You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger....
As we all know -- and are incessantly reminded by the media -- the arson/murders of 9/11 claimed 2,973 lives. That includes 343 of my brother firefighters. Without doubt, it was a spectacular event and a staggering loss of life.
But did you know that in that same year, 42, 443 men, women and children were mercilessly slaughtered on America’s highways? That’s 14 times the number of fatalities on 9/11, or to put it another way, the equivalent of one 9/11 a month, every month for a year --- with a couple extra for the holidays.
Falls took another 15, 019 lives, more than 5 times the 9/11 death toll, and 14, 078 died from poisoning. Suffocation killed more of our friends and neighbors (5,555), as did fires (3423) and drownings (3281).
Despite this butcher’s bill, accidental death didn’t win, place or show in the Grim Reaper’s Derby.
The big winners were Cerebro-vascular Disease (163, 538 fatalities), Malignant Neo-plasma (553, 768) and Heart Disease, with 700,000+ deaths, and comfortable lead at the wire.
Since 2001, about every third word out of the mouth of every politician and pundit is “terrorism.” You’d think there was a terrorist on every street corner in America, taking us out in big batches. But the fact is, between 2001 and 2006 (the most current year for which the statistics are available) homicide didn’t even make the Billboard Top Ten in the Causes of Death category. It ranked a mediocre 14th. well behind respiratory disease, Diabetes, Alzheimers, the pop duo of Influenza and Pneumonia, Nephritis, Septicemia, Suicide, Liver disease and Hypertension. And of those homicides that did occur, 65% were committed with firearms.
Not bombs. Not chemical or biological attacks. No WMD’s at all.
Speaking of firearms, it’s interesting to have a look at the actual numbers of firearm-related deaths, given the highly touted “epidemic of gun violence” we’re supposed to be having. Guns figured into 71, 864 homicides; 101,519 suicides and 4374 accidental deaths.
Note that there are more firearm suicides than there are firearm homicides and accidental firearm deaths combined.
Let’s face it: if somebody shoots you, it will probably be you.
It should also be noted that not all “homicides” are created equal. “Homicide” does not necessarily mean “murder.” “Homicide” includes acts of self-defense by law-abiding citizens and even the actions of law enforcement officers who shoot someone in the line of duty.
While 177, 757 firearms deaths (an average of 29,626 per year) is nothing to sneeze at, that number pales beside 260, 611 motor vehicle accident fatalities during the same period, an average of 43,435 MVA fatalities a year. That’s 47% more MVA fatalities than firearm deaths.
So the good news is, if you’ve been chewing your nails to the quick worrying about terrorist attacks or getting gunned down in the street, you can pretty much relax.
Not likely to happen.
The bad news is those MVA's.
Indeed, between the ages of 1 and 44, accidents are the number one cause of death, and motor vehicle accidents (MVA'S) account for more than half of those accidental deaths. For the 15-24 age group, it’s nearly 70%. It starts to taper off a little after that. For 35-44 year-olds, mva deaths drop slightly below 40%. By the time you’re 45-54, accidental death drops to the third most prevalent cause of death, with mva’s making up about 1/3 of those fatalities. By 55 accidents fall to 6th place, and by 65 to 9th place.
Maybe that’s evidence that you really do get smarter as you get older.
I certainly hope so.
There’s no big mystery to motor vehicle safety. It boils down to a seven simple things:
If you have kids in your vehicle, there are a couple more considerations.
Car wrecks are a lousy, stupid, wasteful way to die.
Don’t do it.
Be careful out there.
(sung to the tune of “Joe Hill”)
I dreamed I saw Joe Stack last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I, "But Joe, I know you’re dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.
"The Tax Collectors killed you Joe,
they brought you down," says I.
"It’s giving in that kills a man,
Or living with the lie.”
“Or living with the lie.”
"In Austin, Texas, Joe," says I,
Him standing by my bed,
"You crashed your plane into the IRS,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."
And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe "We can get free again
“If we just learn to fly.”
“If we just learn to fly!”
From San Diego up to Maine,
From coast to coast and back
Where we stand up and fight tyranny
it's there you'll find Joe Stack,
it's there you'll find Joe Stack!
I dreamed I saw Joe Stack last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, I know you’re dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
--Declaration of Independence
I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.
For a guy with a law degree, Barack Obama doesn’t seem to know much about the law.
