BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
Michael Jackson and America's Superstardom
I greatly admired Michael Jackson. I admire anyone who's the very best at what they do, and Michael Jackson was definitely that. I remember when I first heard him. He was doing a tune called "Who's Lovin' You?" He was a mere child at the time, but his talent was so fully developed, and he sang with so much emotional maturity, I mistook the high pitch of his voice to be that of a very soulful adult female. Then later when he did "Billie Jean" at the Motown reunion, he seemed to literally defy gravity as he Moonwalked across the stage. So yes, this young man was, without a doubt, one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived.
But Michael's life - that shooting star that dazzled humanity with its awesome display, only to burn out much too soon - threatens to serve as a perfect metaphor for America itself. The story of the United States parallels that of Michael Jackson. It is also the story of a precocious child star that dazzled humanity with its awesome display. The United States is undoubtedly a superstar among nations, but we must not let hubris allow us to forget that among those very same nations, we are nothing more than a precocious child.
While the United States is 233 years old, that's relatively nothing when it comes to the history of nations. Iran, one of the oldest nations on Earth, is over 8000 years old. That means that when Jesus Christ walked the Earth, Iran was more than 6000 years older than the United States is today, even then. We need to keep that in mind as we formulate the language of our foreign policy, because believe me, it is a fact that has not been lost on the Iranian people.
It is America's failure to recognize and respect that fact that has caused so much animosity towards the United States among Muslims in the Middle East - and much of that animosity has also extended to many of our allies in the West. And it is in recognition of that fact that President Obama took the tact that he did in his Cairo speech.
While many in the GOP are trying to play politics with this issue, President Obama's Cairo speech reflected the ultimate in statesmanship and good common sense. He recognized that no one likes a cocky and disrespectful child, and that's exactly what the United States has become.
Bush was seen not only by Muslim countries, but countries all over the world as a bratty child who was using the clout of militarism to talk down to nations that dwarf the United States in terms of history and cultural tradition. Thus, it was absolutely necessary in order to establish constructive engagement in the Middle East for President Obama to first repent, and then ask the world to please forgive the stupidity of his arrogant sibling. He was right to assure the people of the Middle East that the United States recognize them as a great and ancient culture, whose religion has contributed tremendously to mankind.
Just through those few common-sense words President Obama began a healing process that immediately began to mend animosities held against the United States for over sixty years. Clear evidence of that was immediately apparent. Immediately after his Cairo speech the people of Lebanon voted to appoint Saad al-Hariri, Backed by the United States, as their new prime minister, and voted down the Iranian backed Hezbollah hardliners. And immediately after that, the Iranian people took to the street in opposition to hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But just like the jihadists, GOP hardliners like Dick and Liz Cheney claim that President Obama's position is weak, and it makes America less safe. But the facts belie their contention, since the very people who are voting for a more reasoned stance towards the United States are the very same people that jihadists depend on to recruit their terrorists.
So why is the GOP taking such a hard stand against common sense?
Just like the jihadists in the Middle East the GOP require an enemy to maintain power. The jihadists in Iran came to power as a result of mass demonstrations just like we see in Iran today. But in that case, the demonstrations were against the United States for toppling Iran's democratically elected government and replacing it with Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, a United States puppet. So since hatred of the United States is what brought them into power, the jihadists feel that it is incumbent upon them to maintain that hatred to remain in power.
The same is true of the GOP. The Republican party's agenda - protecting the interest of the corporatocy, like the insurance industry over the good health and well being of American families, for example - is so counterintuitive to what's in the best interest of the people that it is incumbent upon the GOP to always maintain an enemy - any enemy - in order to circumvent the common sense of the people and appeal to their emotions.
A perfect example of that is the way the GOP has convinced a large segment of the American people that acting in their own interest constitutes socialism - and of course, socialism leads to communism. Thus, according to their reasoning, anything that gives priority to our own families over corporatism is communist inspired. They've successfully used that reasoning to circumvent our common sense. Clear evidence of that is if we used our common sense we'd realize that social security and medicare, two of the most popular programs in America, are both based on socialist principles - so is congress' healthcare plan.
