Sunday, November 26, 2006

Horizontal Shift Of Community

I want to emphasize that I can't take full credit for the subject matter which I rant about. To do so wouldn't be very honest and would be deceiving to say the least. I can't begin to discount the importance of the interactions I've had with others nor the friendships that have been built through these interactions. I believe I am a small part of each and every one of the people who I have had the great pleasure of meeting. And our exchanges of ideas, thoughts, and experiences have made me who I am and what I believe. So I guess what I'm saying is I am basically a product of my communal environment. I have been very, very fortunate to have been befriended by some very intelligent, independently thinking folks, who believe in the people and their future. The people who have influenced me deserve much more credit than myself. At least that's what I'm telling the NSA when they come knocking! ;)

And I warned you previously that I do like to rant about communities. So here's a little more on the subject with a little background beforehand to better illustrate where all this communal thought was germinated and how it has been nurtured in order to grow.

I became involved with on-line discussions in search of answers, support, and quite honestly, for help! I first became involved due to undemocratic practices within organized labor which was mirroring the corporate business world. I was a dues paying member of a union whose authoritarian leadership left absolutely no room for democratic procedures, let alone any dissent. I found the site Members for Democracy, which is no longer active due to a lawsuit brought against the site owners by the very union that represented them, but it has been archived and the new community that grew out of the old site is now the one I've mentioned previously, uncharted. The site was originally built around some core labor union reformers who also had come face to face with the problematic union structures which had morphed into a hierarchical domination and had little to do with any grassroots member run organization. The power had been taken from the people and placed into the hands of an elite few who refused to relinquish their power.

As time went by and more and more disillusioned people flocked to the MfD site, we began to realize we had turned into a community and through our discussions, we realized that what was wrong with the unions was apparent in the rest of society as well. We could see the same theft, greed, lies, and dishonesty everywhere we looked. We realized it just wasn't about union issues anymore, but about the structures in place which kept all the people in subserviency. The community agreed that reforming the existing structures would never happen while working from inside and obeying the existing structure's rules. Therefore we began discussing alternative structures which would replace the hierarchical top-down structure which keeps the power out of the people's hands and pools it into the hands of a few. And we all agreed that a horizontal egalitarian structure made much more sense for the people and distributed responsibilities equally among the participants. This is how we began discussing and believing in the idea that communities were to be very powerful in the building of new more egalitarian social structures.

The horizontal leaderless structure which was beginning to take form within the community was very apparent and was the subject for many debates among the members. One of the contributers had this to say about the new emerging leaderless groups.
I think the point here is that there is a new force emerging that is a leaderless coalition of groups, with and without leaders, and organizations, large and small, that will emerge and, which must be reckoned with. I'm sure if "selective gravity" was a possibility and that which holds us to this ball of rock, water and soil as individuals was to let loose, our esteemed group may spin into space. Our unique perspectives would be gone, but there are others who would fill the void. We don't lead, we contribute. The world if full of worthy contributors.

Contribution! Isn't that the backbone of any community. If we contribute, however little, we are helping each other. The glue of a community is the willingness of the members to contribute, regardless how much or how little, as long as there is a willingness there is a bond within the community. And in order for there to be willingness, there has to be a concern, caring, or love of the community! Quite simply put, it has to be a home to it's contributors! And each member of the community supports the other members therefore each member is very important to the vitality and growth of the community. A friend of mine (HJ, you know who you are) once relayed this amazing little parable to illustrate how actions that may seem little to us can actually make a big difference. We were discussing social movements and change and the importance of each member of a community, and their contributions, and well this is how it goes.
Two mice were sitting watching the snow fall and settle on the branch of a tree.

First Mouse: How much does a snowflake weigh?
Second Mouse: A little less than nothing.

They continued to watch the snow falling, and eventually the snowflakes lessened and then they stopped. A final snowflake fell onto the branch of the tree. The branch creaked and snapped, and fell to the ground.

First Mouse: So a little less than nothing can make a big difference!

Each one of us is an important spoke within the wheel and each one of us can and does make a difference within the community. And in my opinion the community which thrives is the one which has a horizontal structure. One that empowers it's members through the sharing of knowledge and also the sharing of responsibilities. This is one of the great aspects of the wiki based community. Empowering people isn't a part of a vertical structure which operates on the design of a few people in charge and above other people below them. Another dear friend and I should say mentor of mine (WMP, you know who you are) has been instrumental in encouraging me to write and has greatly influenced how I think. When it comes to the shift from a vertical power structure to a more egalitarian horizontal strucutre, nobody is better versed in my opinion. As shows in the following excerpt from the piece The 21st Century Workplace: R_evolution.
A rebellion is happening. The collective consciousness of many, many people is changing and their beliefs about their purpose here on earth are shifting in a big way. As a result of this rebellion of the mind, an evolution is taking place. It's not a "revolution" - it's something more transformative and built to last. You can't undo evolution. So think of what's happening as r_evolution - as in "our evolution".

