Utopia 21: The Red God Speaks

   “In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America:  the struggle to determine whether “we, the people” is a spiritual idea  embedded in a political reality — one nation, indivisible — or merely a  charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and  privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.”–Bill Moyers

Utopia 21:   The Red God  Speaks

The  sun is bearing down on his head.  Jack can taste the grit in his mouth. The sands of the desert floor  whisper as they dance about his feet.  He watches them do their dance between his parted feet  before they shuffle off into the desert and he looks after them  wondering what they are whispering about.

Rat-tat-tat. The sound of desert castanet’s  sends icy fingers down his spine.  He  yanks his eyes forward looking  for its owner.  The  snake  appears from behind a rock and it casually slithers closer rattling its  warning at  him. To  Jack’s relief the snake turns and continues on its way ignoring Jack  completely as though it has pressing business elsewhere.    The sound  its body makes as it glides off over the sands seem to speak a word. A word that is just out of  reach for Jack’s mind.  But no matter the snake is gone.

The wind has picked up.  Its fingers pull through  Jack’s hair and he can feel the temperature drop.  More sand whispers under Jack’s feet.  He turns  his face into the wind to savor the relief that it gives.  There he  sees a wall  of billowing red sand approaching him at alarming speed.

He is running in the opposite  direction, dodging rocks and brush.  He looks over his shoulder.  The wall of sand moves  hypnotically ever closer.  A face appears in the front wall.  An aged  face with a  long beard.  An angry face. This terrifies him anew.  He runs faster and with less care thrashing his  shins against the spiny brush that dots the desert; tearing his clothes and his skin.

The Red Face begins to speak and it utters the same word as the sands and the snake. Jack can almost make it out but not quite.  His mind is too terrified to  work on this puzzle.  Something “your”. Whatever it is, he does not wish to know. He runs in blind panic now; tripping on a stone and  nearly going down but catching his balance at the last moment and  careening forward out of control.

The Red God is bearing down on him and its  voice is a thunderclap. Something  “your”.  Jack’s  lungs are about to burst.  He can not  go faster as much as he wills it. The Red God is almost upon him and Jack  understands what it is saying and it frightens him even more than the  angry face in the sand itself.

“Failure.” the God speaks. “Failure.” the colliding sands  in the awful torrent of wind confirms.

Jack trips. He looks behind him before he  can get up and the Red God now towers over him with his mouth agape,  about to  consume him.  Jack opens his mouth to scream but the red sands flood into his open  mouth coating his tongue and throat.  Choking him.  He tries again to fill his lungs but only sand  enters as he gasps for air.  He opens his mouth for what he knows will  be his last time and…

Jack drew in clean, cool, spring air. The sheets were wet with his sweat.  Had he cried out in his sleep?   Unsure.  He laid back panting and  covered his  face with his hands.  All was still for a moment, and then he began to weep.

The Concepts Behind the Fiction:

1.  Goodbye Bill Moyers

“There are honest  journalists like there are honest politicians — they stay  bought.”–Bill Moyers

Bill  Moyers has had a 40 year journalistic career in which he received over  30 Emmey’s and 9 Peabody’s.  His hard hitting, take no prisoners style  of Edward R. Murrow journalism is hard to find these days.  Less than a  handful of journalists have that tenacity (Greg Palast, Amy Goodman,  Juan Gonzalez, Tariq Ali, Jerimy Scahill, to name a few).  He is  retiring this week.  If only I could write as eloquently as he does.  I  can only hope that he is retiring from journalism to run for President.   He would have my vote indeed.

In honor of Mr.  Moyers, I would like to do something a little different.  I am going to  analyse last week’s top stories.