Everything is about dollars and cents to the GOP, including war. The only people in America who hasn't suffered from the war in Iraq is the GOP and their corporate cronies. In fact, while America suffers, they've benefitted from it greatly. While the children of the poor and middle class are dying, their children are cheering us on from the lobbies of exclusive country clubs; and while average Americans are losing their jobs and homes, GOP cronies are wallowing in the profits of war.
So what does this have to do with Michael Jackson?
Just like Michael Jackson, Americans have derived enormous benefits from our status as world superstars. But that's not always a good thing, because also like Michael Jackson, our status as superstars have caused us to overindulge ourselves. If Michael hadn't been such a superstar the world might have placed limits on him. In that case, the plastic surgeon who disfigured him might have refused to do the excessive surgery, which I'm convinced led to his decline. And if it turns out that he died as a result of drugs administered to help boost him for his comeback, he might still be alive today if he'd been simply, Michael the postal worker.
The very same dynamic is true of America. If we hadn't been such a superstar, the world may not have allowed us to invade Iraq. In that case, 4000 young Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children would be alive today. In addition, if we had invaded, George Bush and Dick Cheney would be in chains today, facing charges of war crimes.
So while President Obama indicates that he wants to look forward, that is the luxury of a superstar. When one considers the result of looking forward after Richard Nixon's Watergate, and Ronald Reagan's Iran/Contra affair, it becomes clear that the salvation of America may lie in looking back, and holding ourselves accountable, just this once.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I’m writing in response to your June 23rd request for an immediate correction to a statement made regarding the Halliburton Corp. in my June 20th article, Healthcare: Why Can't We Get the Congressional Option? Your communication reads as follows:
FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE ATTENTION
The article, “Healthcare: Why Can't We Get the Congressional Option?” posted Saturday, June 20, on The Wattree Chronicle contains information about Halliburton that is completely misleading and incorrect.
Halliburton is not a military contractor. Halliburton is one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the energy industry, and serves the upstream oil and gas industry throughout the lifecycle of the reservoir – from locating hydrocarbons and managing geological data, to drilling and formation evaluation, well construction and completion, and optimizing production through the life of the field.
You will note that all of the government services and engineering and construction businesses have been and remain with KBR. To confirm, KBR and Halliburton are completely separate and independent of each other. Halliburton separated KBR from the company in April 2007 (http://www.halliburton.com/public/news/pubsdata/press_release/2007/corpnws_040507a.html.
We respectfully request you make this correction immediately.
Senior Manager, Public Relations
While I am always careful to obtain multiple sources for any assertions that I make in my articles, nevertheless, I went back to objectively revisit the facts just in case it was necessary to accommodate your request. Halliburton is only mentioned one time in the entire article, and the paragraph reads as follows:
“And there's a very logical reason for that. Business, by it's very nature, is designed to generate profit, not to provide services - there was ample evidence of that during the Bush administration. Prior to the military turning over many of its support services to Halliburton, for example, we never heard about our troops being given contaminated water or being electrocuted in the shower. The reason for that is our military's top priority was maintaining the troops, while Halliburton's top priority is maximizing its profits. The very same dynamic is at work when it comes to insuring our citizens - and the politicians know it, but they don't care, because again, for them, it's about me first, and only then, the public good. I mean, am I the only one sick of these people dictating what is on and off the table? I don't think so.”
Try as I might, Ms. Gabriel, I can’t find anything inaccurate about that statement. While you pointed out that “Halliburton separated KBR from the company in April
2007," testimony before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee indicates that KBR was providing our military with substandard services long before then - and then, being rewarded for it.
On May 20, 2009 Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, opened the hearings on “Rewarding Failure: Contractor Bonuses for Faulty Work in Iraq,” with the following statement, which reads in part:
“Today’s hearing is a result of this Committee’s continuing investigation into the deaths of over a dozen U.S. soldiers by electrocution in Iraq. That investigation has led us to internal Pentagon documents showing that in 2007 and 2008, contractor KBR received bonuses of $83.4 million for work that, according to the Pentagon’s own investigation, led to the electrocution
deaths of U.S. troops.”