This rebellion of the mind isn't just something that's occurring in relation to work. The world is changing in very fundamental ways. Take a look at events that have occurred in the social and political spheres over the past two decades. Take a look at the past five years even and think of examples where groups of people asserted their interests - human interests - over the interests of institutions and powerful elites. Something prompted them to do that and it had to do with changing what they believe, who they trust, what they think is best for them, what kind of world they want to live in.

This social r_evolution as it's called will far surpass the changes that have been witnessed in the past in my humble opinion. And these changes will take place so much quicker than changes of old. This acceleration, which is due in large part to the introduction of the personal computer to the people, will continue on an escalated scale. Unlike the shifts of the past, this one will happen within decades rather than generations and we will feel the world shift under our feet. The individuals and institutions who have a vested interest in the dying age will do everything in their power to resist the change. But despite all that these powerful few try, our political and economical systems must change as will the functions of our educational systems, labor, corporations, and the definition of capital. As the people begin to find common ground, they will establish or join existing communities of interest. And it's these communities of interest and their links with other communities that will push the shift toward the horizontal structure of power for the people. This excerpt from the article entitled Skip the Class War relays the point about communities of interest and their unstructured nature which enables exchange.
If you want to change anything about the existing order start thinking and talking in terms of communities of interest instead of class war. There is no class war and you’re not going to start one. So alternatives are worth considering.

A far better strategy for advancing our interests is to think and act on the basis of communities of interest. At its simplest a community of interest is a group of people with common interests. The community can be large or small, geographically based or widely dispersed. The interest can be anything – an idea, a goal, a belief, project, an issue that the community wants resolved. It can be broadly or narrowly defined. Communities of Interest are unstructured communities, which enable exchange of innovation and ideas. They can be formal or ad hoc groups with similar interests or concerns across organizational boundaries. As discussion takes place, tacit knowledge, in the form of conversations, is gathered and stored for later access.

Again, I've mentioned how the growth of our communities is changing us from media consumers into media generators. This shift into media generation is changing the web and it's functionality. We are now entering the era of what has been coined as Web 2.0, which allows people and communities to more readily collaborate and share information online. As we continue to generate our own media, there is a need for new and innovative applications which will allow microcontent to be aggregated and distributed over dozens of domains. What this means is we are moving away from a few static consumer information sites into the next paradigm of the web which contains large numbers of individual information generating sites which operate entirely on a horizontal plane. This is a paramount leap for building communities for the people in my opinion. And social information will mushroom due to the changes brought about by the internet morphing into a web of data rather than a web of documents. This shift will change how our communities interact socially, culturally, and even politically.

The trail is becoming more clear as the communal self-education continues and more and more of the real people find their voice and begin contributing their views, ideas, and concerns. I think most of us recognizes the wall that has been placed around us. And most of us have climbed that wall and have seen what's on the other side and what is possible. It's going over that wall that is so difficult and a dear friend of mine summed it up much better than I ever could.
Those of us who are on the wall are in a quandary - on the one hand we know that things must change, that they are changing and that change (for better or worse) is inevitable, unstoppable. That's not a bad thing. We realize that much of what we have believed in and held dear is just a lot of smoke and mirrors.It's good to be done with it. On the other hand, going forward is scary. You don't know what it's going to be like out there. Nobody knows because it hasn't happened yet. We know that if we go forward we can help create it and it could be a wonderful era, something we've been dreaming of for several millennia. But we hesitate because going forward means - potentially - giving up so much of what is known. We've been taught to look before we leap. Better the devil you know than the one you don't know. That's a big piece of the conventional wisdom of the current reality.

A few of us have gone over the wall or at least go over it frequently to explore and we'll make no bones about it: It's pretty cool. Well, it's not without its challenges but we haven't looked back yet, not with any longing for the current reality anyways.