And for a guy who claims to have taught Constitutional law, he doesn’t seem to have much regard for the Constitution, either.
If he did, he would know that the Fifth Amendment – you know, one of those first ten that make up the Bill of Rights --- says:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…. nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…."
It says “No person,” not just “No citizen.”
It doesn’t say “No person within the continental United States.”
It doesn’t say that because it applies to all persons under the jurisdiction of the United States, wherever and whenever.
In America, under the Constitution --- which is the supreme law of the land and which supercedes any statute, rule, regulation or executive order --- the President does not have the lawful authority to make up a list of people – citizens or not – whom he wishes to kill – or rather, to have killed --- no matter how naughty he thinks they might be.
Not even if he checks the list twice.
In America, before we can take your liberty or your life, we have trials.
With judges and juries.
And you get to confront the evidence against you in a speedy, public trial.
The state has to put its evidence before a jury in public, no secret evidence allowed.
The state can’t use a confession obtained by torture.
You get a “jury of your peers,” 12 good citizens and true, and not a “military tribunal.”
You get legal counsel.
And you’re presumed innocent.
The burden of proof is on the State to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, not on you to prove your innocence.
In America, we do it this way, not to protect the guilty, but to protect the wrongly-accused innocent. And judging from the number of guys on Death Row who’ve been proven innocent after their convictions, even when we follow the rules and do our best, we make mistakes.
Too damn many.
In America we have a word for “extra-judicial assassination.”
We call it murder.
And it’s against the fucking law, Mr. President.
Since Mr. Obama has planned these murders with his playmates and announced it to the world, it’s also clearly both a conspiracy to commit murder, and pre-meditated. Now, conspiracy is an inchoate offense. That means, if you conspire to murder someone, you’re guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, whether you actually carry out your plan or not.
Conspiracy to commit murder would be a serious felony in most places, New York for example. So Mr. Obama has already openly committed a serious felony.
Can you say “grounds for impeachment,” Kids?
I knew that you could.
Mr. Obama should know – legal scholar that he is --- that no state in the union has a statute of limitations on murder.
If Mr. Obama has one single person killed, he is liable to criminal prosecution for that crime until the day he dies.
He can face prosecution in any jurisdiction in which a conspiratorial act took place. This can include a number of states if at least one conspirator crossed state lines or if the conspiracy involved criminal acts in more than one state.
How can Mr. Obama claim to have the power of life or death over any citizen, and based only on a “suspicion,” at that?
Only because you let him get away with it.
One Big-Ass Mistake, America
Sometimes, I really miss America -- or at least the idea of it. You know: that can-do spirit, streets paved with gold, champion of the tired and poor, purple mountains majesty, that sort of thing. Say what you will, and call it naïve, but the storybook values at the heart of America's erstwhile image are inspiring.
Like most who grew up here, I was steeped in the lore and legend of this place. Despite obvious flaws in the narrative (how exactly does one ‘discover' land upon which others are living, anyway?) there existed a strong sense that at the end of the day some part of our cherished ideals would emerge in time to set things right. Principles like due process, free speech, the work ethic, checks and balances, equal opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness held meaning if only as a reminder that our collective lives stood for something and that our destinies were in our own hands. It may well have been an illusion all along, yet even the most cynical among us likely believed in the underlying ethos at some point in time.
Unfortunately, that America -- even in its illusory state -- has ceased to exist. We are no longer an abstract beacon of hope to the world, but rather a purveyor of concrete hellfire. We rain automated death from above and commit orchestrated theft from below. We export despair and import disdain. We've abandoned even keeping up the pretense of fair play and adherence to principle. We've become global pariahs and domestic piranhas. Awash in a sea of surfaces, distractions, and palliatives, we unsurprisingly have failed to notice that the sun has already started to set on our adolescent empire.
Indeed, by most measures, the U.S. is rapidly becoming a failed state. Educationally, economically, politically, culturally -- all of our national gauges are pointing in the wrong direction. We're moving down the list on health care, democratic governance, productivity, environmental protection, academic achievement, official transparency, incarceration rates, transportation, and public services. We're ruled by an increasingly emboldened elite class that rewrites the rules at will, increasingly represses dissent, and openly enriches itself at our expense. We hardly make anything on these shores, but still consume everything in sight. We have few public intellectuals of renown, yet are bombarded daily with the foibles of celebrities who are in many cases famous simply for being famous. Our food supply is tainted, our energy is unclean, and our water is drying up. And racism remains as deeply-rooted as ever.