2. The NY City  (almost) Bombing

“You’ve  no doubt figured out my bias by now. I’ve hardly kept it a secret. In  this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of  broadcast news. Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is  okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. So here, one more time, is  mine: plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the  rich, political power controlled by the wealthy. Plutocracy is not an  American word but it’s become an American phenomenon.”–Bill Moyers

On  May Day Faisal Shahzad loaded a Nissan Pathfinder with fire works, petrol, and propane.  He bought Nissan  with cash and removed the VIN number from the dash but not the engine or  the door.  He drove it to Times Square where the bomb failed to go  off.  Experts say, as bombs go, this one showed shoddy workmanship.   Instead, it started smoking.  The police were alerted to the smoking  vehicle by three street vendors.  Faisal was forced to flee the area or  be arrested.  Fortunately, he had a black, Isuzu, get-away car parked  close by.  Unfortunately, he left the keys to the get away car in the  smoking Pathfinder so he had to “flee” on public transit.  Just another  benefit of public transport.  He had to ask the landlord to let him into  his apartment because the apartment keys were with the get-away car  keys in the smoking Pathfinder.  He was later apprehended by the police  on a flight to Dubai.  (He was on the flight despite being on the  Federal “no-fly” list.  Apparently still a problem that has not been  fixed since the underwear bomber.  He was also under “surveillance”  during all this but had somehow slipped out of view to do this work.)   He is questioned for an hour by the police before he was read his  Miranda warnings.  He was then questioned some more and admits to doing  all this.

Faisal had moved to the US from  Pakistan and obtained a master’s degree in business.  He worked as an  analyst for 3 years and  he also became a naturalized US citizen.  He  became disenamored with the US during the Bush administration  (understandable) and strongly disagreed with the Iraq War (funny, me  too).  He was from an upper class family and enjoyed a middle class life  here.  He had a house in the burbs that he lost to foreclosure shortly  before he spent 5 months in Pakistan, where it was rumored that he was  trained by the Taliban to place bombs.  Oh yeah, the keys to that house,  also on the key chain left in the smoking gun car.

The  message of the story seems clear in the aftermath.  This is one of many  stories designed to tell us to be afraid, Be Afraid, BE AFRAID!  But be  afraid of the right things–other people.  Foreign people.  People from  the Middle East.  Be afraid so that the war on terror can continue and  “security measures” can be implemented without too much notice.  Be  afraid so the no fly list problem and Miranda warning problem aren’t as  noticeable.  In fact there is an argument that he should have been made  an enemy combatant so Miranda warnings would no longer be necessary.  In  fact never mind all that innocent until proven guilty, due process crap  all together.

Never mind that one of the people to alert the police  was also a foreign born Muslim man, Alioune Niass of Senegal.  Unlike  his two counterparts, US born war veterans, he has not gotten much  press.  Never mind that this was not exactly a well put together or well  executed plan.  If I were running the Taliban, I probably would not  have taken credit for it in a you tube video.  Never mind that Faisal  may have more in common with Joseph Andrew Stack, the man  who flew his plane into an IRS building, than with most people in the  Taliban.  Stack was also articulate and smart and part of the middle  class.  Joseph Stack burned down his house on the day of his suicide.   He hated George Bush and clearly hated the IRS.  He was also not wild  about GM or steel mills as his neighbor was a widow of a retired worker  whose pension had been raided and was eating cat food to survive.  He  was also not too crazy about banks and wall street who had wiped out his  own retirement several times over.  What he did not have in common with  Faisal is that he was white and born here.  He did not fit the be  “afraid” stereotype and so gets called a crazed criminal instead of a  terrorist.

Xenophobia does not provide a  solution to these situations.  Both of these men were a little unhinged  but they also both had valid points to make.  Xenophobia prevents us  from looking at those points.  At the real reasons the 9-11 terrorists  sought to kill Americans that day.  At the reason this sort of violence  is on the increase.  The alienation and frustration people feel when  fighting such a big machine that has the power to destroy their lives on  a whim.

The  communist creed:

From each according to his ability, to each  according to his need.

The capitalist creed:

From each  according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.–Joseph  Stack in his suicide note.

3.   In a Related Story

“Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.”–Bill Moyers.

Joe Lieberman looks more and more like the evil  sith-lord Palpatine in the Star Wars Trilogy.  And he has gone to the  dark side for sure this time.  He wants to strip people charged  with terrorism of US citizenship.  Yale, who gave Lieberman his law  degree in ’67 (the same year, incidentally, the Supreme Court decided  the government could not take away your citizenship), should retract his  degree.