I think it was Marshall McLuhan who described how electronic mass media would collapse space and time barriers in our communication. This collapse is what will enable the real people of our world to interact and live on a global scale. According to McLuhan, this interaction is what would precipitate a shift towards a Global Village. It seems to me his predictions were fairly correct and this connectedness that is spreading around the globe and unting our communities has the possibility of forming new unheard of before sociological structures within the context of culture. In McLuhan's book Gutenburg Galaxy, he states that technologies are not simply inventions which people employ but are the means by which people are re-invented. In that context, we now seem to have the capability, and the responsibility to the human race, to re-invent ourselves!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Power of Wheatheads

I first came upon the home of the Wheatheads through a link on activist Anne Feeney's Fellow Traveler's Advisory Blog. Thanks Anne, I definitely owe you one, and the more I visit the Wheathead Community, the more I can feel the roots anchor themselves within places where my spirit resides. I'm not talking about superficial roots which can be uprooted in the slightest wind. I'm talking about the kind of roots that tap themselves deeply within the heart and soul of real people. That's where the power of any community lies in my humble the real people of our world. Real people who find themselves in a quickly shrinking self-destructive world!

Wheathead is a state of mind, a sharing of thought and oasis in a wasteland of deteriorating circumstances we describe as life. Life in a world that has lost it's way through intersecting trails of consumerism which only lead to nowhere but disconnectedness and more deteriorating circumstances! Where is this portal you ask? Where do I find this fresh drink of water in this disconnected wasteland of human beings? It can be found at Whole Wheat Radio. Yes, by static definition it's an internet radio station. But that's the only way the unenlightened and disconnected can define this community. But WWR doesn't fit within those fixed definitions as it isn't stationary by no means. It's interactive; it constantly transforms, changes, and morphs into what it's contributors want. It's very existence relys on the people's desires. It's a labor of love and "IT'S ALIVE!"

I joined WWR back in August of 2006 and I see as of this morning, there have been 86 others to sign on since I had the pleasure. I have merely dabbled into the interactive side of the community so far but this will increase for sure. I am a sucker for communities and I've been involved in the Uncharted community for years now! And I have come to realize the importance of communities and the links they build between themselves.

I'm always ranting about the importance of people finding each other, joining together, and building communities. It's just a very important life saver for the people and our planet. We have been so disconnected, we have basically lost our way and have forgotten that part of ourselves within that really is beneficial to the human race. I'm proud to be a part of the awakening, and I only see it continuing and growing in leaps and bounds. The real people have this wonderful opportunity to write their own history, their own stories, and truths. We are becoming our own media and this is what is so great about WWR and it's interactivity. Absolutely awesome!

And I haven't even mentioned the unbelievable independent musicians who are the very marrow of WWR. Art has always been a catalyst of change within our world and it binds us together as no other form of activism ever has in my opinion. In our world of corporatism and consumerism, to see such an outpouring of talented people, is reassuring and gives me hope we can change our world. It is inspirational to interact with those who see we have gone in a direction of destruction, and are willing to step up and say "Enough! This lifestyle just isn't sustainable and we can do it better!"

What's that? You think I'm reading too much into an internet radio station? Well, all I can say is, we all awaken at different times and in different ways. And one day even the skeptics of the power that lies within communities will awake to find their spirit wounded and realize their life seems so empty and unrewarding. But when this happens, not to worry; the Wheatheads will still be here and they will accept you into the community, no questions asked.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month

There are thousands of blogs, websites, wikis, radio programs, and television specials concentrating on the observance of what has come to be knon as Veteran's Day. This day began as Armistice Day which was to denote the end of hostilities on the western front between the Allied and Central powers of World War I. That is the school book history of the day which honors the veterans who have lost their lives and also the ones who have been fortunate enough to make it back home. But I would like to break away from the traditional and go a little deeper into the history of a select few of our veterans which normally doesn't get cited, printed, or reported.

I would like to tell the story of one who recognized the birth and growth of what is now known as the military industrial complex or permanent war economy.

This hero was Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, who was the most decorated Marine in history at the time of his death. Butler recognized that due to the growth of the military industrial complex, war had become nothing short of a racket. And he spoke of the growing war profiteering and authored the book War Is A Racket which was very critical of warfare's profit motives.
WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. In the World War a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War.

Most of you might be familiar with the next veteran I want to talk a little about. He's been commemorated through song and three different movies. His story is about a simple man from a simple land who was pushed into the heroic light due to one single photograph by Joe Rosenthal. This man was Ira Hamilton Hayes. President Roosevelt called the surviving Iwo Jima flagraisers caught in the photograph back to the U.S. and the men were used in a public relations endeavor to boost the sale of war bonds by the U.S. military. This misuse of Hayes by the war machine innevitably destroyed him. He could never cope with the fact he was regarded as a hero while he considered his buddies who had died and were dying in that battle to be the real heroes. He knew the hero’s were being killed and he was just a Marine caught in a photo. Haye's tried to come to terms with his guilt by turning to alcohol due to what would these days be termed PTSD. The military finally returned Ira to his unit at Iwo Jima when his public drunkenness became an embarassment to them while on the war bonds tour.

