The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Public debts, private profits

I know it's been a long time since I've rapped at ya. Now that the wholesale killing in Iraq is done, and we are down to just killing Iraqi protestors in small batches (and having our soldiers and civilians killed in small batches ), it is time to think about what we can do to save our Republic again.

The root problem that we have in this country is there is a large number of our countrymen (and women) who have been trained to think that nothing should be held in common. There should be no public property, no parks, no publicly owned roads, no public healthcare system. Everything, _everything_, should be held privately, in their ultimate worldview. Think about that for a minute, and what kind of a horrible world it would be. Poor people would have absolutely no power or opportunity or recourse. The rich would have impunity to ignore any rules or law that they wanted to, since there would be no public court system. Power would coalesce around rich people, forming fiefdoms to direct the labor of the poor and the provision of protection from other rich warlords. In essence, we would slip into feudalism, and our situation would look something like the systems in Afghanistan or Somalia (there are two countries we definitely want to emulate).

When our society holds things in public, we are professing our belief that it isn't the person who has the most money who is always right, and that there are basic activities and privileges that all people can enjoy. Public institutions provide people a way to make phone calls (public phones), move from place to place (highways), have access to information (public libraries), have access to justice (the court system), have education (public schools). The health of our public institutions is a measure of what kind of life we would like for the least rich among us, and it is a measure of our humaneness as well. As you are probably aware, our many public institutions are not doing well these days, and are under attack from the massive and powerful forces of privatization. This is often sold to us as consumer choice. Why should we bother keeping public phones working? Most of us have our own cell phones, now, anyway. Why should we bother providing public libraries? There are book stores and video rental stores in abundance, and after all nearly everyone has their own connection to the internet, right? Why should poor people be allowed to sue big corporations? There should be caps on the awards they can get. Why bother to save public schools? There are plenty of good private schools (many of which will indoctrinate kids in our unofficial, official state religion, too, so that is an added bonus). The problem is, what happens when people can't afford internet access, cell phones, private schools, etc.?

The view that nothing is really held in common has been extending to the airwaves for years now. Long ago, when the legislature realized that broadcast rights were a huge money making concession, companies were charged relatively large fees to use them, which they always recouped and then some. As the broadcasting companies grew more and more powerful, and their lobbying grew more powerful with them, fees for use of the public airwaves grew smaller and smaller. Today, they are "auctioned" away for a pittance, provided nearly free of charge to large, extremely rich corporations which use them to get richer. And a small amount of that money is funneled back into election campaigns for people who will keep the system the way it is.

Public ownership of the airwaves used to imply something else, as well. Before the term of Ronald Reagan, there used to be something called the Fairness Doctrine, which stated that as public services, broadcast outlets had to provide a diversity of views. The Fairness Doctrine dictated that when an editorial position was presented on public airwaves, equal time had to be given to an opposing viewpoint. Conservatives actually used to defend the Fairness Doctrine vigorously, because it served their interests as well. During Reagan's term, the Fairness Doctrine was quietly chloroformed. Increasing media owernship consolidation, sped along by the egregious telecommunications act of 1996, signed by Clinton, has led us to the point where we are today, awash in an electronic sea of big-business-friendly propaganda. And so it is no surprise that we are being led by the most big-business friendly faction of the most big-business friendly party, even if they did have to steal an election to get there. And our big-business friendly media says hardly a peep.

We are in a chicken and egg conundrum now. We need the idea of the good of the commons to permeate our public discourse, so that we may restore the Fairness Doctrine and begin to regain some semblance of balance. But without the Fairness Doctrine, public discussions of the commons are strangled in their crib. And it doesn't look like things are getting better any time soon.

The restoration of the Fairness Doctrine needs to be our number one job, and I hope our leaders begin to address it soon. The corporate cabal running things now knows that its governing principles would not stand up to scrutiny or public debate, but it also knows that they don't have to -they only need to win, not be right. On June 2nd, the FCC under corporate shill Michael Powell will vote to remove one of the last major obstacles to total media ownership concentration. The current rules make it illegal for a company to have a major newspaper and radio presence in a city at the same time. Removal of this rule will be one of the final coffin nails in meaningful public debate. Contact your representatives and let them know that you appreciate a few checks on corporate propaganda, thank you, and that Powell's scheme is both reckless and unnecessary.

Those pesky WMDs Watch

It has become clear that, gee, there were no WMDs in Iraq after all. Huh. Who'd of thunk it? In this illuminating article, an administration official stresses that "We were not lying, but it was just a matter of emphasis." I'll bet that makes the parents of our dead and maimed servicepeople feel a whole lot better, don't you? And now, of course, our intelligence agencies are coming forward and claiming that they knew all along that there were no WMDs in Iraq, AND ALSO THAT THE ADMINISTRATION knew it. We were lied to. Boldface lies. Repeated lies. Lies, not about sex, but about people dying and being crippled and being blown up, and the US starting its very first unprovoked war. A war of aggression. A war of conquest. Yeah, us. And there is no public outcry about it. Why? I think the public is like a kid that gets sucker punched by one person, and then goes and pounds on some other person just to make us feel better. We can't find Bin Laden or destroy Al Qaeda, but that's ok, because we killed and conquered some other brown people. Don't we feel better now? We wanted to be lied to, I guess, because we knew the revenge would feel so good. Oh, and by the way, Dick Cheney's company Halliburton (which is still paying him a salary of $1M a year - but we don't talk about conflict of interest anymore) is making a fortune on it. Also, Richard Perle (former chairman and still member of the Defense Policy Board, leading administration hawk) is also making money hand over fist from it. Also, James Woolsey (former head of the CIA and advocate of this "war" lasting a few decades) is also making money hand over fist from it. I guess if it is good for the chickenhawks, it is good for our country.

What no one seems to realize yet, is that we have just adopted a country of 23 million people, most of whom hate each other almost as much as they hate us. And our tax dollars will keep being paid into Iraq, in the (in my opinion nearly impossible) hope that it will flower into some kind of garden spot in the middle east. But remember that the people in charge of turning Iraq into a wonderful place have a horrible record for doing the same here in the US - I'd like to see them succeed in both countries, but I'm doubtful. In the meantime, we will pay the tab (last estimate was $600 billion for rebuilding Iraq - averaging about $6000 from every american family).

Our Vanishing Rights Watch

The right to assemble and protest has been severely curtailed in this country. That part of the first amendment has been very nearly nullified by the creation of "first amendment zones" into which protestors are herded, usually behind fences and often hundreds of yards to miles away from the people/event they are protesting. Welcome to the new American dictatorship. Even John Leo from the conservative US News and World Report, recognizes the danger of this.

Dean Watch

I think we can all agree that anybody, Republican or Democrat, would be better than the empty suit we currently have in the White House. You all probably have your favorite candidate in mind. At this point, my personal favorite is Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont. His main problem right now is lack of name recognition, so this email is my small part to get his name out there to family and friends. He is a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. He is feisty, and clearly not afraid of Bush. He speaks out quickly to counter attacks (this quality was sorely lacking in Mondale, Dukakis, and Gore). His heart appears to be in the right place. In all, he seems to be a candidate for whom a vote would not merely be a choice for the lessor of two evils, but someone you could vote for with a clear conscience, even proudly. Check out his website. He is an advocate for healthcare, the environment, balanced federal budgets, maintaining our foreign alliances, and equal opportunities and protections for all people. He also seems tough and sincere when he speaks. I was fortunate enough to sit 5 feet from him during a fundraiser in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, and he seems like the real deal.

Conservative Idiots Watch

This week's , from Democratic Underground:

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