It's not a pretty picture from inside the belly of the beast these days. But never fear, for America has a secret weapon at its disposal that will keep us in the driver's seat for a while longer. Our secret weapon, actually, isn't so secret: weapons. The days of guile, comity, and negotiation are over. Empires don't dicker, they simply take what they want. They don't ask permission or forge alliances, they make demands and extort loyalties under threat of repercussions. They don't cede oversight authority to any international community, or even feel constrained by their own laws and rules, but instead act by fiat and in flagrant disregard of treaty and protocol. Empires, in short, follow the empty logic of "might makes right."
The ruling elite in the U.S. have made it eminently clear that this is our prevailing strategy going forward. We will utilize brute force to retain our position as the global superpower even as we have lost our moral and cultural suasion. America's tenure as a fully imperialist power is barely over a century old, its position as a true superpower about half that, and its status as sole hegemon about half that still. In a mere few decades, we've gone from savior to enslaver, from bastion to bastards, from heroic to horrific. Whatever historical good will we may have accrued has been squandered in a frenzy of hubris and hatred.
Perhaps I'm being a bit obdurate here, so let me clarify things a bit. Empires that reach this point of no return, in which power subsumes principle, are essentially on their last legs. Legitimacy can be replaced by subjugation for a time, but it is always self-defeating in the end. While history is unequivocal about this, it's also true that the recorded annals have never seen an empire quite like the one we've created. By slowly and steadily insinuating ourselves economically and militarily into the affairs of nearly every nation on the planet, we've built an ingenious system in which recalcitrance is very nearly a form of suicide. If this empire falls, it threatens to take everyone with it in the process, thus perpetuating the unspoken but widely understood mantra: "You're either with us ... or else."
Consider the sheer totality of the U.S. military presence around the planet. Hundreds of bases are spread across every continent -- effectively functioning as sovereign satellites of American influence -- with a preponderance located in vanquished nations such as Germany, Japan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. These are now our chief exports: military bases, hardware, and soldiers. We've also weaponized space and created an automated execution network that circumnavigates the globe, bringing push-button "justice" to anyone we deem a viable target (including our own citizens). Now we're developing fully-functional robot soldiers to continue the dehumanization of warfare in our stead, which will serve our purpose of fostering submission through fear equally well whether they in fact work properly or not.
Domestically, the agenda has been set. The power elite have now "doubled down" on this strategy of maintaining supremacy through force. Military strategy documents point toward a future of perpetual warfare and relentless competition over dwindling resources, with the highest ideal of "national security" represented by our unmitigated capacity to impose our will on multiple fronts at once. Increasing episodes of disaster, such as in Haiti, will be used overtly as "Trojan horse" moments to expand our military footprint under the guise of humanitarianism. Our federal budgets will concretize all of this with escalating military expenditures coupled with frozen austerity in all other spheres. The military is sacrosanct and, moreover, is now the lone remaining chip to be played in the game of global conquest.
It certainly seems like a grim scenario, one that stands in stark contrast to the idyllic (albeit ersatz) America of our youth. It also begs us to consider what will become of young people growing up in tomorrow's America, devoid as it likely will be of even a redeeming ideological veneer. Will the future populace here be comprised of equal parts swaggering "ugly Americans" and withdrawn, apathetic technophiles? Will we have an America in which people either embrace our military superiority and martial character as a moral virtue on the one hand, or are constrained to immerse themselves in our cultural distractions as a refuge from the emerging security panopticon on the other? In other words, will those ensuing Americans face delimited choices that come down to either institutionalized anger or repressed angst?
I wonder if people living under the auspices of failing empires throughout history have felt similarly. The silver lining (there has to be one, right?) is that all previous empires have fallen and the sun still came up the next day. Indeed, as surely as anything else we can count on in this life, sunset is inevitably followed by sunrise. Whether anyone will be here to see that new day dawning is an open question, and one that we might consider as something of a cultural crucible at this point. Perhaps that apocryphal America from a bygone day can yet be resurrected, only this time for real and not merely as an ideal. In my mind's eye, I can envision a door opening up ahead even as the one behind us closes.
Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., teaches Peace Studies at Prescott College  and serves as the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association . His most recent book is the co-edited volume Building  Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action  (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).