Ira's story is heartbreaking and it shows the reality of the war machine and the relentless press for the continuation and the funding of war. Ira knew the truth...he knew what all the other people knew, who find themselves in war with suffering and death all around! And what they knew had nothing to do with public relations and supporting the war effort. They knew what real heroism was and they knew it wasn't something that could be promoted, advertised, and marketed!
It was supposed to be soft duty, but I couldn't take it. Everywhere we went people shoved drinks in our hands and said 'You're a Hero!' We knew we hadn't done that much but you couldn't tell them that. How could I feel like a hero when only five men in my platoon of 45 survived, when only 27 men in my company of 250 managed to escape death or injury?...I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they're not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.

Next I want to mention two people who were conscientious objectors. The first was from Lynchburg, Va. This man was Desmond T. Doss who was awarded the Medal of Honor. What makes Desmond so unique as a MOH winner is the fact he refused to kill or even carry a weapon. His beliefs were strong enough and his convictions could not be unmoved. Desmond's story is one of real heroism, dedication, and true caring. Truly remarkable story of a simple man who chose not to fight but who within possessed the courage of a lion. Doss endured much ridicule for his beliefs from those around him and as such, he was continuously harrassed. But he was true to himself and his Brothers in battle. In 2004, a statue of Mr. Doss was placed in the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, Ga. Right along side are the statues of Dr. Martin Luter King, Jimmy Carter, and another former MOH winner, General Gray Davis. Also in 2004, the documentary "The Conscientious Objector" was released telling of Doss' story of faith, heroism, and bravery. Doss never liked the term conscientious objector and preferred to be called a concientious cooperator.

The other man I want to mention is the only other conscientious objector to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. This man was Thomas W. Bennett from Morgantown, West Virginia. Thomas, although he possessed deep-seated religious convictions, felt the need to help and serve his country. Mr. Bennett served with Bravo Company 14th Infantry in Vietnam. A wonderful account of Mr. Bennett's history, written by Edward F. Murphy, can be found at HistoryNet.

That's what I might like to do -- gain the ability to save lives -- in hopes they might learn to live in peace. If I am called to Nam, I will go. Out of obligation to a country I love I will go and possibly die for a cause I vehemently disagree with.

It is my obligation to give service to my country. That's why I'm here -- to help provide freedom for dissenting voices....I believe in America. I believe that our process of government can respond to the people's needs -- if we each will assume our responsibility.

The other person I want to mention today is about a young man whose Father is currently touring the country to raise awareness of his son's courageous actions and organize support for his defense! This young man is Lt. Ehren Watada who has been formally charged with contempt towards President Bush, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and missing movement. Ehren is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to what he feels is an unlawful war in Iraq. Watada offered to resign or deploy to Afghanistan but was rebuffed. Ehren's action is supported by Veterans for Peace , the Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and many,many more organizations. Just what is the definition of courage and do our courts really think somebody who is loyal to their conscience doesn't show a ton of courage? His beliefs in real patriotism, values, and his demand for integrity from elected representatives goes above and beyond the call in this veteran's eyes!
It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices. My moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not those who would issue unlawful orders. I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect those soldiers, the American people, and innocent Iraqis with no voice. --

For those vets who can read this, Happy Veteran's Day Brothers and Sisters! For those who are no longer with us...we miss you and we hope that our fight for injustice and the return of integrity will honor your sacrifices! Hooah!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Lott Dynasty

Well I awoke this morning to absolutely no surprises as far as the state's elections were concerned. The people are determined to keep the fox in charge of our henhouse! Trent Lott has been given the approval for his fourth term in the Senate.

It absolutely amazes me, given the state's economical and social position as compared to the other 49 states, that we continue to elect the same representatives whose purpose continually seems to keep the people dumb, hungry, and hopeless while rewarding big business! Will we ever face the facts? Will we ever overthrow our taskmasters?

Our state ranks last in academic achievement with the lowest ACT scores and spending per pupil. That's last out of the fifty states! Some record there! But that's just the beginning as we also rank last in per capita income, again out of all fifty states, including the District of Columbia! Another great record we can be proud of!