That doesn’t mean that the work was performed in 2007 and 2008 - that’s when they received the bonuses.
The committee’s third witness was Mr. Charles Smith. Mr Smith was the former Chief of HQ, Army Field Support Command, Field Support Contracting Division. According to Sen. Dorgan’s opening statement, “In that capacity, he [Mr. Smith] managed the massive LOGCAP contract that the Pentagon awarded to KBR, until he was forced out of his job in 2004 when he refused to approve paying KBR more than $1billion in questionable charges." He went on to say, "I should note that Mr. Smith was removed from his job despite the fact that in November 2004 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld awarded him the Department of Defense’s Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service.”
Mr. Smith’s testimony includes the following:
“In August 2004, the Army’s approach to KBR underwent a complete change. The goal of award fee boards became one of making KBR financially sound, even if it was not performing in accordance with the contract. This was consistent with actions to rescind the 15% withhold definitize contract cost estimates well above the DCAA recommended amounts, and remove me from my position. The Army’s stated reason is that it was afraid KBR would cease performance or allow their subcontractors to cease performance. I did not think this was a credible threat, as KBR would have lost its military business entirely by this action. I do not believe the Army has
stated the real reason for its change in approach to KBR.”
So frankly, Ms. Gabriel, I don’t see where I was inaccurate at all. In fact, Halliburton’s position seems to be completely analogous to a man who gets his hand shot off while committing a robbery, then pleads not guilty on the grounds that he’s no longer associated with the hand that held the gun.
Thus, with all due respect, I think I’ll let the article stand as is. I don’t see where it is the least bit misleading. In fact, upon review, I don’t think I went far enough - but I fully intend to remedy that situation in the very near future.
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does. Sphere: Related Content
Saturday, June 20, 2009
BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
Healthcare: Why Can't We Get the Congressional Option?
There's at least one thing that Republicans do much better than Democrats, and that's marketing their initiatives. It doesn't matter how regressive the idea, Republicans manage to frame it in a way that if you oppose it you look like you're either degenerate, or at the very least, un-American. For example, instead of accurately calling themselves "The Order of Religious Bigots Dedicated to Shoving Our Version of God Down America's Throat," they market their insanity as "The Moral Majority," and instead of being honest and calling themselves "The Public Vagina Brigade," they call themselves "The Right to Life" proponents (even though they're willing to let that very same life starve to death after it's born). Conservatives get a lot of milage out of their creativity in this area, and progressives would do well to follow suit.
The initiative to legalize same-sex marriage would have been much more marketable, for example, if it had been dubbed "The Right to Love." And the same is true of healthcare reform. Proponents of a public option for healthcare could make life a lot more difficult for opponents in congress if instead of calling it "The Public Option" they simply dubbed it "The Congressional Option" - that way the issue would be self-explanatory. It would force every member of congress who placed the interest of the insurance industry over the welfare of his or her constituents to explain why they want to deny the American people the opportunity to opt into the exact same plan that congress and their families enjoy.
But I only bring this issue up as an introduction to a much more serious problem - demagoguery. All of the public manipulation above is symptomatic of a system that's out of control. It's a clear example of how politicians who are suppose to represent the people, are using marketing and public manipulation to feather their own nests.
The vast majority of politicians could care less about abortion, same-sex marriage, religion, or national healthcare reform. The only thing these people truly care about is being reelected - and that goes for Democrats as well as Republicans. The mere fact that these people, who we sent to congress to represent our interests, are willing to undermine our most fundamental right to long and healthy lives in order to ingratiate themselves with the insurance industry and feather their own nests, clearly demonstrates that our system is broken, and it requires our immediate attention.
With our economy in the worst shape that it's ever been since the Great Depression, let there be no doubt about the fact that we're involved in a class war. But the only way that America is going to come out whole is if we come to grips with an objective truth - we're either going to win together, or we're all going to lose together. That makes it all the more important that we have statesmen and women in office, rather than self-serving demagogues who can't see beyond the next election, but the latter is exactly what we've created.
