the poor went from 20 percent to 6 percent. While oil executives enjoyed record quarterly profits from exploiting Ecuador, her people languished in poverty. In fact, the only way Ecuador can pay off her national debt is by opening up her Amazonian Rainforest reserves to American oil companies. Seismologists have predicted that Ecuador sits atop oil fields rival to those in Saudi Arabia. According to Perkins, for every $100 of crude oil extracted from Ecuador, $75 of that goes to the oil company. Of the remaining $25, 3 quarters of that must go toward the national debt, while most of the remainder goes toward paying for military and other government expenses. This leaves about $2.50 for helping the poor get education, food, and health care.

Ecuador is just one example. Perkins notes nearly every country brought under the thumb of our global empire ha suffered the same fate. Third world debt has since grown to $2.6 trillion, and the cost of paying off that debt has grown to more than $375 billion per year as of 2004. This number is more than all third world countries spend on health and education, and twenty times the amount developing countries receive each year in foreign aid. More than half of the world's people live on less than two dollars a day, roughly the same amount they lived on in the early 1970s.

As such, the top 1% of third world households account for 70 to 90 percent of all private financial wealth and real estate ownership in their respective countries. Essentially, the infrastructure projects based on the economic forecasts of John Perkins are meant to help only the fabulously wealthy families of the third world countries we exploit daily.

Thus, millions of desperate, exploited people around the world are potential "terrorists." Not because they are Communists or radical Islamic extremists, but simply because they are desperate. When rivers are dammed, land polluted, and forests leveled, livelihoods of millions are destroyed. This can lead those farmers and fishermen to selling drugs, and using that money to purchase weapons they use to take oil workers hostage or to terrorize American corporations working in third world countries. If we simply lived by a different mindset, if we stopped venerating wolfish capitalism and stopped rewarding the greedy for their greed, we could alleviate most, if not all of these problems.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I'll describe in detail the actions and consequences of global imperialism in different countries around the world.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Christian Side of the Health Care Reform Debate

While I myself don't proclaim to be a practicing Christian, I have read the Bible cover to cover and have grown up in the Methodist Church with an ordained elder for a father. I do, however, enjoy reading about and researching all religions, and the fascinating (and sometimes destructive) impact they have on their followers and the rest of the world.

I do know that Christianity is largely based on the teachings of the New Testament, and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as the story of Jesus. There are parts of the Old Testament added to the original Torah (Pentateuch- first five books of the Bible) also followed by Christians. Jesus himself had a righteous message; one of stewardship, nurturing, charity, humility, and a universal Christian brotherhood (communion).

It's no secret that today, most churches in the Christian faith are heavily represented by the right wing; churches adamantly refuse to marry homosexuals or even recognize their lifestyle as a normal one. The role of women in the church has long been suppressed by the right wing, at least in leadership positions. The religious right also claims to venerate the "traditions" and "heritage" of our Puritan ancestors. As we all know, our country was founded by Puritanical settlers with very conservative views of society and people.

That carries on through today, where Glenn Beck's "9/12 Project" venerates a strong faith in God as one of the primary values of American conservatives. That being said, it's safe to say that not all Christians are conservative, but a vast majority of conservatives are Christians. So, to those on the right wing who identify themselves as Christian, I'm writing this especially for you. This goes double for those who stand against health care reform.

In last week's health care poll (I'm still collecting data, conclusion to come shortly) I conducted here, most conservatives who took the time to answer my questions believed health care was not a right, but a privilege. They believed it was wrong for taxpayers to demand that their money go toward public-funded health insurance to cover those who can't afford a premium from a private insurer. For the most part, these conservatives sided with the wealthy private health sector, and were united in their cause of health care accessibility only for those wealthy enough to afford it. When questioned about the poor 47,000,000+ in our country with no insurance, their response was something along the lines of "should have worked harder," "not my problem," and "no government mooching."

A friend of mine who works for a Christian-based broadcasting network shared with me a wealth of Bible verses from the Old and New Testaments, and these verses speak volumes about how the conservative Christians of the modern era have failed in their Biblical duties as true Christians. Particularly when it comes to their apathy toward the poor and uninsured. These Bible verses speak for themselves. If I have prompted you to respond, feel free to do so.