The higest percentage of the state's tax collection comes from the sales tax which comprises 49% of the states tax revenue. The second highest percentage comes from our individual income tax which comprises 21%. But our corporate tax makes up a whopping 4% of our state's tax revenue! The Mississippi Tax Commission is one of the most underfunded, underperforming revenue agencies in the nation. Might as well not break tradition and maintain our states record as being at the bottom of the national lists I guess! Nice going MTC!

And let's not forget our legalized gambling with it's tax revenues from casinos totaling over $300 million annually. But let's also not forget what goes along with this gambling windfall revenue. Namely the fact that since some communities in Mississippi legalized casino gambling, their crime rate has increased at least 800 percent, with rapes increasing 200 percent and robberies 218 percent. And in 1994 one study showed that communities with gambling had nearly twice the national crime rate. And we can't forget to mention that Mississippi has over twice the number of sexually transmitted diseases as the national rate and that number finally places our state in a first place position out of all fifty states! WooHoo! Mississippi came in #1 in something at least!

The Lott Dynasty continues and that brings up quite a few other facts pertaining to the man himself! Firstly, in 1982 and again in 1990, Lott voted against the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. An act which enforces the 15th Amendment of our Constitution. An act that guarantees that throughout our nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color. And also in 1990, Lott also voted against the continuation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Add to those his vote against a national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., and in 1994 his vote to de-fund the MLK Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. And Lott along with our governor and other officials have links to the Council of Conservative Citizens who once boasted of having 34 members in the Mississippi legislature!

Well I could go on and on in the details but I believe the desire for truth and the willingness to discover injustices is prominent in most who read this humble little blog. So I think I'll just list a lot-a-Lott's history in a time-line of sorts and leave it up to the intelligent readers how deep they want to go with the man and the style of leadership he has given to the great people of the state and as a Senator of the United States.

  • 1978: Leads fight to restore the citizenship of Confederacy president Jefferson Davis, lost when Davis bolted the Union.

  • 1980: Salivating all over Thurmond at a Reagan rally, Lott says, "You know, if we had elected that man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today."

  • 1981: Fights to keep Bob Jones University tax-exempt, saying, "Racial discrimination does not always violate public policy."

  • 1982: Votes not to extend the Voting Rights Act.

  • 1982: Attends Mississippi White Citizens Council banquet as a guest of honor.

  • 1983: Votes against national Martin Luther King holiday.

  • 1984: Tells Sons of Confederate Veterans that "the spirit of Jefferson Davis lives in the 1984 Republican platform."

  • 1990: Votes against amendment to the Civil Rights Act banning workplace discrimination.

  • 1991: Addresses Mississippi chapter of the CCC.

  • 1992: Praises the CCC in keynote speech to its annual convention, saying, "The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy. Let's take it in the right direction and our children will be the beneficiaries."

  • 1994: Votes to defund MLK Day commission.

  • 1994: Attends a CCC banquet in his honor.

  • 1995: Again addresses the CCC.

  • 1990-98: Writes occasional column for the CCC newspaper.

  • 1997: Photographed with CCC leaders, who use his endorsement for recruiting.

  • 1998: Attends CCC banquet honoring him.

  • 2002: CCC Web site banners pic of smiling Lott under the headline, "A Lott of Courage," and tells members, "Lott Needs Your Support."

  • 2002: At Thurmond's 100th birthday party, Lott declares: "I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

In a quote credited to Slate magazine, Lott is said to have made the following comment."Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me." And according to the London Guardian, just last night as the news came in that the Republicans had lost control of the House, he was overheard by a few journalists when he made this comment. "Well, it's disappointing of course and I'm most disappointed in those Americans who apparently don't remember 9/11 and don't know who is best qualified to protect them more than anything, but it's an impressive record isn't it, twelve years in control? Interesting isn't it, we lasted exactly the same amount of time as the Nazis. I like that."

Lott's voting record can be viewed at the vote-smart website and his PAC contributors, industry supporters, and financial data can be found at open secrets.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where Are Our Smiths?

As usual I awoke very early this morning and while my computer was running it's daily virus scan, I tuned into one of the old movie channels. And guess what was playing on this morning of our mid-term elections? It was a movie which has been declared to have "cultural significance" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry. It was none other than Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. A movie nominated for eleven Academy Awards which dealt with corruption within our hallowed political halls. Yeah, the people knew about graft and greed within our political system even back in 1939.