First published on Friday, February 12, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
I remember, when I was a kid, listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford, bless his pea-pickin’ heart. He had a deep, masculine voice and my favorite song of his was “16 Tons:”
Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong…
I thought those were some pretty good lyrics, I guess. It wasn’t long before I was singing along with the chorus:
You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store
I could really belt that out, but I had no idea what the hell he was singing about.
It was a long while before I found out...
This song is about a coal miner and was probably written by George S. Davis who, had been a coal miner in Kentucky.
Coal miners, back then, weren’t much more than slaves, and the coal companies scammed a real sweet deal for themselves.
Most mining towns were “company towns.”
The coal company bought the land and threw up some quick and dirty housing which they rented to the miners. If the miners quit work, or went on strike, they could be evicted from their homes.
But that was just for starters.
The company also owned the “company store,” the only store in town, and the miners had to buy their goods there. Frequently, the miners weren’t paid in actual money at all, but in company scrip, redeemable only for merchandise, not cash, and only at the company store. Credit was readily available – and necessary since the company usually held back two weeks’ pay – but prices were highly inflated.
The miners had to lease their tools from the company and buy the oil for their lamps, at the company store, of course. They also had to pay to have their tools sharpened.
By the time a miner got paid (usually monthly) he had a lot of debt to be deducted from his wages. At company store prices, it was easy for a miner to go in the hole financially as well as physically, and wind up working for free, to pay off his debt. Then he’d have to get more credit, which meant more debt to work off…. Anytime the miners got a raise, the company would just raise prices in the company store to balance – or exceed – that pay raise.
That’s the “company store” Ernie was singing about owing his soul to.
You wonder why unions got started?
You probably think you’re a lot better off than those dumb coal miners.
Guess again, Pal.
Look at your credit cards – it’s a company store scam designed to keep you in debt just paying the interest. I’ve known loan sharks who didn’t charge that much interest. Don't use credit cards? Good plan. If you're on your own, and have Spartan tastes and discipline, you could manage it. But if you have a family? Good luck with that one. Wages are low, prices are high, and credit is easy to get -- just like it was for the coal miners and for the same reasons. To put you in debt and keep you there.
Look at the various taxes and such taken out of your pay check. That’s money you work for that you never get to see, and you have no say over how it gets spent. Most of it goes to a bloated military budget or to pay off the "national debt," a whole 'nother scam. You don't like it? Try not paying it and see what happens.
Compare your “cost of living” raise (if you get one) to the actual increase in prices. For most people every raise is actually a pay cut.
Yeah. Just take a good look around.
You’ll see that today’s corporate-run America is nothing but one great big company store.
And you know who you are, don't you?
You're the dumb coal miner.
Maybe you should be singing this verse to the company bosses:
If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will
See, what we need to do is go on strike.
We need to shut this whole operation down until we get some better working conditions.
It won’t be easy.
Like the coal companies of yore, they’ll send in their goons to bust heads.
What we have to do is stand up to them.
And stick together.
No matter what our ethnic or cultural differences, we have one very important thing in common: we’re ALL getting screwed by the Company.
That way, when St. Peter does call you, at least you’ll have your soul back.
I had a teacher, many years ago, who often expounded on the virtues of water, and advised me to cultivate these virtues in myself.
To be like water.
Depending on conditions, water can change its state of being. It can be soft as steam or hard as ice.
It can be invisible, hanging ever-present, though unseen on a sultry summer night.
It’s gentle but persistent enough to wear away stone with its caresses.
Water has no particular shape so it’s free to assume any shape necessary. You can pour it into a cup, a thimble, a shot-glass or a mold of any kind, and it assumes without protest whatever shape it needs to adapt to that environment.
My teacher told me, “There are a million ways you can go down, Jack. And if you could anticipate and prepare for even half of those, you’d be a fuckin’genius. And you ain’t no fuckin’ genius.”
You never know what shape you’re going to need next. Since you can’t possibly prepare specifically for every possibility, the only thing to do is prepare generally for all of them so you can adapt as necessary.
As a result, water knows no obstructions. It flows along in a river, for example, conforming to every fractal thereof, and should there be a rock in its path, it unhesitatingly adapts, flows around it, and continues on its way, undaunted.
Water can be a life-saver or a life-taker.
It all depends.
Your spirit, too, is like water.
Imagine water in a pond on a calm day.
When the surface is flat as glass, it acts like a perfect mirror, accurately reflecting images of what is – and only what is. Not what WAS or what will be. It neither anticipates nor lingers on any images. What’s there is there, what isn’t isn’t.
