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BUZZFLASH EDITOR’S BLOG

Mark Karlin, Editor and Publisher, BuzzFlash.com

December 28, 2007

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

It all comes back again in a flood of sickening shock.

The despair that comes with violent political deaths — attacks on the effort of us as humans to govern ourselves in an orderly and peaceful fashion – just breaks your heart and shatters your hopes.

Pakistan has been “Ground Zero” for the largely Saudi financed Al-Qaeda and fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. As one blogger noted, it says it all that Benazir Bhutto is being buried today in Pakistan – victim of an assassination – while Osama bin Laden (the mastermind of 9/11 that Bush swore to capture “dead or alive) is alive – and a “protected man – in the same country.

Elements of the Pakistani intelligence and military have been involved with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda since the rebel war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has long played a role of tolerating, at a minimum, and even cooperating with and sometimes “running,” the Islamic extremists.

As a Los Angeles Times article written in the wake of Bhutto’s assassination notes:

Complicating the situation is the fact that many of the extremist groups have ties to Pakistan’s political establishment, including elements of the government loyal to President Pervez Musharraf, as well as close ties to the military and its intelligence agencies. Bhutto had long criticized such links, and in the wake of her killing Thursday, some of her supporters accused the government of playing a role. One senior U.S. counter-terrorism official also said Washington suspected that rogue officials within the military or intelligence agencies could have been involved, noting that though there is no evidence, they have detested Bhutto for more than a decade.

U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies, and groups such as the Sept. 11 commission, have said that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency in particular has cultivated relationships with radical groups, using them as proxies to wage war against India while protecting Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan.

Given the murky area of relationships between the Pakistani military/intelligence infrastructure and the terrorists, the assassination of Bhutto is likely to remain as unresolved as the JFK assassination.

Someone will be blamed, probably Al-Qaeda or one of its many offshoots operating in Pakistan – and one of these groups may very well have provided the shooter – but putting Musharraf in charge of finding out if his own military command was involved is like having Bush investigate the Plame leak.

All we know is that such a murder assaults us all in a way that makes us feel horribly vulnerable.

We have known so much disappointment as a nation: the promise of the civil rights era and the empowerment of women in the ‘60s was whiplashed by a wave of assassinations against liberal icons.

The killing of Harvard- and Oxford-educated Bhutto just gives us that sinking feeling that whenever there is the hope of progress, someone steps in with a gun. These are indeed shots heard round the world because they threaten the very notion that we can be self-governing.

If it can all be taken away in a hail of bullets, how can one not be broken hearted?

BUZZFLASH EDITOR’S BLOG

As always, music can provide some small measure of solace. We recommend Joan Osborne’s emotionally stirring “cover” of the Motown classic, “Tell me, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”

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The secret library of hope

December 25, 2007

BOOKS REVIEW
The secret library of hope
12 books to stiffen your resolve

Reviewed Rebecca Solnit

Hope is an orientation, a way of scanning the wall for cracks – or building ladders – rather than staring at its unyielding expanse. It’s a worldview, but one informed by experience and the knowledge that people have power; that the power people possess matters; that change has been made by populist movements and dedicated individuals in the past; and that it will be again.

Dissent in the United States has become largely a culture of diagnosis rather than prescription, of describing what is wrong with them, rather than what is possible for us. But even in

English, a robust minority tradition can be found. There are a handful of books that I think of as “the secret library of hope”. None of them deny the awful things going on, but they approach them as if the future is still open to intervention rather than an inevitability. In describing how the world actually gets changed, they give us the tools to change it again.

Here, then, are some of the regulars in my secret political library of hope, along with some new candidates:

Monks, slaves, prisoners and the power from beneath
When the monks of Burma/Myanmar led an insurrection in September simply by walking through the streets of their cities in their deep-red robes, accompanied by ever more members of civil society, the military junta which had run that country for more than four decades responded with violence. That’s one measure of how powerful and threatening the insurrection was. (That totalitarian regimes tend to ban gatherings of more than a few people is the best confirmation of the strength that exists in unarmed numbers of us.)

After the crackdown, after the visually stunning, deeply inspiring walks came to a bloody end, quite a lot of mainstream politicians and pundits pronounced the insurrection dead, violence triumphant – as though this play had just one act, as though its protagonists were naive and weak-willed. I knew they were wrong, but the argument I rested on wasn’t my own: I went back to Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People, by far the most original and ambitious of the many histories of nonviolence to appear in recent years.

When it came out as the current war began in the spring of 2003, the book was mocked for its dismissal of the effectiveness of violence, but Schell’s explanation of how superior military power failed abysmally in Vietnam was a prophesy waiting to be fulfilled in Iraq. Schell himself is much taken with the philosopher Hannah Arendt, whom he quotes saying, in 1969:

To substitute violence for power can bring victory, but the price is very high; for it is not only paid by the vanquished, it is also paid by the victor in terms of his own power.

I hope that his equally trenchant explanation of the power of nonviolence is fulfilled in Myanmar. Schell has been a diligent historian and philosopher of nuclear weapons since his 1982 bestseller The Fate of the Earth, but this book traces the rise of nonviolence as the other half of the history of the violent 20th century.

That’s what books in a library of hope consist of – not a denial of the horrors of recent history, but an exploration of the other tendencies, avenues, and achievements that are too often overlooked. After all, to return to Myanmar, there has been some change since September: a number of companies have withdrawn from doing business there. and the US Congress just unanimously passed a bill, HR 3890, to increase sanctions, freeze the junta’s assets in US institutions, and close a loophole that allowed Chevron to profit spectacularly from its business in Myanmar.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was elected as Myanmar’s head of state in 1990 and has, ever since, been under house arrest or otherwise restricted. She nonetheless remains the leader of, as well as a wise, gentle, fearless voice for, that country’s opposition. Since the uprising, her silencing has begun to dissolve amid meetings with a UN envoy and members of her own political party; some believe she may be on her way to being freed. The Burmese people were hit with hideous, pervasive violence, but they have not surrendered: small acts of resistance and large plans for liberation continue.