And the early corporatists even campaigned against the movie labeling it as an anti-American pro-Communist film because of it's implication that the American government was corrupt. Imagine that! The movie was a powerful message apparently because it was actually banned by Nazi Germany and the fascists of Italy.

I'm just wondering where are the Mr. Smiths of today? Today we have even more bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. So are there any Mr. Smiths or have there ever really been any? Perhaps the movie was a social cry for the need of a Mr. Smith? Perhaps the movie put a little too much emphasis on democracy and watching out for the people? Maybe it was fought against by the very ones that were portrayed as being neck deep in graft. Such as the corporate media and the bought and paid for Senate and House?
And it seemed like a pretty good idea, getting boys from all over the country, boys of all nationalities and ways of living. Getting them together. Let them find out what makes different people tick the way they do. Because I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a - a little lookin' out for the other fella, too...That's pretty important, all that. It's just the blood and bone and sinew of this democracy that some great men handed down to the human race, that's all.

Mr. Smith was considered a Don Quixote in Washington by his assistant Saunders. A lone simplistic, idealistic man whose heart and will for fighting injustice was much greater than his abilities. I suppose our naivety has long since dissipated with the amount of information we now have access to and our ability to hear the whole story. But however idiotic it is, there is something inside me that keeps hoping there are still some Mr. or Ms. Smiths out there somewhere! But as I look at the candidates I have to choose from in today's election, I am forced to face reality! If there are any Smiths out there, they must have enough character, integrity, and common sense to stay as far away from politics as they possibly can!

It seems that most of the citizens who still possess the quality of character our country needs, do not want to expose themselves to the cancerous corporlitical system which we have inherited. But I can't help but believe we are nearing the point within our history that coalitions and communities will take the place of the single heroes and the cleansing of the corrupt social, economic, and political systems will be accomplished through concerted efforts of new communities and their organized power. So I'll see you at the polls fellow John and Jane Does and you too Mr. and Ms. Smith.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Deception and the Mass Media

Awakening to a masochistic impulse last Sunday, I opened the Op-Ed section of my local paper, The Kansas City Star. Throwing caution to the wind, I plunged headlong into the mind-engulfing thicket of sophistry. Running for my intellectual life, I felt the collective breath of the ravening wolves thirsting to rip the jugular vein coursing with the life-blood of my capacity for independent thought. Driven by an insatiable hunger to devour the cognitions of those who strayed from the herd, the voracious pack pursued me with a vengeance. Yet today I was moving with the agility of Brer Rabbit navigating the Briar Patch. Powered by critical thinking and a fierce determination to maintain my noetic integrity, I evaded the ferocious canines’ furious bid to sink their razor-like fangs into the succulent gray matter they craved. Emerging from the tortuous copse, my psyche was bloodied but intact. And more importantly, it remained free.-Jason Miller-

Main stream media was/is undoubtedly the most influential powerful social control the world has ever known. Anyone in power who wants to remain in power, will practice deception through a route of disinformation. And there is no better vehicle to aid the spread of misinformation than the MSM. Right after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the WTC, the Defense Intelligence Agency briefed the media in order to point out some basic methods for testing claims of other nations concerning U.S. atrocities. Shortly after that the Office of Strategic Influence was created and although the name was later discarded by Rumsfeld, the office remains in operation. The use of PSYOP within the media has been used many times before.

We have a war of deception and the more we know about our adversaries and the events that present themselves to us, the better prepared we will be to recognize truth from deception. We have to understand their intentions and capabilities in order to define their limits and recognize their operations. We must utilize as many sources of information and many numbers of collection methods rather than limiting ourselves to a limited number of sources. The more diverse our information sources, the less likely somebody can manipulate and control the information. In other words, the more we know, the more we will be able to recognize and differentiate fabrication from truth. This is why independent media is so important and why we must become our own media.

We first need to learn exactly who owns the MSM. Throughout the years huge corporate conglomerates have amassed media ownership through mergers and acquisitions. Today the MSM is concentrated in the hands of an elite few who couldn't care less about the real people in our world. Their interests reside in the corporate/political corner and this makes them a formidable opponent in the war of the truth. Just take one of the conglomerates for example.
General Electric: General Electric owns NBC, MS-NBC, Telemundo, Bravo, the Sci Fi Channel, Universal Pictures and large stakes in dozens of other media companies. Its television division produces "The Today Show," "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," "Dateline NBC," "Meet the Press" and "Hardball with Chris Matthews," to name a few.