Forget for a moment the obvious  argument–innocent until proven guilty, due process yada, yada.  This  battle has been fought before and despite what Hillary Clinton says,  citizenship is a right and not a privilege according to the Supreme  Court.  There is a reason for that.  The government can not take your  citizenship away because the government is of the people; that’s right a  servant of the people.  If it could take away your citizenship for what  you thought or did then it would be putting the government above the  people.  Only you can give up your citizenship.
“So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous  applause.”–Padmé Amidala

Once  you decide the government can choose who to kick out, it is no longer a  government by the people.  For example, before the Supreme Court right  now is a case in which a person wrote an op ed in favor of Hammas.  The  government says this is “giving material support” to a terrorist  organization.  So if dissent causes you to lose citizenship then you can  not have a democracy.  You need to have a back and forth exchange of  ideas.  Even unpopular ideas like–for example arguing that a group that  was elected to the government by a free election should not be  considered a terrorist organization any more because it no longer fits  the definition of terror.  If you can be kicked out of the government  for contributing to a charity that is connected to a terrorist  organization or writing an op ed about them and the government gets  carte blanche to decide who is and is not a terrorist, then you do not  have a democracy anymore.

4.  In a Vaguely  Related Story
Our very lives depend on the ethics of  strangers, and most of us are always strangers to other people.–Bill  Moyers
Arizona decides that it is actually  illegal to look like an illegal.   Papers!  Wo bist du papiers!

5.  Crying over  Spilled Oil  

“It  turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause  spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the  spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries  onshore.”–President Obama 2 weeks before the spill.

BP, aka British Petroleum, aka Beyond Petroleum, aka  Blaire Petroleum, had a little accident in the Gulf.  Unless you have  been under water you probably already know about the millions of gallons  of oil spilling from the rig and about to become the worst  environmental disaster in history.

What you may  not have known is that government regulators exempted BP from a  comprehensive environmental review based on a loop hole created for  people building trails or outhouses on public lands.  Mind you this is  BP, the oil company with the worst safety record in the US.
“BP is a London-based oil company with  one of the worst safety records of any oil company operating in  America,” says Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen. “In just the last few  years, BP has paid $485 million in fines and settlements to the US  government for environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety  rules, and penalties for manipulating energy markets.” DN!
Instead, they  parroted BP’s own words about how a spill was unlikely throughout their  report.  A claim for which there is no evidence.  This is the same thing  they have done for hundreds of other rigs in the Gulf and that they  continue to do even now after the disaster.

Or that our old friend Halliburton was  responsible for a cement job that was supposed to prevent the  blowout about 20 hours before the blow out.  Federal regulators learned  in 2004 that a vital piece of this drilling process may not have been  functioning in deep water seas but they did nothing about it.

Or  that an obscure 1990 law may shield BP from paying more than $75 million of the  damages due to the spill.

Or Obama had decided to  open up large swaths of the Atlantic,  Gulf, and Alaska to off shore oil drilling.

6.   Wall Street has a Melt Down…Again
     “America’s corporate and political elites now form a regime  of their own and they’re privatizing democracy. All the benefits – the  tax cuts, policies and rewards flow in one direction: up.”–Bill Moyers
On April 30 tens of thousands marched  on Wall  Street, San Francisco, and Atlanta.  It appears they had had it with  bank bail outs, 8.5 million jobs lost, foreclosures and the like.  In response the Senate defeated bill  to break up the “too big to fail” banks and avoid future bailouts by a  vote of 61 to 33.  They also defeated a measure to increase oversight of  the Federal Reserve.  

Wall Street, not to be  outdone, let the Dow Jones take a 1000 point tumble due to a typo (we  think).  Apparently a Citigroup trader with a really fat finger wanted  to sell 15 million in share but actually typed in 15 billion share.   A  1000 fold error.  Oops.  And Wall Street was off on the wildest ride it  had ever had courtesy of computers.