The best argument for hope is how easy it ought to be for the rest of us to raise its banner, when we look at who has carried it through unimaginably harsh conditions: Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom recounts his unflagging dedication to his country’s liberation (imperfect though it may still be); Rigoberta Menchu dodged death squads to become a champion of indigenous rights, a Nobel laureate, and a recent presidential candidate in Guatemala; Oscar Oliveira proved that a bunch of poor people in Bolivia can beat Bechtel Corporation largely by nonviolent means, as he recounts in !Cochabamba!; and Nobel Laureate and Burmese national icon Aung San Suu Kyi radiates – even from the page – an extraordinary calm and patience, perhaps the result of her decades of Buddhist practice.

She remarks, toward the end of The Voice of Hope, a collection of conversations with her about Myanmar, Buddhism, politics, and her own situation, “Yes I do have hope because I’m working. I’m doing my bit to try to make the world a better place, so I naturally have hope for it. But obviously, those who are doing nothing to improve the world have no hope for it.”

For a book about those who did their bit beautifully long ago, don’t miss Adam Hochschild’s gripping Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. It begins with a handful of London Quakers who decided in the 1780s to abolish the institution of slavery in the British Empire and then, step by unpredictable step, did just that. It’s an exhilarating book simply as the history of a movement from beginning to end, and so suggests how many other remarkable movements await their historian; others, from the women’s movement to rights for queers to many environmental struggles, still await their completion.

If only people carried, as part of their standard equipment, a sense of the often-incremental, unpredictable ways in which change is wrought and the powers that civil society actually possesses, they might go forward more confidently to wrestle with the wrongs of our time, seeing that we have already won many times before.

Indians, environmentalists and utopians
One spectacular book along these lines already exists: Charles Wilkinson’s Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations. For us non-native people, Native Americans became far more visible during the huge public debates around the meaning of the Quincentennial of 1992 – the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in this hemisphere. They reframed the history of the Americas as one of invasion and genocide, rather than discovery and development. But the story was not a defeatist one; simply in being able to tell their own stories and reshape their histories, native people of the Americas demonstrated that they were neither wholly conquered, nor eradicated; and, since then, the history of the two continents has been radically revised and indigenous peoples have won back important rights from Bolivia to Canada.

In the United States that reclaiming of power, pride, land, rights, and representation began far earlier, as Wilkinson’s book relates. A law professor and lawyer who has worked on land and treaty-rights issues with many tribes, he begins his story of ascendancy with the 1953 decision by the US government to “terminate” the tribal identities, organizations, and rights of Native Americans and push them to melt into the general population. This represented an aggressive attempt at erasure of the many distinct peoples of this continent and their heritage. Told to disappear, “Indian leaders responded and by the mid-1960s had set daunting goals … at once achieve economic progress and preserve ancient traditions in a technological age … Against all odds, over the course of two generations, Indian leaders achieved their objectives to a stunning degree.”

Wilkinson’s monumental history of the past half-century concludes:

By the turn of this century Indian tribes had put in place much of the ambitious agenda that tribal leaders advanced in the 1950s and 1960s. They stopped termination and replaced it with self-determination. They ousted the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] as the reservation government and installed their own sovereign legislatures, courts, and administrative agencies. They enforced the treaties of old and, with them, the fishing, hunting and water rights. Nowhere have these changes been absolute and pure. In most cases the advances represent works in progress, but they have been deep and real.

Late this November, Canada set aside 25 million acres of boreal forest as a preserve to be managed, in part, by the Native peoples of the region, a huge environmental victory for the largest remaining forest on Earth – and for all of us. How did it happen?

I am still looking for an environmental history with the strength and focus of Blood Struggle or Bury the Chains. An exhilarating 2006 article in Orion magazine by Ted Nace describes how a bunch of North Dakota farmers killed off Monsanto’s plans to promote the growing of genetically altered wheat worldwide. The essay concludes:

On May 10, 2004, Monsanto bowed to the prevailing political sentiment. It issued a curt press release announcing the withdrawal of all its pending regulatory applications for [its genetically altered] Roundup Ready wheat and the shifting of research priorities to other crops.

We need books on victories like this, books that tell us how this dam was defeated, this river brought back from being a sewer, that toxin banned, that species rebounded, that land preserved.

In fact, a broader history with some of those threads did appear this year, geographer Richard Walker’s The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. It describes generations of struggle to preserve something of the richness of this extraordinarily diverse region by defeating some of the most awful proposals most of us have never heard of – to, for example, completely fill in the San Francisco Bay – back in an era when water and wetlands were just real estate waiting to happen.

The book does justice to a whole unexpected category of unsung heroines – the often-subversive affluent ladies who have done so much for the environment and the community – then moves on to document the emerging environmental justice movement that took on toxins, polluters, and the overlooked question of what ecology really means for the inner city. It’s a great, hopeful history of a region that has long created environmental templates and momentum for the rest of the nation – and Walker makes it clear that this trend was not inevitable, but the result of hard work by stubborn visionaries and organizers.

A decade ago, Alan Weisman wrote a profile of a town in the inhospitable savannah of eastern Colombia, a miraculous community in which that unfortunate nation’s turmoil and our age’s environmental destruction was replaced by a green, utopian approach that involved reinventing the roles of both technology and community. It worked, though Weisman ended his 1997 book, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, on a prophetic note of caution:

[The] fading of the Cold War has revealed clearly that a far more incandescent and protracted battle a potentially apocalyptic resource war – has been stealthily gathering intensity throughout the latter part of the 20th century … Yet a place like Gaviotas bears witness to our ability to get it right, even under seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

Weisman’s deservedly successful 2007 bestseller, The World Without Us, takes an extreme approach to getting it right, by showing how the planet might – in part – regenerate itself if we were to go away, all of us, for good. The chapters on nuclear waste and plastic are dauntingly grim, but the descriptions of New York City reverting to nature go two steps past Mike Davis’s Dead Cities in praise of entropy, weeds, and the power of natural processes to take back much of the Earth as soon as we let go.

While Gaviotas stands out as a rare, realized utopia, our choices among the unrealized ones – except as literature – are legion. In 2007, I finally got around to reading what has already become my favorite utopian novel: William Morris’ News from Nowhere. Best known during his life as a poet, Morris is, unfortunately, now mostly remembered for his wallpaper. He designed it as part of his lifelong endeavor to literally craft an alternative to the brutality and ugliness of the industrial revolution through the artisanal production of furniture, textiles, and books – all as models of what work and its fruits could be.