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."
-Proverbs 21:13

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
-Proverbs 31:8-9

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
-Matthew 6:24

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"
-Matthew 19:23-24

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.'"
-Matthew 25:41-45

"He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished."
-Proverbs 17:5

"He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich--both come to poverty."
-Proverbs 22:16

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"
-Matthew 19:21

"He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."
-Proverbs 28:27

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
-1 Timothy 6:9-10

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
-1 Timothy 6:17-19

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."
-Ezekiel 16:49

"Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all."
-Proverbs 22:2

"He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."
-Proverbs 14:31

"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."
-Proverbs 22:9

"Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse."
-Proverbs 28:6

"A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished."
-Proverbs 28:20

"The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."
-Proverbs 29:7

"Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death."
-Proverbs 11:4

"Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them."
-Proverbs 22:22-23

"Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle."
-Proverbs 23:4-5

"Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless."
-Ecclesiastes 5:10

"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
-Proverbs 22:1

"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."
-Deuteronomy 15:11

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have."
-Hebrews 13:5

"You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge."
-Psalm 14:6

"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done."
-Proverbs 19:17

"A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him."
-Proverbs 28:11

"A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare."
-Proverbs 21:6

"The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall."
-Proverbs 18:11

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Unique Perspective

In my quest for employment after graduation, I've applied for jobs in both radio and television in 25 states literally across the country, from Alaska to California to New York City. I've just finished applying for an Assistant Producer position to WNYC's new morning program, "The Takeaway." The application process was interesting, as it didn't require filling out a form or attaching the obligatory air check, reference list and resume. Instead, applicants are required to write. There were four questions, each one necessitating a heightened level of reading/writing and thinking. I won't tag anyone in this, but I found each question thought-provoking, and my answers even surprised myself. Feel free to give it a read if you like.

Question A: What is your unique perspective? You’re sitting at the daily morning editorial meeting with 10 colleagues. You’re all planning the next day’s broadcast, and each of you brings a different perspective to the table – whether due to your varied backgrounds, interests, skills, education, or life experiences. At that table, what is your unique perspective? What sets you apart from the others? And what about your background, interests, skills, education, or life experiences have shaped that perspective? Tell us in 500 words or less, and please be specific.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with learning new information. Attending college in Eastern Kentucky, I was privy to the stories of hundreds of individuals—each with their own moving, tragic tales of drug-addled rural mining communities, corrupt politicians buying votes, and genes that never stray too far from the pool.

Along with each of these heartbreaking stories were dozens more about individual perseverance, moments of triumph, and a hunger to change the self-destructive habits of the people around them. It wasn’t long before I changed my major from Jazz Studies to Journalism, and began working tirelessly in the newsroom of my local NPR affiliate station. Each story drove me to learn more, to read, to interview, to write, and to share that information with all of our listeners.

From the age of 18, my short four years of college were as devoted to journalism as they were to studying. As Kentucky’s Hispanic population rapidly expanded over the years, I picked up a Spanish minor and learned to communicate with Mexican immigrants and migrant workers as I had done in high school. With a bi-lingual edge, I had the opportunity to learn poignant information previously unknown to my colleagues and others in the community. My hunger for storytelling became insatiable, and I took the initiative to work after-hours at the radio station to meticulously craft personal feature projects, which aired weekly.

Along with a full class schedule, work at the radio station and frequent roles in theatre productions, I also took it upon myself to learn all about the craft of television broadcast journalism. Before long, I had taught myself how to operate a camera, capture creative images for news packages, and compress a healthy amount of information into a 90-second news package. I was soon promoted to lead anchor for Morehead State University’s student-ran TV station, and subsequently promoted to Assignment Editor the following semester. My fascination for politics prodded me into personally scheduling an interview with Governor Steve Beshear on the second Tuesday of each month during Kentucky’s general assembly and each month thereafter, where I got 15-20 minutes to ask him about pressing state issues.

This was still not enough to quench my never-ending thirst for learning and sharing new information. I soon began my own personal project online, The Faux Radio Show.

After booking guests, I joined online communities and personally promoted each upcoming episode of my program, and soon gained a devoted regular listening audience. Many times, audience members frequently called into my programs to ask questions to myself and my guests. It has since become a wonderful 21st century tool for provocative citizen journalism. Presently, I have succeeded in my goal bringing the show back in September to interview Bestselling Author John Perkins live on the air about his book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.”

As such, my unique perspective is that of a passionate journalist with a yearning to learn more and share with others using whatever means necessary.

Question B: Where do you get your information that interests you? Please limit your response to 100 words or less.