Ah,  Citigroup.  The same people who brought you “Operation Dr. Evil” in which they created  market panic by short selling $16 billion of government bond futures so  they could pocket $20 million.

7.  Shock  Doctrine for the Greeks

What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to  stand up and fight for it — as if the cause depends on you, because it  does.–Bill Moyers
Greeks were forced to lower  their public debt from 149 % of the GDP to 144% in the next 3 years by  the EU and the IMF.  The US debt for comparison hovers around 100%  these days.  The Greeks will take another pay cut, lose holiday bonuses  and allowances.  They will also see some higher taxes–4% higher.   And  significant losses in pensions and retirement ages.  Companies who were  barred from firing more than 2% of their workforce at a time will have  that restriction lifted.  Oh and they are going to bail out their big  banks.  Sound sort of familiar?  It is the same plan the IMF has forced  down many third world nation’s throat shortly before it forced them into  total collapse.

Here is something unfamiliar.   The Greeks rioted demanding that the money come from the arms industry  and business, maybe even the church, as opposed to the poor and middle  class.

8.  And Here are a Few Stories You Might  of Missed
“We  have to face the unpleasant as well as the affirmative side of the  human story, including our own story as a nation, our own stories of our  peoples. We have got to have the ugly facts in order to protect us from  the official view of reality. Otherwise, we are squeezed empty and  filled with what other people want us to think and feel and  experience.”–Bill Moyers

Study: Americans “Bombarded” With  Cancer Causes

A  government panel is warning Americans are being “bombarded” with  cancer-causing sources including chemicals, radiation, and other hazards  threatening “grievous harm.” The President’s Cancer Panel says cancers  caused by environmental exposures have been “grossly underestimated” and  require stronger government regulation. In a cover letter to a 240-page  report, the panel urges President Obama to “most strongly use the power  of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our  food, water and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple  our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”  DN!

Plant Overlooked Contaminated Materials in Children’s  Medicines

The  Food and Drug Administration is accusing a Pennsylvania plant of  knowingly using contaminated materials in children’s medicines. On  Tuesday, the FDA said the Johnson & Johnson-owned McNeil Consumer  Healthcare plant had used materials contaminated with bacteria and  failed to investigate consumer complaints. The plant is responsible for  manufacturing most over-the-counter children’s medicines for cold  relief, including Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl. McNeil has issued a  recall that could ultimately effect seventy percent of the market for  pediatric medicine. DN!

Report:  FCC Plans to Keep Broadband Deregulated

Advocates for a free  and open internet are expressing alarm over reports that Federal  Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski is leaning toward  keeping broadband deregulated and not reclassifying it as a a  telecommunications service. Josh Silver of the group Free Press said:  “Such a decision would destroy Net Neutrality. It would deeply undermine  the FCC’s ability to ensure universal Internet access for rural,  low-income and disabled Americans. It will undermine the FCC’s ability  to protect consumers from price-gouging and invasions of privacy.”  Silver warned that unless the FCC re-establishes authority over the  nation’s Internet service providers, companies like Comcast, AT&T  and Verizon will be able to slow down, block or censor content at will.   DN!

9.  The Common  Denominator
    “New  ages don’t arrive overnight, or without “blood, sweat, and tears.””Bill  Moyers
The common denominator among all  the big stories last week and for that matter this year is the same.  A  dysfunctional government.  If not for a foreign and domestic policy that  devastated people and was beyond their control, would we have seen a  spike in terrorist style violence?  Instead we are handed xenophobia as a  solution.  Of course we can not lock America away like ancient Japan,  Communist China or Berlin so this is hardly a solution.  At every turn  this argument is used to chip away at our rights of privacy or due  process.

Meanwhile the government hands business  what ever it wants–freedom from tax, bail outs, no  oversight–whatsoever.  All at the expense of those they are supposed to  represent.  Why?  Because they no longer represent us.  They represent  the big businesses they are helping.

It is time to  make a major change to the way our government is managed.  To admit to  ourselves that we made a grievous error letting it get this out of  hand.  To take hold of our democracy once again.  To start over.
“Democracy belongs to those  who exercise it.”–Bill Moyers