That attempt had its political and literary faces, which is to say that Morris was also a prolific writer and an ardent revolutionary. He was more anarchist than socialist, as well as an antiquarian, a translator of Icelandic sagas, and so much more. News from Nowhere, published in 1890, portrays his ideal London in the far-distant future of 2102, a century and a half after “the revolution of 1952”.

It’s a bioregional and anarchic paradise: The economy is localized, work is voluntary, money is nonexistent and so is hunger, deprivation, and prison. The industrial filth of London has vanished, and the river and city are beautiful again. (They were far filthier in Morris’ time, when every home burned coal, while sewage and industrial effluents flowed unfiltered into the Thames.)

Most utopias, of course, aren’t places you’d actually want to live. Admittedly, Morris’ is a little bland and mild, as life on earth without evil and struggle must be. But his utopia is prophetic, not dated, close to many modern visions of decentralized, localized power, culture, and everyday life. It is, in short, an old map for a new world being born in experiments around the globe.

Dreams on the southern horizon
Morris provided the name for the present-day News from Nowhere Collective, a group that has edited one of the more rambunctious handbooks for activists in recent times, We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism. A visually delicious, horizontally formatted little chunk of a book, it features a lot of photographs, a running timeline of radical victories in our era, and short, punchy essays from people immersed in changing the world all over that world (from Quebec and Nigeria to Bolivia and Poland). Playful, subversive, and far-reaching, the book – even four years after its publication – demonstrates the scope of constructive change and activism around the planet.

There are other such handbooks, including my brother David’s Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World, out from City Lights Books a few years ago. It was in the course of editing some of the essays in that book that I discovered the beautiful, hopeful voice of Marina Sitrin, a sociologist, human rights lawyer, and activist who has spent a great deal of time among the utopian social movements of Argentina. Her encounters become ours in her new book Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina.

That country’s sudden economic collapse and political turmoil in December of 2001 was largely overlooked here, but the crisis begat an extraordinary grassroots response – about as far from shock and paralysis as you can imagine. Neighborhoods gathered in popular assemblies to protest the political structure, and then stayed together to feed each other during the fiscal crisis; factory workers took over shuttered factories and ran them as cooperatives; the poor organized and mobilized; but more than these concrete actions, Argentinean society itself changed.

People began to talk across old divides and create new words for what mattered now – none more valuable than horizontalidad, which Sitrin translates as “horizontalism”, a direct and radically egalitarian participatory democracy, and politica afectiva, the politics of affection, or love. The 2001 crisis was soon transformed into an opportunity to overcome the legacy of the terrifying years of the Argentinean military dictatorship, to step out of the isolation and disengagement that fear had produced, to reclaim power and reinvent social ties. With this, Argentina moved a little further away from hell and a little closer to utopia.

It’s not a coincidence that Weisman’s Gaviotas is in South America (though it is a surprise that it’s in Colombia). After all, the most powerful voice coming from the Spanish-speaking majority of the Americas is that of the Zapatistas, and Our Word Is Our Weapon: Selected Writings of Subcommandante Insurgente Marcos, edited by Juana Ponce de Leon, is still the best English-language introduction to that indigenous movement’s non-indigenous spokesman and raconteur Subcommandante Marcos. Via his poetic, playful, subversive, and ferociously hopeful manifestoes, tirades, allegories, and pranks, he has reinvented the language of politics, pushing off the drab shore of bureaucracy and cliche, sailing toward something rich and strange.

Ponce De Leon’s book, however, only covers the first several years of Marcos’ contributions. City Lights recently brought out his The Speed of Dreams: Selected Writings 2001-2007. On page 102, he advises an indigenous audience: “It is the hour of the word. So then, put the machete away, and continue to hone hope.” By page 349, he’s quoting a possibly fictional elderly couple in San Miguel Tzinacapan, who say, “The world is the size of our effort to change it.”

Not that all resistance, all hope, comes from the south. It can be found everywhere, or at least on many edges, margins, and in many overlooked zones – and one of the most exhilarating histories of it is The Many Headed-Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker. Their book traces a plethora of acts of resistance to capitalism, exploitation, authoritarianism and the generally sorry lot meted out to the poor in the eighteenth century. That resistance was exuberant, inventive, and occasionally ferocious, and it found its own utopias. The book begins with a 1609 shipwreck in Bermuda, in which the shipwrecked sailors and passengers begin to form their own convivial utopia that the Virginia Company forcibly disbanded. The Many Headed Hydra covers some of the same ground – and ocean routes – as Hochschild’s book, and they make good joint reading.

I wish Linebaugh’s The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All was out in time for this list, but look for it in February. (I read it in manuscript for the University of California Press, loved it, and learned a lot from it.) Beginning with Bush’s breach not just of the constitution, but of Magna Carta’s grant of habeas corpus, Linebaugh returns to that moment at Runnymede when King John was forced to concede rights to England’s citizens. Linking that despot to the one in the White House, he ventures back and forth between the two times to explore the once evolving – and now revolving or maybe even regressing – territory of rights and liberties.

The climate of change
One thing becoming increasingly clear in this millennium: Human rights and the environment are all tangled up with each other – and not only in environmental injustice hotspots like Louisiana’s Cancer Alley or oily places like Nigeria. Democracy and an empowered citizenry are the best tools we have to make progress on climate change in this country. The issue of climate change may be global, but in the US a lot of the measures that matter are being enacted on the local level by cities, towns, regions, and states. Together, they have pushed far ahead of the recalcitrant federal government in trying to take concrete measures that could make a difference. Global measures matter, but so do local ones: The change here is likely to come as much from the bottom up as the top down.

One common response to climate change is to try to limit your own impact – by consuming less. An issue, for instance, that’s front and center in Britain but hardly on the table in the US, is taking fewer airplane trips. (The state of California, however, did recently start looking into ways to regulate and reduce airplane carbon emissions.) So there’s personal virtue, which matters. Then there’s agitating and organizing like crazy, which might matter more. Certainly, Bill McKibben makes a rousing case for it in his introduction to Ignition: What You Can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement. The book, edited by Jonathan Isham and Sissel Waage, covers a lot of ground when it comes to how policy gets made and how to make it yourself, as does McKibben’s own Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community.