We now have an entirely new class of people among us - the political class. With the exception of a handful of legislators, these people don't care about the rich, the poor, or the middle class - all they care about is who's in the best position to get them reelected in the next election cycle. They are totally self-serving, and America is suffering for it. The abject selfishness of these people have either created or contributed to every single problem that we have in America today.
But Americans are beginning to recognize that fact, that's why congress is either at, or close to, its lowest point ever in the polls. It's becoming increasingly clear that these politicians have become so arrogant and self-serving that they've lost touch with the people that they're suppose to represent. They've completely forgotten that they're public servants, our employees, not America's aristocracy. The political class has, literally, come to think of themselves as royalty.
Hyperbole? Let's look at the facts: During the Great Depression the House of Representatives voted to cut their own salary from $9,000 to $8,500 per year. In contrast, today a regular member of the house makes $174,000 a year. They've given themselves $16,000 in raises over the past five years. In addition to that, while their constituents are losing their jobs, their homes, and struggling to make ends meet, earlier this year congress gave itself an additional $93,000 (in addition to their salary) in "petty cash." Then, at the very same time that they were lavishing themselves in this unconscionable orgy of largess, they were coming up with countless excuses why our children shouldn't receive the same medical coverage as their own.
First they tried to cloud the issue by claiming that providing the American people with a congressional option for healthcare was a form of socialism, but then, so is social security. They then claimed that a congressional option would lead to government bureaucrats stepping between patients and their doctors, yet, they don't seem to have any problem in that regard, nor do their families.
The truth is, most of the members of congress could care less about any of that. All they really care about is their bottom line - being reelected. Thus, in this case, the best interests of their constituents have to take a backseat while they follow the money - money which is in the hands of large insurance companies that are determined to avoid having to either amend their business practices or lower their rates in order to compete with a government option.
These politicians try to cover themselves by touting the virtues of the free market, but they know full well that while there are certain things that the business community can do much better than government, like marketing, manufacturing, and selling, there are other things that business is lousy at, like providing public service. Most of us have an innate understanding of that fact, that's why very few citizens would opt for a private military, police, or fire department.
And there's a very logical reason for that. Business, by it's very nature, is designed to generate profit, not to provide services - there was ample evidence of that during the Bush administration. Prior to the military turning over many of its support services to Halliburton, for example, we never heard about our troops being given contaminated water or being electrocuted in the shower. The reason for that is our military's top priority was maintaining the troops, while Halliburton's top priority is maximizing its profits. The very same dynamic is at work when it comes to insuring our citizens - and the politicians know it, but they don't care, because again, for them, it's about me first, and only then, the public good. I mean, am I the only one sick of these people dictating what is on and off the table? I don't think so.
So what should we do about these demagogues?
The only way the people can regain control of the system is by completely cleaning house. We need to use our primary system to vote most our sitting politicians out of office - both Democratic and Republican. That will send an unequivocal message to everyone holding public office who's running things.
Thereafter, we need do away with all congressional perks, and instruct the newly elected politicians to vote themselves a salary and compensation package that reflects the median income of a middle class American, and salaries should be capped at an agreed upon percentage above the minimum wage. Only then will we be able to establish and maintain a representative body that is truly reflective of the people.
In short, we need representatives who actually feel our pain - those who can only imagine it, just won't do.
Eric L. Wattree
If you really want to be hip, hop into a book.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
The Republican Vision for America - Divide and Conquer
The current situation in Iran is perfectly analogous to what's going on here in the United States. The vast majority of the people want a common-sense approach to domestic and world politics, while the old guard, stuck in the blind animosities of the past, are determined to promote and exploit those animosities for their own end, and at any cost - including the misery and death of their own people. In Iran the old guard is represented by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; in the U.S., Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. In Iran they are called jihadist, while in the U.S. we refer to them as the Republican Party.