I believe opening dialogue with others who have opposing views is key to understanding and self-improvement. Without being challenged, we cannot grow as intellectuals, and will never be forced to re-evaluate our positions and values. I’ve learned the best way to persuade and make others think is to communicate your values through facts, using information gained by respected sources. For most issues, my sources include the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, and NPR. For environmental/health issues, I rely on peer-reviewed sources like the Nature scientific journal and National Geographic, and the World Health Organization.

Question C: What are your favorite investigative tools or techniques for your life, job or interests? Please limit your response to 100 words or less.

For gathering new information, I find there is no better source than the internet. Online is the only place where information flows freely and nonstop, and most of my preferred sources of information are easily accessible online. However, I still believe maintaining and developing personal relationships with elected officials, citizens, intellectuals, and others is the responsibility of any serious journalist. As human beings, we depend on contact with others to ease our need for social interaction. As such, a staple of investigative journalism will always be a one-on-one intellectual conversation.

Question D: When have you worked as part of a team of people who didn’t share your background or think the way you do? Describe the experience. Please limit your response to 100 words or less.

As an actor, I’ve frequently found myself working in close-knit ensembles to achieve the common goal of telling the story as effectively and as convincingly as possible. Despite all of our differences and backgrounds, the script always brings the cast together into a single unit. For those few months, each actor would treat his or her fellow cast members as their own family; not only would we work together, but we would eat, socialize, and study together as well. Even after the play’s run was through, the relationships built with the cast would last for years.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just Say No to Socialism

One of the staples of the neoconservative argument against healthcare reform is that it smacks of "Socialism," "Marxism," "Communism," and various other -isms with negative frames attached. They then reinforce this argument by saying that the government produces nothing of value and needs to stay out of people's lives.

That being said, I found this post the other day courtesy of my buddy John. I had to share it with the rest of you, because it's so true. Read it all the way to the end. If you liked it, pass it on!

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the Municipal Water Utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it’s valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post on and fox news forums about how socialism in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Interview with the Governor (Healthcare, Energy, Economy, Social Reform)

It's been awhile since I've gotten to do the monthly interview with the Governor. He bailed on me last month, I was out of town in June, and he was visiting the flood site in Breathitt County in May. It was good to finally ask him some questions that had been piling up this Summer.

While there are plenty of national issues to concern ourselves with, those readers of mine in Kentucky have a whole set of problems to face on our own. With a mounting budget deficit, a danger in losing the state's horse industry, and healthcare reform, there is plenty to be concerned about if you're a Kentuckian.

I spoke with Gov. Beshear earlier today on a bevy of these state and national issues. Also on the call was Susanne Duvall from WHAS radio. She asked some questions about the flooding in Louisville. You can listen to the sound in .mp3 format here. Here are the questions I got to ask him-

-Concerning the ongoing debate over national healthcare reform, what reforms, if any, are you considering for Kentucky's Medicaid and SCHIP programs?

-As I'm sure you're aware, Maine will legally recognize gay marriage as of September 11th. As Governor, do you think the freedom to marry who you want is a matter of equal rights under Kentucky state law?

-Talk about the progress made on the hydroelectric plant in Hawkesville and the lithium battery plant in Western KY. What kind of economic impact will those have on the Commonwealth?

-Given its healing potential and tax revenue potential in a budget crisis, do you feel Kentucky would benefit from the regulated use of medical cannabis or industrialized hemp, as 20 other states have done?

-With the defeat of the slots bill in the Senate during the special session, do you still plan on pushing for a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling in Kentucky?

-As buildings now have the ability to generate most of their own power through clean energy sources, do you foresee pushing for a widespread geothermal energy grid in Kentucky?

-Kentucky's US senate primary is already ranked as one of the most competitive and crucial nationwide. Do you have any comments on how the race has progressed so far?

Again, you can listen to the full interview here. Hope this was a satisfactory update!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Public Opinion Research: Health Care Reform

As much as we lament about the media's failure to cover the stories of real people and real events and stories that constantly go under the radar, we still have to depend on them for our answers.

Either that, or we can take the citizen journalism approach and get the answers from the people on our own.

Thus, I'm posting here a series of short questions that I would love for all of my readers to answer; either here in a public forum, or privately messaged to me if you don't want to share your answers with everyone else.