Maybe the best news of 2007 is that we’re finally doing something about the worst news ever: that we’ve royally screwed up the climate of this planet. After all, the rest of that news is: We still have a chance to mitigate how haywire everything goes, even though no one is yet talking about what a world of low to zero carbon emissions would look like.

Maybe one thing we really need (just to be a little more visionary and less grim about the subject) is a modern version of News from Nowhere portraying what a good life involving only a small carbon footprint might mean – most likely a more localized, less consuming life with some cool technological innovations, including many we already have (some of which are described in Weisman’s Gaviotas). In ceasing the scramble for things, there would be real gains; we’d gain back time for sitting around talking at leisure about politics and the neighbors, for wandering around on foot – and for reading. But you don’t have to wait for everything to change: change it yourself by seizing these pleasures now.

Rebecca Solnit’s secret library of hope
Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People.
Aung San Suu Kyi, The Voice of Hope.
Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves.
Charles Wilkinson, Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations.
Richard Walker, The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Alan Weisman, The World Without Us.
William Morris, News from Nowhere.
News from Nowhere Collective, We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism.
Marina Sitrin, Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina.
Subcommandante Insurgente Marcos, The Speed of Dreams: Selected Writings 2001-2007.
Peter Linebaugh, The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All.
Jonathan Isham and Sissel Waage, editors (introduction Bill McKibben), Ignition: What You Can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement.

Rebecca Solnit blurbed a lot of books this year, wrote the foreword for Marisa Handler’s Loyal to the Sky, and provided editorial services on another book of her brother’s, this time with conscientious objector Aimee Allison: the counter-recruitment manual Army of None. Her own book for 2007 is Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics, a collection of 36 essays including several that first appeared as Tomdispatches. She is the author of Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.

(Copyright 2007 Rebecca Solnit.)

SWATing

December 25, 2007

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What it is: SWATing is a trend among hackers who use technology to set up fake emergency calls where police must react quickly by sending SWAT teams and other law enforcement officers to the scene of a dangerous crime. The emergency calls appear to come from the phone at the scene where the crime is reported, but when officers arrive, they find that no crime has been committed.

The danger: Heavily armed SWAT teams sometimes storm into homes, splintering doors or breaking windows. Innocent people can be hurt, as well as the SWAT officers if homeowners react defensively without realizing the police have arrived.

Dangerous prank calls draw SWAT teams to unsuspecting homes

02:13 PM CST on Sunday, December 23, 2007

By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News As SWAT officers surrounded an Alvarado home in rural Johnson County, they steeled themselves for a confrontation with what they believed to be a drug-crazed man armed with an AK-47 who had already killed his wife, taken hostages and wanted to kill police.

But what they found was an innocent 60-year-old trucker. No bloody crime scene, no assault rifle – only unanswered questions.

Authorities soon realized they had encountered a disturbing and dangerous new prank that has been labeled “SWATing.”

Four men and a woman have pleaded guilty in Dallas federal court to charges that they used “spoofing” technology and other phone system intrusion methods to alter their caller ID information. Over a period stretching from 2002 to late 2006, they called police in Johnson County and more than 60 cities around the country, pretending to be inside someone’s home, saying they had killed people, had taken hostages and were ready to kill more.

The aim of SWATing is to spin a tale grisly enough to get tactical teams deployed to unsuspecting victims’ homes.

A few innocent victims have been injured during the SWAT raids: A Florida grandfather was hurt in a fistfight he got into with police who he initially believed were the pranksters, and others have been injured as police busted down doors.

The potential for even more violence is high, said Cpl. Dale Abbott, leader of Cleburne’s SWAT team, which responded to the call to the home of Jim Proulx, the Alvarado man who was SWATed last year.

“Say he had heard a noise outside, and say he came out with a gun. It could have turned out really bad,” Cpl. Abbott said.

“These individuals are doing it for bragging rights and ego, vs. any monetary gain,” said Kevin Kolbye, assistant special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office, which has taken the lead nationally investigating this new crime.

“What they don’t realize is that they are causing a significant amount of scarce police resources to be spent, and putting individuals in situations that are safety concerns,” he said.

The defendants include Stuart Rosoff, a.k.a. Michael Knight, of Ohio; Jason Trowbridge, a.k.a. “Mr. Stoner,” and his girlfriend, Angela Roberson, both from Houston; Chad Ward, a.k.a. “Dark Angel,” of New York; and Guadalupe Santana Martinez, a.k.a. “Wicked Wizard,” who has lived in Washington and Oregon.

Prosecutors described Mr. Rosoff as the leader of the group, but his attorney said he was easily influenced by others.

“He’s very sorry for what he’s done,” said Victor Vital, the attorney. “He’s not offering any excuses. In pleading guilty, he acknowledges any harm he’s caused anybody and he realizes he has to change his life. The first step is to help the government prosecute other perpetrators, and that’s what he’s doing.”

Ms. Roberson’s attorney says she regrets her involvement with the other defendants and accepts responsibility for her actions. Attorneys for the other defendants either had no comment or could not be reached.

The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced early next year. Each faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution costs.

Mr. Proulx said he was targeted because his daughter in Fort Worth had a disagreement with some of the defendants on a telephone party line chat line, a social networking service.

Authorities say that for months, the defendants called and harassed Mr. Proulx, his wife and daughter. At times, callers posed as a police officer, prodding Mr. Proulx before the real SWAT team’s arrival.

“These goofballs, when they were calling us, they were threatening us, urging me to come out with a gun,” Mr. Proulx said. “They wanted me to get blown away.”

The Dallas FBI says that in addition to Johnson County, the group has attempted to get SWAT teams called out in Fort Worth, Dallas, Highland Park, Garland and Mesquite. In Texas, calls have been reported in Victoria, Houston, Tyler and Lubbock.

Incidents are also being investigated in California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arkansas, Washington, Oregon, Ohio, New Jersey, Alabama and Michigan.