Like the jihadist in the Middle East, Republican wing-nuts claim to be acting on a mission from God. Also like their counterparts in the Middle East, these GOP leaders believe that the end justifies the means, which leaves them free to lie, cheat, steal, torture, and kill innocent people. Their primary method of operation is to take a germ of truth, then infuse it with false conclusions and lies to poison and inflame the minds of the people to act against their own interest. Just like the jihadist, they specialize in using the people's own ignorance against them in order to divide and conquer.
But it seems that the people of both cultures have said enough is enough. Due to unprecedented corruption during the Republican administration, and the belief by many Americans that they'd been robbed of both the 2000 and 2004 elections, in the 2006 election the people voted Republicans out of office by the largest numbers in a generation. Then in a more graphic break with the past, in 2008 Barack Obama was voted into office as the first African American president of the United States. The people of Iran are currently in a struggle with their old guard as well. They too believe that a desperate and corrupt old guard has attempted to steal their vote.
It's still too early to determine the outcome of the struggle between the will of the people and the jihadists in Iran, since as we speak there's rioting in the street, and Iran's Guardian Council (the old guard) has agreed to recount the votes. But here in the United States, the Republican Party has embarked upon a scorched Earth policy, and a strategy of divide and conquer. Their primary goal seems to be to sabotage the nation's recovery by keeping the people divided. Thereafter, if they're successful, they intend to regain power by simply saying, we told you so. Thus, they've dedicated their existence to making America suffer for the next four years.
A Clear example of the Republican Party's method of operation can be seen in the activities of Rabbi Nachum Shifren. Rabbi Shifren has become a perennial Republican candidate for the 26th District of the California State Senate. I first came into contact with him when he began to contact many of us in the Black press with a message of working to improve the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Republicans always build their lies on a germ of truth - after all, who could possibly disagree that we have a dysfunctional educational system. But like many Republican wing-nuts, the hubris of his racist mindset has caused him to underestimate the intelligence of the Black community. He actually thought he could ingratiate himself with Black writers through flattery. He would never try such a ploy with a White journalist. Essentially, he came to me and said, he felt the need to approach me because of my exceptional insight. He was sure that with my keen intelligence I would be able to relay his message to those in the community who weren't bright enough to see the big picture. In other words, I'm a credit to my race.
I had long since researched the Rabbi, so I was fully aware that he was a rabid ultra-conservative who had been a strong supporter of Pat Buchanan, and had been all but banished from the Jewish community. But one should never try to out scream a fool. You listen to them carefully - very carefully. And this is what I heard:
He said, "There is nothing more corrosive to the fabric of our city than hatred based on race. But let's get real. We don't then overcompensate by hiring LAPD officers that are 4 feet, 10 inches tall! We don't go and hire officers that have rap sheets, or are otherwise unqualified. The racisim here is absolutely overt! The thinking goes like this: let's just get ANYBODY in there, as long as they're a CERTAIN skincolor..."
"Eric, I reached the boiling point when I was stopped by a woman officer that was shorter than her 9mm. I attended a Neighborhood Council meeting in W. LA in which the "captain" , a female officer, addressed the group. I looked at another officer present and remarked how this 5'6'', 150 lb woman could be the captain. He told me that many male candidates had been passed over for the position."
When I asked him to substantiate his claim he responded with opinions and anecdotes. I then pointed out to him that while diminutive female officers are not what those of our generation have come to expect, I can think of very few instances where these young women have been overpowered by thugs. On the other hand, I can think of a number of instances where physically oversized, but intellectually diminutive, thug police officers have assaulted and in some cases killed innocent citizens. So I'd rather see brains over brawn any day.
And with regard to the question that he asked the officer at the neighborhood council meeting regarding how this 5'6'', 150 lb woman could be the captain." I pointed out to him that his question alone betrayed a mindset that I found quite troubling. I then asked, how did he know the female captain wasn't twice as qualified as all of the male candidates that she competed against, to which, I never got a response. I also pointed out that he had based his assessment of the captain on purely his own opinion of what SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT BE. Thus, he'd betrayed a tendency to base his conclusions on less than informed and highly subjective opinions - the very same kind of opinions that caused many to conclude that Blacks should never be placed in positions of responsibility, or that Jews should never be trusted.