The more the MSM pools within these corporate giants, the more our democracy exists in name only. Jeffrey Chester has A Ten Point Plan for Media Democracy which touches on just about every conceivable action we can take to fight this corporate media rape. And Robert McChesney, in his pamphlet Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy, emphasizes the importance of our communication laws and especially the deregulatory measures which have been introduced.
In non-democratic societies those in power invariably dominate the communication systems to maintain their rule. In democratic societies the manner by which the media system is structured, controlled and subsidized is of central political importance. Control over the means of communication is an integral aspect of political and economic power. In many nations, to their credit, media policy debates have been and are important political issues. In the United States, to the contrary, private commercial control over communication is often regarded as innately democratic and benevolent, and therefore not subject to political discussion.

As John Pilger pointed out, it was Tom Paine that warned if the majority of the people were denied the truth and ideas of truth, it was time to storm the "Bastille of words". Perhaps that time has arrived and the people no longer have a choice but to quickly adapt and become media generators rather than MSM consumers!

There is however, one problem which could arise and that should be addressed. When we begin to tear away the veils of untruths and disinformation of which we have relied upon for so long, we could find ourselves in a very uncomfortable position. The problem of which I am referring is cognitive dissonance. When confronted with this dillema, we can either deny these new perceptions, and search for information which will reduce our confusion and bolster our existing beliefs. Or we can recognize the importance of evaluating and researching new information as it arises. This is where manufactured information has the upper hand over the people in my opinion. None of us want to be cut from the umbilical of our belief systems. It's painful, disorienting, and quite frankly, very depressing most of the time.

Truth is merciless and not for the faint of heart. Leaving the security of what we have always believed and counted on as the truth is difficult to say the least. And the power mongers who depend on the MSM and it's disinformation are counting on the masses staying right where they are due to this difficulty and improbability of accepting anything new which goes against what we have been taught to believe. Information manufacturers are already holding a pair of aces in this game, but I'm betting they are going to find out eventually when all the cards have been dealt, they will be holding aces & eights.

We must remember once we make the decision to participate in the quest for the truth and fight injustice associated with misinformation, we must not forgot to search inwardly also. We must know ourselves very well, and keep a constant vigil over ourselves. While those in power are continuously misleading us, the most poweful person that will innevitably deceive us the quickest and the easiest is ourselves!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Real Enemy of the People

I know the importance most of our community's contributors place on union reform. And the majority of the people, once they are allowed to hear and view the truth, have come to know how the business union model of representation has failed the working people. But I'm afraid there can be no complete reform of organized labor as long as we continue to allow the growth of the cancer that has been instrumental in the destruction of our labor organizations. The disease which is destroying the very fabric of life for the people is corporatism!

In a very short time here in the U.S. we have seen health insurers transform from non-profit organizations into corporate run for-profit businesses. Our hospitals and most of the healthcare industry, pharmaceuticals included, have been deregulated and their profit margins rather than the health of our people, are now the most important aspect of the industry. Since deregulation, pharmaceutical companies are now the most profitable business within the U.S. This deregulation was/is being done all in the name of our Corporate God, capital, and it's gospel, The Free Market! Corporate interests have been celebrating ever since our government turned it's passion towards the free market concept through this deregulation. Hallelujahs to free markets have been shouted from corporate offices and the halls of congress ever since the presidential debut of the once host of Death Valley Days. DVDs was a long running television series and I'm thinking the name is an appropriate one considering what this degregulation and free market fiasco has done to the common people's quality of life.

Don't be fooled by the constant shouts for smaller government! What you won't hear them say is the truth that is most important to the people. And that is the fact that as the government bureaucracies shrink and loosen controls, our economy is being placed in the hands of a few CEOs of huge multinational corporations. And believe me, corporations don't believe in the "We the People" thinking whatsoever. There is no place for democracy in the daily business of the free market. This is why it is so difficult to reform biz unions...democracy doesn't fit within the structure. This symbiosis between the corporate host and organized labor will not be reformed without completely breaking this commensalism between the two.

I don't mean we shouldn't try to reform our organizations, but we should realize exactly where the problem with organized labor lies. We should learn to identify the face of the working people's enemies and we should learn to recognize the beast's footprint! Any reform will come from a people driven surge which must be free from the current structures in place. That means the people must design, plan, and construct a new form of worker cooperative/organization which is free from the beast that is intent on annihilating any worker empowerment. Having faith in the market and letting it decide our fate robs the people of any power. When we allow the market to make decisions that effect our healthcare, housing, education, and livelihood...we forfeit any chance of power and we become submissive, roll over...soft underbelly exposed, and take what scraps we're offered. Once we submit to the corporatist principles, we are expected to be good corporate citizens and support the beast! This is what has turned our country into a pro-business, anti-worker,corporatocracy.