The defendants encountered most of their approximately 150 victims through telephone chat services, authorities said. The party lines work much the same way as Internet chat rooms, where someone can talk to several people at once, or meet people to converse with individually.

The chat lines have their own subculture, where not only friendships blossom, but also rivalries.

“There is a sense among these people on these party lines that if someone does something to you, you do something back to them,” said Mr. Vital, Mr. Rosoff’s attorney.

“There is this code of ethics on the line that you don’t cross over certain boundaries,” he said. “If you did, you’d get tow trucks showing up at hour house, or 20 pizzas that you didn’t order.”

“Some of these people were spiteful and vindictive and ‘launched’ on people for no reason,” he said.

Up to 20 people were involved in the SWATing incidents related to the Dallas case, and more charges could follow. Some people are cooperating with authorities.

Most of those people engaged in SWATing are considered “phreakers,” or people who exploit the telephone system for fun or money.

Some defendants posed as telephone employees to gain information about their intended targets, as well as to harass people by having their phone service turned off, authorities said.

The spoof cards used by the defendants to alter their caller ID information are legal and work like a calling card. The cards, sold at http://www.spoofcard.com, can also be used to disguise one’s voice on the telephone.

They are often used by debt collectors to fool their targets into picking up the phone, or by investigators to hide their identities to gather information. Scammers use them as well, sometimes posing as police or other authorities and extort money from victims.

According to court documents, Mr. Rosoff worked with a blind teenage computer whiz, known as the “little hacker,” from Revere, Mass., near Boston, to fool telephone employees into giving them information on their victims and to manipulate phone service.

The FBI also says Mr. Rosoff targeted a Michigan woman, demanding phone sex from her. When she declined, he had her phone service terminated, and then called in false allegations of child abuse to authorities in her area, hoping to have her arrested, documents state.

Mr. Martinez’s role in the scheme was to make the bogus calls to police, and he posed as Mr. Proulx, among others, authorities say.

Mr. Ward, who owns a chat line business as well as a tattoo parlor in New York, paid to have certain people targeted, according to the FBI.

Prosecutors allege that Mr. Trowbridge, a debt collector, used commercial credit databases to which he had access to dig up information on the SWATing victims.

According to the FBI, his spoof card was used to call a Grand Prairie family who owed a debt, masking his caller ID to make it seem as if the calls were coming from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department.

The account was also used to make people believe they were getting calls from Dallas code compliance officers and the Dallas police narcotics division.

Ms. Roberson was Mr. Trowbridge’s girlfriend, and admitted using the commercial database Accurint to assist in illegally pulling up information on victims.

“Not a day goes by that my client doesn’t regret that she ever got involved with these guys,” said Eric Davis, Ms. Roberson’s attorney. “She’s trying to move forward with her life. She’s taking responsibility for her part in this.”

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New York, December 10, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about a criminal investigation launched by French authorities against Guillaume Dasquié, a reporter for the daily Le Monde, on accusations of publishing state secrets related to the 9/11 hijackings.

Officers from the Directorate of Territorial Security, a counterespionage agency, searched Dasquié’s Paris home on Wednesday. They detained him for 48 hours, during which time he was interrogated and pressured to reveal his sources, according to international news reports. Dasquié faces five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros (US$110,000) under Article 413-11 of France’s penal code if convicted.

“We are troubled by the criminal probe against Guillaume Dasquié and his detention for two days by French security services who pressured him to reveal his sources,” CPJ’s Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Dasquié should not be prosecuted for serving the public’s right to know.”

On Thursday, investigating magistrate Philippe Coirre, who is in charge of the probe, filed preliminary charges against Dasquié. Under French law, the filing of preliminary charges means the investigation has found sufficient evidence to suggest that Dasquié has been involved in a crime, The Associated Press reported.

The probe against Dasquié stems from his April 16 article in Le Monde, titled “September 11: the French had long known,” which said French intelligence services, the General Directorate of External Security (DGSE), had warned their U.S. counterparts of a possible terrorist plot that involved the hijacking of planes and crashing them into buildings some eight months before 9/11, according to international news reports.

The article contained excerpts from a DGSE file titled “Aircraft hijack plan by radical Islamists”—part of a 328-page classified report on al-Qaeda activities, which Le Monde said it possessed. One excerpt from the report, dated January 5, 2001, said al-Qaeda had a list of potential airline targets, which included the United and American Airlines carriers used in the 9/11 attacks, the AP said. Le Monde said the DGSE files in its possession contained maps, analyses, graphics, and satellite photos, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.

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I could have just as well replaced “conservative elite” with “Bush/Cheney administration” in the title of this post, and the point would have been virtually identical. The Bush/Cheney administration is in fact the perfect representative for the conservative elite in the United States. But since the issue is much larger than the Bush/Cheney administration, and since they are not running in the 2008 election (assuming we have one), I think it makes more sense at this time to speak more broadly of the conservative elite in our country as a whole (which includes all the Republican presidential candidates with the exception of Ron Paul), rather than limit the discussion to the Bush/Cheney administration.

Six months ago I posted an essay on DU titled “The Five Pillars of George W. Bush’s Republican Party”. The five pillars that I discussed in that post were:
 The economic royalists
 The militarists
 The propagandists and destroyers of our First Amendment rights
 The crooks
 The gullible

This post is, in part, a refinement of the concepts that I used in my previous post, with emphasis on how lies and propaganda are used to further conservative elitist goals. I noted at the time that there is a good deal of overlap between the five pillars, with many people participating in more than one of them.

However, it may be more useful to look at this in terms of goals, methods, and tools rather than simply as five pillars: The term “economic royalist” represents the goals of the conservative elites, which is the accumulation of wealth and power for themselves. The next three pillars that I listed represent methods. These include stealing and bribing their way to electoral victory, lying and propagandizing about their intentions and the intentions of their political opponents, invading and occupying other countries, and conducting a “War on Terror” where every means, no matter how hideous or evil, is considered justified in the cause of winning their so-called “war”. And last but not least, the gullible make up a large part of the base which they need to maintain their power.