But here's where I lost patience with him. He said the following:
"But who in the corrupted Black leadership will call for a moment of silence for those African Americans murdered in racially charged ethnic cleansing by radical Hispanic gangs? Now that we need to discuss "racism" in America by those that want to Marginalize African American citizens, where is Attorney General Eric Holder? Will he step up and do his job? Or is he also in bed with the Reconquista crowd, paralyzed by political correctness."
The above statement pointed out his true colors. It was a thinly veiled use of the murder of Stephen Tyrone Johns at the Holocaust Museum to promote the Rabbi's political agenda. Black people are also being killed by Black gangs, but he wasn't concerned about that. His only intent was to slander the Obama administration, and cause a division within the Black and Hispanic coalition that's making it impossible for Republicans to be elected.
How much does Shifren really care about Black people? Listen to the poison that he's feeding the young people in a speech before the Silicon Valley Young Republican Federation: "Multi-culturalism will be the nail in the coffin for our country . . . There are a substantial number of Black and Latino educators and administrators who will stop at nothing until they have seen 'the last gasp of White America.'"
Spoken like a true jihadist.
Eric L. Wattree
If you really want to be hip, hop into a book.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree
An Indictment against the Mainstream Media
On September 15, 2002–six months and four days prior to the Iraqi invasion--I published an article entitled "Would Bush's Saber Rattle as Loudly Against China?"in the Portland Independent Media Center (no one else would publish it at the time) that said the following:
Now that we've reached the anniversary of 9-11, I am consumed by one thought--in light of what I've seen over the past year I find myself much more afraid of Bush, Cheney, and Ashcroft than I am the al-Qaeda. While I understand that terrorists strike without warning to destroy life and property to promote their own agenda, it has become increasingly clear that Bush and his cohorts threaten to be even more destructive by attacking life, liberty, and the very foundation of this nation in the promotion of theirs.
Over the past year these conservative war mongers have been playing the American people like a fiddle. Now they want to sacrifice American lives for nothing more than their own political advantage. Just ask yourself, what does Saddam Hussain have to do with 9-11? Absolutely nothing. Evidence of that can be found in the fact that if Saddam had been involved in 9-11 the administration would have gone after him initially. So why is it suddenly so imperative that we invade Iraq now? I'll tell you why. Since Bush was unable to produce the head of Osama Bin Laden, he now needs another villain to take Bin Laden's place in order to keep his numbers up in the polls-- and if that means having to sacrifice a few American lives and ignite even more terrorist activity on American soil in the process, so be it.
It is a well known political fact that the American people tend to rally around the president when the country's at war. That's why the Bush Administration fell all over themselves after 9-11 to declare "a war against terrorism." And the American people reacted just as planed-Bush's numbers immediately went up in the polls. But now with the mystery surrounding the fate of Osama Bin Laden, the administration has found itself without a war to sustain those numbers, so now they have to create one.
While I'm not prepared to say that the Bush Administration allowed 9-11 to take place, it is clear that the timing of the 9-11 tragedy was without a doubt the best thing that could ever happened to Bush's presidency. Bush was a lame duck the minute he was sworn in. It seems that as soon as Bush entered The Oval Office the stock market began to falter and the economy started to weaken. And whenever he spoke, the next day's news was not so much what he said, but whether or not he got through the speech without falling on his face. In addition, his big tax cut that was touted as the key to boosting the economy turned out to be a bust, and he was so inept in dealing with congress that a Republican senator changed parties costing Bush control of the senate. As a result, when 9-11 took place, it was embraced by conservatives more like it was a football rally than the sober occasion that it was--thus, all the flag waving, ceremonies, and strutting about.