“Half the shit you worry about, ain’t gonna fuckin’ happen, Pal,” he told me. “And the other half, you can’t do shit about, anyway. You might as well just be cool.”
If you throw a stone into that calm pond of glass, or the wind comes up, or it starts to rain, all the reflections are distorted. Sometimes so much that you can’t recognize at all what they are even reflections of.
Your emotions are like the rock, the wind, the rain.
Fear, anger, love, hate… all those things will put ripples on your pond and prevent you from reflecting images of things as they really are.
But when your spirit is calm, you can perceive things as they are, according to their true nature, and act appropriately and adequately toward them.
At least, that’s what the fortune cookie said.
No matter who you are, no matter what race, creed or color; no matter how humble your circumstances might be, you have certain “inalienable rights” that nobody can take away from you.
You’re free to soar just as high as your wings can carry you.
You have a chance to make for yourself a better, richer, happier life, because we are a republic “of the people, by the people and for the people,” with “liberty and justice for all.”
That’s the American Dream, isn’t it?
As dreams go, it’s a good one.
Funny thing, though.
It’s the only dream I know of that you can never have as long as you’re asleep.
Where I grew up, there were Good Guys and there were Bad Guys.
And they were pretty easy to tell apart.
For one thing, The Good Guys wore white hats.
The Bad Guys wore black hats.
That helped a lot.
But even without the hats, you could tell who was who.
The Good Guys believed in “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
The Bad Guys believed in don’t ask any questions, or we’ll shut you up, shut you out, or lock you away. Or bury you.
The Good Guys believed in “Never strike the first blow.”
The Bad Guys believed in “shoot first, ask questions later."
For The Good Guys, force is a last resort; for The Bad Guys it’s a first choice.
The Good Guys believed in “fair fight,” and playing by the rules, and knew what to do with tin-horn card-cheats.
The Bad Guys believed it’s fine to lie, cheat, steal, ambush and back-shoot as long as you get what you want, and that honesty is for suckers.
The Good Guys believed in “Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
The Bad Guys believed in “Guilty until proven innocent.” They were suspicious of everyone, spied on everyone, assumed everyone was an “enemy of the state.”
The Good Guys believed “It’s better a hundred guilty men go free than an innocent man be punished.”
The Bad Guys believed “Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out,” content to kill a hundred innocent people to get one enemy. They call it “collateral damage.”
The Good Guys believed in “Fair is Fair.”
The bad Guys believed in “What’s in it for me?”
Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose.
–John Wayne as Davey Crockette in The Alamo, 1960
The Good Guys believed in “My word is my bond.”
The Bad Guys know a dozen ways to lie and they use them all.
The Good Guys believed in “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The Bad Guys believed in “an eye for an eye.”
The Good Guys believed in justice tempered with mercy.
The Bad Guys believed in vengeance without mercy.
The Good Guys believed there’s no right reason to do a wrong thing.
The Bad Guys believed the end justifies the means.
The Good Guys treated even their enemies with fairness, decency and mercy.
The Bad Guys tortured, raped and murdered helpless women and children
The Good Guys believed in Truth.
The Bad Guys believed in “spin.”
The Bad Guys thought that not getting caught in a lie is as good as telling the truth.
The Good Guys chose their friends by the “content of their character.”
The Bad Guys chose their friends by what they could get from them.
The Good Guys always admitted when they made a mistake or did wrong and then tried to fix it.
The Bad Guys always blamed somebody else.
The Good Guys believed that no one is above the law.
The Bad Guys believed that if the Leader does it, that makes it legal.
The Good Guys believed in “liberty and justice for all.”
The Bad Guys believed in liberty for themselves, slavery for everybody else.
The Good Guys believed that the people owned the government.
The Bad Guys believed that the government owned the people.
Where I grew up there were Good Guys and there Bad Guys.
And we were the Good Guys.
I guess I'm homesick.
Take a look around.
Make a list of what we need.
Cleaner air and water?
What's on your list?
Did you put "more bombs and missiles" at the top?
On Monday he asked Congress to approve a record $708 billion in "defense" spending for fiscal year 2011. That includes a 3.4 percent increase in the Pentagon’s base budget and an extra $159 billion to fund the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And this is the guy who won the "peace prize?"
Like King, Obama has a dream, too.
War without end.
Just what we need, eh?
Obama: Like Bush only darker.