THE GOAL OF THE CONSERVATIVE ELITES

Since the main goal of the conservative elite agenda in our country is to accumulate ever more wealth and power, an understanding of how they do this starts with a review of income inequality in our country over the past several decades:

A brief review our last century’s history of income inequality in the United States

Under the Reagan/Bush/Quail administrations of the 1980s and early 1990s, as with the current Bush/Cheney administration, income inequality in the United States increased tremendously. To put this in historical perspective we need to consider the following, described in economist Paul Krugman’s new book, “The Conscience of a liberal”.

1) Prior to the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt great income disparity existed in our country, with the top 1% of individuals accounting for 17% of annual income and the top 10% accounting for 44% of annual income. (And that’s not even counting income from capital gains, which create even greater income inequality.)

2) FDR, after ascending to the presidency in 1932, initiated a wide range of policies – collectively referred to as the New Deal – which had the effect of substantially reversing income inequality for the first time in U.S. history. These policies included: Progressive taxation; labor protection laws; and several policies to provide a social safety net for Americans and otherwise reduce income inequality, including the Social Security Act of 1935, the GI Bill of Rights, and the development of several policies to facilitate job creation.

3) FDR’s New Deal was so successful that it lasted for several decades, despite tremendous opposition from the conservative elites whose wealth had been reduced.

4) Beginning in the 1980s, right wing conservatives began to have success in dismantling the New Deal, such that today we have income inequality in our country that equals that seen in the pre-New Deal days.

Krugman describes how this has all translated into median family income levels, as shown in this chart, beginning in 1947, when accurate statistics on this issue first became available: Median family income rose steadily (in 2005 dollars) from $22,499 in 1947 to more than double that, $47,173 in 1980. Then, for the next 25 years, except for some moderate growth during the Clinton years, there was almost no growth in median income at all, which rose only to $56,194 by 2005 (85% of that growth accounted for during the Clinton years).

The stagnation of median family income during this period of time was accompanied by a tremendous rise in the wealth of a tiny proportion of our population. This is vividly described by Jack Rasmus, who points out that “More than $1 trillion a year in relative income is now being shifted annually – from roughly 90 million middle and working class families to the wealthiest households and corporations.”

The consequences have been devastating for the middle and working class and the poor: Today, 46 million Americans are without health insurance, which results in thousands of premature deaths every year, including thousands of infants; approximately 7 million Americans who want jobs are unemployed; 12% of American households lack adequate food; approximately 3 million Americans are homeless in any given year; and 37 million Americans are in poverty, while the poverty rate continues to rise under George W. Bush’s administration.

The use of lies and propaganda to transfer more wealth to the already wealthy

How did they do this? I noted above that the transfer of wealth to the wealthy came about largely through a reversal of FDR’s New Deal policies, beginning with the Reagan presidency and accelerating under Bush/Cheney rule. In addition, this is done through direct subsidies to wealthy corporations and deregulation – meaning among other things the relaxing or reversal of laws and regulations that protected worker health and safety and limited the right of corporations to pollute our environment. But how were they able to make these things acceptable enough to the American people that they would tolerate it? The answer of course is lies and propaganda.

Perhaps the biggest lie was “trickle down economics” – the wholly unsubstantiated theory that the creation of policies that increase the wealth of the wealthy will cause a wave of economic prosperity that will “lift all boats” and cause everyone to prosper in the long run. A simple look at the stagnation of median family income and the rising ranks of the poor in our country, concurrent with the accumulation of great fortunes by a tiny percent of our population, reveals that theory for the sham that it is.

Another trick is simply to provide names for bills which do the exact opposite of what the name implies. For example, pass a bill whose main feature is to deregulate pollution controls on corporations, and name it the “Clear Skies Initiative”. Or, in the name of “tax relief”, pass laws that reduce taxes almost entirely on the wealthy while driving our country into bankruptcy and creating the need to starve social programs which benefit the good majority of Americans.

Al Gore, in his book “The Assault on Reason”, describes the basic mode of operation of these conservative elites. Borrowing the term “Economic Royalist” from FDR’s 1934 Democratic Convention speech, Gore describes this group as those:

who are primarily interested in eliminating as much of their own taxation as possible and removing all inconvenient regulatory obstacles. Their ideology – which they and Bush believe with almost religious fervor – is based on several key elements:

First, there is no such thing as “the public interest”; that phrase represents a dangerous fiction created as an excuse to impose unfair burdens on the wealthy and powerful.

Second, laws and regulations are also bad – except when they can be used on behalf of this group, which turns out to be often. It follows, therefore, that whenever laws must be enforced and regulations administered, it is important to assign those responsibilities to individuals who… reliably serve the narrow and specific interests of this small group…

What members of this coalition seem to spend much of their time and energy worrying about is the impact of government policy on the behavior of poor people. They are deeply concerned, for example, that government programs to provide health care, housing, social insurance, and other financial support will adversely affect work incentives….

THE METHODS OF THE CONSERVATIVE ELITES

Since the methods that conservative elites use to maintain and increase their power would be repugnant to most people if they understood the truth behind the methods, those methods must be disguised as something that people can accept:

Legalized bribery disguised as “campaign contributions”

Bribery has been defined as “a crime implying a sum or gift given that alters the behavior of the person in ways not consistent with the duties of that person.” Since bribery of public officials usually requires a great deal of money, those who bribe public officials are almost always powerful and wealthy individuals or corporations – in other words, the conservative elite.

Bribery is technically illegal in our country.

However, largely due to the influence of the conservative elite, bribery of public officials by corporations is legal, as long as two fictions are maintained. The first fiction involves a practice called “money bundling”. That is where a corporation collects small donations of up to $2,000 from a large number of its employees and presents it as a package to a public official whose actions it wants to influence. This practice prevents technical violation of the McCain-Feingold cap of $2,000 on individual contributions, even though the good majority of individuals who contribute the money would never do so except for their felt need to please the corporate owners on whom their jobs depend. George Bush made good use of this practice in his presidential runs by awarding the designation of “Bush Pioneers” to those elites who contributed $100,000 and “Bush Rangers” to those who contributed $200,000.