But where was all that bluster prior to 9-11? ABC News reported on May 16th of this year that the Bush Administration acknowledged that U.S. Intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before 9-11 that Osama Bin Laden's terrorists might try to hijack a plane. It was also reported that Bush privately alerted transportation officials and security agencies, but other than that, simply sat on the information. The administration claims that the information they received was non-specific, but one would think that even if they couldn't determine exactly when and where the attack was going to take place, at the very least they could have warned the American people. If they had, maybe some of the people who died would have chosen not to fly-or possibly, chosen to leave their children behind. But no, this president who now claims to be so concerned with protecting our welfare that he feels compelled to launch an unprovoked attack against Iraq, was at that time more interested in the impact that warning us would have on the airline industry.
What the American people needs to understand is that the power elite in this country doesn't view the United States in the same way as its citizens. They see the United States as a huge corporation, with its various industries as its subsidiaries. They see American citizens, particularly the lower and middle class, as simply pawns to be cajoled and manipulated in whatever way is necessary to meet the goals of the corporation. Therefore, they didn't view the tragedy of 9-11 in the same patriotic way as the average American citizen. After the initial shock, they saw 9-11 in terms of dollars and cents. Ultimately, it was viewed as an assault on their corporate superstructure. Later they recognized that the incident could be used as a distraction for the American people, and still later, an opportunity to move on Middle Eastern oil interests.
So let there be no doubt, all of the flag waving, ceremonies, and patriotic speeches have nothing to do with 9-11; they are designed to whip the American people into such a frenzy that they're blinded to Bush's actual agenda. And that agenda includes the following.
1).Committing America (and American lives) to a war in order to get himself re-elected.
2).Taking control of Iraqi oil fields to benefit his friends in big business.
3).Keeping the American voter distracted from considering the ramifications of the recent corporate scandals.
4).Keeping the American people from recognizing how inept he is as president.
The rest of the world sees Bush's agenda for what it is, and the American people would too if they'd stop waving their flags long enough to consider the flag's true meaning. The American flag represents freedom and justice, not trying to dictate who should lead other countries. It represents the open debate of issues, not intolerance to any and everyone who disagree with your point of view. It represents the guarantee of personal freedom, not the suspension of the Bill of Rights.
If the American people would just stop to consider these facts, it would become clear that even while Bush and his conservative cohorts are frantically waving our flag, they are simultaneously waging war against the very values that the flag and this great country represent.
These issues can, and will, be debated ad nauseam, but the American people need only ask themselves two questions to put all of the administration's nonsense into perspective. First, would the administration be so anxious to go to war if we were talking about China as opposed to Iraq? And secondly, do we think that invading Iraq will make us more, or less safe from terrorist attacks? If we answer those questions honestly, it becomes clear that the administration is being disingenuous at best.***
So what I'd like to know is this--if a shade tree journalist sitting up in his den in the heart of a Los Angeles ghetto could see what was going on, why couldn't the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, CNN and all of the networks; Harvard, Yale, and all of the various and sundry Ph.D.s from America's great institutions of learning? And why couldn't the nation's think tanks, all of the nation's political scientists, and the United States Congress figure it out? The answer is, they had, then simply turned their backs and allowed our youth to march off to their deaths. The most irrefutable evidence of that? None of their children died.
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.
Monday, June 01, 2009
BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
The Moral Strangulation of America
In my last article I pointed out that the character of America is being fundamentally changed. In less than two generations we've gone from citizens who were politically engaged and socially aware, to zombies who simply accept what we're being told by our favorite demagogues. We've gone from citizens who held our politicians' feet to the fire, to a group of cattle who allow our politicians to dictate what is, and what isn't, off the table - in spite of our instinctive clamor for the simple adherence to the law. We've allowed politicians to go from representatives with the single mandate of doing our biding, to so-called leaders who dictate to us what's in our best interest. As a direct result, the script has been flipped - we now define what's in the people's best interest by what's in the best interest of the politicians who are supposed to defer us.
The above scenario has caused us to lose touch with what it means to be American. That, in turn, has led to the ridiculous debate over whether or not America should commit war crimes, and if those who committed the crimes should be held accountable. Thus, we're no longer considering what's in the best interest of America, with our primary allegiance to American ideals and our legacy to the world, we are now giving priority to what's in the best interest of George Bush and Dick Cheney, who are destined to go down in history as two of the most malevolent individuals in the history of humanity - and if we allow ourselves to lose this moral debate, this generation of Americans are going right down the drain of history with them.