The Gilded Age of U.S. history shows us how the power of an aristocracy and their ownership of a few companies can control the entire country's transportation, communication, and energy through monopolization. Franklin Roosevelt fought the destructive nature of corporations which grew in the Gilded Age with the Sherman Antitrust Act and also with the Wagner Act or what we normally call the National Labor Relations Act. But over the last two decades we have went backwards.

First we had Reagan who began dismantling our labor laws. Of course the firing of 13,000 striking air traffic controllers and the destruction of their union (PATCO) is what most of us remember. This step was instrumental in the fatal blow that would sever organized labor's main artery and leave them bleeding with no tourniquet in site. But he also placed three dedicated union enemies in controlling positions within the five member NLRB. The very NLRB which was originally designed to fight for worker's rights and their unions. The most destructive of the three appointees was Donald Dotson, a corporate lawyer appointed to chair the NLRB by Reagan, who had ties to the National Right to Work Committee and who was quoted as saying:
Unionized labor relations have been the major contributors to the decline and failure of once-healthy industries and have caused destruction of individual freedom.

Dotson's record stands for public review and it stands for corporate interests.
Under Dotson's leadership, the Board produced a string of decisions in 1984
that went a long way toward reducing labour's ability to find redress through the law. Some, such as Myers Industries, Rossmore House and St. Francis Hospital, adversely affected the already dubious ability of the Board to grant labour its statutory right to organise. Others took aim at
the ability of an existing union to protect its members' jobs. Otis Elevator, for example, ruled that an employer did not have to bargain over the closing of a plant. Milwaukee Spring gave management the right to transfer work to a non-union facility without bargaining with the union. Bohemia, Inc. stated that unions had no right to information about a firm's nonunion
facilities. Clear Pine Moldings allowed an employer to fire a union member for verbal conduct, even during a strike. At the purely administrative level, Dotson's NLRB routinely found in favour of the employer more often than any previous Board.

A House subcommittee found, the board, under Dotson's chairmanship, had abandoned its legal obligation to promote collective bargaining, in what amounted to "a betrayal of American workers."

While the NLRB worked in the corporate interests, the Department of Labor during the Reagan administration also ignored the fact union-busting consultants were being hired by employers to fight off unionization. The consultants and employers were never asked to disclose their financial statements as the law supposedly required. While the DOL cut it's overall budget by 10%, it increased it's budget for union busting activities by 40%.

Add to these increasing anti-worker initiatives the dismantling of affirmative action, the closing of one third of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, attempts to lower minimum wage, easement of the child labor and anti-sweatshop laws, and the cut backs on training programs for the unemployed, and it is easy to see the destructive nature of a government who places corporate interests way above the people themselves.

After Reagan, George Bush Sr. continued on the Reagan format and also continued to push the fast track trade authority, which pools power within the executive branch of our government and allows the president to negotiate a trade agreement without the possibility of amendments. Congress can either vote it up...or vote it down. George was instrumental in spearheading NAFTA, which has been called by a former foreign minister of Mexico, "an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico, and agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies."

Then came Bill Clinton, our conservative democrat who broke with organized labor and was instrumental in tearing down trade protections, promoting free trade agreements and lower tariffs on imports. The jobs began to disappear and the remaining working people who were fortunate to have a job, were being forced to make concessions. But the big box stores began to flourish while the average wages went down and organized labor continued to bleed.

And now we have George Bush Jr., who has continually placed corporate executives in positions of power within our government. This policy has led to accusations that our current administration with it's corporate leaning pundits have created a crony capitalism state.

So it seems we are steadily returning to another Gilded Age. In 2005, the net worth of the U.S. wealthiest climbed $125 billion to a whopping $1.13 trillion. A total that surpasses the gross domestic product of either Spain or Canada! While these few wealthy elite's worth grew, the median household income fell for the fifth year in a row...down to $44,389! The competition that these proponents claim will save us is actually destroyed by the unregulated growth of corporate interests. Corporate interests claim the government is the enemy...and they are not exaggerating in the least. Because "WE" are the government and they have declared war on the people, our constitution, and democracy itself.

Reforming our labor unions is a worthwhile endeavor...but we will never accomplish any meaningful victories until we recognize the real enemy of the working people and begin an earnest effort to expose and erradicate the undemocratic principles of our so-called corporate citizens!
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