The other fiction that must be maintained is that the money doesn’t influence the actions of the public official in the performance of his/her public duties. For example, the oil and gas industry contributed over $180 million to Congressional candidates since 1990, including many millions for the 2006 election. During this time, the 2005 energy bill gave out billions of dollars in tax breaks to the oil and gas industry, provided exemptions from the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and relaxed regulations against the consolidation of utility companies. In order for that to be legal we’re supposed to believe that the contributions had no role in influencing Congressional votes on the energy bill.

Stealing elections – disguised as free market efficiency and preventing “voter fraud”

In 2000: After George Bush’s brother, the governor of Florida, illegally disenfranchised tens of thousands of African Americans from the presidential election on the grounds that they were close computer matches to felons; after a Republican orchestrated riot in Miami-Dade County stopped the vote counting there; and after various other types of election fraud as well, five Republican Supreme Court “Justices” stopped the manual recount of the votes in Florida on grounds that had no Constitutional justification whatsoever, thereby declaring George W. Bush our 43rd President.

Here is evidence of vote switching fraud in national elections from 2002 to 2006; here is evidence of widespread election fraud in 2004; here is evidence of widespread election fraud in 2006; and we learned earlier this year that the Bush administration fired their federal attorneys for either refusing to investigate non-existent election fraud by Democrats or for pursuing too aggressively cases of election fraud perpetrated by Republicans. In fact, the main purpose behind the whole U.S. attorney firing scandal appears to have been the stealing of elections.

Why all this election fraud with so little investigation or even publicizing by our conservative corporate news media?

With respect to the 2000 election, we were told that the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of African Americans who were close computer matches of felons had to be done in order to stop “voter fraud”. To justify the stopping of the hand counting of votes that would have awarded Al Gore the presidency in 2000, we were told that the hand counting of votes was not reliable. For example, Mary Matalin explained (i.e. lied) on the Chris Matthews show that simply holding a cardboard ballot in one’s hands could produce marks which indicated the presence of an attempted vote.

With regard to the potential for electronic mediated election fraud, most conservative elites say that it is ok to have our votes counted by computers using secret vote counting code, with no means of determining whether or not the vote count is accurate. After all, these are private companies that supply the machines that count our votes. Therefore, it would be interfering with the “free market” to insist that the government conduct investigations or exert controls to ensure that the vote counting is accurate. Furthermore, machines are much more “efficient” at counting votes than are humans – or so goes the logic of the conservative elites.

Propaganda disguised as news

Largely because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which relaxed monopoly restrictions on news media ownership, control of the news media in the United States has become much more concentrated in the hands of smaller and smaller numbers of extremely wealthy people and corporations.

As a result, to a large extent what now passes for “news” or serious “journalism” is instead more akin to propaganda with the purpose of delivering a message favored by the wealthy corporations and individuals who own our news media. Eric Alterman described this phenomenon in a recent article in The Nation. With respect to the so-called “mainstream news media”:

Its members consistently defer to conservative Republican Presidents with a history of deliberate deception, allowing them to define their terms… Its members invite Republican Congressmen, known to be not merely unreliable but delusional, to lie about Democratic Congressmen. When challenged, they reply that they cannot be bothered to discern the truth…

And to compound the problem, George Bush has made sure that the news we receive gets twisted in a variety of ways. In order control the news that Americans receive he has denied our First Amendment rights through the use of so-called First Amendment zones to prevent protesters from being heard, by denying access to journalists who criticize him, by threatening to jail reporters who criticize his administration, and by paying shills (with taxpayer dollars) to write government propaganda disguised as news.

Militant nationalism disguised as “patriotism”

War is a prime method that the Bush administration has used to funnel tens of billions of dollars to its cronies. Antonia Juhzs, in her book, “The Bush Agenda – Invading the World, One Economy at a Time”, explains that war with Iraq provided a bonanza of opportunities for Bush and Cheney’s already wealthy corporate friends and supporters. Juhasz explodes the myth that George Bush didn’t have a well thought out plan for post-conflict Iraq:

There was at least one clear plan – an economic plan – the blueprint for which was ready and in Bush administration hands at least two months prior to the invasion. The 107-page three-year contract between the Bush administration and Bearing Point, Inc. of McLean, Virginia, lays out the president’s economic agenda in Iraq. In return for $250 million, Bearing Point provided “technical assistance” to the U.S. Agency for International Development on the restructuring of the Iraqi economy to meet Bush administration goals…

Bearing Point wrote the framework to restructure Iraq from a state-controlled economy to one that guarantees “free markets, free trade and private property” – among other goals… to recommend changes to laws “that impede private sector development, trade and investment”… undertaking a “mass privatization” of Iraq’s state-owned industries.”

Bearing Point’s Draft Statement of Work, “Stimulating Economic Recovery, Reform and Sustained Growth in Iraq”, was completed on February 21, 2003. While it was not available to the public, I was made aware of the document…

The extent to which the Bearing Point contract sets out to transform the Iraqi economy is astonishing. The company specifies changes in every sector of the Iraqi economy… It even specifies propaganda tools to sell these policies to the Iraqi public.
Thus explains why George Bush and Dick Cheney lied us into war with Iraq. And it’s interesting to note that purposeful ignoring of relevant sections of our National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) played a crucial role not only in the Bush/Cheney plan to justify the Iraq War (by noting “claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium {i.e., yellowcake} in Africa are highly dubious.”), but threatens to do the same for the purpose of providing a justification for war with Iran as well.

It’s hard to understand how anyone could fall for this a second time (or a first time for that matter). Undoubtedly, the fear of being accused of being “unpatriotic”, as Republicans do whenever Democrats question their war motives, provides a major motivation to even Democrats to fall in line behind Bush war plans.

UP IS DOWN AND DOWN IS UP

You can get a pretty good idea of the truth by just translating everything the conservative elites say into the opposite. Yet, by slavishly and shameless sticking to their ridiculous messages, repeated a million times, they manage to convince a lot of people – that’s why I refer to much of their base as “the gullible”.

They have actually convinced a good many people, for example, that it is us liberals who are the “elite”, rather than them. Never mind that Republicans, until recently, had control of all three branches of government plus the news media. Never mind that wealth was one of the strongest predictors of voting for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. Liberals are “elites” because…. well, because conservative elites say we are.