It seems incredible that America can lose so much ground as a people in such a short period of time. But when one considers how methodically we've been manipulated, it becomes quite understandable. It's just a matter of removing one link from the chain. Thereafter, the rest of the chain has no connection to its legacy, ideals, or accumulated knowledge, and that's exactly what has taken place in America.
Over the past thirty years conservatives have mounted a concerted assault on education. They've demonized the teachers union, they've fought every attempt to fund education, and they've attacked and successfully abolished the Fairness Doctrine as an assault on freedom of speech. Thus, they've effectively blocked every avenue of public education. Thereafter, they bought up most of the conduits of public information and filled the void with conservative propaganda. The Rush Limbaugh Show, for example, is even given away to small radio stations all over the United States for free. The propaganda campaign became so pervasively blatant at one point that liberal talk shows couldn't even be broadcasted to our troops in Iraq - talk show host Ed Shultz was blocked from broadcasting in Iraq.
As a direct result of this information black out, along with the inadvertent influences of MTV, BET, video games, and other online distractions that takes away from what used to be the normal flow of family communication, an entire generation of Americans have been effectively disconnected from what it means to be an American. They don't know, nor do they care, anything about Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution, American ideals, or even how to find North America on a map. All they know is what feels good, who won the Super Bowl, what Paris Hilton said the night before, and the vicious misinformation of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News - and that doesn't make for a viable electorate.
The situation has become so bad that we now have a generation of GOP politicians who don't even know what it means to be the loyal opposition. They don't understand the importance of putting America first, that's why they're running in circles, name-calling, and just saying no to everything. And on Democratic side, we've spawned a generation of politicians who are so gun-shy and self-serving that they're afraid to stand up for even the most long-standing Democratic principles. The only thing that curbed this situation is that the GOP became so blatant in their arrogance, and so greedy and abusive in their policies, that their behavior served to throw ice water in our faces. But now that we're awake, we need to make sure that America is never allowed to fall asleep again.
The past several years have clearly demonstrated that America cannot survive without an educated and politically engaged electorate, so we must insist that our educational system is fully funded. And in order to make sure that we have uniformity in the education of our citizens, our educational system should be nationalized. The education of America is much too important to leave to local demagogues, or to be funded by local property taxes. Such a system guarnatees the short shrift of children who go to schools in areas with a low tax base?
And vouchers should be out of the question. The voucher system will lead to a two-tier society. A voucher system will only lead to large corporations and right-wing religious groups robbing us of our revenue and brainwashing our children. What's going to happen once they raise tuition beyond the reach of the poor and there's no public schools left for the poor to return to? I'll tell you what's going to happen - the poor will remain uneducated, and their only choices in life will be to either work for large corporations for whatever pennies the corporations choose to throw their way, or join the military and become cannon fodder for military/industrial expansionism. That was the end-game. After all, when have you ever known the GOP to be worried about the education of Black children before?
It is also important that we reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Conservatives claim that the Fairness Doctrine is a form of censorship, but that argument appeals directly to the level of ignorance we've attained through its abolishment. The Fairness Doctrine doesn't inhibit speech, it enhances it. The GOP argument hinges on the proposition that they should have the right to disseminate poisonous propaganda with impunity, and without challenge. Now, that constitute's censorship. The American people have just as much right to demand that truth be disseminated over our airways as we do to have truth in labeling on our food products.
These are just two common sense solutions to one of the nation's most insidious problems - ignorance. If we adopt these solutions maybe Americans will have the wherewithal to benefit from the experiences of our forefathers, and avoid having to relive their long and hard earned experience with European demagoguery.
Dick Cheney argues, for example, that America should be willing to forgo our ideals, the dignity of others, and the freedom of personal privacy to remain safe from terrorism. But just a little education informs us that Benjamin Franklin had heard that tired argument before, and he admonished in anticipation of such stupidity that "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" (Benjamin Franklin, 1706 - 1790, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759 ).
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.