All of the questions below are simply meant to gauge public opinion about reforming our nation's health care system, and what people feel should be done. The more answers I get, the better conclusion I can come to. I'll make sure I share these answers and my own conclusion after I've gotten enough information. If you feel you must send me your answers privately, I will keep your answers confidential. Answer away!

1. Do you feel our health care system needs reform? If yes, what is the best approach?

2. Do you support a free, taxpayer-funded insurance option? Why or why not?

3. Do you or your family use Medicare? If not, why?

4. Are you insured? If yes, how expensive is your coverage? Does it cover you and your family adequately? If you aren't insured, why?

5. What is your biggest complaint about hospital service? How would you go about fixing that problem?

6. If you are uninsured, how do you finance your medical bills?

7. Do you trust private insurance companies to have your best interests at heart? Why or why not?

8. Do you feel Medicare is adequate as a program? Why or why not?

9. There are 40,000,000+ uninsured citizens currently in the USA. What would you say to those who want, but cannot afford a private insurance plan?

10. There are close to 14,000 people each day that lose their health insurance coverage. What reforms would you implement to make sure people don't lose their insurance?

Take your time, and send me your answers either by responding below or messaging them to me in private! I'll compile my results and come to a conclusion sometime next week.

"The Town Hall Mob," by Paul Krugman

A family member sent this to me in an email the other day. It's an op-ed piece by Paul Krugman (winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics) about the special interest-financed lynch mobs traveling to disrupt peaceful town hall meetings. He touches on all of the points I made in my previous note, but with less words and more eloquence (That's probably why he writes for the NYTimes and I don't).
Op-Ed Columnist
The Town Hall Mob
Published: August 6, 2009

There’s a famous Norman Rockwell painting titled “Freedom of Speech,” depicting an idealized American town meeting. The painting, part of a series illustrating F.D.R.’s “Four Freedoms,” shows an ordinary citizen expressing an unpopular opinion. His neighbors obviously don’t like what he’s saying, but they’re letting him speak his mind.

That’s a far cry from what has been happening at recent town halls, where angry protesters — some of them, with no apparent sense of irony, shouting “This is America!” — have been drowning out, and in some cases threatening, members of Congress trying to talk about health reform.

Some commentators have tried to play down the mob aspect of these scenes, likening the campaign against health reform to the campaign against Social Security privatization back in 2005. But there’s no comparison. I’ve gone through many news reports from 2005, and while anti-privatization activists were sometimes raucous and rude, I can’t find any examples of congressmen shouted down, congressmen hanged in effigy, congressmen surrounded and followed by taunting crowds.

And I can’t find any counterpart to the death threats at least one congressman has received.

So this is something new and ugly. What’s behind it?

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, has compared the scenes at health care town halls to the “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000 — the demonstration that disrupted the vote count in Miami and arguably helped send George W. Bush to the White House. Portrayed at the time as local protesters, many of the rioters were actually G.O.P. staffers flown in from Washington.

But Mr. Gibbs is probably only half right. Yes, well-heeled interest groups are helping to organize the town hall mobs. Key organizers include two Astroturf (fake grass-roots) organizations: FreedomWorks, run by the former House majority leader Dick Armey, and a new organization called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.

The latter group, by the way, is run by Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain. Mr. Scott was forced out of that job amid a fraud investigation; the company eventually pleaded guilty to charges of overbilling state and federal health plans, paying $1.7 billion — yes, that’s “billion” — in fines. You can’t make this stuff up.

But while the organizers are as crass as they come, I haven’t seen any evidence that the people disrupting those town halls are Florida-style rent-a-mobs. For the most part, the protesters appear to be genuinely angry. The question is, what are they angry about?

There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.

Now, people who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.

That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.

And cynical political operators are exploiting that anxiety to further the economic interests of their backers.

Does this sound familiar? It should: it’s a strategy that has played a central role in American politics ever since Richard Nixon realized that he could advance Republican fortunes by appealing to the racial fears of working-class whites.

Many people hoped that last year’s election would mark the end of the “angry white voter” era in America. Indeed, voters who can be swayed by appeals to cultural and racial fear are a declining share of the electorate.

But right now Mr. Obama’s backers seem to lack all conviction, perhaps because the prosaic reality of his administration isn’t living up to their dreams of transformation. Meanwhile, the angry right is filled with a passionate intensity.

And if Mr. Obama can’t recapture some of the passion of 2008, can’t inspire his supporters to stand up and be heard, health care reform may well fail.