They twist the word “patriotism” to make it mean support for the Bush/Cheney war agenda, or the war agenda of whatever conservative elite happens to be in power at the time. If “patriotism” is a virtue then it means concern for our fellow Americans or for the progressive ideals on which our country was founded. If it means what conservative elites imply it to mean, then there is no virtue attached to it, and it’s just plain evil.

With regard to the “culture of life” that George Bush and other conservative elites so often claim to live by, George Lakoff pretty well nailed that in his book, “Whose Freedom – The Battle over America’s Most Important Idea”:

So-called pro-life conservatives are typically in favor of the death penalty… They favor conservative policies that result in American having the highest infant mortality rate in the industrialized world… These deaths are a result of conservative policies against prenatal and postnatal care, universal child health insurance…, Medicaid…

If they were really pro-life… they would support programs for pre- and postnatal care, health care for all children, programs to feed and house the hungry and homeless, antipollution programs, and safe food programs. Instead, they let strict father morality dominate over issues of life – that the poor are responsible for their own poverty and that they and their innocent children should suffer for it, and that government should not interfere with corporate profits through public health regulations for clean air and water.
And Lakoff also pretty well nailed their ideology concerning freedom:

The focus of (George Bush’s) presidency is defending and spreading freedom. Yet, progressives see in Bush’s policies not freedom but outrages against freedom. They are indeed outrages against the traditional American ideal of freedom… It is not the American ideal of freedom to invade countries that don’t threaten us, to torture people and defend the practice, to jail people indefinitely without due process, and to spy on our own citizens without warrant.

In short, the success of the whole conservative elitist agenda depends upon making Americans believe that up is down and down is up. Once the smokescreen is cleared, their whole ideology is revealed for what it is – just an excuse to expand their wealth and power and do whatever they want, at the expense of everyone else.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×2431676

ggdub_camo.jpgAs I read my Monday morning (Oct. 1, 2007) San Jose Mercury News a headline jumped out at me: “Cigarette tax would hurt poor“.

How often do we hear that taxes “hurt” or “punish” one group or another? How often do we hear that taxes are a “burden on the economy” or “cost jobs?” How many politicians talk about providing “tax relief?”

George Lakoff, of the Rockridge Institute writes that this language “frames” taxes as an affliction:

For there to be “relief” there must be an affliction, an afflicted party harmed by the affliction, and a reliever who takes the affliction away and is therefore a hero. And if anybody tries to stop the reliever, he’s a villain wanting the suffering to go on. Add “tax” to the mix and you have a metaphorical frame: Taxation as an affliction, the taxpayer as the afflicted party, the president as the hero, and [people who believe in government] as the villains.

This anti-tax rhetoric results from an anti-government worldview that is pushed by conservatives, in which they portray our government as some kind of enemy of the public. Ronald Reagan is famous for sayings like, “Government is the problem, not the solution” and, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ ” The constant use of negative framing like this to describe government and taxes leads regular people to think about their government as a negative, malevolent force. We have been hearing this drumbeat for so long, and with so little pushback to counter these ideas, that many people just accept that this is the way it is.

But are taxes really an affliction? Is government really a negative force in society? Let’s step back from the affliction frame for a second and take a different look at the idea of taxes and government.

Let’s start with the basics. Who is the government? The Constitutions of the United States of America and of the state of California both begin with the words, “We the people.” So “we, the people” are the government. The government is US — you and me! When you think about it this way, it makes the things Ronald Reagan said sound contradictory. How can we, the people be the problem? How can it be scary that we, the people are here to help each other?

What does our government do? Again, back to the basics, our government builds the roads, hires teachers and police and firefighters and judges, and, in the bigger picture, sets up the rules for the society we want. We build roads and the roads allow us to get to the schools, businesses, stores and parks where we work, shop, study and relax. And because we have our schools and jobs and stores and parks, and the rules for the society we want, in theory we are able to live a little better every year. When the government is functioning as it should, these rules enable all of us to pursue happiness and our businesses and people to prosper. And these rules are decided by us through our elections.

In other words, WE decide what our government does and how our money is used to our mutual benefit.

So how can government and taxes be bad if the government is us? Looking at things this way, doesn’t this all mean that taxes are like a savings and investment account where we get back so much more than we put in? And, building on that, since we use the taxes to our mutual benefit aren’t we all better off if there are more taxes rather than less? Doesn’t that just make us all stronger?

What about all the “government bureaucracy” that conservatives complain about? Well, looked at in this new way, the government’s money is our money, so of course we want to be able to account for how it is being spent. That means it has to be tracked every step of the way. We want to know that it is spent honestly and efficiently, and the necessary transparency and the oversight that accomplishes this does require people and procedures.

Conservatives also say government is “inefficient.” But anyone who has worked in a corporation has experienced the alternative. In many corporations a few people at the top decide how things are going to be, and they pass commands down from the top. Anyone who disagrees has the choice to do what they are told or leave. It’s great for the people who are at the very top – but sometimes not so great if you are not.

The processes involved when lots of people get together to decide how to utilize our shared resources can get somewhat cumbersome. Anyone who has ever been in a homeowners association understands this. But in our system of government everyone is involved in making the decisions. This can take longer than it can take in a business, but it also lets all of us have a say.

This is how democracy works. This is the price we pay for letting everyone have a say in how our society is set up. Together we mutually decide how best to build and manage our society, and this can take some time and effort. We decide the best ways to spend our money and we want systems in place so that we know that the money is being used properly.

So we all have a choice. If we want firefighters and police to be there for us when we need them, and if we want good schools and teachers so all of our children have an opportunity to succeed, then we have to pay the necessary taxes to pay for those things. And if we want to continue to have a say in how our government works and what it does, we have to put up with the decision-making process. It’s a part of growing up and taking on the responsibilities.

Or, we go a different way. We can hand those choices and responsibilities over to the “private sector” – the corporations – and let others decide how things are going to be done and how our money and common resources will be used. Thinking about Enron and Katrina and Iraq and our current privatized health care system, I wonder how we can expect that will work out for us?

by Dave Johnson

http://www.seeingtheforest.com/